Thursday, August 14, 2008

Formulaic Thinking

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from "Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves" by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 54 - 57:

Donna was trapped in linear thinking. She figured that the way to move Fred in a certain direction was to give him a shove in that direction. If he did not move, then she simply needed to shove harder. What she did not realize was that Fred was shoving back. Every time she pushed him, he resisted. And the harder she pushed, the more stubbornly he resisted.

We pointed out to Donna that her experience reflected a basic reality of linear thinking; that trying harder only gets you more of the same result. We began to look at her relationship with Fred, not just in isolation but as part of a broader family system. She began to grasp that action “A” does not necessarily produce result “B” – that there might be a host of other factors to take into consideration...

By this point Donna could see that her efforts to “help” Fred become more sociable only provoked this well-practiced response, and that “trying harder to help him” was only going to generate more of the same. This realization came as a tremendous relief. If she wasn’t the cause of Fred’s problem, and if she couldn’t “fix” him by working on him, then she felt released to explore some of her own interests.

Interestingly enough, the minute Donna stopped “working on” Fred and began pursuing things she simply liked to do, Fred began to respond. Her nagging kept his reclusiveness in place. Now that she had given up the role of Family Nag, he seemed free to give up the role of Family Hermit. When he saw her doing things she wanted to do, without putting any pressure on him to join in, he started – very tentatively – to come out of hiding...

The value of seeing things this way is that it makes clear that either party can change the situation by changing his or her own behavior. Before, Donna thought nothing could change in her marriage until Fred decided to be different. But she discovered that she could impact their relationship positively by taking certain actions herself...

The case of Donna and Fred is a fairly simplistic one. It involves only two people, and it has a quick, happy ending. Most family systems are far more complex and unpredictable, and the outcomes are not usually so tidy. Still, the story of Donna and Fred really did happen, and the reason it happened the way it did is because Donna learned to see her situation as one component of a system. She learned how to think in interactive terms rather than in straight lines.

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)
. .