Psychology of Interdependence

“Regardless of the type of aggression, self-injury or withdrawal, we assume that a hunger for being-with-others rests in the human spirit, longs to be fulfilled, and , in many instances, needs to be uncovered. We struggle to uncover and fulfill this need in ourselves and others. We are often pushed by the fear of giving ourselves to others and pulled by the hope that such feeling give rise to. Our fear can lead us to lord over others in order to gain a false sense of power. But, the more we question our values, our hope can lead us to feelings of companionship. This pushing and pulling leaves us in a quandary–to reach out toward others or to preside over them. The desire to affirm the other is often buried in us by years of training that have taught us that independence is the central goal of life, and, for those who are on the fringes of community, compliance is the pathway to success.

Yet, self-reliance and blind obedience are lonely conditions that lock us and others out of the embrace of human warmth and affection. Those who are committed to care giving often do not recognize this struggle within themselves, let alone in the marginalized people whom they serve, So the first place to start in the psychology of interdependence is with ourselves, our values, and how we translate these into reality.”

John McGee

Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community

Brian Calley’s Remarks at the 2014 Culture of Gentleness Conference

An inspiring speech by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley given during the 2014 COG Conference in Michigan, USA.

A culture of gentleness is also about being able to be vulnerable

“When I first heard about creating a culture of gentleness I had no idea what that meant.

After going to trainings, learning about gentle teaching, and seeing a culture of gentleness through the people around me in an organization that seemed so alien, I finally understood what it was. Talking about a culture of gentleness isn’t enough. You don’t really understand what it is until you start partaking in the movement of gentleness that has spread across Canada. It really is a powerful thing.

I learned that creating a culture of gentleness doesn’t just mean serving the people that we support, but serving every person you meet on the street and at home.

It is a way of life. I had to change my mind set and mold my thinking to something completely different and something unnatural to a lot of people. Growing up the way I did, I learned what it meant to love unconditionally and to care for people in a way that was personal. Maintaining a culture of gentleness is very personal. In order to have gentleness, I needed to care about another person more than myself and take their limitations and physical or mental state away from how I viewed them. I have come to do this everyday with the people I support. I see them more than just someone I look out for and someone I spend a lot of time with: I see them as friends and as a huge part of my life, because to them sometimes you are their family.

The way I create a culture of gentleness is finding a balance between being firm and being personal with each person I serve. The definition of gentle is to be kind and mild temperament; I have found that being that understanding person that will listen and care in a more personal way has created this culture of gentleness for our team. The more bonded we are on a personal level and the more we listen and show kindness to each other the more gentleness has spread.

In my team, I have had to hold team members accountable and have had to have some tough conversations, but at the same time, building each person  up and showing them that I care for them. In order to create a culture of gentleness, I needed to gain trust. In going out of my way to make team members feel comfortable with me, I demonstrated that I genuinely care for them and their life situations. I try and make the people that I serve feel appreciated and loved, I have written personal cards to each and every one of them praising them for things that I have seen them do well. To maintain a culture of gentleness, I have realized that taking the times is very important… A culture of gentleness is also about being able to be vulnerable with both the people that we support and those who we serve with. It has helped us grow individually, as well as grow as one.”

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Krystel, Team Leader

See Worthy

At the age of eighteen I had applied for a job at a coffee shop in the city that I had been living in. I had visited this establishment numerous times and fell in love with it; at the time I had seen it as a place that screamed adulthood, something that I was craving in my life. To my surprise, I had been asked to come in for an interview; I was ecstatic! As I entered the meeting I was greeted by the manager. He asked me a few questions about my work experience, desire for growth and future plans that I had for myself. The overall interview didn’t span more than ten minutes before the manager offered me a position at his coffee shop; My teenage dream came true! For the next few minutes he talked to me about work expectations (what I should wear and when I would be trained). For the next twenty minutes the manager began to blast me with statements such as,

“I know people like your kind–you better not disappoint.”

“All you teenagers are the same.”

” If you ever dare to call in sick because you are hungover, you can guarantee yourself an early retirement from this job!”

Your boss woud never yell at you at COR

I left the interview feeling deflated and heart-broken. ‘How could I be treated like this?’ I thought to myself. I wasn’t seen as the person I am, but seen as a stereotype. In that moment any worth that I had was extinguished with a swift blow and no filter on a over opinionated mouth.

In the world today, the idea of worth is something that doesn’t go unnoticed. A person is able to see the value of ‘worth’ on a daily basis. Whether it is the constantly changing stock market which drives the worth of our currency, the title that falls before the name of a person, or the color of robe that is worn at graduation ceremonies; a person’s worth is often built upon standards that society has crafted over time. While economics, academics and professional titles are not the problem, we need to work hard at challenging our perspective. Think with me for a moment: When a baby is born there is something magical about the community that seemingly appears out of no-where to celebrate this thing we call life. As quick as we take a breathe, this baby has been given value and worth–yet as the child changes and grows into an adolescent and then an adult so does the societal view of worth. Choices are made; some good and some bad. As much as we hate to admit it, we are capable of becoming hardened towards people and deflating a sense of worth.

Our role as part of humanity, friends and supports in building the worth of another person can be viewed through the  lens of a child’s building block set; we have three options: We can either stand idly by and do nothing, which is of little value, we can build the tower of worth up, or we tear the tower of worth down. In his book, ‘Mending Broken Hearts’, Dr. John McGee says, “The self is seen not so much as independent or self-determining, but as connected with others who help the person feel worthy because he/she is safe and loved.” The choice is yours– but I would challenge you to build.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

 

Feeling Fearful…Feeling Safe

“In the list that follows, compare how a person whom you serve struggles with fear and is distanced from a feeling of being safe. Reflect on the subtle interactions that the person expresses that show “I am safe with you” but always remember that we are not blaming ourselves. Yet, we need to gain insight into the fear that envelops those we serve. Look at each factor in the list and check those that apply. If fearful outweighs safe, then we know how important it is to teach the person a feeling of, “With us, you are safe!” Decide what major areas indicate fear. But, beware! We are not interested in focusing on behavior. They are only signs of a deeper anguish that is driven by deep fear and meaninglessness. Our full focus will be on dealing with fear. For now, get a sense of the fear that pervades the people we serve.

Feels fearful . . .

• Runs away
• Cries a lot
• Expressionless
• Sad appearance
• Slovenly
• Hits self
• Hits others
• Sleeps poorly
• Complains
• Refuses to participate
• Eats poorly
• Self-stimulates
• Curses
• Hordes
• Flinches

Feels safe . . .

Stays with others
• Expresses joy
• Relaxed
• Contented appearance
• Well-cared for
• Respects body
• Respects others
• Sleeps well
• Expresses love
• Enjoys participating
• Eats well
• Enjoys hobbies
• Uplifts others
• Shares
• Appears content

This initial analysis is a critical step for us since we often think that we do nothing to produce fear. We feel that the person is really “pretty happy.” Indeed, this may generally be the case. Yet, we have to look more closely. We might think that we do not do anything directly to cause fear. We might see the person as simply manipulative or seeking attention. We have to probe more deeply.

Our purpose is different. We choose not to control people. We choose to help them liberate themselves from fear and meaninglessness. We are not satisfied with, “Leave well enough alone!” We have to concern ourselves with the community of people whom we serve and teach all to live together. At school, home, work, or play, our task is to teach marginalized children and adults to feel safe with us and loved by us.”

John McGee
“Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community”

Empowering a Spirit of Gentleness

A Spirit of Gentleness is About…

Our nonviolence
• Our sense of social justice
• Our expression of unconditional love
• Our warmth toward those who are cold
• Our teaching others to feel safe, loved, loving, and engaged
• Our teaching a feeling of companionship with the most marginalized
• Our forming community
• Our sense of human interdependence and solidarity
• Our option to be side by side with the most devalued

A spirit of gentleness might seem easy; but, always remember, we do things that many can interpret as cold and controlling, often without even realizing it. The cold space that exists between us and the vulnerable person deepens and broadens without us even realizing it when we focus on control with a “Do this or else!” mentality or when we wallow in hopelessness with an attitude of “Well, that is just the way she is.”

Without even realizing it, our tone of voice, our posture, the way we look at someone, and the way we talk can tell the vulnerable person strong messages that say, “You are no good! Do what I tell you to do or else!” We do not do this intentionally. Yet, if we do not understand human vulnerability and fragility, our simplest actions can take on a horrendous meaning. Our priorities are often messed up if we focus on behaviors instead of feelings or independence instead of interdependence. We need to worry about helping each person begin to feel more safe and loved instead of getting rid of behaviors.

John McGee
“Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Companionship”