It’s all about your pace.

Have you ever stopped to think about the way that you walk?

I know that it is a strange question and if you chose to stop reading here I would likely understand. But  I promise you, I’m on to something. Now I am not talking about the physicality of your walk: do hips sway with a hoola-hoop like action, or is one leg shorter than the other causing a noticeable limp. More so, when you walk with a friend or companion, do you walk as if it is the end of the world and speed to wherever your destination may be or do you walk intentionally taking in your surroundings and the conversation that you may be having.

For the past three years I have been married to the love of my life. It has been an incredible adventure and we have enjoyed every minute of it: including the bountiful walks that we have taken. However one of the things that I noticed early on into our marriage is that my wife walks as if she is an Olympian speed walker–it eventually got to the point where I had to tenderly grab her hand and ask her to slow down. To ally my naysayers out there, it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep up to her, rather I didn’t like the feeling of being rushed in moments where I felt like I could relax.

I have been thinking about this idea of “pace” for a long time and it finally struck me: the way we pace ourselves not only determines when we finish the proverbial race, but also how we finish it.  As supports, friends, family and others associated with COR and the Gentle Teaching movement has this idea fully penetrated our hearts and minds, thus being embodied in our words and actions?  I ask this because I was convicted about it in my own heart, when I began noticing the young man that I support was always a few steps behind me. At first I didn’t think much of it, but as time passed I was frustrated: not at him, but myself. I had become the ‘Olympian’, though accomplishing much, missing the view.

So do me a favor, after reading this blog: stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What is the pace you are moving at?
  2. Are you noticing the ‘view’ and slowing down to assist others?
  3. Take a few moments to review the four tools of Gentle Teaching  and honestly ask yourself how you are doing in each of the following areas.

a)Loving Eyes/Gaze

b) Hands

c) Loving Words

d) Loving Presence

 

Ben, COR Support

Gentle Teaching: A Magical Transformation

“Gentle Teaching has evolved into a dyadic process; it encompasses an approach in which the caregiver is transformed, as well as the brokenhearted person. The transformation process has to start with the caregiver, but reaches outward to the broken hearted person. It is not an approach that presents fixed and immutable answers that caregivers follow in a lock step manner. It is one that asks caregivers to interact within a broad framework based on the prevention of harm and the expression of unconditional love. Harm’s prevention often initially involves giving the person what he/she wants, as long as it is not harmful, so that the caregiver can enter the person’s space and begin to teach

“When you are with me, you are safe and loved.”

It is not an approach that centers itself on behavioral change. It is an approach that beckons spiritual or internal change. Just to make it clear, this internal change can be translated into concrete and measurable behaviours, yet we must recognize that their origin is spiritual and moral in nature.”

John J. McGee

We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Spreading John’s wisdom… We cannot know who the “other” is unless we have some insight into who we are.

Gentle Teaching is grounded in the whole person and who the person is. A key assumption, especially when supporting those who are extremely violent toward others or harmful to themselves, is the understanding that behaviors have their origin in moral development—how human beings throughout their lives are in the process of learning how to interact with others and how each of us sees ourself and others. This moral development is inside of us and encompasses the memories that have been formed from the first moments of life to the present moment.

Moral memories are how we spiritually interact with the world. When these memories are sad and disorienting, they reside like haunting ghosts in the hidden corners of our being and, in a sense, whisper to us what clinicians will later call behaviors. Behaviors are the visible part of toxic weeds; memories are the roots. They are deep, often not known, and not intellectual, but moral memories. The use of behavioral techniques is like pulling out the surface of weeds but leaving the roots intact. Gentle Teaching goes for the creation of new moral memories that eventually lead the person to feel safe and loved and then “behaviors” begin to fade away.

John J. McGee

Above All No Harm

In Gentle Teaching caregivers become aware of how their interactions decrease the probability of violence by focusing on:

• The need to teach a culture of trust, companionship, and community through the creation of new memories based on feelings of being safe and loved.

• Initially lowering expectations and increasing hope. Although caregivers often have seemingly reasonable expectations, the brokenhearted are not ready to do what is expected because they do not feel safe and loved within the caring community. There is little reason to trust a caregiver without these new feelings. Without a strong foundation based on trust, high expectations shatter. The first dimension of caregiving is to establish trust and this arises out of feelings of being safe and loved. If caregivers are too pushy, this could easily spark violence.

• Within this construct, the caring community has to slow down and understand that “The slower we go, the faster we will get there.”

• The avoidance of any compliance attitudes that push brokenhearted individuals into a corner and provoke violence.

• The use of our very presence, words, gazes, and touch in a manner that uplifts each person along with a tender and genuine tone turning each syllable, touch, or gaze into the moral equivalent of an embrace.

• The avoidance of attitudes such as so-and-so knows better, just wants attention, or is manipulative. These can be true but are irrelevant in Gentle Teaching; the focus has to be on feelings and teaching each person to acquire a sense of feeling safe and loved. The healing must be found in the heart, not the head.

• The avoidance or prevention of caregiver violence in common practices such as the use of isolation, time out, token economies, verbal reprimands, grabbing and shoving, physical management, mechanical restraint, cattle prods, chemical restraint, the ease of psychiatric hospitalization as a holding tank, and even phone calls to the police to “manage” someone through the use of stun guns and other methods of control.

• Practice, practice, practice. The best way to prevent harm is through a sharp focus on the tools that have been bestowed upon us. First, our intention has to be to bring and share the gifts of creating a sense of security and a feeling of being loved. Then, within these parameters, caregivers have to become intuitively practiced and skilled at teaching these good memories. This approach is in and of itself the most encompassing way to prevent violence.

John J. McGee, 2012

The Core of Gentle Teaching: Safe and Loved

Gentle Teaching is not about behavioural change.

It is not even about getting rid of behaviours. These will disappear or diminish as time goes by as a result of the person trusting us. It is not about any behavioural techniques that might be spelled out in a behaviour plan. If a caregiver enters anyone’s space with such intentions, the time spent will have nothing to do with Gentle Teaching. It is a contradiction to anxiously lead with an attitude of, “I have to change this behaviour or that one.”

The central and guiding focus for all caregivers is to help the person learn to feel safe and loved and this requires the prevention of any sort of harm. It is simply wise to not provoke any violence. Prevention gives caregivers the opportunity, space, and time to teach new memories of feeling safe and loved. Doing this dissipates or eliminates maladaptive behaviours as a direct result of feeling safe and loved. This has to be part and parcel of the caring community.

John J. McGee, 2012

Overflowing Gratuity

The first image that is most likely to come to mind when I say ‘gratuity’ is that of a monetary tip at a restaurant. While in one sense, this is the very definition of the word; I believe that there is more to it than that. If you were too look up the definition of the word, you would first find:

1. a gift or reward, usually of money, for services rendered; tip quickly followed by;

2. to give something freely without claim or obligation.

As a former waiter I loved my job and the tips were amazing. But all too often that small (or large) monetary tip became an expectation. Fellow co-workers would often be found cursing out guests who didn’t leave anything; going so far as asking guests for tips. I found this strange and semi-disturbing.

This post isn’t to blab on and on about my past work experience, rather to challenge those in COR, and those reading, to make a conscious effort of living a life that is overflowing with gratuity. To clarify, I am not referring to tipping waiters and waitresses, rather to live life as an active giver. To the clerk at the grocery store give your smile. To the homeless man asking for money, give your time (and maybe a cup of coffee too!). To the sad and broken-hearted, lend your ear. To the stranger you just met who is cursing you out, be kind, compassionate and hold your words carefully.

The majority of us out there have heard the famous phrase by Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” While this isn’t an earth-shaking challenge, it is a world changing one! What will it take for the person looking back at you in the mirror to take the plunge, go all in and risk it all? When you give generously and graciously the world around your starts to change — and it’s a beautiful view!

Ben, COR Support

 

Looking at Ourselves

As caregivers we need to talk among ourselves and develop a feeling of companionship and community so we can teach it to others. A first step is to look at our fears and get a feel for our interactions, and how others see them. We need to lift up our interactions that bring peace and serenity to others. We all have little ways of showing love. If we can highlight these, then we have taken a first step in the discovery of what care giving is about. We bring much to the care-giving act. Our presence needs to express our warmest caring. We need to be aware of the beautiful deeds that we do and deepen them. As caregivers, we need to find ways to share each other’s acts and remind one another what care giving is all about– giving a part of ourselves to others.

CHECKING OUT OUR OWN WAY

Self-assessment is a difficult task. We have to look at ourselves and discover our own weaknesses and take pride in our strengths. Finding our strengths is the easy part. The difficult part is to recognize our care giving needs. It is a human tendency to deny our weaknesses. So, we have to create a process in which we feel safe enough to examine ourselves and pinpoint areas to improve. What makes this even more difficult is that we have to see ourselves as those whom we serve see us.

We need to look at ourselves from the perspective of those who are obviously extremely vulnerable as well as from the perspective of those  “who know better.” It is sometimes easier to serve those who are more dependent or more obviously marginalized such as abused babies, orphans, abandoned children, and persons with severe disabilities.

Try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and sense what they are feeling: fear, disengagement, being unloved, and unable to convey a sense of love to others. Then look at yourself again and analyze your interactions. We need to realize that every move we make is an act of teaching. Our most subtle interactions are seen and interpreted by those whom we serve. Every interaction we express is a critical element in teaching companionship.

OUR VIEW OF OURSELVES

Purpose: Look at your own care giving interactions from the perspective of how the persons we serve see us. We assume that you feel that everyone feels safe with you and even loved by you. The challenge is to look at ourselves from the point of view of how the people we serve see us— people who are terrified and see little or no meaning in life or in us.

John J. McGee

Growing to Feel Safe and Loved

The culture of gentleness that I have been able to create started in 2013 with lessons taught from COR’s mentors, Deirdre and Tim. From the little things like looking past the negatives and to discuss the positives everyday, coupled with a common saying, “lets turn the day around!” are – to me – exemplary of what Gentle Teaching is.

The individual I serve has become very comfortable with me and he is now more willing to engage in new activities together with me. I achieved this comfortability by methods as simple as telling him “I love him”, “I am proud of him” and by holding his hand. Situations can be difficult, but through the COR teachings of gentleness and kindness, and respect, the individual I serve has grown to feel safe and loved by myself – which means that he is loving and willing to be engaged in return.

Greg, COR Support

Refuting the Bystander Effect

Kitty GenoveseIn 1964 a woman by the name of ‘Kitty Genovese’ was murdered but was not found out for two or three weeks later. When her death was later published in a local newspaper, numerous neighbors came forward telling the police of  their accounts of the murder. When questioned why they didn’t come forward sooner, the majority of the neighbours claimed that they didn’t feel like it was their place or responsibility. This became known as the bystander effect.

The bystander effect is a phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to persons in need, when others are present. The probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. Why is this?  Some say it is because of self-apathy, others argue personal boundaries, but I wonder whether or not it could be that we (as a society) have forgotten or neglected how to live in human relationship. Believe me, I am all for my own space but I wonder if we use that as an excuse sometimes to keep us from real, honest and true relationships.

Within the Gentle Teaching model, I believe that the four pillars of SAFE, LOVED, LOVING and ENGAGE, equip people with the  ability to refute the bystander effect: calling us as individuals to first and foremost work on our hearts, while we turn towards serving and caring for others.

Ben, COR Support

 

COR is not like any other job that I have had in the past!

I heart my job at CORWhen joining the team at Creative Options Regina (COR) I had no idea what I was getting involved in.

Everything I knew about COR consisted of knowing I would be working with individuals with intellectual disabilities, that I would be there to help improve their quality of life and to help these individuals through their day as a support person. After six months at COR I have realized that this kind of work goes well beyond what I initially believed I would be getting into. As stated by COR itself, we as support workers follow two ideals: “first, giving each person a sense of feeling safe and loved with their caregivers as companions, and second, helping individuals to express love to others, both in the COR community and in the greater community.”

COR is not like any other job that I have had in the past.

Working other jobs, such as retail or customer service, I was able to distance myself as an individual after I left work; with COR this is not the case. The individuals I support in COR have taken on a role in my life, as well as I have theirs. When I am not supporting the individuals I am usually with, I often find myself wondering what they are doing that day, how their day is going and even missing spending time with them. This kind of relationship goes far beyond that of a working relationship. It becomes a friendship. As with any kind of friend you want to see them lead a good life, make good choices, and improve as an individual; these are all qualities closely related to the ideals followed by Gentle Teaching.

It is because of the friendship I have developed with the individuals I support that I believe I maintain a culture of gentleness. I treat the individuals I support the same way I would treat anyone in my life; with patience, tolerance, compassion and happiness. I am able to joke around and have fun with the individuals I support the same way I interact with my friends outside of COR. This is a special relationship that helps us create a healthy environment for these individuals to thrive and grow. Being able to view the individuals within COR in this light is what makes us different from other organizations that use physical restraints, consequences, and the use of reward and punishment for behavioural interventions.   If we used these traditional practices it would hamper the kind of friendship that develops over time with the practice of Gentle Teaching and I would not be a capable support person or friend to the individuals I spend time with. It is because of the Gentle Teaching philosophy that I have come to love my time with COR and look forward to the time I spend with the people I support.

Kelly, COR Support