Crafting Gentleness

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The initial commitment falls on us ...

"The instillation of feelings of companionship calls on us to express warmth to those who are cold, affection to those who are emptied of feeling, tolerance of those who try to harm us, and authenticity to those who are constantly subjected to sterile programs. As caregivers, our first task is to initiate a process in which we and marginalized others learn to accept and express valuing. The initial commitment falls on us; otherwise the other is left unable to reach out. It begins in a one-to-one relationship that at first places us in a most difficult position since our desire to encourage those feelings in others are typically thwarted by acts of aggression, self-injury, or withdrawal. Unfortunately, many caregivers believe that since the person is "unresponsive to positive reinforcement" punishment has to ensue. And, thus, the idea of friendship has to be left for a later time. The paradox of interdependence is that we have to pass through these difficult moments of rejection in order to teach the meaning of companionship. If it were easy, there would be few behavior problems. Our belief in the dignity of the human condition is what sustains us in good times and hard times. The changes that gradually occur are mutual. Our giving is eventually reciprocated through the laces of affection that are woven in the emerging relationship."

John J. McGee and Frank J. Menolascino, Beyond Gentle Teaching: A Nonaversive Approach to Helping Those in Need (1991)


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