What’s love got to do with it?

Well, everything, according to some of the theorists, like Robert Dilts and W Glasser, that we looked at in our first two modules of Manging Challenging Behaviour at Releasing Potential’s Institute.

Without the basics of a loving environment – at home or elsewhere – Dilts suggests we cannot be expected to get off the first rung of striving for our essential needs to be met. He calls these Logical Levels. I recalled an image very far away from my everyday experience: the children who eek a living on the rubbish heaps in Brazil looking hostile, aggressive and frightening, even as very young ones. But as it has been said elsewhere: front line soldiers don’t look very pretty! These young people have to keep predators away first and foremost to keep themselves safe. Dilts, a specialist in Neuro Linguistic Programming, says we have to target our interventions with young people to where they are at when we encounter them and it is our responsibility to fit around them, not expect them to guess what we want of them.     

Bringing that back home, at our Releasing Potential School, the day always starts with tea, toast and a warm welcome. We don’t expect you to remember your manners if you are hungry and worried about what awaits you at home at the end of the day. In Dilt’s way of understanding what motivates us to behave this way or that, the purpose of politeness towards others is on a rung far further up the ladder. Love resides in the teapot and toaster at least as much, if not more, than in the garish tokens exchanged by those of us who have maybe never experienced the lowest rungs of the Logical Levels in our lifetimes.

So how will I know where the young person is at? Glasser helps us here with his idea that we each carry with us at all times a Quality World View. This is a collection of our references to the aspects of life that make us feel okay:

  • Survival
  • Love & belonging
  • Power
  • Freedom
  • Fun

And he says we need an equal measure of these to operate optimally. We were asked to identify our own Quality World Views in each category which gave rise to some interesting disclosures – the absence of the named ingredient indicating a place of potential vulnerability. For example, for my need for freedom to be met I said that I must to be able to see a long way. This is invited the question: from what do I need to get a long way away? You can see that this leads to a natural course of enquiry (privately, at least). A good time to take stock of how we manage our life’s ingredients to maintain our equilibrium.

A couple of days later I was taking a call from a very frustrated parent. Every time he asked me a question, he followed it with a detailed explanation of why he was asking it. When he finished speaking, I attempted to answer but he immediately started speaking over me. I waited until he finished then made a second attempt but we went through exactly the same cycle of him demanding answers and then not making it easy for me to respond. I felt myself giving up, freezing over, switching off. Then, Glasser’s teaching came to mind and I wondered: what in this parent’s Quality World View is not being met here, right now, in this conversation?  He had told me he had ill-health so I decided to stop and ask about his needs. What would help him to participate comfortably in a meeting about his child’s needs? He gave me some information and I was able to ask some follow-up questions that showed I understood the difficulties of his condition.

The mood of the conversation changed. He apologised for sounding so aggressive (his word, not mine) and assured me he wanted to come to the meeting and that he accepted there was only so much I could do to help in my role.

So love resided in the type of chair that I could make available to him.

Curiously, this simultaneously met one of my Quality World View needs so the whole relationship improved by improving it in one part.

Glasser says:

  • The only person whose behaviour we can control is our own
  • All we can give another person is information

I started out thinking I was listening and ‘just giving information’ but I hadn’t got the cart before the horse (recognising my own behaviour in the situation first). So my polite, professional behaviour had, at best, glanced off the side of his Quality World View and, at worst, reinforced his idea that I was yet another alien he had to navigate around in his bid to get his needs met.

Kay Day, SEND Mediator