Satir’s Piece

Ater reading my published memoir, Ms Abby, the facilitator of a course I recently attended (Coping and Overcoming Life Stressors) on 2, 9, 16 & 23 June, shared with me personally a piece from Satir, which I feel I must reproduce here:

To Be More Fully Me

I need to remember

I and me

and in all the world there is no one like me

I give myself permission

to discover me and use me lovingly

I look at myself and see

A beautiful instrument

In which that can happen

I love me

I appreciate me

I value me


From Making Contact by Virginia Satir (Millbrae, CA: Celestial Arts, 1976)

Coping and Overcoming Life Stressors 4

This afternoon’s session is the last in this series. We concentrate on the Congruent Stance of the Satir Model, in relation to the four Coping Stances covered in the first session (on 2 June 2017).

  • Behaviour – this person is always vibrant and energetic, confident and competent, loving and balanced;
  • Speech – honest with feelings, thoughts, expectations and wants, open and sharing, listens to others;
  • Emotion – also known as the Dominant Effect, this is the level at which one is peaceful, calm and loving, always smiling and curious;
  • Resources – there is self-awareness in the person, responsible, caring and connected to self and others;
  • Physical  & Psychological Symptoms very healthy.

If we can reach the stage of Congruent as a person, we can manage and overcome our stress. There’s always this tension in life but it will not turn into a strain or chronic stress. Going through this process, we need to not only appreciate ourselves but also others. Life is more complex than what we think, so sometimes we need the other four Stances to help us cope.

In working towards Congruent, we need to

  • Focus on Self – attend to our body signals, breathe to become calm, confirm our self-worth & become centred and aware;
  • Make Contact with Others – see & hear, attend to body, show respect and accept & trust;
  • Change Within the Context – change ‘the problem’ to coping, deal with feelings, reframe preceptions, set realistic expectations, and increase choices and possibilities.

At the same time, we need to refer to the Iceberg Diagram (covered during the sessions on 9 & 16 June) and the building blocks for self-esteem (covered on 16 June) so that we have good ingredients that help us grow up properly at both the emotional and physical levels. It is very, very important to nurture Self, as nobody else can do that for us. We have to value, love and appreciate Self so that life and energy, personality, intuition, creativity and the way we relate to people will be in harmony.

It is very hard to change others, therefore we must change ourselves. Using the Iceberg metaphor, we must be aware and understand what’s going on underneath, and have a full awareness of ourselves, deep inside, the internal and psychic.

If we can’t change ourselves, it means we can’t let go of certain things. So we have to go back to the Needs. What is holding us back? What about our blind spots? Can we accept that feedback? We need to ask ourselves why, and if we are aware of the reasons. If we are ready, then we should accept what will help and discard the rest (and this requires our wisdom to do). Then we go back to Self.

Taking care of Self is not selfish; it is Self-Care. We must realise that inner healing and psychology must work hand-in-hand. Instead of avoiding it, we must deal with it so that we will be at peace with ourselves. The question is whether we can do this without help.

The fact is: when we want to deal with something, we can’t do it ourselves. It has to involve others. The four Coping Stances and circumstances also make a difference. Can we love ourselves? We are created for relationship with people! Everyone has his own Iceberg, so how do we connect with another person? Often, we connect at the Behaviour level, and that is where a lot of problems surface. We need to connect at the Needs level. We need to appreciate ourselves. Communication is important to let others be aware of our needs. It is important to understand each others’ needs in order to address a more basic need.

Satir believes that everybody has the potential to grow. We can use the frame to guide us; to anchor our thoughts and feelings so that we are not all over the place. A problem is not the problem; the problem is the way we manage the problem. When we have a problem, we can try to cope with it using one of the four Stances.

Ms Abby, the facilitator, uses many case studies to illustrate the Satir model and the Iceberg metaphor. Her analysis and explanation is very clear and impressive. She displays great patience and empathy too. I look forward to participating in another course facilitated by her.

Coping And Overcoming Life Stressors 3

This afternoon’s session is the third in this series, and the facilitator, Abby, began by recapitulating what we learnt in the previous two lessons – tools (the Satir Model and the Iceberg Metaphor) to help us go through consciously in order to cope with fighting for survival.

It was interesting that she started off by using the example that is today’s national news, explaining that it is not a sudden eruption; there must have been a trigger to cause the flare up. It could have been started a long time ago, but suppressed or controlled by other forces. Emotionally and psychologically, there must have been earlier memories and deep issues not addressed. What we can learn from this is that we need to discover what is going on inside our life in order to deal with it.

The factors that shape who we are today include: Nature (eg gender, birth order, family of origin); Environment (eg family, schools, neighbours, friends, work place, culture); Life Events (eg Entrance – birth, marriage, new role; Exit – death, divorce, health; and Interaction with others and self).

Nature, Environment and Life Events are beyond our control, but Interaction is more current; we can manage it and be in control of it as it is inside us. Here, we can apply the Iceberg Metaphor. To reiterate this point, Abby asked the participants to from groups, choosing the stage at which we’re  happiest: the child (age 0 – 12), teenager (13 – 19), young adult (20 – 35), adult (36 – 55) and senior adult (beyond 55). The purpose of this activity is to ask ourselves how we can relate what we have learnt to why we choose to attend this course.

Using the Iceberg Metaphor, we have to work out the Feelings, Thoughts, Expectations, Needs and Self. Ultimately, it is not easy to use this tool unless it’s practised constantly. There is always a certain level of stress or tension (though manageable), even if demands are met. A lot of times, stress is to meet a certain demand.

All human beings have needs.Demand leads to expectations, and if these are not met, disappointment will set in. Then frustration and anger follow. But deep inside, there is sadness. Then negative thoughts would come in. Up to a point, expectation has to change, and thinking be adjusted to something more realistic. Because of the adjustment, anger becomes understandings and then empathy. A lot of our behaviour is triggered by our feelings. By knowing our feelings, we get more in touch with ourselves.

After a short break, we continued with the second part of the activity, which we then discover is known as the Life Graph Exercise. In this round, we have to recall the least happy stage of our life. As this is very personal and it is not easy to talk about the unpleasant events in our lives, we did this exercise individually, using the Iceberg Metaphor.

We should not avoid asking ‘How come?’ but dare to look inside ourselves and challenge ourselves and then it’ll be clearer in the present situation. A previous situation that has happened that we didn’t process at that time may affect how we handle things. When needs are not met, feelings and thoughts are always negative.

In the last ten minutes, Abby managed to cover the three foundation building blocks for self-esteem: the need for Unconditional Love (met through Acceptance, Approval & Provision of physical, emotional & psychological needs); the need for Security (met through Comfort, Bonding, Nurture) and the need for self-worth (met through Attention, Encouragement and Affirmation).

Neglect and rejection is more harmful that physical abuse. The impact is worse. Self needs to be nurtured from a very, very young age or else it would impact the rest of our lives. A lot of times, the root cause is from our younger years, especially relationships, because our values are learnt from there. More will be shared in the next session.

The Martian

This 2015 is based on a bestselling novel by Andy Weir and stars Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney who is presumed dead and left behind by his crew during a mission to Mars.

I would usually watch a Matt Damon movie at the cinema because I like his acting, but I I gave this one a miss because I thought the subject was something I completely couldn’t relate to. I can’t imagine reading the book either. I think I would have found it very boring.

The only thing I liked about this movie is the music, especially the songs by Donna Summer: Hot Stuff and I Will Survive (which I thought was used most appropriately in showing Watney’s many ways to survive on a barren planet with meagre supplies), David Bowie’s Starman and ABBA’s Waterloo. Credit must be given to the crew for the Special and Visual Effects.

The message that came across is : Every human being has a basic instinct – to survive. You take a step and then another. Each step will bring you closer to your dream; carry on, and one day you’ll be there.

Nothing’s Easy

It’s not so simple

to communicate with another;

There’s always discomfort

when there’s pretense and betrayal.


Love is not easy:

we all have different temperaments;

Relax and be happy:

listen to others cursorily.


Is happiness real?

Peace in bloom is much more fulfilling.

Past the age of dreaming,

and romanticism is dead.


There’s nothing easy

in this ludicrous world we live in;

Most won’t care for others –

we need to make our own decisions.

Coping And Overcoming Life Stressors 2

The second session of the worshop on Coping And Overcoming Life Stressors yesterday was even more interesting than the first one last week. The topic for discussion is ‘Using the Iceberg Metaphor as an Assessment Tool”. Those who were in the Guided Autobiography Course at the Bishan Library may be surprised at the last statement. But the fact is, we spent three enjoyable hours on it, and will continue next week.

In the opening activity Abby, the facilitator, asked the participants to form new triads by introducing ourselves to each other as a household electrical appliance and why we choose this appliance. Abby then explained that we would be exploring an useful tool to find out what is inside us – the Iceberg Metaphor.

Our behaviour (our action, with the coping stances – the waterline – discussed in the last session) makes up only 10% of what people see in us. The other 90% is made up of Feelings, Feelings About Feelings, Perceptiions, Expectations, Yearning/Needs and Self.

Feelings – for example, anger;

Feelings About Feelings

Perceptions – thoughts, belief, assumptions

Expectations – of self, of others and from others

Yearning/Needs – love, acceptance, freedom etc. This will drive our behaviour and includes Basic Needs such as water and food, house, clothes, comfort, rest and safety; Love and Belonging i.e. relationships; Power e.g. status, authority, respect, achievemnet, recognition and significance; Freedom in making one’s choice; Fun which brings out the creativity in us.

Self – core, esteem, self-confidence, determining the value for self

In the workshop, we are made aware through examples that all the layers are not sequential and can be jumbled up. What is deep inside us tell us how we should behave. We are able to express our needs in different situations. We should ask ourselves this: if we don’t care for ourselves, who will care for us? Hence the yearnings, needs and belonging.

We had only about an hour to work in our triads on how to use the Iceberg template and learn how all the layers can affect how we see ourselves. All the layers will build up to strong feelings and perceptions over time throughout our lives and will be reflected through our behaviour as adults.

There wasn’t enough time for sharing among the different triads, so that’ll be the first thing we’ll do next week before continuing to learn about Communication. I eagerly anticipate next week’s session.

Coping And Overcoming Life Stressors 1

This afternoon I attended the first session of Coping And Overcoming Life Stressors workshop, organised by C3A for the first time, at Family Central. The facilitator, Ms Abby Chew, from Fei Yue Counselling Centre,  has 9 years’ experience as a counsellor with the Prisons Service. Including myself, there are 15 participants; we are grouped in three’s (called a triad) for most of the activities.

The first thing Abby established was the three ground rules: active participation, have an open mind (respect each other), and maintaining confidentiality (sharing what we are comfortable with). It’s very similar to the ground rules we had for the Guided Autobiography (GAB) course that I co-facilitated twice at the Bishan Public Library.

The first activity was getting all the participants moving around the room and greeting each other with “I see you” and responding with “I am here”, an African tribal custom. It implies that it is people around us that make us feel good, and if you don’t see me, I don’t exist.

Then each triad gets to share their stresses in life and what they do to destress. This was by far the most interesting part of the afternoon. After this, Abby delivered a lecture/talk on the types of stress (Acute, Chronic, Eustress and Distress), the Satir Model of survival coping stances (Placating, Blaming, Super Reasonable and Irrelevant). There were some demonstration and role play involved, but I look forward to even more interesting sessions over the next three weeks (on the Iceberg Model as an assessment tool, Communication needs and Congruence).