Dr. Paul Standal focuses on reducing your anxiety by helping you in understanding the crisis you are undergoing and recognizing and using your personal strength and inner resources for managing crisis.
UNDERSTANDING SYSTEMS IN CRISIS
MaryAnn Wheeler, RN, M.S.
Each of us belongs to many social systems…our family is one; the people we work with is another; the friends we spend time with; the neighborhood we live in. Each group of people we join with forms a social system. Everyone wants to belong, to be close to other people…to work together, to enjoy each other, to have a place of his own; but when people are close, they sometimes collide.
Systems make rules and assign roles in order to make relationships between members go more smoothly and to cut down on the friction, allowing time for work and play. Rules and roles work best when everybody knows what they are and agrees to follow them. Each person knows his responsibilities, and what he can expect from others. Together the system works out ways to live as a group and to cope with problems.
People in systems have wishes and needs and feelings. Sometimes these conflict with the way the system runs. People grow. Systems must grow with them. Everything that happens in a system affects every person in that system.
Systems are designed for the way things usually are. When the unexpected happens, it puts a strain on the system. Maybe Mom has to go to the hospital, or Dad loses his job. A son or daughter growing up puts a strain on the family system because no matter how much you plan, growing up is full of surprises.
Systems under stress need to put lots of energy into solving their new problems, leaving less energy to meet the members’ needs. Rules and roles have to be changed and comfortable ways of behaving must be altered. When a system meets a crisis, it’s very easy for the stress to become distress.
The tension people feel under stress is called anxiety. A little bit of anxiety, or even a moderate amount, gets us moving. We try harder to solve the problem so we can feel more comfortable. Too much anxiety has a different result. When we’re very, very anxious, we feel bewildered, confused, panicky and helpless. The problem seems to grow and grow and melts into all our other problems till we don’t know where to turn.
Every system and every person meets a crisis once in a while where they need help. Fortunately, a little bit of help often goes a long way in a crisis, because what is needed most is somebody to assist in directing the energy and anxiety towards seeing the problem more clearly, getting the necessary information, dealing with the feelings involved and obtaining needed help. If the stress is from outside of the system, the system will unite to deal with the stress. If the stress is from inside the system, the system may begin to break down fighting among members. Real or feared separation is one of the main causes of stress in social systems.
Look for the coping patterns (ways in which the system usually deals with problems) and resources (sources of help within the system and from outside people). Is more information needed by the members? Are they able to express their feelings about the problem and towards each other openly and directly? Is help available to them and are they willing to seek help?
Often a system will try to deal with a problem by blaming it all on one person. This person becomes a scapegoat who is seen as responsible for all the difficulties. Then the system tries to fix him or push him out in the hope that, when he is gone, the problem will be gone, too.
When we work with systems who are having problems and seek our help, it is important to be aware of our own beliefs, values and prejudices as well as those of the people we are helping. We need to assess the problems, the whole system, as well as individual people in the system.
As a Therapist I believe that with some guidance members of any social system can find solutions in a crisis, finding their way back to a state of balance and again. We help social systems like a family find consensus, helping all individuals in formal and informal positions of power commit to making changes in the system. Without consensus the changes are unlikely to occur.
At the same time, change requires understanding the ways of acting which are expected or required of people because they hold certain positions in a system. Each person must perform certain functions because he or she plays a certain role. If a person who plays an important role in a system leaves that system, it is important to determine what his role was, and to clarify the abilities of other people to take over his functions. If the stress is from outside of the system, the system will unite to deal with the stress.
(Note: there were huge sections of this article I took out because they were exact duplicates of paragraphs contained earlier in the document. Please re-read this article and make sure it still flows the way you originally intended, as not all of the information in each later paragraph was duplicated and I had to delete portions or all of certain paragraphs.)
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