IAIP – Internacional Association of Individual Psychology



23th Congress of the International Association of Individual Psychology
Timar Iren The title of my presentation is The self-curing effect of acceptance. First, I would like to have a look at a tale from the Bible. We all know the story of Cain and Abel from the Genesis. This is the first tale after the ‘Paradise Lost’. The tale which is about Cain who kills his brother Abel. But what makes Cain kill his brother? What is the spiritual process that leads Cain to murder? We hardly know anything about Cain. We only know that he gives crop as a present to God, but God rejects his gift. The rejection and exclusion makes him become angry, mad and finally, sad. It happens just after this that he kills his brother who has gained acceptance. What is this story about? It tells us that we all need to feel that we are accepted just as we are. This feeling can be seen as a basic need. In order to be able to accept ourselves we have to gain the acceptance of our parents and the people surrounding us. Being accepted is also important in order to be able to be a member of a group or community. We require both self-acceptance and the acceptance of other people and the acceptance of a certain community. To feel that I am a member of a group, that I belong to somewhere, that I am important to somebody, are necessities of life. If we are rejected, non-accepted, are not members of a community then we will become lonely we will be at the mercy of others and we will become incapable of living. And that is the cruelest thing that can be done against a man. It does not matter what kind of a person you are, the aim of your behaviour is to find place among others to be accepted, appreciated and looked upon. In the groups the participants usually say, that before they thought they were the only people with such problems, that they were the only unfortunate people that they felt they were completely alone with their problems. But there in the groups they realise that there are others, who have problems too. From that point they no longer think that their problems are so unbearable. A mother of a seriously handicapped child once said,” As I was listening to the others ‘problems I had a feeling. What feeling was it? Was it glee? No, it was not. I only felt that I was not alone. And to feel that was very good.” We all need to feel that we belong to somewhere, belong to a group because alone sooner or later we would feel that we are incapable of living. During the years I have had groups of people with different age and with different social backgrounds. In the followings I would like to show you some episodes which illustrate the effect and the influence of an IP group on the individual. Gill and Susanna are the members of an adolescent psychodrama group. Gill is the oldest child in her family, who has faced that she cannot be good enough. She is not good enough for her parents especially for her mother; she is not good enough to be loved. For 3-4 years she has had panic attacks and auto-aggressive behaviour. For example she cuts her hands and arms with a knife or takes medicine. Susanna is an only child. Her parents were just about to get divorced when her mother became pregnant with her. When she was a child she often had to face that her parents were quarrelling over her. Sometimes she was even physically punished. Susanna has got serious adaptation problems. She cannot keep the rules, she is rude, aggressive rarely even bizarre. For instance she makes planes of murdering students and teachers in her school. The two girls go to the same secondary school where both of them separate themselves from other students meanwhile they are not accepted by the other students. In the group Gill is extremely kind, lovely and helpful. She tries to live up to other members’ expectations even if it is not good for her, moreover, even if it hurts her. She does not bare the smallest confrontation; she never tells if she has a different opinion. Then when the group meeting is finished she begins to feel bad and she has a panic attack. In the psychodrama group Susanna tries to do everything to show, both in the plays and outside the plays, that she is strong, she is not afraid of anything and that she cannot be defeated. She does everything to make the other children be afraid of her. As she says, she is the dark side. She is frustrated when she cannot be aggressive and frightening enough and she suffers from not being good in her ‘role’. The group accepted both Gill and Susanna. Gill is often encouraged to tell her opinion and when she has a panic attack 2-3 members of the group help her. Susanna’s aggressive behaviour is accepted by the group. The children accept that being frightening is important to Susanna but the children are not afraid of her. During the group therapy Gill has became more and more sociable and Susanna is more often frustrated because of being unable to act in a frightening and aggressive way. The appreciation and the tolerance of the group started inter-psychological changes at each girl. After this, in a game, Gill fought for herself. She did not turn her power against herself but she could act out her aggression. Then she told us that she was afraid of her feelings and rejected them, rejected the anger and the pain. She feared that if someone got to know her, he or she would reject her. As she told us this the girl sitting next to her folded her in her arms and said “I love this girl.” The other members also went up to her and that time she did not have a panic attack. In another game Susanna played that she fought with somebody but while fighting she had to take care of the other in order not to hurt him or her. After the game Susanna told smiling “It was very strange. And it was very difficult to take care of me and of the other. But it was good.” At Susanna an inner process has begun that replaced the revenge on the world with co-operation. In the group she can feel that she is loved no matter if she is frightening, frustrated or even helpless. The members help her and they do not hurt her. The members of the group usually organize weekly meetings apart from the psychodrama group when they talk or go to the cinema or to the theatre together. In the case of the girls, the family was unable to accept the child. Within their families both girls experienced that they were not good enough. Although due to their different lifestyles they reacted to this feeling differently. If a child cannot feel the total acceptance in his or her family, he or she will be more likely rejected in a nursery school or in a school. Here I would like to note that in the case of the schools which still use traditional educational and teaching techniques we often see that students who misbehave or students with worse grades are neglected and separated and they become more and more problematic and deviant. Once, in a so called ‘youth class’, a boy drew me the map of a road leading to him. I asked all the students to draw such a map and after we looked the maps together. In this class almost all maps contained the signs of ‘please accept me’. You have to know about the youth class that its students were 16-17 years old who had been expelled by schools. These students gave me a lot of help, because their maps showed me the way how to get to them, showed their dreams and fears and their origins. I strongly believe that rejection and separation are extremely dangerous in educational institutions. Why do I believe this? After the family the educational situation is the next where children take part in. Apart from the families the child care centres, the nursery schools and the schools are responsible for affecting children’s personality. We spend valuable periods of our lives there. That is the reason why these institutions should provide acceptance, appreciation and security. The staff of these institutions should be well-educated to be able to correct the families’ bad lifestyles and attitudes. Now let’s have a closer look at the rejection and separation from the society’s point of view. What do rejection and separation teach to a community? What are the affects of them in a community? It shows an example in which solution is separation. It is against community feeling. Instead of the feeling of us, there is the feeling of me and them. Moreover the feeling of me and them against each other. It causes frustration and fear because everybody can become separated. It strengthens attitude of superiority and overcompensation. Let us see now from the individual’s point of view It strengthens feeling of inferiority It strengthens oppositional behaviour It separates from the other members In schools children have to study how to co-operate with other children, how to adopt a community. The teachers should help this learning process. Apart from the acceptance of the family and from the acceptance of school the other very important factor is the acceptance or the rejection of the community we are born in. In the followings I would like to show acceptance and rejection caused by background through the example psychological dynamics of a group and of an individual. This example shows the influence of group’s acceptance on psychological changes In a private school 20 women start a dressmaker training. They also have to take part in an IP group. All of them were unemployed before. The youngest woman is 16 and the oldest is 42 years old. There are also differences between their education and social backgrounds. There are 4 students with gypsy origins. The aim of the IP group is to help the women get to know each others, and to help them form a community. The IP group works for 5 days, each day for 8 hours. In this group there is a gypsy girl called Mari. She hardly speaks on the first day and she laughs at everything. I tell her several times that I like that she is so cheerful and that she makes the group lively but I am unable to make her co-operate in group work. During the following days she interrupts into everything and then she laughs at what she just said. I ignore her behaviour and I see that the group members follow my example. But some of Mari’s ideas are useful so the group plays her ideas. On the 4th day she starts to talk about what will happen if she finishes the training; that she will be a dressmaker. As she talks I feel that she wants to be a dressmaker, but she believes it is impossible. She fears of the training. After 5 or 6 sentences she starts to laugh again in a way that she is unable to go on talking. She is in tears. I tell her that her laugh is fantastic as she is in tears meanwhile. I have the feeling that she is crying while laughing or is laughing while crying. I tell her. She says ‘maybe’, but after this she behaves less laud and she starts to take part in group works but still only as an observer. In the morning of the last day she does not appear. The group members tell me that they miss her. One of the women tells us that she met her the previous and Mari had a toothache. After six hours Mari appears with swelled face. The whole group welcomes her some members even tell her that they missed her a lot. Mari tells us that she could not sleep all night because of her toothache and that she came to the group after the dentist where she had her tooth pulled. It hurts badly but she wanted to come to the group. She tells us that she has never felt herself so good than here in the group. She is very happy. She starts to cry and the group members cry with her. She says that she has been thinking of this since the previous day, because until then she felt herself alone and lonely. The previous day she went home and she had a toothache. She went to the dentist and on the way to the dentist she met one of the group members on the square of the city. She was extremely happy that she had someone she knew someone she could go to and talk to. “I have never gone to a non gypsy person before. I was so proud to talk to her. I felt it helps.” Then she tells us that at school she used to behave the same way as in the group and she always used to be sent away by the teachers. She used to be sent for chalk or to the shop, just not to be at school. She graduated from the primary school because the teachers let her through the exams as they wanted to get rid of her. She tells us that in the first few days she expected us to rebuke her or send her out of the room. But as it did not happen she started to feel more and more comfortable in the group and she was happy to be there. She says it would be good to hold an annual meeting after they finished the training. As the training is over Mari organises the first meeting where she brings a sheet of paper with her. On the paper there are the lines of the group members. The lines of what they like about Mari. She puts the paper on the table and tell the members that during the training the members were who helped her with finishing the training and becoming a dressmaker. She thanks the members and gives a flower to each of them. In this group everyone brought her different lifestyles and different backgrounds. The similar in them although, apart from being a woman, was being an unemployed who had to start a new thing, which was learning a new job. This new job would provide them working facilities. Mari due to her origin, to her defeats at school to her constant separation and non-acceptedness brought the feeling of inferiority into the group and the behaviour to hide this feeling. In the group she faced that her provocations did not attain her goal, that she was treated as an equal and that she was accepted. The feeling of inferiority was replaced by the community feeling and she, who had previously experienced being separated, wanted to belong to the group and wok for the group. Adler taught that the best cure against inferiority feeling is the community feeling. In the case of my IP groups I often see that these groups move to be self-help groups. That after 1 or 2 group meeting the members meet outside the group and they learn how to feel themselves well in a community. They learn to pay attention to others, to help others. The community and the feeling of belonging to a community become very important to them. They learn to understand themselves and the others better and they learn to accept differences. I started my presentation with the story of Cain and Abel. This is humanity’s first story after the ‘Paradise lost’. This might means that the first, the most important task here below, in this world is to learn to accept the other person with his or her differences. I know it is often not easy. But we, parents, adults teachers and helpers have to be patient. We have to wait for the hand because that would be the basis of the following steps. And what is that? The feeling of being accepted.


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