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Figure One: getting along








































From Figure
, you can see there are twelve combinations: relationships/behavior,
relationships/emotions, relationships/values, communication/behavior,
communication/emotions, etc. Only having a dozen things to think about makes it
easier for you to understand the getting along part of the family
system. For example, think about you and your spouse. Now focus on your
communication. With this focus, answer these questions.

How do
you behave when communicating with your spouse? What do you say and do?

emotions do you express while communicating? Are you calm, happy, angry,
frustrated, indifferent?

values do you communicate? Is your spouse important or an irritation? Is
talking with your spouse a pleasure or a nuisance? Are you a worthwhile person
with something important to say or hardly worth your spouse’s bother?

Follow the same process for how you relate to each other.
Think about your behavior, emotions, and values. Do the same for problem
solving and decision making. As you get into this activity, you will develop a
clearer-and-clearer picture of how the two of you get along.

There is an additional perspective you need to develop to
fully understand your family as a system. Think about the blocks in Figure
. As you know, there are at least two sides to every story. The same
holds for each block in the chart. Each person has his or her point of view
about what happens, about getting along.

For example, the family in the scene at the airport all
experienced the behavior and attitudes described earlier. Do you think each of
them saw it the same way? If you were to ask each of them to tell you what
happened, what do you think they would say? If you asked each of them to tell
you how they get along, what responses would you get? You can at least be sure
the two-year-old would tell a different story than his parents.

Try this. Use the twelve blocks in Figure One. Take
the point of view of the two-year-old. Now answer these questions.

How do my
parents relate to me? What are their behavior, emotions, and values as they
interact with me?

How do my
parents communicate with me? What do they say and do? What emotions do they
convey? How do they value me?

How do
they solve problems? What do they do, how do they feel about things, and what
is most important to them?

about my parents’ decision making? How do they manage their emotions as they
make decisions? What values do they use to make decisions? Who makes the
family’s decisions?

How did you do? Are you getting a picture of how the family
gets along from the child’s perspective? You can see how this picture is very
different than the one you would get if you were to assess how they get along
from the point of view of the father or mother. Each perspective needs to be
given full consideration.

For the next vignette, focus your attention on relationships,
communication, problem solving,
and decision making. Instead of
emphasizing the individuals, ask yourself how the people get along with each
other. What behavior and attitudes do you see in the relationship between TJ
and his step-father, between TJ and his mother, between Leroy and TJ’s mother?
Where does Pam fit into the picture? How do they communicate with each other?
How does the family solve problems and make decisions? Also give some thought
to how all this looks from the points of view of each person. For example, how
does the relationship between Leroy and TJ’s mother look from each of their
points of view, from TJ’s point of view, from Pam’s?

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