A Welcome Message

It's a great big world we live in. And yet-it's a small world (after all). There are so many different cultures and opinions and theories and beliefs, but there is one thing that exists among them all, and that is FAMILY.

I firmly believe that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

On this blog, I'll share information from my classes, experiences from my own life, thoughts and feelings from my heart-all on the subject of FAMILY.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Things First

Last week we learned about theories. Specifically, family theories. 

For example, here are some concepts from two of my favorite family theories:

Family Systems Theory
 - the whole is larger than the sum of its parts
 - everyone has a role to play
 - families are driven by rules
 - circular causality

Symbolic Interactions Theory
 - perception of individuals
 - we're always communicating, though sometimes not what we mean to
 - we form meaning based on our perception of interactions

How can theories help families?
Consider the following scenario. Overall, Dean and Janet are happily married. However, Janet has been so upset with Dean lately. It seems as though he's been deliberately doing or neglecting simple things just to frustrate her. For instance, Janet is always the one who has to replace the empty toilet paper roll, so the last time she noticed it empty, she decided to leave it and make him take care of it. The next day, it was still empty, but Janet refused to change it. She noticed she had a hard time being more than civil with Dean that day. The next day, it was still empty! And Janet finally snapped. She tore into Dean about how lazy and inconsiderate he was. Dean sat stunned, and when he asked Janet where this was all coming from, she took it as an unwillingness to take responsibility for his neglect and stormed off fuming. Feeling confused, guilty, and a little defensive, Dean kept his distance the rest of the night and the rest of the week because he didn't want to be accused of anything else he wasn't aware of. Janet noticed Dean's distance, considered it an action of his guilt, and became more and more infuriated with him as the days went on.....

Sometimes, more than one theory can come into play for one situation. This one, I believe, uses both Family Systems and Symbolic Interactions Theory to understand what's happening. Do you see the circular causality that's happening? Janet feels Dean has been neglectful, so she accuses him of being lazy -> Dean feels attacked for doing nothing wrong, so he distances himself -> Janet notices his distance and feels even more neglected. Each of their perceptions affects their actions and feelings toward the other person. Janet perceives an empty toilet paper roll that Dean refuses to replace. Dean perceives Janet attacking him for no reason. But what can the couple do to understand their situation?

Our teacher, Brother Williams, quoted something that he first heard from Elder Harold B. Lee - "We need to communicate so we cannot be misunderstood."

Now let's rewind a little and change the initial interaction between Janet and Dean. Janet approaches Dean and says, "Dean, why don't you replace the toilet paper roll in the bathroom? I feel like I'm always the one doing it." Dean looks at her a little stunned at first, then with a look of realization. "Oh," he says, "I didn't know it was empty. I haven't used that bathroom in a little while. I usually use the hall bathroom just because it's closer."

Do you see the difference? Understanding that Dean's neglectfulness and Janet's accusations were not what was actually hurting the relationship, or at least not the core of the problem, helps family therapists (or anyone who's trying to help) get to the root of what is actually the problem. In this case, Janet and Dean were not clearly communicating with each other. They were communicating-it's impossible not to-but they were not communicating what they actually felt or perceived and therefore perplexed the situation more.

What kinds of misunderstandings have you been in that have caused a strain on that relationship for even a short period of time? Looking back now, what could you have done differently to avoid or remedy the misunderstanding?

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