"Our biggest problem as human beings is not knowing that we don't know." - Virginia Satir
Family therapist Virginia Satir was born in Wisconsin in 1916. She dedicated her life to helping families grow and heal, and some have called her the "mother of family systems therapy." She is the author of numerous books on family therapy and self-acceptance, and her work was modeled by John Grinder and Richard Bandler in their development of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). Their observations were published in The Structure of Magic Vol. I & II.
Satir shied away from the illness-centered approach of the Freudian school of psychology, and instead placed emphasis on personal growth throughout her 45 year career. She received her Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Chicago. During her career she (co)authored 12 books, received international acclaim and founded the International Human Learning Resources Network. In 1977 she formed an organization called Avanta that continues to continue teaching her methods in 18 countries.
"I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is to be seen by them, understood and touched by them and the greatest gift I can give is to see, to hear, to understand and to touch another person. When this has been done, I feel contact has been made." - Virginia Satir
NLP developer Steven Andreas once quoted Satir as saying "Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem. Coping is the outcome of self-worth, rules of the family systems, and links to the outside world." She created the following "Growth Model", now taugh by Avanta, as a manifestation of this philosophy:
The Five Freedoms
The FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead
of what should be, was, or will be.
The FREEDOM to say what you feel and think, instead of what you should.
The FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of what you ought.
The FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead of always waiting for permission.
The FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf,instead of choosing to be only "secure" and not rocking the boat.
Virginia was always careful to meet clients where they are, to enter their model of the world and thus establish deep rapport. She also helped her clients from a strong sense of self-efficacy. Her style is revealed in her poem "I am me", which she wrote while working with an 'angry fifteen-year-old girl who had a lot of questions about herself and what life meant'.
I am me
By Virginia Satir
I am me.
In all the world, there is no one exactly like me,
There are persons who have some parts like me,
but no one adds up exactly
Therefore everything that comes out of me is authentically
mine because I alone choose it.
I own everything about me…
my body, including everything it does;
my mind, including all its thoughts and ideas;
my eyes, including the images of all they behold;
my feelings, whatever they may be...
my mouth, and all the words that come out of it
sweet or rough,
correct or incorrect;
my voice, loud or soft;
and all my actions, whether they be to others
or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.
I own all my triumphs and successes,
all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me
I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By doing so I can love me and be friendly with me in all parts.
I can then make it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me,
and other aspects that I do not know.
But as long as I am friendly and loving to myself,
courageously and hopefully
look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound,
whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is me.
This is authentic and represents where I am at that moment in time.
When I review later
how I looked and sounded,
what I said and did,
and how I thought and felt,
some parts may turn out to be unfitting.
I can discard that which is unfitting,
and keep that which proved fitting,
and invent something new for that which I discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say and do.
I have the tools to survive,
to be close to others,
to be productive,
and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me.
I own me, and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me
and I am okay.
Virginia died of cancer in 1988 in San Mateo
. More information about Virginia Satir's life, her work and her philosophy can be found at http://www.avanta.net/