Newsletter – February, 2001

**Companion Resources Newsletter**

edited by Paul D. Leichty

Volume 3, No. 2 February 2001

What happens when your best efforts seem to fail? What do you do when an action you think is caring is met with fear and anger? How do you respond when someone can’t accept what you know is best for them? How do caregivers respond to the obstinance, aggressiveness, and even violence that greets our best efforts at caring? I’ll offer some thoughts in this month’s Companion Resources Newsletter.

Sometimes the experience of caring for children with disabilities is romanticized by persons outside that inner circle of caring. By the time these so-called “special people” are adults however, and particularly if there are issues of mental illness involved, those romantic notions cease. Indeed, society in general has little tolerance for the behavior of adults outside the accepted norms.

Indeed, if we focus on mental illness for a moment, there is much concern about violent behavior on the part of the person affected, largely due to a few highly-publicized cases. Last month again, a U.S. president was perceived to be in enough danger from a mentally ill person outside the White House gates that the authorities felt compelled to shoot at him. Fortunately, his injuries were not life-threatening.

This is a reminder to those of us who care for persons with special needs that anti-social, bizarre, and even violent reactions can indeed occur. They can occur at a much lower threshold than most of the general population. It is wise for us to realize this and prepare ourselves for the eventualities.

I had an experience not too long ago that reminded me how glad I was to have had some of this kind of preparation. While not going into specifics, it was the kind of situation in which I was genuinely trying to help, but the other person felt only pain and fear. The expression of that pain and fear directed toward me surprised me greatly.

I was even more surprised at the emotional pain that welled up inside of me. I have come to expect that even though I’m not always perfectly loving, everyone should at least recognize when I’m *trying* to be loving. However, this incident reminded me that this is one illusion I need to get rid of.

John McGee’s work on “Gentle Teaching” is the most helpful reminder that many of the persons that we relate to have experienced years of frustration, loneliness, and fear. Often, they cannot express these feelings in “acceptable” ways. Then, when we try the standard behavioral methods of reward and punishment, they feel even less valued and often the behaviors get even worse.

Gentle Teaching stresses that we who are able need to give as much unconditional love as possible. We need to examine even our glances, our sighs, and our facial expressions to see if they reflect impatience, disdain, and dismissal that triggers further sadness and fear in the other person. We need to realize that we cannot “fix” all of the pain of years past in a short period of time. But what we can do is try to create an atmosphere of safety, security, and love. We can truly value the other person as a person.

In cases where the possibility of violence becomes even greater, sometimes even more systematic methods of de-escalating that violence are necessary. There are ways of doing this that do not need to meet force with force. One method, that I am only beginning to learn about is the Mandt System, developed by David Mandt. Physical restraint is only used as a last resort and even then is done in manner which keeps the safety of all persons involved uppermost.

For me personally, the call to unconditional love reveals my own hidden pain and weakness. I can only love in this way as I am empowered by the love of God revealed fully in the person of Jesus. It is a growing process day by day to come back to show love even when I don’t see that love returned.

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I invite you again to check out the Companion Resources page on Gentle teaching (https://companionresources.org/Companionship/Gentleness The Gentle Teaching International (GTI) site is particularly helpful not only because it is the official site for Gentle Teaching, but because one can download John McGee’s latest books free of charge! The most recent one is called “Feeling at Home Is Where the Heart Must Be.”

I have also added a link on the Gentle Teaching page for the Mandt System. If you wish to go there directly, go to http://www.mandtsystem.com/.

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Companions are people who keep coming back to care no matter what happens. To keep coming back requires unconditional love, a love that takes action to care rather than relying on feelings. This is the first building block of community. I believe that with a will to care and a spiritual power to care, the feelings of care will follow. In showing love, we may even be surprised to catch a glimpse, even through the pain and fear, of love shown to us in return!

Blessings to all of you!

Paul D. Leichty

The Goldenrod Community

Middlebury, Indiana

PDLeichty@cresources.org

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