“Life is not what it's supposed to be. It is what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”Virginia came from a farming family with an alcoholic father.
When she was five years old, Satir suffered from appendicitis. Her mother, a devout Christian Scientist, refused to take her to a doctor. By the time Satir's father decided to overrule his wife, the young girl's appendix had ruptured. Doctors were able to save her life, but Satir was forced to stay in the hospital for several months.
A curious child, Satir taught herself to read by age three, and by nine had read all of the books in the library of her small one-room school.
When she was six, she became very observant of human interactions when she developed deafness for two years following mastoiditis. She noticed that people appeared to communicate in very different ways from each other and decided then that she was going to be a detective of adults when she grew up. Unable to hear what they were saying, she learned to detect when they were blaming, placating, doing “super reasonable” (or computer), or distracting. She later explained that "I didn't quite know what I would look for, but I realized a lot went on in families that didn't meet the eye."
"The family is a microcosm. By knowing how to heal the family, I know how to heal the world."
Once she was an adult, she developed these defensive Communication Stances that she then recognized as defending low self-esteem. She taught people how to communicate congruently (sincerely but with consideration for the other's feelings); in other words, to be the same on the outside as they were on the inside and to be fully in touch with their whole Self.
When congruent, one can freely express one's own thoughts, feelings and opinions, and also acknowledge the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the other, and acknowledge the context of the relationship. She also taught that being congruent would raise self-esteem.
Virginia was internationally recognized for her creativity in the practice of family therapy. Based on conviction that people are capable of continued growth, change and new understanding, her goal was to improve relationships and communication within the family unit.
“Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible - the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family”She was one of the three sources of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), which was developed by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. These two videotaped her, Fritz Perls, and Milton Erickson, the famous hypnotherapist. Richard Bandler and John Grinder discovered that these three magical therapists were using non-verbal cues and communication at a non-verbal level that can, in fact, be taught. NLP can be a potent tool for change, but asked what she thought of it, she said, “They have the mind of the matter, but not the heart of it.”
“We can learn something new anytime we believe we can”Virginia Satir developed what she called "survival stances" that demonstrated how problems were dealt with. These four are:
• being irrelevant and
• being super-reasonable.
These four stances were, she felt, developed throughout one's life; developed for survival which were used to protect themselves from perceived and presumed, verbal and nonverbal threats.
The four stances were used in therapy sessions as tools to determine her clients' issues and what the best avenue of productive therapy was needed. In addition, the therapy techniques were altered accordingly to help the client change their survival stances. By providing the client knowledge, awareness, experience and manifestation the therapies were enhanced and provided a positive outcome for the patient's.
Adolescents are not monsters. They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves.There are five points of philosophy that drove her work; she referred to them as the "Five Freedoms" which are as follows:
• The freedom to see and hear what is in the present instead of what was, should be or will be
• The freedom to say what one thinks and feels rather than what one should
• The freedom to feel what one feels rather than what one ought
• The freedom to ask for what one wants rather than waiting for permission
• The freedom to take risk's on one's own behalf rather than choosing to "rocking the boat"
“If I can have the same from you then we can truly meet and enrich each other.”One of Satir's most novel ideas at the time, was the "presenting issue" or surface problem – that the presenting issue itself was seldom the real problem; rather, how people coped with the issue created the problem." Satir also offered insights into the particular problems that low self-esteem could cause in relationships.
Long interested in the idea of networking, Satir founded two groups to help individuals find mental health workers or other people who were suffering from similar issues to their own. In 1970, she organized Beautiful People, which later became known as the International Human Learning Resources Network. In 1977 she founded the Avanta Network.
Two years later, Satir was appointed to the Steering Committee of the International Family Therapy Association and became a member of the Advisory Board for the National Council for Self-Esteem.
“Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like. She is a person who understand, values and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.”