It’s no surprise that the greatest growth in streaming services was witnessed during the last two years. Even as social gatherings, onsite work, meetings are back, studies show that we may still be spending twice as much time binge-watching Netflix (and other channels) as compared to pre-pandemic times. Netflix drops an entire season at a time, making it a perfect invitation to binge-watch. Though not a huge fan of web series (purely for this reason), I admit I did watch the South Korean thriller-drama Squid Game at an alarming back-to-back pace. Apart from the brilliant performances, intelligent storyline and world-class production, I was blown away by the show’s universal message, and how each character fought for his/her survival.
This really brings home how in a do-or-die situation, our default fight, flight or freeze response comes through. Many of us aren’t aware of our default response, and psychologists say that this could lead to cracks in communication or even a mental breakdown.
Virginia Satir was one of the first and highly effective family therapists of her time. She achieved rapid transformational results by using five communication categories to identify behaviour, which ultimately improved communication effectiveness. Satir observed that people developed one of four distinct “survival stances”, or a combination of these, in an attempt to cope with their problems: blaming, placating, computing and distracting.
Satir identified the fifth category levelling more as what her definition of mental health looked like. It’s about achieving level-headedness in the face of a challenging situation. Relevant even today, it may be a good idea to identify which of these categories is your default, under stress:
Blamer behaviour finds fault with the other, a mistake-seeker, a dictator, never accepting responsibility. Blamers are more likely to initiate conflict.
A placater exists because of the blamer, almost like he/she is at the receiving end. Placaters are out to please, they are non-assertive, never disagreeing, not good enough. They avoid conflict. Their main concern is how other people perceive them. They speak as though they can do nothing for themselves, and constantly seek validation.
Someone who computes, over-rationalises, with very correct and rational behaviour but showing absolutely no softness, no emotion, masking a feeling of vulnerability. They often appear cold or unfeeling.
Distractors display an irrelevant reaction which is often confused with being amusing or comical. It is an attempt to distract the attention of others from the issue under discussion. Rather than positive action, distractors use a range of emotions from anger to guilt to either avoid an issue or manipulate how others feel. Distractors use a range of behaviour from blamer, placater and computer.
The leveller response is the most effective behaviour for solving problems creatively. They come across as ‘level-headed’, centred and factual. They are solution-oriented, have a conscious positive intention behind everything others do, have a high Emotional Quotient, strong personal values, high flexibility of behaviour and easily establish rapport.
In reality, each of these responses are a part of us. Each of these behaviours are part of our personality. But it is important to know which is your ‘default’. When the response is default or autopilot, there is less power and are less influential. Satir stressed on the ability to develop ‘flexibility’ in our style, so that we are not locked into one. With more behavioural flexibility, we can hold on to our personal power and influence the situation.
While the leveller sounds like the best style, it can be a problem if it is the only style you are comfortable in. Some situations call for the blamer personality to kick in. Some people’s fragile egos need to be massaged with the placater response, while sometimes you have to bring out the distractor to deflate an explosive situation or the computer to cut off all the excessive drama.
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