An LSCI Reality Rub Reclaiming Intervention

By: Gerrit deMoor, LSCI Master Trainer
Master Facilitator of the International Virtues Project
MFC Sint-Gregorius, Belgium

Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) offers skills to constructively manage the emotions and stressors that overwhelm and disturb children and youth. In a former article (Verté & De Moor, 2013) we showed that it is important to use LSCI in a dynamic and open-minded way in order to discover a child’s specific self-defeating pattern of behavior. The conclusion of that article was that LSCI gives important information to clarify the self-defeating pattern and to build more responsible and more appropriate behavior.

Staff who use LSCI on a regular basis know without any doubt: after the self-defeating pattern is clarified, the reclaiming process begins. Further, it takes a consistent belief in the strengths of the child to effect behavioral changes within the child. When we succeed in this process, we can compare the process of diagnosing and reclaiming with a therapeutic process, because it leads to a real change in perceiving, feeling, thinking and behaving of the child.

A key role in this reclaiming process is unconditional love. It was the process we used with Tom* that lead us to this conclusion:

Tom was born in 2002 to a family that couldn’t take care of him. In 2006, the juvenile court decided that he and his older brother would have to be removed from their home. Because of severe behavioral problems in school and in Tom’s first placement, he came the our residential care center in 2008. Early on, although Tom was involved in many crises, our staff never had the opportunity to use LSCI in a profound way, because of all of the defense mechanisms Tom used. But as time passed, it seemed that the staff of our center were the most consistent persons in his young life and Tom cautiously began to invest in a mutual relationship with certain staff members.

The staff decided that as many crisis situations as possible should be worked through between Tom and one consistent staff member. I was selected to be the person who supported Tom through crises. To establish the requisite trust and supportive relationship that is so helpful to the LSCI process, I made time to spend time with Tom during non-crisis moments such as class or group work.

After a series of crisis interventions, it became clear that Tom was caught in the Reality Rub pattern—an LSCI term used when young people consistently make poor decisions based on distorted thought patterns and perceptual errors. I discovered that Tom held a series of irrational beliefs that could be summarized as follows:

• “No-one supports me.”
• “Everyone has the goal to make my life miserable. They are a threat.”
• “I have to defend myself against others.”

The Incident
One day, Tom came into my office, opened the closet and took out some colored paper and a pair of scissors. I told him I felt annoyed because I like to manage my own materials and I find it hard when someone comes in a takes out material without asking for permission. Immediately, Tom threw my materials on the ground and started yelling.

Stage 1: Drain off
Tom: What’s up, man?! You hate me! Just like all the rest!

Gerrit: Tom—you are showing so much anger all of a sudden. What are you trying to tell me?

T: You are just mad at me. You don’t want me to have a good time! That’s what you’re up to!

There was a brief period of silence. Tom breathed heavily.

G: I see you’re breathing heavily, Tom. It seems I have upset you.

T: Everyone wants to upset me. Why can’t I have the crafting material? You’re mad at me for no reason!

G: You feel angry because I told you I was annoyed that you took my materials without permission?

By acknowledging Tom’s anger and disappointment, I put language to his emotion, which helped him to begin to calm down. He started to show more control and was breathing less heavily. At this point, I sensed that we could we start establishing a Timeline.

Stage 2: Timeline

T: Yeah man, I feel angry! I only wanted to craft and spent some free time in here with you. And you don’t want me to!

G: You were hoping to work on some crafts and spend some of your free time here in my office with me. That’s great. We both enjoy spending time together. Then when I told you how I felt about you taking my materials without permission, you became very angry very quickly.

T: (nods)

G: Tom, help me to understand. Was there something else that upset you and caused you to come into my office in the first place? I know you were just in group. Was everything ok then?

T: Oh man, leave it…

(A few moments of silence)

T: We were having a snack and a cup of milk. I spilled some milk on the table and Freddy (the educator) started getting on my back about it.

G: Freddy got on your back about the spilled milk. Can you tell me more about what happened?

T: Well, I poured myself a glass of milk but I spilled a few drops on the table. Freddy told me to clean it up immediately. Then, I had less free time.

G: Thanks for helping me understand a little bit more about what was going on before you came to my office. I’m still not sure I totally understand, though. Why did you have less free time?

T: Well, since I had to clean up the table, I finished my snack late and so I missed some free time.

G: How did that make you feel?

T: Freddy makes me mad! Why can’t I have as much free time as the other kids?

G: Did you clean the table?

T: Of course, I did. But I hate Freddy for stealing my time.

G: You are really angry at Freddy because you think he stole your free time.

T: (silence)

G: What happened next?

T: I was mad at Freddy, so I decided to do some craftwork here. I didn’t want to spend more time in the group.

G: That’s great, Tom. I am impressed. You were really upset and angry at Freddy but you didn’t act it out. You made a decision to clean up the table, finish your snack, then come to my office to spend some time. All of those things were really good decisions. But then what happened?

T: You started upsetting me too! Just like Freddy did!!

G: Yes, Tom, I can hear that just thinking about this still angers you. What were you thinking when you opened my closet door and I told you that I felt annoyed and that I expect a request to use my material?

T: I was thinking that you’re also on my back, man. Everyone is!

G: You thought I was on your back, just like everyone else. Tell me what other thoughts went through your mind.

T: We always do craftwork together. And now you won’t allow me to use the material!

G: You were thinking that I told you that you weren’t allowed to do craftwork. Let me ask you a question: can you remember exactly what I said to you, Tom?

T: You told me not to craft!

G: Did I really use those words?

T: (after some silence) Oh, I don’t know. You know what you said, so why are you asking me?

G: I want to help you consider that there might be some important differences between what you thought and what really happened. Please think carefully: what did I say to you when you entered my office and started taking the craft materials from my closet?

T: I don’t know… I wanted to use the materials and you don’t want me to.

G: I would like you to craft, Tom. Especially because crafting is a solution you found out yourself after you got upset about the spilled milk. But what I said to you was that I felt annoyed because you just took out the materials from my closet without asking. It is hard for me to manage my material when people just take it. Do you remember now?

T: (after some silence) Yes, that’s about what you told me.

As we continued to work our way through the Timeline process, we discovered that Tom thought he could use my materials that were in the closet because we frequently use them during our time together. I used the LSCI Conflict Cycle™ with him Tom to trace the root of his irrational beliefs, starting from the spilling of the milk until his anger when I told him how I felt about his taking the crafting material without my permission. The Conflict Cycle™ is LSCI’s paradigm for explaining the dynamics of escalating power struggles between adults and children. It is an extremely useful tool in helping young people connect feelings and thoughts with behavior. It also helps adults understand what is stressful about an event for kids.

Stage 3: Central Issue
G: Tom, I see similar things happening in both situations you have been in today. First, when Freddy asked you to clean up the milked you spilled, you thought he was trying to make you do things so that you had less free time, right?

T: Sure! What else? Freddy always gets on my back.

G: And secondly, when I told you not to take my crafting material without asking, you thought I didn’t want you to have a good time by crafting? Am I right there too?

T: Hmm, I guess… I don’t know…

G: What makes you hesitate now?

T: I thought you were getting on my back too, just like Freddy. (Silence) I don’t know… You usually always let me do craftwork.

Stage 4: Insight
G: Now, Tom, it seems like you are realizing now that it wasn’t my intention to stop you from doing craftwork, although this is what you thought at first.

T: (Nods)

G: It seems maybe you were expecting that I was going to give you a hard time, so instead of listening to what I said, you assumed I was saying something completely different.

T: I guess so.

G: And when you expect some things, you come to wrong conclusions, don’t you?

T: (Silence)

G: So, let’s talk about Freddy again. Do you remember exactly what he told you?

T: He said he wanted me to clean up the spilled milk first. That’s what he said.

G: What could have been his purpose?

T: I don’t know…

G: Think about it, Tom. Was he trying to steal your free time?

T: No, I guess not.

G: What did he want than?

T: I don’t know. I spilled milk, so I guess he wanted me to clean it up.

G: I guess that’s the point. Freddy probably just wanted you to clean the table. That’s all.

By connecting the two conflicts, Tom was able to gain a new perspective on the irrational beliefs that were occupying his thoughts in both situations. He understood that his rigid ideas were causing both his angry feelings and his verbally aggressive behavior in my office. He even was able to acknowledge that his irrational beliefs often caused regular, everyday-type events to become stressful events for him.

In stage five – New Skills – Tom and I agreed that he needs to express his thoughts in words, in order to check his beliefs and prevent further crises from occurring.

Stage 5: New Skills
G: Now Tom, let’s do this all over again. Let’s practice this in a role play. You come in again and you take out the crafting material out of my closet. I will tell you I feel annoyed when people just come in and take things. And then you will check your thinking – Gerrit is getting me upset – by asking a clarifying question. You can show you’re mad by yelling at me or whatever.

(Tom leaves the office. I start working on my laptop again. He comes in, opens my closet and takes out some paper and a pair of scissors.

G: Hey Tom, what are you doing? I don’t like it when people come in and take away my material without asking. How can I manage my materials when things happen like this?

T: (He wants to show me he’s mad and upset. But this is role playing and he seems not a good actor. His acting is more humorous than anything else). Hey man, what’s your problem? Are you trying to get me mad or what!

G: No, Tom. Making you upset is the last thing I want to do. I just want to make sure I keep track of my crafting material. I want to make sure all materials are always available. If people just take without asking, I can’t keep track of what I have and I will run out materials.

T: (Still role playing, but quiet sincere). Oh, I understand. Sorry I just took things out of the closet without asking. Can I use these colored paper and scissors? Please?

G: Sure you can, Tom. What are you up to with it?

T: I want to make some paper flowers.

Stage 6: Transfer of Training

In this situation, since Tom’s main episode of angry, aggressive behavior was directed at me, we did not need to spend time during Stage 6 planning for how he would re-join his group. Rather, talked about the new insights Tom gained about how his irrational beliefs fuel angry thoughts and aggressive behaviors and often result in exactly the type of interaction with adults that he seeks to avoid. We reiterated how he could use the skills rehearsed during our Stage 5 role playing to bring about more positive relationships with adults and better management of his own emotions.

Commentary:
While experience of this intervention—and others like it—was very positive for Tom, it must be noted that this single conversation alone didn’t effect total change for Tom. Of course, he continued to get caught in new crises. One good intervention doesn’t change behavioral patterns all at once. More crises led to more interventions and ultimately, new insights and greater self-awareness.
At one of these subsequent interventions, Tom realized that when he lost control during a troubling encounter, he then typically became overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and shame at not having been able to stay out of the crisis. In fact, it came to a point where after almost any crisis, Tom was so overcome by shame that it made it difficult for him to process his feelings or talk about what happened. What the adults realized is that Tom’s self-defeating pattern was evolving from a Reality Rub one towards a pattern of Massaging Numb Values (MNV) . Our MNV interventions, in turn, led us towards an even deeper understanding of Tom’s psychological world. Now, Tom’s irrational beliefs shifted from “No-one supports me” and “They are a threat” to

• “I can’t manage it.”
• “I’m no good.”
• “I deserve things to go wrong for me.”

We discovered that Tom blew up every relationship at the moment that that relationship started to be supportive. He swore at staff, threatened people, showed little respect for personal property. He even became physically aggressive. When he was punished for this inappropriate behavior, the relationships with supportive adults were damaged in the process.

In a formal meeting with all of the adults that were involved with Tom, the young man’s intra-psychological dynamics were discussed and we agreed to unconditionally accept Tom the way he presented himself to us. Instead of using punishment to cope with his disruptive behavior, we agreed to name and accept his feelings and thoughts and help him put language to them. Every time there was a crisis, we reserved punishment, threats of punishment, shaming and accusations. Instead, we gave Tom feedback about his feelings and thoughts and we made the connection with his behavior. Tom increasingly gained insight into his own irrational beliefs.

Most importantly, the unconditional acceptance by the staff gave Tom solid ground under his feet. Because the staff no longer expressed accusations and shame towards him, Tom was better able to accept and love himself. By shedding the idea of being a misfit and a loser, the engine that drove his disruptive behavior began to sputter. In time, we saw Tom definitively gain control over his thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

From time to time, we still see Tom getting caught in his old irrational beliefs and having troubling behavior as a consequence–especially when there are troubles at home, such as when his father promises Tom that he can visit and then is not able to keep his promise. In such circumstances, Tom sees himself again as a loser, who is not worthy of his father’s promise. In this context, it also is important to us to help Tom’s father only make promises that he can keep. On the one hand, we understand that Tom’s dad is making efforts to be a good father to his children and he makes these promises to show his love to his children. On the other hand, we have to make him aware that his children have already suffered a lot in their young lives and that they need stability and reliability to cope with these sufferings. We now still need to run a process with Tom and his father to teach both of them that love, especially love between a parent and a child, is unconditional. Love doesn’t depend on promises kept or broken, but love has all to do with acceptance of each other for who they are.

References

Long, N., Wood, M., & Fecser, F. (2001). Life Space Crisis Intervention. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

McGee, J.J., Menolascino, F.J. (1991). Beyond Gentle Teaching. A Nonaversive Approach to Helping Those in Need. New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press.

Verté, L., De Moor, G. (2013). Triangulating Information from Recurrent Crises. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 22 (2), 40-42.

About the Author:
Gerrit De Moor is a Master Trainer for the LSCI Institute, working in Belgium. Gerrit graduated as an industrial engineer in 1987 and started working in this field. He says he never felt at home in the industrial world, however, believing their view on man and the world made it hard for him to fit in.

In 1990, Gerrit started a course on orthopedagogics and four years later earned his degree in this field. By ‘coincidence,’ he started working with children and youth with EBD. Gerrit soon became a specialist in developing individualized programs for prosocial skills.

In 2001, after 9/11, Gerrit says he was searching for a more positive framework to utilize with these children. He studied and implemented the paradigm of non-violence by a Belgian anthropologist: Pat Patfoort (http://www.patpatfoort.be/ENG-Pat.htm). One year later, his team was invited by Dr. Franky d’Oosterlnck to take part in the first European LSCI-training in Europe. The LSCI method turned out to match perfectly in the paradigm of non-violence.

Gerrit was invited by Dr. Franky D’Oosterlinck to assist at his trainings and in 2007, Gerrit traveled from Belgium to Columbus, OH to become certified as a Senior LSCI Trainer.

Since then, Gerrit has successfully conducted many LSCI Certification trainings and is actively involved in the EFeCT group (www.efect.be). In 2013, he was honored by the LSCI institute as a Master Trainer.

Gerrit is also a Master Facilitator of the Virtues Project. (www.virtuesproject.com) and author of a book on the issue of punishment. He is currently working on a translation in English of the Dutch book. For more information on Gerrit, please visit: https://be.linkedin.com/pub/gerrit-de-moor/50/920/154

Contact information:
Gerrit De Moor
e-mail: gerrit.de.moor@outlook.com

For more real-life examples of LSCI interventions, please visit https://www.lsci.org/learn-more/real-examples-of-lsci-interventions-with-kids/

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