It, of course, depends on the other person’s knowledge of NVR.
Even if you slapped me with a raw diamond straight in my face I would not know what hit me. I am ignorant about diamonds – raw or cut. It would be a mistake to ask me about evaluation.
I was asked to join a colleague who felt that his client would benefit if she learnt a bit of basic NVR. He is familiar with NVR yet his experience is very limited. We had a joint session. After this meeting, my colleague e-mailed me something to that effect: “what a pity that we did not do any NVR but thank you for your input”.
My jaw dropped. What did he mean – we did not do NVR. I was doing nothing else but NVR.
I reviewed the session in my mind. From the get-go:
- I was collecting information to identify the escalation points (to identify an escalation style)
- I asked questions to understand the support system around the family (break the secrecy, involve the community – a very strong NVR principal).
- I also elicited parent’s values – parental values and her life values to see whether there were any major conflicts which would be stopping her from exercising her parental presence – parental authority (on values parents build their parental presence).
- I also found out about mum’s baskets and the child’s positive qualities. In that way we could identify the small basket behaviour, recognise the best supporters who could help with it (prioritising and bringing forth the child’s positive qualities – another NVR principal).
- We also were able to tentatively identify mum’s belief and value system which was a barrier to a positive change (reasons for the lack of parental presence – presence is a core of the NVR approach).
- In the process, as I could see that we also managed to deescalate Mum’s anxiety, gave her hope for the better future, reassure her that she could ask for help and utilise the available support system (NVR is about activating communities and inclusion).
Indeed, we did not directly work on the actual interactions between mum and the child. Therefore we were not using the NVR lingo. If we did, everyone who heard of NVR would shout out – oh, there they are doing NVR. See, they talk about complementary/symmetrical escalations, support system, announcements, time delay responses, sit-in, reconciliation gestures etc.
Why I avoided talking about NVR techniques in my consultation? In my view it could be akin to putting a dressing on chronically bleeding nose, instead of finding out why the nose has been bleeding in the first place. Taking care of the nose dripping with blood is important however only in the short term. Do it in whatever way you have learnt AND then focus the remaining 99% of your attention on remedying the underlying cause(s), would be my suggestion.
In this case the most escalatory point was the parent’s believe that she should be able to do things all by herself, always. She was very good at sorting things out and keeping “the lid on” so no one really could appreciate the gravity of the situation. In long term this attitude was escalating the child’s behaviour even more.
It seemed that the more mum was keeping the lid on the more pressure the child was producing to blow the lid off. It was only reinforcing the child’s very violent communication and increasing mum’s helplessness and despair. In fact, it has been producing more and more escalations between them and more and more emotional cut-off feelings in mum. It is a very well known recipe for losing parental presence. Conditions like those seem to increase the child’s deprivation because without a strong parental authority figure child cannot get his emotional and psychological needs met. He could coerce mum to do what he wanted but she was not in a position to do what he needed to be done.
Helping mum to endure the assaults even better by ill understood de-escalation techniques and temporarily decreasing these outbursts would not do much good to this family. It seemed to me.
After all the necessary support for the parent and recognition of the child’s unmet needs (so we know what to provide) is done, the direct work on rebuilding their relationship could happen. It will be successful only when the relationship is rested on strong foundations (support system around the family).
Bear with my example – this is what came to my mind – if you want to patch up your old jacket you better first fortify the fabric around the hole otherwise the place when you stitch the path to the jacket may be the place where a new tear occurs in the future.
NVR is an approach based on strong philosophical principals. Those principals were translated into tangible steps and methods which can be observable – announcement, sit-in, supporters’ campaign, reconciliation gestures. Yet, there is no one recipe for doing the announcement or reconciliation gesture. NVR principal is like a guideline which helps each of the family to adjust it to its needs and specific situation.
For me this is a beauty of NVR – as long as you are faithful to the principal your methods could vary. In one case, de-escalation is about staying in the room with the child who is becoming out her own control. In another case, leaving the room and putting distance between the child and the parent will deflate the confrontation. In yet another situation breaking the silence, letting people know about the violence, the struggle the impossibility of the situation will cause de-escalation in the long term.
The principal is simple – stop the fire in a respectful and dignified way. How specifically you achieve it depends on the situation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with such a pearl of wisdom “As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principals are few. The man who grasps principals can successfully select his own methods”.
Now there is a question – should one learn the principals first and figure out the techniques or it is better to first learn the techniques and arrive at the principals?
My preferred method is – learn from your experience of doing the NVR techniques in a company of well trained NVR practitioners. Volunteer to be a co-facilitator trainee in an NVR programme. Learn on the go. If you are a parent do the programme. When you do it you get a lived experience of NVR. When you draw conclusions about the principals your understanding of them is rooted in the embodied experience. It would have become a part of you. You know it from the inside out. Then finding new methods of expressing the principals seems easy.