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Strategic systemic approach and hypnosis

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      This article proposes intervention strategies against moral harassment, adopting a systemic approach to understand and modify relational dynamics. It offers concrete techniques to help victims regain control, with a focus on transforming harmful interactions into healthy relationships, and highlights the importance of strategic support to overcome harassment.

      Intervention strategies

      How to thwart moral harassment? Intervention strategies.

      Knowing does not deliver (Fish, Weakland, Segal, 1986). The objective of support becomes not only to understand how the system works, to grasp its scenario but also to “change a system that is functioning poorly” ( ibid ).

      1. Zoom out

      Harassment focuses, micro-aggression after micro-aggression, the victim's attention on the words, the actions, the omissions, the misunderstandings, the innuendoes, the double-dealing keeping them in hyper-vigilance. The support initially aims to broaden the field of perception to grasp the relational game as a whole and give it meaning for the victim.  

      This involves identifying, based on the LACT interactional diagram model:

      - the dominant feeling of the client/patient: by proposing to discriminate anger, fear, sadness, shame. 

      - the relevant system: through the question: “do you think you are different from the other members of your work group?” Atypical ? If yes, for what reason do you think? »  

      - world view: “do you feel in disagreement with certain practices of your work group? For what ? » ; “do you think the situation is related to who you are? Your professional and personal values? »

      - the client's position in relation to the context: "how would you evaluate the working atmosphere: on a scale of 1 to 10 and if 10 corresponded to a professional context giving full satisfaction, allowing you to feel competent in a supportive professional environment ? »  

      - the notion of redundant solution attempts: “faced with these behaviors, what did you tend to do recurrently: avoidance? leak ? tendency to justify yourself, request for an explanation? Were these attempts effective? Each time you implemented them, what happened? A change or “more of the same”? ".  

      - exceptions: “have you observed any exceptions to the behavior you describe? ". allows us to introduce the solution-oriented approach identified by de Shazer, particularly in the so-called Milwaukee school (de Shazer, 1988). It is about giving the victim the possibility of having a lever of action, through the identification of exceptions, on the relational problem.

      - the objective: “if you had to summarize in a few words what you need most, what would you say? ".

      The objective of this first part of the support aims to bring the victim into the harassment scenario, to discriminate between exogenous (workload) and endogenous factors of change in the relationship. By insisting on the possible typicality (question on the world view), it forces the client to step out of their reflexive perception to put themselves in the place of the other that it denounces, it forces a reframing. By asking the question of values, it allows the person reporting to “zoom out” their situation to place it on a more systemic scale: in the ambient environment, in the system, in what constitutes their emerging quality, in what way this person is is it congruent or dissonant and thus how does it possibly disrupt the homeostasis of the system? Identifying the attempts at solutions, for the patient or client, is to enter into an interactional reading of harassment, it is for him to accept that he took part in this process, was an actor in it. As painful as it is , as shocking as it may be at first instance for the victim who may see an additional injustice in being thus put in the dock, this moment of support is a moment of change, unavoidable, which opens towards change.

      Finally, the question of the purpose of the request is a strategic question for the continuation of the support. It is a matter of understanding whether the person is there to fight it out, that is to say whether they are in the mood for a symmetrical escalation and are being imposed a complementary relationship that they would like to be able to contest, or whether they are there because she wants to get better. In this regard, the demand to fight is very often accompanied by a dominant feeling of anger. The client/patient's resources are intact and the support will aim to provide leverage to restore a more symmetrical relationship, to help express a conflict in an acceptable way, where it cannot be opened head-on.  

      On the other hand, when shame sets in, it is an indicator that the harassment process has deeply damaged the person's professional and personal values. When she admits to having the feeling of "being worthless", "maybe he (the harasser) is right, I'm a bad professional and what's more, I'm taking sick leave, I can't cope ", the hypothesis that we put forward is that the attempts at solutions put in place by the victim no longer aim for control (of the alleged harasser) and avoidance/control (on the part of the alleged harassed associated with the attempt to resume the control) but a logic of confirmation of belief on both sides: the victim has lost self-confidence and the alleged harasser sees this as confirmation of his beliefs in the mediocrity of the harassed victim. In this sense, shame is undoubtedly a powerful indicator of the destructive game of harassment. It requires even more focusing support on renunciation.  

      2. Give up: 

      The paradox consists, after having identified the scenario, the roles, possibly the stage plays, to get off stage, to give up, to give up convincing the other (of his value, of his legitimacy, of his place, of the merits of its decisions, its actions, etc.) in short, renounce everything that was identified above as mechanisms to regain control over a process that is escaping. To experience less harassment, you must block redundant solution attempts.  

      A standard prescription makes it possible to initiate a change in the perception of the problem (Fisch, et al., 1986, Vitry et al. 2019) by allowing, through the identification of redundant solution attempts, to abandon them through the absurd. more willingly. The question of “how to make it worse?” » oriented on the definition of the problem consists of asking “if instead of improving your situation you wanted to deliberately make it worse through absurdity, what should you do concretely, say, think, not do, not say, not not think? ". Through a paradoxical effect, it allows the patient/client to modify his perception of his involvement in the problem and the attempts at redundant but ineffective solutions that he has put in place. Renouncing these solutions means taking action.  


      3. Cross

      Characterizing a harassment situation inherently takes time. This is precisely its specificity. Harassment is an accumulation of repeated facts which, isolated, would not be enough to qualify the behavior as harassment.  

      However, when we are suffering at work, we would like it to stop immediately. This is not always possible. Certain techniques used in coaching or brief therapy can help get through this situation and tame the feeling of fear.

      has. To write  

      - The logbook: 

      A standard prescription: “ Harassment is a succession of interactions that hurt or are inappropriate, it is characterized by repetition. To support these situations, as a psychological defense, your mind will scan the memory of these sequences while keeping a trace of them. It is important to document what happens when the deterioration of the physical or psychological state gives a warning signal that we do not necessarily want to hear in order to understand what happened. To document is to note, day after day, the story of the interactions, the words, the remarks which were a source of suffering or incomprehension.”

      understand and modify relational dynamics

      - Emotional letters:

      A standard prescription: “The written expression of your emotion (sadness, anger, disappointment, shame, etc.) can relieve you, especially when at work you have to contain this emotion. It makes it possible to reduce its intensity by stopping the attempted solution which consists precisely in wanting to control it by repressing it. The letters you write will not be sent. Here's what this task might look like: "Whenever you feel angry, you will write whatever comes to mind without any self-censorship, without any stylistic effects, just the rawest expression of those emotions. You will never reread these letters but will write them down or entrust them to someone who can be their guardian.”

      Why talk about anger when the dominant sensation reported by the client/patient may be fear or shame? The issue here is, in addition to the "emotional purge", that of a reframing: it is a question of authorizing the client/patient to experience anger where, by decency, by education, by guilt, by loyalty to his vision of the world, he covered his anger with the racket emotion of fear or shame.

      b. Anticipate

      - The check-up 

      A standard prescription: “ It is a question of trying to put at a distance, as far as possible, the situation which is a source of suffering by observing it from the outside. “Every day, before going to work, you could imagine all the realistic situations in which you will feel humiliated, ostracized, or make a list of all the situations that have already happened and which could happen again today. Then, in the evening, you will take stock by identifying those on your list that actually happened.” It is not a question here of getting used to humiliation or suffering by trivializing it but of being able to become a spectator of these situations in an attempt to keep them at bay.

      - The bumper to avoid entering the game head-on.

      This technique is used in particular when it is difficult to say "no" when the disagreement is there or when it is difficult, out of respect for the hierarchical line, to be able to respond to a recurring offensive speech or a questioning, or a threatening, authoritarian mode of communication. It consists of taking an oratorical precaution which allows one to “say without really saying” and at the very least show that one has understood the other's mode of operation. For example, we can say: “ You will consider that you cannot trust me or that I do not work quickly enough, or that I do not understand your orders but… I MUST tell you that…. ".

      When harassment takes the form of garbled communication where the perpetrator constantly seeks to trap the other, the bumper can be used and, in this case, will aim to minimize the relationships and the words exchanged so that they do not are not confusing. Faced with someone who seeks to make us enter into an endless game of questioning, we can use a mode of communication centered on very brief and factual information while avoiding any opinion, any justification or request for explanation which does not just keep the game going

      4. Change by reversing roles

      To give up, to go through, but to change, to reverse the dynamic, is it possible? 

      Can we, in matters of moral harassment, believe Watzlawick (1975) who will identify a first paradoxical prescription also defined by Fisch as a strategic approach: “the strategies which will prove effective will often be 180 degrees from the underlying dynamic to the patient's actions” (Fisch et al. 1986, p. 147)?

      For Giorgio Nardone, harassment “is a pathology that does not exist”! (Nardone, Balbi, 2012, p. 142). For him, therapy usually lasts one session but using a prescription that requires great preparation ( ibid , p. 143) and this, without ever disqualifying the client/patient's worldview and victim position. For him, in the tradition of the Palo Alto school, it will be a question of putting the circular into a linear logic and vice versa (Fish et al. 1986) by the following prescription: “kill the snake with its own venom” .

      “Killing the snake with its own venom” consists of avoiding fighting, that is, refusing both to enter into a complementary or symmetrical relationship and responding “to disqualifications or mistreatment by giving thanks in the following way : “you know until now I did not understand that you are doing all this to help me grow, and I thank you very much.” This statement has a considerable impact because if you thank a person who wants to harm you, they stop being aggressive” (Nardone, Balbi, 2012 p. 143). The paradoxical effect of the prescription is twofold , in the sense that according to G. Nardone, due to the effect of self-deception, the patients/clients to whom this prescription has been formulated most often do not did not have to put it into practice because their perception of their position had changed by the paradoxical reframing induced in the prescription according to which they became actors of change and therefore of the current situation: "instead of adopting a defensive and victim position , the person posed himself in a more open way and thanks to his own change, he completely modified the boss's attitude and their mutual relationship. Giorgio Nardone thus concludes “what snake have we killed? The one who was with the person who felt persecuted”!

      A reformulation of this prescription is known as “the secret weapon of kindness” (Milanese, Mordazzi 2018, Becuwe and Vitry 2021, de Scoraille et al. 2017), it amounts to using, as in martial arts, kindness as a lever , gentleness against rigidity, the strength of the other to turn it against him. 

      The use of this prescription corresponds to the second and final tipping point of support, after that of renouncing ineffective control or avoidance mechanisms. It requires extremely supportive support from the coach/therapist as it goes against the grain of the client/patient's worldview and their expectations. It presupposes a robust alliance with the coach/therapist so as not to appear as additional violence. It presupposes, upstream, the restoration, through support, of a certain mental flexibility, of a moral flexibility which authorizes the client/patient to renounce a just world. Finally, it assumes that the client/patient has expressed his shame and his fear. All this is, in our opinion, only possible after deciphering the relational game in which the client/patient has been caught. This moment is, however, paradoxically, almost shockingly the point of conclusion of an accompaniment. It is the moment when the victim, armed with his understanding of the scenario, goes back on stage, to play out another scene, a scene which takes the other by surprise and thwarts his strategy of aggression.  


      To propose a systemic reading of moral harassment, to identify the logics of control and avoidance which respond to each other in turn, is to shock, to shock the consensus which makes the victim a defenseless object, grappling with an all-powerful culprit, a consensus around “bad luck”, a moral but paralyzing consensus. 

      Putting the victim back at the center of the interactional game in which they have been caught means making them capable of coping, giving meaning to what they are going through. The systemic approach, it seems to us, is a key to restoring the relationship, because it emphasizes the rigidity of a complementary relationship in which the two actors are both caught and it offers tools to make it more flexible. This presupposes strategic support to give up, to give up on a just world, to give up on convincing, to give up on trying to repair but to give up to thwart the harassment and open up the possibility of another game. And if the restoration of the relationship with the other is not possible, is not desired, at the very least strategic support offers the framework for repairing a peaceful relationship with oneself.  

      As for the perpetrators in question, strategic support will take the same path: mapping their vision of the world, identifying their attempts at control, highlighting the circularity and nourishment of the control process and teaching them to give up in order to change: it takes two to tango .


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      A team of more than
      50 trainers in France
      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action


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