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Systemic approach and hypnosis

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Training in the strategic systemic approach: the analysis of the functioning of the problem

by Agnes Calendray

systemic coach, relationship clinician

“Life is just an unbroken series of difficulties;
a problem is the same difficulty that comes up again and again” J. Weakland.

The Perception-Reaction System or SPR, what is it?

The Reaction Perception System or SPROur brain selects what we will perceive and retain, so we do not have access to all the information that reaches us. Which therefore means that, if we do not create reality, we only select certain elements which will constitute the bases of our reality. Our perceptual mechanisms allow us to make sense of the world of experience and to map out a “map of the territory” on which we interact with others, ourselves and the world. But “the map is not the territory” ( Alfred Korzybski ): The map corresponds to the representation that we have of the world and the territory is the world as it really is. There is thus an infinity of cards and a single territory. Giorgio Nardone uses the expression “self-deception” to highlight this mechanism by which we deceive ourselves into seeing our construction of reality as reality (Nardone, Balbi, 2012). As therapists, we are thus "deceived" by the construction of our reality (Nardone, Watzlawick, 1993) and can, if we are not careful, make sense of information communicated by the patient which does not correspond to its reality. Thus, any intervention strategy, no matter how relevant, will have no impact on the person if it goes against their vision of the world or if their position vis-à-vis the problem is not taken. into account. We must first try to understand the patient's logic and start from it so that it changes. The therapist will then focus on the reflexive and interactional processes that underlie the patient's behavior by analyzing the concrete actions of the patient, influenced by his emotions and his conception of reality, and which influence his interpersonal and social reactions (Nardone & Watzlawick, 2005). As mentioned during the module "SPR and Attempts at Solutions" (LACT 2021, C. de Scorraille & G. Vitry), it is the patient's SPR (= how he perceives reality and he reacts to it) which allows us to grasp quickly the interactional functioning of the problem and to calibrate the intervention.


What is the purpose of strategic questioning?

Through strategic questioning, we will identify: 

- The dominant emotion/sensation in relation to perception: the way the patient feels things influences his action, -
The type(s) of interactions concerned: interactions with himself, with others or with the world,

- How its Redundant Solution Attempts (TSR) are fed. This questioning will make it possible to evaluate the level of rigidity of the patient's perception and to flush out the beliefs which can compromise the durability of the change, (in particular if they are not sufficiently relaxed).

The perception/reaction system and the methods of intervention

When a person has a problem, he expresses a blockage, a feeling of impediment or even a condemnation. She tells us that she feels limited, that her resources are insufficient to live her life in a functional way. The person can then consider themselves:  

- Either stuck by habits, resolution models that have lost their effectiveness and may be ready to consider new methods of regulation. In this case, cropping is sometimes sufficient to regain flexibility,  

- Is blocked in his situation because the emotional dimension hinders him and prevents him from reacting in an appropriate way to events. Corrective emotional experiences then help the person to regulate this emotion,  

- Be doomed: her perception is extremely rigid and she manages to implement behaviors that will reinforce her beliefs through “self-fulfilling prophecies” (R. King Merton & WI Thomas). Perception is then no longer based on feedback but on certainty and cannot be called into question.  

Beyond blocking the TSRs, it is a question of joining the person in his rigid perception and of introducing doubt into it. In other words, it is a question of “attacking the belief in a strategic way” by stimulating the reflection of the patient through strategic questioning. The belief thus relaxed makes possible a better regulation between the individual and his environment.  

The perception/reaction system and the methods of intervention

Illustration: the perfectionism disorder

If we are interested in people suffering from a perfectionism disorder, we could say that it is often a question of profiles who have a high degree of demand vis-à-vis themselves and vis-à-vis themselves. towards their environment. They may want to control their appearance, their voice, their work, ... so as not to risk displeasing or being misjudged. They want to be sure, they want to be in control, to anticipate so that no one will say anything bad about them, that everything will go well and without a hitch, that everyone will like them, that they will not be afraid, not badly, that they regret nothing, ... They then seek to control their behavior and reactions in order to satisfy the supposed expectations of others, to censor themselves so as not to displease, to correspond to a certain norm.... They then become clumsy, stiff, tense, clumsy or even hysterical... and thus expose the uneasiness they would like to hide at all costs, creating the reactions they fear. We find this type of painful self-control in social phobias in obsessive perfectionists and in situations of burnout, .... In the professional context, the quest for perfection and surpassing oneself can condemn them to constantly " reset the counters”, as mentioned in the book “When work hurts” (de Scorraille, Brosseau, Vitry, 2017). Each one being experienced as an achievement, people with this disorder cannot capitalize on their past successes to develop their confidence (in themselves and in others), maintain flexibility in their interactions and acquire serenity in their daily lives. . They are locked in an SPR where perfection is the guarantee of recognition of their value and to achieve "perfect order", they are ready for anything. In the professional world, this translates in particular into an unlimited commitment and involvement that often leads to phases of professional exhaustion. Only an indirect approach which, by relying on fear (the main underlying emotion in 78% of the cases identified) and by introducing doubt, makes it possible to shake their system of beliefs and change their vision of the world.  

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