Virginia Satir (1916-1988) was one of the major
pioneers in family therapy and my teacher. She was
warm, brilliant and knowing about the pain of being
human. She taught concepts that pulled us out of
the dysfunction of our families into a higher consciousness
way of thinking and acting. She took the mental
health field out of seeing people with problems
as "pathology" generated by the psychiatric network
of Freud into seeing people as a product of their
negative family scripts which could be changed by
learning to communicate with feelings.
Virginia traveled the world over with her teachings,
which were insightful and inspired, about how to
become a fully functioning human being centered
in love. She attracted a following of therapists,
business people, leaders and regular folks who then
spread her ideas through their own work and life.
Virginia Satir changed my life completely. Before
meeting her, I was narrow minded, neurotic and physically
ill. My family rules were like others at the time-don't
talk about feelings and important things and deny
what people in the family do to hurt each other.
During a weekend workshop, she chose our table (from
about 25 others) to sit during lunch. She invited
me to study with her at her month long summer training
program and gave me a loan for the tuition.
During her first month long training, I learned
so much that I left behind the fear-laden woman
that I had been and became a deeper, wiser version
of myself. At one point she said to me, "Lynne,
when you can feel what you feel and say what you
feel, you won't have to turn those bad symptoms
into body symptoms and pain." At that moment I learned
to feel my feelings. Perhaps that is why I write
so passionately about getting in touch with your
After taking Virginia's second month training a
few years later, I decided her ideas needed to be
more widespread. I incorporated many of her concepts
and techniques regarding straight communication
in my first book, The Doormat Syndrome.
Virginia helped us learn to have authentic communication.
She taught techniques that helped us to be congruent
which is a way of acting where what is being felt
on the inside is expressed on the outside. When
you are congruent, you are aware of what you are
feelings and thoughts. Your body language expresses
on the outside expresses what you are feeling on
the inside. You state feelings and stay honest and
centered as you deal with conflict.
I am who I am today, partly because of the energetic
woman who recognized the Divinity within me. I can
still hear her voice saying, "Marvelous, marvelous!"
I am forever grateful to Virginia Satir and the
effect she had my psyche and subsequently on my
life. So I pass some of her wisdom via her quotes
on to you.
Check assumptions rather than
acting on what you believe to be true. Check with
others to see what they really mean.
Be straight forward and direct when communicating
Listen to that "Wisdom Box" that you have within
you when you seek the truth.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ask for
what you want but know you will not always get it.
I can remember when I asked her, "Virginia, do you
mean you can really ask for what you want? (Not
in my family, you couldn't!) She slapped her knee
and said, "Honey, you can always ask for what you
Be responsible for what you think, say and do rather
than projecting it on others or denying it.
Celebrate "differentness" in people. See differences
in others as an opportunity to learn and explore,
rather than as a threat or a signal for conflict
Treat people with how you
would wish them to be rather than blaming them.
Identify your "shoulds" or those beliefs that you
have grown up with that keep you caught in craziness
that are not necessarily true.
Be open to receiving feedback and listen to it carefully
because you might learn something about yourself
Be gentle and loving with yourself and others.
want to love you without clutching, Appreciate you
Join you without invading,
Invite you without demanding,
Leave you without guilt,
Criticize you without blaming,
And help you without insulting.
If I can have the same from you,
Then we can truly meet each other."
have learned what you have learned very well. It
has helped you survive."
believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having
from anyone is to be seen by them, heard by them,
to be understood and touched by them."
greatest gift I can give is to see, hear, understand
and to touch another person.
When this is done I feel contact has been made."
The Five Freedoms
The FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead
of what should be, was, or will be.
The FREEDOM to say what you feel and think, instead
of what you should.
The FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of what
The FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead of
always waiting for permission.
The FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf, instead
of choosing to be only "secure" and not rocking
Virginia wrote this in answer
to a fifteen-year-old girl's question, "How can
I prepare myself for a fulfilling life?"
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like
me. There are persons who have some parts like me,
but no one adds up exactly like me. I have some
parts like others but I don't add up to be exactly
like anyone else. Therefore, everything that comes
out of me is authentically mine because I alone
I own everything about me -- my body, including
everything it does; my mind, including all its thoughts
and ideas; my eyes, including the image of all my
eyes behold; my feelings, whatever they may be --
anger, joy, frustration, love, disappointment, excitement;
my mouth and all that comes out of it.... words,
polite, sweet, or rough.... correct and incorrect;
my voice, loud or soft; and all my actions, whether
they be to others or myself.
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures
and mistakes. I own all my fantasies, my dreams,
my hopes, my fears.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately
acquainted with me. Being very well acquainted with
me, I can love me and be friendly with me in all
In being well-acquainted with myself, loving myself,
and being friendly with myself, I can then make
it possible for all of me to work in my best interests.
I know that there are aspects about myself I do
not know, and there are parts of me that puzzle
As long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I
can courageously and hopefully look for the solution
to the puzzles and continually look for ways to
find out more about me -- how I look and sound,
what I say and do, and how I think and feel.
No one else looks and sounds, says and does, and
thinks and feels exactly like me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do,
and whatever I think and feel at a given moment
is me. It is authentic and represents where I am
at that moment in time.
When I review later how I looked and sounded, what
I said and did, and how I thought and felt, parts
may turn out to be unfitting and I can discard that
which is unfitting and keep that which proved fitting
and learn something new for that which I discarded.
I am me and I am okay.
I own me and therefore I can engineer me.
I can learn all the new things that I need and discard
all the things that no longer fit.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I will
then have the tools to survive, to be close to others,
to be productive, and to make sense and order out
of the world of people and things outside of me."
honesty, responsibility, compassion, love-all flows
easily from the person whose self-esteem is high.
He feels that he matters, that the world is a better
place because he is here. He has faith in his own
competence. He is able to ask others for help, but
he believes that he can make his own decisions and
is his own best resource. Appreciating his own worth,
he is ready to see and respect the worth of others.
He radiates trust and hope."
and about Virginia Satir
Virginia Satir: Her Life & Circle of Influence
by Melvin M. Suhd, Laura Dodson, and Maria Gomori
Changing with Families: Further Education for
Being Human, Bandler, Grinder, and Satir
Conjoint Family Therapy, Virginia Satir
The New Peoplemaking, Virginia Satir
The Satir Approach to Communication: a Workshop
Manual, Johanna Schwab, Michele Baldwin, Jane
Gerber, Maria Gomori, and Virginia Satir
The Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond Satir
Step by Step: A Guide to Creating Change in Families
The Doormat Syndrome, Lynne Namka
For training in Satir concepts, visit The Virginia
Satir Network http://www.avanta.net/