The Divided Self

From a family therapy point of view a crucial dynamic in how well a young person does is the extent to which his or her parents are together. Children for the most part cannot choose between their parents and to the extent a child is triangulated between their parents, the child does less well.

If you use Gregory Bateson’s notion of the mind in the context, the mind of the young person expands to the people who he or she loves the most, usually the parents. Thus, the extent to which a young person is triangulated, their very mind is split. The therapeutic question is how does one addresses triangulation? The answer is slowly. Years ago someone asked the actress Bette Midler “what is it like making a movie?” she responded “Very boring, it’s like working in a pineapple factory”. Working with warring parents is the same, you work with one side, then the other, slowly getting them to put aside their animosity and focus on what is most important for their child. That is to not having their child triangulated in the middle of them.

One aid you might use to get a sense of progress with this “pineapple work” is the IST Triangulation Scale on my  website. We have found in our program for severely conduct disordered adolescents, the crucial marker of how well the young people do upon discharge is whether the parents score well on the Triangulation Scale-that is greatly diminished triangulation.

Image Credit: Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

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