In this part of the series we focus on The Paradox. This move is a type of reversal where the leader or therapist prescribes the symptom or moves the patient or subject toward the behavior or feeling opposite of the desired goal. For example, a wife who wants to stop nagging is encourage to increase the amount of nagging. Parents who want to stop their teenager from swearing are encouraged to get the teenager to swear more. One common example is to recommend “Try harder,” to an overfuctioner who is feeling exhaustion at trying to change the system.
One benefit for the leader in using this tactic is to avoid advice-giving, which is a form of willful overfunctioning. The paradox within the paradox here is that person who are anxious often are stuck in “seriousness” and will likely not be able to see the humor in the paradox. But even in this case there seems to be a proven benefit to following up in the prescription of paradox. A dramatic case is the teenager who is brought into the therapist because of swearing. When the parents demand that the teenager stop swearing it only results in a battle of wills (“You can’t make me,” says the teenager). The therapist prescribes the paradox (in collusion with the confused but cooperative parents) and instructs the parents to “punish” the teenager’s instance of swearing by making the child swear for 10 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the swearing behavior to cease. Of course, part of the reason is that the problem wasn’t the behavior as much as the teenager needing to get the parents’ attention.
Next week’s Systems Ju-jitsu tactic: “Join the Resistance”