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This theory states that within family relationships there can often be misconceptions between each family member and the problem can only be transformed when addressed by outside members of the family (or situation), or simply stepping outside the situation yourselves and looking at all possible aspects that way, or reframing. Watzlawick claims that through the repetitive actions of a family system, a self-regulating, inter-depending network of feedback loops guided by member’s rules, we tend to stick to a status quo, or a family homeostasis, when dealing with issues within our families.
In doing that, we often automatically assume, or put a label on, a situation to be how we see it from our personal views rather than looking at the whole picture and everyone’s views who are involved. Once we take that outside-looking-in approach we have to take into consideration both sides of the communication in the situation: the content of the situation, the report part of a message (verbally), and the relationship between members communicating, the command part of a message (nonverbally).
In doing this as well as analyzing all aspects of the situation we can eventually come to an agreement on how to approach and solve the actual issue.
Growing up with a health practitioner as a parent, getting sick is never anyone elses fault but your own and sympathy is almost never present in those situations. I recently had an extreme food- poisoning incident which caused much havoc in my family, but the process of analyzing and solving this issue is a perfect example of Watzlawick’s theory.
A few years ago my mom decided to go back to school and study healthy living, diet, and the ways of an organic, raw vegan. This changed her whole life, my whole pantry, and the way she approached almost any situation. Anytime something does not go the way it should having to do with my body, energy, moods, etc. if I go to my mom for advice the answer is always about diet, sleep patterns, or other healthy living styles. Which is accurate and understandable to a certain extent but, in mine and my stepdad’s minds, it does not apply to every situation.
I do eat very healthy compared to the average person and I try to not eat a lot of meats, and especially not red meats, but on occassion I do enjoy treating myself to, what I call, a “cheat meal.” A few months back when visiting friends out of town, I decided to go all out and try this “world-famous” burger at a local burger joint. Might I say, it was quite the burger, but the aftermath was seven days of pure distaste, pain, and regret. Of course when coming to my mom for advice on the situation she immediately put all blame on me for not choosing “wisely” on my food decisions. My stepdad, on the other hand, eats a good amount of red meats and had actually been to this particular restaurant many times before, having no issues.
He said i probably just got a bug from touching the “world famous” burger joint door handles and putting my hand to my face, or something of that sort. My take on the situation was different from both of theirs. I thought it was all in my mind because I am typically against eating red meats and i violated my self morals therefore causing me to feel guilty to an extent where I caused myself to actually be sick. Hearing each member’s take on the situation caused havoc and an unnecessary issue that drove away from the actual problem. Until we all sat down and open-mindedly listened to each person’s reasoning did we all realize how ridiculous the whole situation was, and how no one actually knew the official cause of my illness but arguing about what might be because of our personal stances was just silly and almost irrelevant. When approaching the situation, as Watzlawick predicted in his theory, my mom, stepdad, and I, originally, all took our individual opinions and pushed them on one another assuming that they were the only way. My mom saying the my stepdad was an enabler, one whose non-assertive behavior allows others to continue in an addiction or other wrong-doing, and in defending himself, my stepdad saying she was biased because of her personal beliefs on eating habits.
Once we agreed to sit down and talk about each person’s perspective on things using metacommunication, communication about communication, and taking into consideration why each of us acted a certain way and how it might have affected the others, we could finally come to agreement and be at peace. We decided that if we all would have approached each other in a more open-minded, understanding manner using one-across communication, conversational moves used to neutralize or level control within the exchange, rather than trying to one-up communicate, place conversational moves on each other to gain control of the exchange, with each other, it would have been a symmetrical interchange, an interaction based on equal power, and the conflict might not have happened at all.
I find the Interactional View Theory to be quite on point, and though Griffin found much to critique I might have to disagree and say, while the theory may not be absolutely perfect and one-hundred percent accurate in every situation, it does apply to most of, at least, my family controversies, for example, this particular incident. From this theory I was made aware of how often I am to quickly ignore my parents’ responses as initial reactions to them being repetitive and almost biased in their advice, and how I can be more open-minded in those situations. I was also made aware of how to think and approach my parents in certain situations, such as food poisoning, to trigger a more calm and open-minded response from them. I enjoyed reading, comparing, and analyzing this theory and will begin to consciously apply it to my future conversations with my family members as I did in the food poisoning example, but this time before the incident can happen or get worse.
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