Friday, March 1, 2013

Evaluating Outcomes

Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at
March 1, 2013
  I had a wonderful therapist and mentor, Linda Alis, for more than a decade until I left Bloomington.  She brought to my attention each of the many times that someone whose behavior I asked to behave differently with me, often did change, but there was no telling when it would happen.  The trick for me was to say my piece and let it drop even when someone appeared not to be listening.  And that it was best that I enjoy those moments without comment, to avoid “I told you so”s.  By not demanding acknowledgment or credit, by refraining from “reminding,” by showing appreciation even just be relaxing for a change, I achieved more lasting results.  And when I stood up and said no to someone firmly, changing the subject without comment was good enough for me.
  The moral of the story:  to enjoy responsiveness among my relations, I had to let go of evaluating my successes and failures in social control by how fast or how consistent they were in anyone’s life but my own.  At a less personal, more aggregate level, there have been students who have let me know how a class with me has changed their lives decades later.  They are few, but I do notice how relatively often it seems for me to hear for instance that more than one students turned from aspiring to work with the feds or law enforcement generally, to such standouts as owning and cooking for my favorite restaurant in Bloomington, or who had made a career of teaching “behavior disordered” young folks in an Opelika, Alabama, public school.  Is that enough?  Should it matter that in a class of 300 I could only count on 60 or so to show up regularly for class?  Maybe that would be so for others.  All I know for sure is that this shift in my orientation toward time and toward how I measure results is what matters to me.
  Hence, for one thing, offender recidivism and victim satisfaction are of no concern to me.  They have no effect on my sense of what works.  That, by the way, is based in part on major changes for the better in the relations of two groups in particular:  (ex)-prisoners and survivors of torture in childhood.  When they happen during our relationship, it has been years its evolution sometimes—analogous to relapse in addiction recovery.  I have no way of knowing if, when, or where any such shift will occur.  Many are the relations that I lose track of too.  But when I get to share such shifts in others, I do have stories to tell that often resonate with audiences, professionally and personally.  When issues of what heals from trauma arise, these are the data I have share to illustrate how the changes we want in ourselves and others do happen when they are not made to happen.
  Time and again as I look back with others, I celebrate the ingenuity and fortuity of moments in retrospect that triggered a change, like the change intergenerational ritual abuse torture survivor Jeanette Westbrook (google her) that gave her the will to endure and flee home five years later: looks a 5th grade teacher had given her showing, validating, recognizing that something was wrong in her life.  Time and again I too am still giving credit to people and events long, long past that shifted toward my awareness and capacity to describe moments of what I now know as “synergy,” and to the sense of control with my own relations that I feel fortunate indeed to enjoy just doing it, and seeing my relations come and go, as I keep getting confirmation that I’m more and more insulated from social harm, and from further need to get anywhere else.  Love and peace--hal

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