a system out-of-balance
The rpg model allows us to take a simplified look at the complex behaviors of relational interactions. Rpg attempts to look at core relational dynamics to see what is working and what is going wrong. To better understand what this means it may be helpful to use the rpg model to look at the negative outcomes that we are all too familiar with — negative resolution (diagram)
1st tension. denial vs acknowledgement (Distortion of Truth)
Denial is part of our defense system and is used to insulate us from threat of harm. The problem with denial is that denial can over-function and “protect” us from change and healing as well.
Denial may sound something like this: “It didn’t happen,” (simple denial of fact). “It happened but not why you think…,” (denial of implication or meaning). “You are so ___, that’s why it happened to you,” (blame shifting and blaming the victim). “So what? What’s wrong with you?” (aggressive defensiveness and attacking).
Denial becomes part of the traumatization. Denial rationalizes, minimizes, blames, and evades. Denial leaves the trauma unattended, no one gets help to change or heal, and reconciliation is blocked.
2nd tension. isolation vs. dialogue (Not Listening)
The lack of listening expands and deepens the wound. It perpetrates an injustice that does not stay within the bounds of one generation. The wound spills over from one generation to the next. The possibility of building bridges for the sake of reconciliation all but disappears.
3rd tension. dysfunctional grief vs active grieving (No Change)
Grieving is the human response to loss. When the pain of loss is severe we tend to look for ways to avoid grief. Avoiding grief does not make the loss go away. It only lets us escape the pain temporarily. We do many things to protect ourselves from grief.
We shame ourselves, or others, for expressions of grief. “I shouldn’t feel that way. There’s something wrong with me for not being stronger.”
We deny that we are grieving. “No, I’m fine. I got over it. It’s in the past,” when in fact it is simply buried alive. The fear of experiencing the pain becomes a controlling force.
We punish others for grieving by sending the message, “I’m tired of your whining. Would you please move on.”
We don’t want to be around someone else’s grief for fear it will somehow tap into our own buried grief. When grief is marginalized and disenfranchised the “ungrieved grief” becomes its own source of pain and injury to us. We are at high risk of being stuck in a dysfuntional grief that leads us no where, but makes us miserable. We can become chronically angry, or helpless.
4th tension. dysfunctional coping vs restructuring (Incongruence, Internal Disorganization)
The power of ungrieved grief and unresolved trauma requires powerful means of coping. Coping methods must be strong enough to stop the pain and keep the trauma buried. Therefore, intense forms of dysfunctional coping can develop. We start living in the extremes. We rage. We’re internally disorganized. We drink and drug. We get addicted to anything that will medicate the pain. We shut down. We over work. We fill up with fear and are easily controlled. We use violence to solve problems. We get depressed. We get sick. As human beings we eventually hit our limits. Life that was meant to be lived becomes something to be survived. Hope of a meaningful future is at risk. We find ourselves settling for anything that promises to protect us from the train wreck of life.
5th tension: unforgiveness vs forgiveness (Resentment/Anger/Indignation)
If we have committed to a path of denial, unwillingness to listen, fear of what we refuse to face, and have settled for an empty way of life we are at high risk of unforgiveness. The consequences of dsyfunctionally coping with life does little to protect us from resentment, anger, and indignation. The only forgiveness we are familiar with is shallow and superficial. It is robbed of true healing power. Unforgiveness entrenches us and walls us off from change and growth.
6th tension: conflict vs peace and attachment (Division/Hatred/Fear)
It comes down to us verses them in a war of hate and fear. It comes down to families that are torn apart and cannot heal. It is a tragic road to commit to but, unfortunately, it’s a familiar one.
The rpg model can be used to redress this negative homeostatic condition. See “rpg phases.”