Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!

Wait a minute- that phrase doesn't look right, does it?  We are accustomed to hearing it the other way around, aren't we?  And in a medical emergency, it would make sense not to stand around doing nothing.  But Murray Bowen, renown family systems therapist is known for his version "Don't Just Do Something, Stand There!"  I am not sure what he meant, but I can think of several situations where it really is best to wait before reacting.  

As parents, sometimes when at your wit's end with a toddler or teen, it is tempting to try everything to get behavior under control.  Perhaps you try time outs, time in, grounding, taking away privileges and listen to advice from your mother, friends, and other family members.  However, it takes time and consistency after implementing new strategies for change to occur.  If you are expecting to see change in a day and get discouraged, giving up and moving to on to a new strategy, it can be confusing to your child and create new difficulties.  

Couples who have been stuck in a negative pattern for a long time may also encounter the same problem when they attempt to make positive changes.   I have worked with couples who have been to several therapists, read a slew of books, and been to marriage conferences.  They are highly motivated, but get discouraged when change doesn't occur quickly.  They hop from one hopeful solution after another. Expecting change to occur overnight without any speed bumps along the way may just set them up for disappointment. 

 I wonder sometimes if stepping back, sticking with one approach and looking for slow improvement may be more helpful. To me, "standing there" does not imply that progress is not being made.  Rather, it may be giving change a chance to happen instead of reacting out of our own anxiety and desperation.  It is a slowing down and looking at the big picture, being mindful of the present moment.