Virginia Satir was working with a family. The father was a banker who was professionally stuffy. He must have had a degree in it. He wasn’t a bad guy; he was very well-intentioned. He took good care of his family and he was concerned enough to go to therapy. But basically he was a stuffy guy.
The wife was an extreme placater in Virginia’s terminology. For those of you who are not familiar with that, a placater is a person who will agree with anything and apologize for everything. When you say “It’s a beautiful day!” the placater says “Yes, I’m sorry!”
The daughter was an interesting combination of the parents. She thought her father was the bad person and her mother was the groovy person, so she always sided with her mother. However, she acted like her father.
The father’s repeated complaint in the session was that the mother hadn’t done a very good job of raising the daughter, because the daughter was so stubborn.
At one time when he made this complaint, Virginia interrupted what was going on. She turned around and looked at the father and said “You’re a man who has gotten ahead in your life. Is this true?”
“Was all that you have, just given to you? Did your father own the bank and just say ‘Here, you’re president of the bank’?”
“No, no. I worked my way up.”
“So you have some tenacity, don’t you?”
“Well, there is a part of you that has allowed you to be able to get where you are, and to be a good banker. And sometimes you have to refuse people things that you would like to be able to give them, because you know if you did, something bad would happen later on.”
“Well, there’s a part of you that’s been stubborn enough to really protect yourself in very important ways.”
“Well, yes. But, you know, you can’t let this kind of thing get out of control.”
“Now I want you to turn and look at your daughter, and to realize beyond a doubt that you’ve taught her how to be stubborn and how to stand up for herself, and that that is something priceless. This gift that you’ve given to her is something that can’t be bought, and it’s something that may save her life. Imagine how valuable that will be when your daughter goes out on a date with a man who has bad intentions.”