Nine Social Skills

To avoid punishment, message receivers will need to build relationships with people who socially sanction the message experience. Social functioning will often require that the message receiver engage in relationships that are in the culture of the “normal” consensus reality. In fact, by the time many message receivers make it into a group many are taught through the mainstream system of care (and perhaps through internalized stigma) to deny their symptoms and play it normal. Indeed at the onset of group, it can take a long while for many group members to share message experiences not only because those experiences are traumatic, but also because they fear being persecuted for doing so. While there are message receivers who stick to their guns especially early in their message crisis, many experienced message receivers already know what it takes to survive in a world dominated by storm troopers. Often, it is anger and emotional desperation that makes them act out their symptoms when in crisis. The game becomes to contain these experiences so that there is no punishment. People may notice something is up with some of us, but social sanctions forces people to contain themselves when they can. Often times the way this is done is silently disdained. And still there are very different degrees of social skills as message receivers do this.

For me personally, learning to submit to this process was very challenging without medication. I do not consider myself to hold good social skills on the whole. In addition to struggling with messages, I like many message receivers have been diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and consider myself to be influenced by a mild level of autism. My whole life I have gravitated towards people who are different who might give me a chance. Thus, message receivers who are likewise neuro-divergent might also struggle with basic social skills like looking people in the eye etcetera. While I do my best to accept what I perceive to be the bullying nature of a great deal of social interaction, I do not like the fact that social groups exclude and differentiate themselves from other groups. For me, genuine cuddling is very difficult. As a result, I tend to come from the vantage point that social skills are very difficult when this may not be the case for all message receivers.

Perhaps historically the message receiver begrudges and is angry at “normal” folk for their role in oppressing them. Imagine being homeless and looking at all the people driving cars past on their way home from their high end jobs. For me this kind of outside-looking-in experience hurt hard. I’d feel like a failure, like something was taken from me. I’d been raised to believe that honesty and hard work would take care of me, and this just wasn’t the case. Some message receivers, however already have experienced inequity and have social skills that enable them to fake it. For some others too, it may be hard not to begrudge or be angry with those who have it all. Some people have learned to negotiate these realities without showing their real feelings. Many may already be practiced at this. As a person who primarily connects with people through work of a professional nature, I had to integrate with the very people I was most angry at and that influences my views of necessary social skills

The nine social skills we will review in this chapter are benchmarks that I set for myself in reflection. These were necessary for me in order to make friends with people who appear to be on the inside of the circle. Perhaps some will resonate with some message receivers. They function as nagging reminders for me. In this chapter, I will argue that approximately nine social skills may be set by all message receivers based on who they are and what they need to do to succeed. Undoubtedly, others will not struggle with social skills quite the same way that I do. But they are expressed herein in a manner so as to be representative of the types of skills needed to overcome oppression. The idea is to build a list of reminders that motivate the message receiver to do what they need to recover.

Message receivers do need to be able to play it normal in order to get jobs, improve housing, and thrive in the social world. They may need to reconnect with social groups that have hurt them. Be it with a marginalized ethnic group, with the culture of a prestigious university, or a religious community, a work culture, message receivers usually needs pick a culture to infiltrate that has been more welcoming of them at some point. Then they need to consider social skills that help them survive in these settings.

In this chapter, I am going to argue that this starts with befriending and going towards relationships with helpers. Once they can approach and befriend helpers they need to approach social groups they work with or play with in similar manner. This may involve a high level of executing social skills that they may not be feeling. It may well involve, as I have suggested, meeting a culture that is responsible for social sanctions where they are at and pretending to be part of it as if it is no big thing.

In this chapter we will talk about how this can involve both radical compliance and love on the part of the message receiver, and I will share a compiled list of social skills that are needed by the author to successfully integrate and experience social rehabilitation. Perhaps, some other message receivers may relate to this list.

 

Jargonizing the Nine Social Skills Solution:

If the message receiver and the normal need to come to a truce, the social skills presented in this chapter are not simply normal social skills. They are behaviors that are needed in the face of social sanctions. They function as skills that need to be executed in place of retaliations reactions.

Recall that if being punished for behavior that is involuntary seems unjust, it will lead the message receiver to resist authority and halt trusting anything outside their message experience. Message experiences then via the trickster phenomenon become accurate. They end up believing they will be persecuted and acting in ways that make some kind of social persecution come true. I argue that this doesn’t need to be. I believe that social skills are needed to back up positive self-fulfilling prophesies that can help put a stop to social persecution. When this doesn’t happen, the message receiver continues to overvalue their messages and continues retaliation reactions that lead to irregular social sanctions and real social persecution.

The trick of the nine social skills behaviors, is to endure the punishment and go towards the relationship with the punisher to try to get some inclusion. As the title of the chapter suggests, it’s compiling a list of behaviors necessary to cuddle up to the plastic of the Stormtroopers. When I was in crisis I called these kiss-ass skills. What these social skills do is seek to prepare the message receiver for the steps they need to take to overcome subjugation and take the first steps to fitting in with a dominant culture. The idea is that if these skills, if applied, will not change the message receiver, but they may well protect them. Then as they adjust to one setting, they might consider changing some of those skills to adapt to another. These is a way to develop a sense of belonging which is needed for good mental health.

When I present the nine social skills, I note that nine means none in German, but may mean something else in a different culture. For example in hip hop culture a nine is a type of gun and may be very effective at leveling the playing field. Beatle fans may have their own views of what the number nine means based on the Revolution Nine song. Hence, for each person the skills may be different. Social skills are always changing in different cultural contexts. So the ones I select are ones that helped me overcome isolation and social sanctions and socially rehabilitate in a hostile professional world.

Nine social skills might ultimately function as great positive self-fulfilling prophesy mantras that enhance multicultural skills. A different set of nine social skills may be needed to penetrate different cultural enclaves. But the key is that when people punish an aspect of message receiving, instead of withdrawing into messages in rebellion, to go towards the punisher and provide the kiss-ass skills necessary to build a relationship.

I intend to impress the reader with the level of multi-cultural and interpersonal skills necessary for a message receiver to integrate. I’d argue that giving the message receiver knowing recognition for successful completion of these skills is a necessary means of reducing social sanctions and stigma that prevent many of us from completing our good efforts. So often, the message receiver may have made efforts of love and acceptance that are unrecognized. Maybe they only get met with criticism and more demands. So often there is a sense of demoralized defeat and contempt for the “normal” world because of this.

Indeed, for message receivers to have success, they have to change, but also it would help if those who sanction them stop sanctioning them. In order to do this, this work tries to create a cultural understanding of special messages. Indeed, I believe social sanctions can stop, but to me it seems like the message receiver must take the moral high ground in the bulk of their relationships. In order to do this, helpers may need to be able to enter the message culture, meet the message receiver where they are at, and both notice and support the ways they do engage in nine social skills with them.

As the diagram below suggests, this involves noticing retaliation reactions and recognizing that they are being socially sanctioned. Then, instead of believing that their special messages and divergent views are true, it involves forming relationships with their persecutors. Nine social skills are the skills used to do this. The better they can be acknowledged and promoted by the helper, the more trust will build in the relationship, and fewer the retaliation reactions are that only lead to a stronger conviction in the truth of the special message process.

 

pnine-social-skills

 

The Role of the Helper as a Social Skill Provider:

For the helper, this solution, essentially kiss-ass skills, takes preparation and skill to deliver. Let’s review what we have essentially done as helpers up to this point. A good helper or group leader takes the lead and meets the message receiver where they are at and develops human mutuality with the Jedi, the message receiving Yoda figure. They do this by describing the components of special messages and proving they understand. Then once social sanctions are defined, accepted and healed from, the message receiver feels more bonded with their helpers: fellow group members and the leader, and perhaps connection to an outside therapist can increase. But the leader, other group members, or outside therapist need to realize that this bond is happening and help the message receiver identify the nine social skills they are using. In order to do this, helpers need to recognize when social skills are being used and highlight them.

I believe that helpers need to have an awareness that they themselves are in a state of morphing between playing the role of Jedi and playing the role of storm trooper. This is likely happening in the mind of the message receiver as helpers generally can function in the plastic world of the empire and are going to be seen as Stormtroopers. Thus, when relationship skills are expressed toward the helper, the helper can help the message receiver by acknowledging the social skill and define it as a nine social skill. Of course, suddenly doing so means the helper morphs into a plastic Stormtrooper, and then morphs back to being Jedi. Acknowledging that they are doing this and articulating it may help acknowledge the process. Perhaps there might even be some humor in this. “I repeatedly find myself telling male message receivers, “Luke, you do not understand the power of the dark side!” Then, a good helper will morph back into a Jedi and demonstrate their competence with message culture. Of course, the leader might have to morph back into a Stormtrooper to intellectually teach the skill to the group and then they can morph back.

Ultimately in my mind this can teach the message receiver to morph or acculturate to different social contexts that can clearly be of their choosing.

In case the reader is uncomfortable with the Stormtrooper analogy, let us recall the helper is essentially throughout this work the representative of the consensus culture. Let’s face it, consensus reality is the orientation of most effective communicators and is essentially being used all the time so that group members can connect with each other. But the strength of most leaders is their ability to reflect on times when they were in message crisis to prove their humanity to the message receiver. For the most part, the leader exhibits an ability to reflect both cultures and morph into a Stormtrooper throughout.

Thus, nine social skills can essentially become a code word for an important social skill that is being demonstrated. Acknowledging that it is a moral high ground and act of love helps strengthen the relationship. As the message receiver starts to see themselves as bearing a social skill, they may practice sharing it with other Stormtroopers they are motivated to cuddle up with.

Indeed, so much morphing is not always easy for a leader. The leader may at times they are morphing between plastic and Jedi establish a plastic post in the therapy office for the sake of their own security.  Then they might run to the plastic post and cuddle it to get their emotional needs met. Indeed that’s what a good leader will do, be open and vulnerable about their own need for attachment. Message receivers generally have it worse than Barlow’s monkey’s and being vulnerable to show your own depravations in terms of attachment is a great way to model cuddling up to Stormtroopers. Clearly, the work can be done. In my mind reality and recovery consists of a balance between the Jedi and the Empire.

As the message receiver gets a degree of acceptance by a social enclave their view of it as the Empire may become friendlier and more humanized. They may see reality as more of a balance between rational and irrational forces, as more gray than black and white. Achieving some level of inclusion be it in a survivor group, in a profession, in a family role, in a romantic relationship, in a social club, in a religion, in a housing warehouse, or in any entity that helps them get their social needs met will help the message receiver move out of the survival state of black and white, good and evil, or life or death and help them on their journey towards actualization. For message receivers to remain healthy will usually involve the goal of gaining acceptance in more than one cultural context.

Admittedly, I have used metaphor to describe what helpers can do on a daily basis to revolutionize treatment. In this metaphor, mainstream treatment in our current system repeatedly punishes the Jedi until they can say the words necessary to act plastic. Then they are set free and told to stay plastic and given medications that sometimes help.

 

Role of the Group in Teaching Social Skills:

I believe that the group, with the leader switching from one culture to the other, develops a bit of a safe rhythm that gives participants the chance to work on nine social skills with each other. Thus, there are many times the leader in morphing from plastic to Jedi needs to let the group interact with each other and support those who are engaging in social skill building. Thus, when group members who are used to being excluded seek to sharpen social skills in a way that is inclusive, the therapist might find ways to support these efforts.

However, message receivers as a culture are particularly focused on themes that are often not encouraged in mental health settings such as politics, history and religion. In order to feel permitted to socialize these topic need to be allowed and a leader is wise to acknowledge that when the topic is participant’s natural cultural socialization and be prepared to assist with the natural socialization in a way that promotes multi-cultural skills which are needed for recovery. In my personal experience there is a great deal of socialization with regard to the bible and finding a way to acknowledge honor and include people from different faiths without killing the process is an important art that can happen as the leader becomes familiar with group members

Though, in hosting a mix of individuals in varying levels of recovery from message crisis, it is ill-advised to make participation mandatory, still the leader needs to prompt and assess, particularly when the topic is not about messages. This is an opportunity to use the rhythm and safety to promote social skills.  During these moments I assess whether the message receiver is on track and sync with the social skills the group is presenting. If the participant is bored, offended, just doesn’t want to be bothered, or simply being left behind, these are the times when the leader needs to be able to morph into Jedi and use other aspects of the reconstruction of psychosis, to make the effort to include the member in the discourse of the group. There are times it is time to change the discourse of the group at these times. Perhaps the group may respond to a different culture building message topic.

Hence, often the leader can support the withdrawn individual, by giving them attention and inclusion by listening carefully to individuals who are in message culture and are struggling to fit into the plastic nature of the communication that comes up in socialization. There may also be times when including the message receiver is difficult and it can be time to move on, still honoring the message receiver’s effort to connect.  It may be necessary to remind recovering message receivers that being patient and inclusive will ultimately help them help themselves if crisis returns. In my experience more often than not message receivers have reminded me to be patient as well and to allow the socialization. I have had to perpetually listen. When I become plastic I wait before asserting myself and weigh the temperature of the group before asserting myself.

I believe a leader is wise to remember that these groups are a radical effort to decrease isolation. Once new group members have been introduced and the general strategy of the group reviewed, and perhaps a story or two told, the leader needs to flex with the group when they want to work on external issues and social skills with each other. Though there is still the need to morph during this stage: playing plastic to some and Jedi to others.

 

Author: Tim Dreby

I am an award-winning author and practicing psychotherapist

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