Virginia Satir


For a number of years during the 1960s and 1970s Virginia Satir was one of the best known social workers in the world.  The following are quotes from her book Making Contact (Celestial Arts: Millbrae, CA, 1976).


“I believe the greatest gift I can conceive of having from anyone is to be seen by them, heard by them, to be understood and touched by them.  The greatest gift I can give is to see, hear, understand and to touch another person.  When this is done I feel contact has been made.”


Please note that the greatest gift you can both give and receive costs no money, is not a material thing.  It is the essence of love that you are giving and receiving and its only costs are time and acceptance.


Goals For Me


“I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting.


“If I can have the same from you then we can truly meet and enrich each other.”


But this is not possible unless BOTH of you are participating in BOTH the giving and the getting.


“Making contact involves two people at a time and three parts. Each person in contact with himself or herself and each in contact with the other.”


It has been my personal and professional experience over the years that the greatest tragedies in life are caused when only two “parts” are in play in the above formula.  This typically happens when one of the parties is not in contact with himself or herself.  Has this ever happened to you?  Have you ever seen this happening with another?  How does one avoid this so that they avoid the pain?


Obviously part of the answer is that you don’t try to become intimate, to be in contact with a person that is not in contact with themself.  How do you know if a person is trying to be in contact with themself?  The following is a basic test.


“What makes it possible to enhance our feelings of self-esteem is our willingness to be open to new possibilities, to try them on for size, and then, if they fit us, to practice using them until they are ours.  To start the process I have developed something I have called…


The Five Freedoms


The freedom to see and hear what is here instead of what should be, was, or will be.




The freedom to say what one feels and thinks, instead of what one should.


The freedom to feel what one feels, instead of what one ought.


The freedom to ask for what one wants, instead of always waiting for permission. 


The freedom to take risks in one’s own behalf, instead of choosing to be only ‘secure’ and not rocking the boat.”


Is the person you are trying to make contact with in your personal life someone that is sincerely trying to change, to be a more open and honest person?  Are they aware of how “shoulds” and “ought tos” are influencing the way they think and feel and behave?  Are they secure enough to risk the truth, to rock the boat, to take reasonable risks? 


Most of us are bogged down in negatives from the past.  Are you a person that is fighting to free yourself from your past?  Are you learning from it?  If your past has been great, then that is wonderful.  However, what does that also teach you?  No matter what your life has been like up to this moment in time, it has some wonderful lessons waiting for you to learn from that past. 


Satir asks you to ask yourself:


Is my past illuminating my present or contaminating it?”


As you come to the end of your undergraduate college years, look back and reflect upon how you thought about the world, about yourself, about what you were about to do at the start of this adventure.  Now reflect on what occurred.  Are your thoughts then consistent with the results?  Often we start out with negative self-talk and doubts that slow us down and waste our energies.  They cause stress and it all was a waste because you now see that you have made it to the end and are about to graduate. 


What does that teach you about the future?  It is through reflection about the past that we become better equipped to go into the future.  So…..reflect!


Becoming acquainted with trigger words


“All of us have some trigger words.  These are words that make us see ‘red’ when we hear them because they bring up a whole set of pictures and feelings from the past that were associated with pain, humiliation or shame, and then we automatically react as though that situation were repeating itself.


“We fail to realize that the same word can mean quite different things to different people.  Often needless physical and self-esteem injury occurs as a result.


“The opportunity for contact can often be delayed or destroyed through this.  No one can become so aware that they know the trigger words of every person.


“In making good contact, loving persons learn about these words and avoid them, clarify them or eventually discard them.  When goodwill abounds, the situation eventually rights itself.  When ruptures are present, trigger works escalate the situation.


“Find out what these words are for yourself and for those you love and see what happens.”