“Members of highly reactive families, therefore, wind up constantly focused on the latest, most immediate crisis, and they remain almost totally incapable of gaining the distance that would enable them to see the emotional processes in which they are engulfed. The emotionally regressed family will stay fixed on its symptoms, and family thinking processes will become stuck on the content of specific issues rather than on the emotional processes that are driving those matters to become “issues.” The systemic anxiety thus locks everyone into a pessimistic focus on the pathology within the family, and it becomes almost impossible for such systems to reorient themselves to a focus on their inherent strengths. What also contributes to this loss of perspective is the disappearance of playfulness, an attribute that originally evolved with mammals and which is an ingredient in both intimacy and the ability to maintain distance. You can, after all, play with your pet cat, horse, or dog, but it is absolutely impossible to develop a playful relationship with a reptile, whether it is your pet salamander, no matter how cute, or your pet turtle, snake, or alligator. They are deadly serious (that is, purposive) creatures. Chronically anxious families (including institutions and whole societies) tend to mimic the reptilian response: Lacking the capacity to be playful, their perspective is narrow. Lacking perspective, their repertoire of responses is thin. Neither apology nor forgiveness is within their ken. When they try to work things out, their meetings wind up as brain-stem storming sessions. Indeed, in any family or organization, seriousness is so commonly an attribute of the most anxious (read “difficult”) members that they can quite appropriately be considered to be functioning out of a reptilian regression. Broadening the perspective, the relationship between anxiety and seriousness is so predictable that the absence of playfulness in any institution is almost always a clue to the degree of its emotional regression. In”


Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix
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A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman
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