Virginia Satir was a teacher with whom I studied early in my career. Her work with families was the inspiration for my entering the field of social work to become a therapist.
This is a summary of some of her work on “coping patterns.”
When a person or organization copes on the basis of understanding his/her/its own value, his/her/its own flaws, and his/her/its own limitations, it has the best chance of achieving its potential — and great things.
A Placating person or organization shows undue concern for possible negative consequences. The fear of negative consequences becomes the mantra of the placater. The group can be so driven by avoidance of discomfort right now, that it’s willing to exchange it for far greater — even inevitable — discomfort in the future. When the individual or group placates, it collectively avoids confronting issues or people, preferring instead to assume responsibility for any disappointing outcomes. A secondary gain experienced by placaters is a sense power that is based on illusion.
When a person or organization copes by Blaming, it holds other people or things responsible for any problem. This prevents learning from mistakes or preventing them in the future. The self or organization remains infallible. Others are fallible and the source of conflict, short-comings or problems
In coping by Loving/Hating, the person or organization is driven by alterations in relationship with other organizations, people or ideas. Whether finally to destroy that organization, person or idea; or to attach itself thereto in permanent adoration and ethereal bliss, it ignores almost everything and everyone else external to the focal relationship.
When a person or organization is coping in the Narcissistic pattern, it’s driven by its love of itself and disregard for everything else. No other organization, no person, nothing external is of any worth or value, except perhaps as support or utility to the person or institution. The Narcissistic person or organization is prepared to use, abuse or exploit anyone, any idea, or any other organization, including its parent or sponsoring group, to further its own ends.
The Infatuated person or organizational coping pattern displays complete devotion to a particular person, idea or organization. There is continued dedicated in the face of almost any contradictory data, which can lead it to decisions that pose inordinate risk or disaster.
Irrelevant coping in a person or organization is coping by flight. In the face of adversity, avoiding not only the adversity, but any recognition of it.
Super-reasonable organizational coping emphasizes Context, usually through a devotion to “objectivity” and at the expense of human considerations or considerations of relationship. Super-reasonable coping can lead an organization to adopt self-destructive strategies because they make sense for the “bottom line,” or because they emphasize some specific organizational priorities, even if they’re self-destructive.