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Ethics Workshop - Participants' Experience

Sonal Kothari Sonal Kothari is on a journey to selfhood.  She is a practicing psychotherapist and parent coach. She teaches the world renowned Dr. Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training program.  Sonal loves gardening and has grown several fruit trees from seed :)! You can contact sonal and learn about her work at www.journey2selfhood.com

On the 21st of September 2019, I attended an Ethics workshop by Suriya and Susan in Bangalore. I wasn’t sure I would go, too much was going on at home. I called a colleague, who gave me the necessary permission to make my decision. I was so happy that I took it, I enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot. 

Ethics has been an important consideration for my psychotherapy practice as well as for living. However, I’m often unclear of 'what the “right" right answer is’, I can see many “seemingly” acceptable view points in any given situation depending upon who’s shoes I’m in. The idea that I would get the answer in this workshop was both anxiety and hope producing. Anxiety because what if I didn’t agree with the list of "do’s and don’ts” I was expecting would be handed out. And hope because maybe I would be handed out a list of  “dos' and don’ts”, making life easier.   Needless to say my fears were completely misplaced. I came away clearer, more reassured and with a number of  tools that I could apply to ethical dilemmas in my personal and professional life. 

We began with thinking about and then drawing out our metaphors for ethics. This got us nicely warmed up to the topic as we contracted for needs. We all had varied ideas, yet Susan was able to weave some common themes through them all. Suriya presented a complex diagram of different approaches in ethical theory. We talked about consequentialism vs deontology, about egoism, altruism and utilitarianism. There were other new terms as well - it felt like it was a whole world unto itself with a long history. There were lots of examples to illustrate each point. We were asked to see which forms we practiced more of. In the discussions that followed, it became quite clear, that it wasn’t as simple as we’d thought. While we had preferences, we probably practiced all forms to some degree, albeit in different situations. Ethics for most of us is paradoxical, has few absolutes (unless you’re an absolutist) and lots of exceptions. Example, killing is wrong except if you’re a soldier or in self-defence; lying is wrong except maybe to save an innocent life. How then do we reconcile it all and make sense for ourselves in day-to-day living and learning? The answer lay in developing "Ethical thinking", rather than following a “restrictive” list of Ethical Behaviours that don’t account fully for context. This was my biggest take-away. 

The rest of the day was spent in understanding how our ethical thinking is based on the values we already hold within us from our childhood. And looking to how we can hone and develop our ethical thinking further. We looked at the Ethical Matrix from the ITAA manual on Ethics. The 5 core values on the grid were developed from the U.N. Councils’ code of Universal Human Rights. These 5 values form the content of our ethical makeup, while the 5 principles mapped 1:1 to the values are the way in which we practiced the values. We learnt through our personal examples, in the large and in smaller groups, how to use the grid effectively. This was very valuable since the grid is a central tenet of how we operate in the TA community. We learnt that we could make or modify the ethical grid by placing our own core values in it. We saw how script elements such as drivers, injunctions and discounting show up while working through the Ethical grid and learnt how we can account for them.

We learnt that asking helpful questions was the way to work through the stuck-ness to a place of "what do I do about it"? I was delighted when we were told that this isn’t just a cognitive process but that we needed to use our intuition and gut as a guide to feel in alignment or congruence with the results. The grid is iterative and layered and we learnt to work back and forth through the layers.  We looked at the meta perspectives and learnt that it is helpful to have an outside person to catch our blindspots, for we cannot see all of ourselves as we work the grid. The grid was laid on the floor in one exercise and a volunteer worked through her dilemma by physically stepping in each box, we could see how her body language and thinking changed as she moved through the boxes. We learnt about the Role Theory of Bernd Schmid and how often times ethical dilemmas are a result of us being caught up or stuck between our different roles. We also learnt a new simple way of working through the Discount Matrix that Susan has developed and this came handy for me  when I worked through my ethical dilemma in our small group. 

All in all it was a day of rich learning on a topic that is vitally important in our work and personal life. Ethical thinking as I learnt it in the workshop, felt in alignment with TA’s core principles of: people are okay, people can think and people can change. There was comfort and ease from this understanding, it didn’t feel prescriptive or restrictive. Rather I came away with the sense “This may not always be pleasant for me, but it is entirely do-able and I have help and support in the community to get me there.”

Personally, my sense is that this workshop should be compulsory attendance for all trainees and practitioners. Even if we’ve been around for a while, it makes sense to me that we revisit the topic from time to time. 

A diagram I made from my understanding of the working through the ITAA Ethical Matrix

Ethics Workshop


Sonal Kothari

Aruna Kalahastri holds a BA in Psychology, and has a Diploma in TA. She is a certified Ho'oponopono practitioner and has done  her level 1  in Systemic Family Constellation. She is currently training under Susan George towards her  CTA. She is also doing her apprenticeship in Shamanistic practices. She lives by the mantra all things are connected in the web of life. She loves to read, Zentangle and practice organic gardening. She can be reached at aruna7.psi@gmail.com

I attended the workshop on Ethics held on September 21st, 2019 at Ashirvad in Bengaluru. The facilitators were Dr. Susan George and Dr. Suriyaprakash. I entered the workshop wondering what they would do for a whole day on a topic like Ethics, which I thought was straightforward, black & white, with no shades of grey.  I was very intrigued to see crayons and paper on the floor. We were asked to pictorially represent what Ethics meant to each of us. Suriya presented the different Frameworks of Ethics covering perspectives from Egoism to Altruism, from Rights-based to virtue-based approaches. Each of these perspectives focused on the frame it represented while making Ethical conclusions. An analysis across these various frameworks showed that there are many right answers to the same ethical question, each individual can come to their own conclusion.

We were asked to discuss our images in small groups in the light of the presentation by Suriya. In the process we learnt about ourselves and others, this helped build perspectives and tolerance. We then moved to the ITAA Ethical Grid and Susan helped us understand the nuances and further explore its application in our daily dilemmas. The icing on the cake was using TA concepts to the Ethical Grid. Susan took us through the steps of how discounting happens and its influence on our ethical decisions. This was a great eye opener. It further strengthened the fact that there are ‘Many right Answers’ to the same ethical question. We continued to look at more examples and small group explorations. The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to learn from and exchange experiences with other  participants. The information shared was clear and concise. The facilitators were amazing and the simplicity with which they shared and enabled others to share, was commendable. I came out of the workshop feeling this topic requires not just a day but a life-time of learning and integrating.

 
Head or Tail
Solutions & Winners of Previous Issue
CONFERENCE AFTERWORD
arr Raleigh 2019
- Chitra Ravi
EXPERIENCES
arr A Recap of Learning, un-Learning and re-Learning
- Nalina Viswanathan
arr Significance of Self-Strokes
- Jayanthi R Prasad
arr Ethics Workshop - Participants' Experience

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