I am no psychologist, but I try very hard to understand the people around me and I believe that you cannot understand someone in isolation. Maybe I have been effected by the family systems theory of Salvador Minuchin, but I find it very helpful to consider their family relationships when trying to really understand people; especially a person’s relationship with parents.
Here are twenty-two questions that one psychologist discovered “elicited the most productive and revealing responses.”
- Did your parents view the world as irrational?
- Were you taught how to develop your mind?
- Were you encouraged to think independently?
- Were you free to express your opinions openly?
- Did your parents ridicule your opinions?
- Did your parents treat your thoughts with respect?
- Were you psychologically visible to them?
- Did you feel you were a source of pleasure to them?
- Did your parents deal with you fairly and justly?
- Did your parents physically punish you?
- Did your parents believe in your basic goodness?
- Did they believe in your intellectual potential?
- Did they take cognizance of your knowledge and context?
- Did your parents cultivate guilt within you?
- Did they produce fear within you?
- Did they respect intellectual and physical privacy?
- Did they want you to have self-esteem?
- Did they make you realize that what you made of your life was important?
- Did your parents encourage a fear of the world?
- Were you encouraged to openly express yourself?
- Were you encouraged to like your body and sex?
- Was your masculinity or femininity reinforced?
I cannot imagine ever asking a friend several of the questions above. However, a few of them should be great conversation starters. In fact, #8 “Did you feel you were a source of pleasure to them?” is very similar to a conversation that I have had with many friends.
What do you think? Is it important to know about someone’s family in order to really know them?