When we work with a person, is there only an individual in front of us? Initially, one could answer this question with a simple “yes”. However, if you were to look a little deeper, you could begin to acknowledge that an individual is not an isolated being.

An individual is, I believe, a component of a system; they are part of a system of a family and/or social context. These systems are made up of complex and often deep-seated relationships.

In 1957, an academic named DD Jackson referred to ‘homeostasis’ within a family system. This term is a reference to a ‘balance’ within the family or social system that is an integral part of its functioning.

It is to be maintained in order for the system to operate. The balance requires preserving for the system to function within the status quo, whether its task could be deemed negative or not.

In our line of work, this ‘homeostasis’ is often an addiction or another difficulty such as a struggle with mental health and, within that context, the homeostasis is not necessarily the individual per se, but the presenting difficulty, such as the addiction. Attempts at changing any component within the system would usually be met with resistance, as the system strives to maintain its homeostasis/balance. So, again, the emphasis is actually the symptom of the family/system, rather than solely the individual.

Therefore when an individual endeavours to make a lifestyle change, one ought to bear in mind that they are not just changing themselves, they are also changing their world around them.

Imagine the difficulties people face when trying to make fundamental shifts within their lives, and imagine the impact of this change also upon those involved with the individual who is making the change. This is an often, unplanned dilemma that those who access Doorway compete with on a regular basis; and something that those supporting them within the community are dealing with also.

To aid in understanding this idea and its complexities, try this if at home or work, or within another group: Get a ball of string. Ask everyone to stand in a circle. Give one person the end of the string and then pass the ball of string around to each individual within the group. Then, replicate the relationships within the group by passing the ball of string between those that have some form of communication with each other, and so on and so forth until all of the relationships are represented between individuals. The string should look like a spider’s web in the middle of the circle of people as it is passed between each individual and those they have some form of relationship with. Make sure that the string is quite tight. Now, ask one of the individuals to slowly move away from the circle and notice how the string is tugging at each and every one of the individuals in some way, as well as between them.

This is the homeostasis or the balance being tugged at by just one individual making a change within the system.

Have you ever been in a place where a certain topic is avoided within a social situation, for example, an event or a death? Why is it sidestepped?

It’s probably dodged because nobody wants to upset the balance within the system, as the system is functioning and maintaining its homeostasis, whether positively or negatively impacting upon those involved. So why would you want to change if there is such an impact on those around you? Maybe because if you don’t change then there can be no true change within your system, the status quo remains king and life would be a bore.

Make a change, or if someone you know is making a change for the better, change with them.