or quality of life

Every human being wants to be happy and every human being has the right to be happy. It’s a simple but true statement. Happiness is the energy of almost all our behavior.We do things to become happy or to avoid situations which make us feel unhappy. Or we do things as an expression of our feeling of happiness or unhappiness. Only a small part of our behaviors have nothing directly to do with happiness. These are more ritual behaviors or behaviors driven by psychiatric disorders.

In daily life we speak of happiness. In more professional terms we speak of ‘quality of life’ (QOL). Also in gentle teaching quality of life is an important issue. First we focus on establishing the relation called ‘companionship’, but then we go further to help the special friend to develop all his qualities on all aspects of life.

There ar
e many approaches on quality of life. Most of them are related to external circumstances which may influence the feeling of a person about his quality of life. In gentle teaching, feelings are more important that objective circumstances. A hundred people may observe me during my interaction with a special friend and all conclude that I am gentle and helpful towards the other. But if the special  friend feels I am domineering him, my actions won’t make him happy. And that is what matters.

So within the perspective of gentle teaching the only thing that matters is how the person feels. That makes quality of life a very individual experience. To create a workable model, we have been looking for more general aspects underlying the individual desires, needs and experiences. By questioning why people are doing what they are doing, we ended up with eight basic values which are the underlying values of quality of life or happiness.


Basic values

The basic values we identified are:

  • Having a positive body experience
  • Feeling self-worth
  • Feeling safe
  • Feeling loved and loving
  • Feeling connected
  • Feeling inner contentment
  • Feeling supported
  • Having meaningful activities

There is no specific order between these basic values. For each individual the order of importance for the quality of life may be different. This may also be cultural determined or influences by conditions of  life, like living in war-zones or being very poor. These basic values are rather abstract, but on a more concrete level they are translated into more concrete desires or needs.

Having a good body experience

Being healthy, out of pain, well fed, in good shape and condition, being proud of your body, making the body beautiful with make-up or tattoo’s, etc.

Feeling self-worth

Knowing who you are and what you want to become, feeling proud of your achievements, being seen as an important individual, getting compliments, etc.

Feeling safe

Being able to copy with threatening situations, knowing somebody will protect you, knowing nobody will harm you, not being in dangerous places, understanding what is happening, having grip on life, …

Feeling loved and loving

Having some who loves you en whom you love, having good friends who will always help you, meeting nice people who are friendly towards you, liking to be nice and helpful towards others, …

Feeling connected

Feeling part of the world, feeling connected with your material environment, feeling connected with people you live or work with, feeling included in the community, participating in social life, …

Feeling inner contentment

Being free of stress, feeling relaxed, being able to express emotions, feeling joyful, not having psychiatric disorders, …

Feeling supported

Having somebody who supports you, having structure in life, feeling support by religion or rituals, having a good advocate, …

Having meaningful activities

Having activities you like to do, activities which appeal to your talents and creativity, activities which bring you into contact with others, …

These are just examples of how the basic values can be translated into individual and more concrete desires and needs.


Individual approach of quality of life

Every individual has his own needs related to the basic values. This is because every individual has his own individual SELF. This self is the combination of our inborn qualities and our life experiences. This combination makes each one of us unique. From this unique SELF we translate the basic values in a personal list of need for quality of life.
Not all these needs are equal important. One is more important than the other, so the effect on the overall quality of life if a specific need is not fulfilled will depend on whether or not it is very important.



Behaviors and quality of life

Almost all our behaviors are related to quality of life or happiness. We do thing in order to become happy or avoid unhappiness, and we do thing to express our feelings of (un)happiness. When a person behaves in an improper way, it usually is because he feels unhappy and has no other way to express his feelings or to become happy again. From this perspective it’s easy to understand that punishing the behavior, or trying to control the person otherwise, is of no use. As long as he is unhappy, by trial and error or by conditioned responses he will express his feeling. The best way is to find out what the problem is and to make him happy.

Improving quality of life

You might say there is quality of life when the desires and needs of the individual are fulfilled. When they are not fulfilled, there is no quality of life and the person is unhappy. But not every desire or need is as important as the others. When an important desire of need is not fulfilled, the impact on the quality of life is bigger than if it would be a less important desire of need. So it is not only important to know the concrete desires and needs of the special friend, we should also try to find out how important the desires are for the quality of life.


Vulnerabilities & possibilities

To improve the quality of life of a special friend, it is very helpful to be aware of the vulnerabilities and possibilities in this process. Vulnerabilities are all factors which make improving quality of life difficult, possibilities are the factors which make is easier. Both vulnerabilities and possibilities can be divided in ‘internal’ and ‘external’. Internal are connected with the special friend him/herself.

Sometimes internal and external are related to each other. For instance: an internal vulnerability may be that a person can’t speak clearly.


This can be a vulnerability related to ‘feeling connected’ because others don’t understand him. On the other hand, the external vulnerability is that other people do not understand him. Also vulnerabilities sometimes can be transferred in possibilities, just by looking at  it from another angle. A person may need a lot of attention and come to the care giver 20 times a days with the same question. Usually care givers don’t like this and define this as a problem. So the  need for attention is seen as an internal vulnerability. But looking at it from another angle, you can also say that this person gives a care giver 20 times a day the opportunity to making him feel loved by  giving him the attention he needs. So actually the need for attention also is an internal possibility, at least if you want to make him feel safe and loved by you. 


The reason why we split out vulnerabilities and possibilities, internal and external, is because it gives us other perspectives in our relation with the person. Usually we tend to focus in what traditionally is seen as the problem the work on: the internal vulnerabilities. Doing this we put a magnifying glass on these aspects of the person and our relation will be colored by it. And in fact the internal vulnerabilities are the most difficult to change. We better focus on using the possibilities and try to change the external vulnerabilities.


Companionship and Quality of Life

Companionship and quality of life are strongly related to each other. The four pillars of companionship, feeling safe, loved, loving and connected, are the essence of three of the eight basic values. But in  the process of developing companionship with a special friend, we also work on most of the other basic values.


By the way we are touching the body of the person we don’t only teach him that our touch is a sign that he can feel safe with us and loved by us, but we also teach him that his body is good and that it’s good to be gentle to the body. When the person has emotions and pain locked in his body in the form of energy blockades we may even heal this a bit.
Improving the feeling of self-worth is inextricably part of teaching companionship. You can’t build a safe and loving relation without improving the feeling of self-worth. 


In the dialogue with the special friend, we validate his feelings and emotions but we also try to bring joy and loving feelings in our relation. This way we will improve his feeling of inner contentment.
And last but not least, when the special friend feels companionship with us, we become the person he feels unconditionally supported by.


New behaviors

By developing companionship we often see a dramatic change in the behaviors of the special friend. Most behaviors which are seen as unwanted or negative vanish or lose their meaning to us. Now we have the opportunity to teach the person new behaviors by which he can improve his quality of life. Of course it’s important that the new things we teach him, are for our pleasure, but that he can directly  feel how it improves his quality of life. This gives direct satisfaction and the new behaviors will be reinforces by intrinsic motivation.
But even if most ‘negative’ behaviors are vanished, there still may be behaviors that are harmful for the special friend or others. How can we change these? We don’t do this by focusing on the behavior,  but by investigating what is the underlying lack of quality of life. On which basic values does he feel unhappy? Knowing this, we can try to improve the satisfaction on this value. 
We can also try to improve the satisfaction on other basic values, so the overall quality of life improves. This is a good strategy when there are major internal vulnerabilities which make it almost impossible to improve the satisfaction on this basic value. This way the impact of the feeling of dissatisfaction on a specific basic value will decrease.


Do we always have to know for sure to which basic value a ‘negative’ behavior is related? Not necessarily. Suppose we think a behavior is cause by a lack of feeling of self-worth. We can improve this  feeling but after three month conclude that the behavior hasn’t changed. This shows that our assumption was wrong. Does this matter? Maybe it is bad-luck for those who just want to change the behavior,  but for our special friend it is good that his feeling of self-worth has improved. So let’s just make another good assumption and work on that basic value also. It’s always for the benefit of our special friend.