Reaching Out to Life: An Interview with Virginia Satir

Reaching Out to Life: An Interview with Virginia Satir

The Healing Touch of Virginia Satir

By Rich Simon

January/February 1989

BEING LARGER THAN LIFE WAS SOMETHING VIRGINIA SATIR knew about from her earliest days. She grew up bigger and smarter and more keenly aware than any of the kids her age in the Wisconsin farm community where she was raised. By the time she was three, she had learned to read. By the time she was 11, she had reached her adult height of nearly six feet. Even though her schooling was interrupted by long stretches of illness, she started college after only seven-and-a-half years of formal education. As she described it, "I never had to worry about being like everybody else. I always knew I wasn't."

Growing up a big, awkward, sickly child, Satir drew from her experience of being an outsider a finely tuned sensitivity to other people's fears that they were different or strange. Maybe it was that sensitivity as much as anything else that accounted for her ability to connect with something very deep in the people she helped. Satir had a way of making people feel that she appreciated, as perhaps had ever before, just what set them apart from anyone else running around the planet, and that their different-ness was neither a defect nor a burden, but a treasure of inestimable value.

From the very beginning of her career, starting out as a school teacher in the late 1930s, Satir was drawn to people who were haunted by their sense of being different. At night, she would visit the homes of the students in her class to find out what was getting in…

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