Third Position

The page contains articles and book chapters about a theory developed by J.R. Newbrough and me called the Third Position. Three of the articles from the Father John Series were published in the Journal of Community Psychology. All of the Father John Series was written by me with J.R. Newbrough as a tribute to him. The other Third Position writings are chapters in books I have authored, Chapter 6 from Community Pastoral Care and Chapter 8 from Making Love a Habit.

Father John Series #1

Chapter 1
Context of Chapter One
Chapter one introduces the two main characters of this book. I write fictional stories so that I can help community psychology students understand how this discipline can be practiced. I offer the Bob Newbrough character as the ideal of the practicing community psychologist. I offer the Father John character as the kind of client a community psychologist might serve. I modeled Father John very loosely on a parish priest that Bob, Paul Dokecki, and Bob O Gorman consult with once a month. As this story and the ones that follow unfold I hope the reader can come to see themselves growing and learning as Father John did. And I hope those readers, who wish to accept the mantle of community psychologist, can imagine themselves being a constructive consultant in the way that the Bob character was.

Father John Series #2

Chapter 2
Context of Chapter Two
This chapter is autobiographical. It is about my failure to respect the profound difference between the role of learner and the role of teacher. I have not spent much of my professional life as a teacher. Consequently, later in my career, when I was given the opportunity to teach I was poorly prepared. This story reflects some of what I learned.

Father John Series #3

Chapter 3
Context of Chapter Three
This chapter is about The Truth. I used to believe that some people lied and some people told the truth. And that if two people spoke differently about the same event, one of them was lying. The third position can help sort out what the truth is without requiring that there be liars vs. truth-tellers. This story illustrates how one can use the third position to respect the truth of the other two positions.

Father John Series #4

Chapter 4
Context of Chapter Four
This is most relevant point about the third position. And that is, if you play the role of the third position, it is as if you are invisible. Consequently we rarely recognize the importance of this role and the people who play it.
            In this story I link the third position to feminism. I do believe that women often play this role in families, businesses and in institutions like the church. I also believe that women are often not given credit for the kind of work, when it is important and difficult work.

Father John Series #5

Chapter 5
Father John: How to Use the Third Position in Mediation
Father John bounced a soccer ball as he approached Bob’s office. When he got to Bob’s open office door, there was no uncluttered space of the floor for a ball to bounce. There was no chair available with an empty seat. Everything was covered with files books and journals.
Bob’s office was empty. Empty is not the right word. The office was its usual cluttered state. The only spots clear of debris were Bob’s desk chair, a semi-circle on the floor around the chair and Bob’s desk. Empty in this case means without Bob.

Father John Series #6

Chapter 6
Father John: Discovering Power in the Third Position
When father John approached Bob’s office he could hear Bob talking on the phone. He peered in the door. When Bob saw him, Bob motioned him to a seat. He kept talking, saying his oft used phrase, ‘very interesting…very interesting…very interesting,’ while he scurried about to clear a path to the chair pointed out to Father John. Bob cleared the path, all the while using his ‘very interesting’ phrase on the phone, (which means that he is trying to be positive, avoid conflict and make no commitments). He interrupted his phone conversation saying to the person on the other end, ‘excuse me for a moment.’ He put his hand over the bottom of the phone and said to Father John, “I can see you don’t know where to sit. Move that pile and put it on top of this pile,” Bob pointed to a pile in another chair.

Father John Series #7

Chapter 7
Father John: Three Types of Community
Today Father John arrived at Bob’s office wearing a black suit and a clerical collar. As he walked in Bob’s office, Bob motioned him to the one seat, other than Bob’s, that was without a pile of papers.
“How do you exist and get anything done working in the middle of all this debris?” Father John began.
“I don’t think of it as debris,” Bob said. “It is not refuse to be thrown away. I think of myself as a nineteenth century newspaper man, like H. L. Menkin, who has everything he needs around him within arms reach on flat surfaces, floors, tables, desks, chairs, arranged in stacks. I know where everything is.”
“This would not do for Sister Martha,” Father John said. “She is in charge of office files at the Nashville Diocese headquarters. She has a place for everything and everything is in its place.”
“So do I,” Bob protested.

Father John Series #8

Chapter 8
When The Third Position Is Destructive
Bob called Father John and invited him to come to his home on Hopkins Street because his Parkinson meds weren’t quite right. “I can think fine,” Bob had said. “I’m just not getting about so well. So if you don’t mind, come meet me here.”
Father John rang the bell. Bob yelled, “Door’s open. Come in.”
Father John expected the house to look like Bob’s office. It didn’t. The house had a living room with a fireplace surrounded by windows on two sides.
“Come on back,” Bob yelled.
Father John started down the hall and was met by a wire-haired Dachshund darting at him tail wagging and dancing in a circle around his feet.

Father John Series #9

Chapter 9
Father John had been consulting with Bob weekly now for over four years. Finally, he got the transfer back to Mexico where he always wanted to be. He would work with the native Aztecs in Southern Mexico. This was to be his final session with Bob.
Father John came to the front door as usual. And as usual it was open. He rang the door bell. He heard Bob’s dog, Jenny, answer immediately with a bark and the clicking of her toenails against the hardwood as her four feet ran to greet him. Bob yelled his familiar, “come on back.”
Jenny herded Father John down the hall through the kitchen to Bob’s back porch and his white round table and white rotating pedestal plastic chairs. Bob was waiting for him seated in one of the chairs reading the paper and sipping his tea.

Pastoral Care #6

Chapter Six: Pastoral Care and Conflict
By David McMillan and Janet Tuck
More than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:11
Hopefully you won’t walk into a conflict when you make a pastoral call. But you might. Remember Ned in chapter four? He wasn’t planning to mediate a family quarrel when he went to visit Carl and Mac, but he did. This is another chapter about issues that you will deal with personally in your life, like guilt and grief, but as a pastoral caregiver delivering food for the church, you would probably pass on trying to be the only go-to person for the people you visit who are in the midst of a conflict. Having said this, however, we want you to be exposed to the tools that one might use to help manage conflict. The primary tool we will describe in this chapter is called the Third Position. It was first formulated by David’s friend and mentor, J.R. Newbrough, Ph.D.
The third position is a particular way of reframing conflict. In the fourth chapter Ned reframed the conflict between Carl and Mac in terms of a family diaspora. When Carl and Mac saw they were participating in a normal human family event that was not unique to them, they were able to stop personalizing this pain and see it in the context of grieving for their mother. This reframe helped stop the blaming and opened them to compassion for one another and for their shared loss.
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