The Paradox of Restraint Reduction: Why Fighting Restraint Might Fuel Its Persistence

In the realm of organisational management, particularly in sectors dealing with vulnerable populations such as healthcare facilities, schools, and correctional institutions, the discourse around physical restraint has undergone significant evolution.

Restraint reduction programmes have emerged as a seemingly noble initiative aimed at minimising the use of physical force in managing challenging behaviours.

However, beneath the surface of good intentions lies a paradoxical truth: these programmes, despite their intentions, may inadvertently contribute to the perpetuation of restraint practices.

Drawing from metaphysical and philosophical concepts, along with insights from remarkable figures like Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, it becomes evident that the very act of resisting restraint may paradoxically reinforce its prevalence.

At the heart of this paradox lies a fundamental psychological principle: “what we resist persists.” This concept suggests that the human brain has a tendency to focus on and amplify the very things it seeks to avoid.

Just as instructing someone not to think of a red elephant invariably conjures images of precisely that, efforts to reduce restraint by emphasising its negative consequences may inadvertently reinforce its occurrence.

In other words, the more attention and energy dedicated to combating restraint, the more entrenched it becomes within organisational culture.

Consider, for instance, the implementation of stringent policies and training programmes aimed at reducing the use of physical restraint in healthcare settings.

While the intentions behind such initiatives are commendable, they often place undue emphasis on the negative aspects of restraint, thereby intensifying the focus on its occurrence.

Staff members, primed to be hyper-aware of restraint incidents, may inadvertently contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy wherein the very efforts to minimise restraint inadvertently lead to its escalation.

This phenomenon is not confined to organisational dynamics but finds resonance in broader societal movements as well.

Mother Teresa’s famous remark, “invite me to a peace rally and I’ll come,” encapsulates this understanding succinctly. By declining to participate in anti-war rallies and instead advocating for peace-centric gatherings, she demonstrated a profound comprehension of the futility of combating negative forces directly.

Her approach, rooted in the belief that focusing on peace rather than war cultivates a more fertile ground for transformative change, underscores the inherent limitations of resistance-based strategies.

Similarly, the legacies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi exemplify the power of non-violent resistance and positive affirmation in effecting societal transformation.

Both leaders understood that railing against injustice alone would not suffice; it was the cultivation of alternative narratives rooted in love, compassion, and equality that truly catalysed change.

Their adherence to the principle of non-violence was not merely a strategic choice but a philosophical stance grounded in the recognition that fighting against oppression only serves to perpetuate its existence.

In the context of restraint reduction programmes, this philosophical insight offers a profound lesson.

Rather than framing the discourse solely in terms of resistance to restraint, organizations would do well to adopt a more holistic approach that emphasizes positive alternatives and proactive strategies.

This may entail investing in comprehensive training programmes focused not just on de-escalation techniques, but on equality, diversity and compassion, which is aimed at fostering a culture of equanimity, empathy and understanding that empowers staff as opposed to disempowering them.

By shifting the focus from what is being resisted to what is being cultivated, organisations can create an environment conducive to genuine transformation and sustainable change.

In conclusion, the paradox of restraint reduction programmes lies in their potential to inadvertently reinforce the very behaviours they seek to eliminate.

By recognizing the limitations of resistance-based approaches and drawing inspiration from the timeless wisdom of figures like Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, organizations can chart a more effective path towards true restraint reduction.

It is not through the mere absence of restraint but through the cultivation of compassion, understanding, and positive alternatives that lasting change can be realised.

Having said all of that, we must also accept that there is a need for the use of physical restraint (also called physical intervention).

But by creating programmes that create the perception that if physical restraint is used that it is in some way attributable to staff having personally failed in reducing or avoiding the need for restraint, therefore placing the organisational failure on the member of staff, is contemptible and possibly even negligent.

Training must be about empowering staff to be able to use what they are being taught and trained to use in a competent manner and with professional discretion.

In addition, staff should be supported where necessary and not blamed, should they have to use restraint, because let’s face it, it can be traumatic for staff too.

This is what we are about.

We offer a comprehensive training programme that is possibly the most legally robust and defensible programme in the UK today (and it is even used overseas).

It is also based on compassion, equality and diversity, values that I personally have been at the forefront of promoting, sometimes in organisations that have been considered to be ‘institutionally’ apathetic in their approach to such values.

Who is Trevel Henry?

Here is a very brief snippet about my story…

From an early age I have worked in institutions which certainly in my younger days put a lot of emphasis into physical prowess, implying those who were good at lifting, carrying and running were often seen or perceived to be potential leadership material.

Physical strength is just one very small part of a bigger picture which should be towards inspiring, motivating and building resilience in people towards enhancing the service and support they provide to others, whilst being empowered to proactively prevent challenging behaviours escalating towards becoming out of control.

I will share more of my life journey soon but in the meantime.

If you are an individual looking to become a physical restraint/intervention trainer or an organisation looking to train your staff to a competent and holistic standard, whether you are UK based or abroad, go to the webpage here – and ‘Claim Your Free 30-Minute Strategy Session’ today.