Category Archives: vulnerability

Practicing intimacy: Intimate communication

Ninth in the series 
Notes on recovery 
Intimacy depends on the quality of communication.
And the first step to raising that quality is by not doing stuff we normally do.
Psychologist Thomas Gordon once famously identified twelve “roadblocks to communication” between parents and children.  It’s a good list to memorize, since each item is essentially a controlling behavior able to destroy intimacy between anyone and anyone else:
1. Ordering or directing
2. Warning or threatening
3. Advising or suggesting
4. Arguing or persuading
5. Lecturing or moralizing
6. Criticizing, judging or blaming
7. Agreeing or praising*
8. Ridiculing or shaming
9. Analyzing or diagnosing
10. Reassuring or sympathizing*
11. Questioning or probing
12. Withdrawing, humoring or distracting
A client with whom I shared this list responded, “What’s left?  Hand signals?”
I sympathize.  We’re so used to these ways of unconsciously controlling each other that it’s hard to imagine doing without them.
But there are alternatives.
I-statements, for example.  Ever notice how any sentence containing the word You tends to make the listener defensive?  I-statements avoid this by focusing on me instead.  I’m confused by what you’re saying, instead of You make no sense.  I’m mad at you, instead of You suck.  Like that.  Which do you think leads to better communication?      
Then there’s feedback, a skill I teach in therapy groups.  Group requires a lot of emotional safety, so to forestall judgments or unsolicited advice members are asked to respond to what they hear by describing only what it made them think, feel or remember.  (When you talk about your anger I remember all the times I lost my temper and how it felt.)   These expanded I-statements not only make it safer for everyone to talk about sensitive issues, they help members get to know each other quickly, and to understand their own reactions and perceptions reactions on a deeper level.
Finally, monologuing is an exercise I teach couples who want to learn intimate communication.  Each partner takes five minutes to list his/her resentments (I resent when you insult my mother) and appreciations (I appreciate when you make coffee so I don’t have to) while the other just listens.  Then they switch roles.  Monologuing’s not meant to settle disputes or solve problems; it’s used to keep the air clear, lines of communication open, and each partner in touch with where the other is emotionally.  It also teaches them to make I-statements, identify feelings, listen without interrupting, and develop empathy.  (I didn’t know you felt that way is a common reaction.) Couples who monologue regularly tell me it becomes a way they can talk safely about almost anything.

___________________

*Yes, items 7 and 10 tend to surprise people.   See here for an explanation of why they inhibit parent/child communication.

 

 

 


The tribe: Expectations

 

Most people feel anxious in group without really understanding why.

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member 1

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Personally I think it’s because, on some deep level, the group reminds us of our family of origin.

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And we expect it to treat us just as our family did.

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So tell me.  If this group were your family, what would you be expecting now?

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therapist 5

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To get hit.

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To get humiliated.

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therapist 7

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To be told to shut up.

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therapist 8

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To be ignored.

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Pink?  What would you expect?

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member 9

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therapist 10

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All of the above.

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Jeez.

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member 11

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So you all have good reason to feel anxious in this room.

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member 12

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But I have to ask Pink:

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member 13

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How’d you work up the courage to even come here?

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member 14

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therapist 15

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Two beers, half a pizza, and a Vicodin.

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* * *

  

Group therapy. 

In Hebrew. 

“Hello, this is Fear Management. 

“My name is Moni, and I too have a phobia. 

“I have a fear of shouting. 

“You know, a, h, h, h, exclamantion mark, ‘ahhh’!

“At this point I suggest we all tell about ourselves…” 

 

Excerpt from the Israeli TV show “Ktzarim”:  Five troubled people (that description includes the group leader) meet for group therapy.  In Hebrew with English subtitles (2:22).

 

* * *

 

Overheard at the House:

Eventually, and every time, I used to drive my current partner insane with my hang ups and he broke off the relationship….

So I decided only I could change and needed to put my – sorry to be blunt – infantile behaviour aside and choose blind trust, no matter the outcome….

Result: I came to accept that my life is my life and not dependent on anyone else for survival or safety – and in a way I was going to be alone, with or without a partner: it’s part of the human condition….

 

Come. 

Join the conversation

Monkey House.

Because we’re all monkeys on this bus.

 

 

 

 

 



Session 22: Bull (part 2)

bert

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Remember when I complimented you on developing some empathy?

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Yeah.

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I may have spoken too soon.

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What the hell is “empathy,” anyway?

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Awareness of another person’s feelings.

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And I lack that.

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Apparently.  But it’s not your fault.

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bert.

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You’re a man.  Most men are trained to be emotional dunderheads.

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“Dunderhead”?

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Emotionally stupid.

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How does that happen?

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Well, we teach men to ignore or hide their feelings…

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bert

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…so they can go to war and go to work and do other stuff that feelings tend to interfere with.

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Because big boys don’t cry.

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Exactly.

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bert 10

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And once you lose touch with your own feelings…

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bert (11)

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…it’s hard to be sensitive to anyone else’s.

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Like a wife’s.

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Yes.

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So she’s right.  I am insensitive to her feelings.

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So it would seem.

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Now I feel like a jerk.

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I wouldn’t say that.  Just think of yourself as…

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bert (15)

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…a bull in a china shop.

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(To be continued.)

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* * *

Want more?

Having spent half his life trying to find fulfillment outside himself, he awakens to discover that it has not worked. For the first time in his life, a man may turn inward for answers.

He may begin to realize that his unhappiness is not caused by his failure to find the right woman or the right career, but by who he is and the way he is living his life.

Rather than blame others, he may ask, “How have I caused this to happen? Perhaps I need to change and develop greater self-awareness before I can have a healthy relationship or a satisfying career.”

This is a very difficult and courageous step for a man to take. Having successfully mastered his life on the outside, he is now forced to acknowledge that he needs help to explore difficulties encountered in his inner life.

From Real men do therapy by Jerry Magaro.

* * *

Most men grow up with an emptiness inside them.  Call it father hunger, call it male deprivation, call it personal insecurity, it’s the same emptiness.

When positive masculine energy  — a male mode of feeling — is not modeled from father to son, it creates a vacuum in the souls of men.  And into that vacuum demons pour.

Among other things, they seem to lose the ability to know how to read situations and people correctly.

Richard Rohr, in From wild man to wise man: Reflections on male spirituality.


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