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|Beyond the One-Way Mirror - Page 8|
The selected family included an out-of-control, violence-prone 12-year-old named Jake. On the phone, the mother said, "I have to be the peacemaker. My husband and Jake can't stand each other, and they fight all the time. I feel that I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown." I discovered that Jake listened to his grandmother more than to anybody else, but that she was extremely old and frail. Still, when I asked her to, she agreed to come to the demonstration. You could have heard a pin drop as the family arrived and the audience watched the grandmother struggle down the aisle on her walker.
I knew from speaking to the father on the phone that he was blind to the central role his sternness played in making his son Jake misbehave. So, after I said that there were unspoken and unhealed wounds in the family, I chose an emotionally compelling movie clip to capture the family's attention—or as Fishman and Minuchin put it, I raised the "intensity to go above the family's threshold of deafness."
The scene was from The Horse Whisperer, in which Robert Redford ties a traumatized and brutalized horse's legs together to stop it from thrashing wildly about. When the horse goes down, Redford asks the horse's owner to tenderly massage the animal. The horse moans softly as it responds to this gentle care, and its emotional wounds begin to heal.
Tears flowed from the eyes of both father and son as they instantly saw the parallels between the traumatized horse and the trauma in their relationship. The horse represented Jake, who needed structure but also nurturance. The horse's owner represented the dad, who was unsure of what to do or how to be nurturing. However, the real breakthrough in this session occurred when the grandmother gently touched the father and told him that Jake needed his dad, and that he could be as good a father as he'd been a son.