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|Case Studies Mar/Apr - Page 6|
"It's hard when you don't feel appreciated," Sherry said.
"Do you want it to be hard for her?" I asked Carl.
"No, I don't."
Many men confuse appreciation with compliments—a mistake compounded by assignments to come up with nice things to say. Appreciation is a complex emotional state compounded of interest, admiration, affection, gratitude, and value, all of which are difficult, even for poets, to express in words. Sherry was dissatisfied with Carl's compliments because they didn't make her feel anything. I assured her that he could convey the feeling of appreciation much better nonverbally. She agreed to an experiment.
Experimenting with Visualization
I asked Carl to come up with mental images of Sherry that would symbolize interest, admiration, affection, gratitude, and value. (He imagined her reading a book, reaching out to hug him, sitting by his side in the hospital after his surgery, and tossing her pony tail as she exercised on a treadmill.) He was to focus on feeling appreciation for her without saying anything. When he felt ready, he faced her, focusing on these mental images. Unencumbered by the task of translating his emotional state into the right words, his expression and body language changed, as if he were seeing her through new eyes. Spontaneously, he turned this emotional state into an embrace. She felt appreciated, even though he didn't state what exactly he appreciated about her. More important was the change in his behavior and attitudes that his appreciation would foster over time. His images were personal and from the heart. Because he liked how they made him feel, he began to conjure them at home without much effort. Appreciation is a part of love that goes beyond words.
Although aware of his love for Sherry, Carl, like many men, underestimated his wife's importance to him: he knew he loved her, but he didn't realize how vital she was to his emotional well-being. I asked him to remember when she'd questioned his love for her by pointing out that he'd go to work every day even if she left him.