|Diets Narcissistic Clients CE Comments Mary Jo Barrett Alan Sroufe Future of Psychotherapy Trauma Symposium 2012 Community of Excellence Brain Science Clinical Excellence Anxiety Etienne Wenger Challenging Cases Mind/Body Men in Therapy Wendy Behary Gender Issues Couples Therapy Ethics David Schnarch Clinical Mastery Mindfulness The Future of Psychotherapy Linda Bacon Attachment Theory Couples Attachment Great Attachment Debate William Doherty|
|You Say Tomato... - Tomato 4|
"Those parents!" I said to Dennis, "You both had difficult parents!" Carla nodded. "Dennis had a stormy mother, a yeller," I pointed out, not for the first time.
"What do I know?" Dennis confessed, "I was raised by wolves." It had been a revelation to him that some people lived in a house without doors slamming, mad accusations. These memories hadn't helped his big-picture-loving impatience.
But I didn't want to leave it here, as if we'd figured out the sole sources of their difficulties—coming from the feral Dennis and his ferocious wolf-parents. "Carla, you had an impossible job growing up—two anxious parents. You had to be the big girl."
"They're still anxious," Carla said. It was true: both her parents felt entitled to worry and moan like fretful children, without a whit of understanding of how that weighed on Carla, a classic good but parentified kid.
"A thankless job," I said. "Plus low pay." We were all chuckling here. You might think we were only discussing their histories, reviewing the pathos of their lives. But I'd say we were doing more: we were extending the immersion of these two people in the parts of their differing temperaments—his speedy fuse, her steady seriousness—that, like it or not, were going to persist. It's a soaking-in realism, equal-opportunity realism, both about their own ingrained and lively idiosyncrasies and about the idiosyncrasies of the other. You could think of it as a hanging out, a getting to know another person without the veils of illusion and hallucination that first enchant and then, in a likely downward sequence, dismay. Past the sparkly feelings, past the dark paranoid suspicions—all projections, it should be noted, first of our hopes and then of our fears—we get to encounter the essential peculiarities, the temperament, the quiddity and suchness, of another human being.
When I first worked with couples, I don't think I appreciated how central to the work of relationship it is to tolerate a clear, direct experience of one's partner. Or rather, I mistook that as the trouble-free part, what was left after the dust had settled: the other partner at last easily apprehended, warmly understood. So much of our couples work centers on how well a couple communicates with each other, how well they listen, how well they have empathy for the other partner's bad breaks and old failures of understanding. If you define intimacy as "shared reality," then we work hard to get the couple talking and sharing, so they can experience the steady contact of their beloved.