by Francine Beauvoir Ph.D.
This is July, the month when we celebrate the "Land of the Free."
We take great pride in our freedom. We honor the fact that this is a free country. It means a lot to us and we wouldn't want it any other way.
But on a day to day basis, I find that many of the people I work with do not feel free. They feel trapped! Trapped by their insecurities, trapped by their prejudices, by their lack of confidence and their low self esteem. So many are trapped inside walls they built long ago. They needed the walls. They had to protect themselves in order to survive. Now they are prisoners in big fortresses, immersed into old messages that say, "You can't. You're not good enough. You're not important enough. You mustn't. You shouldn't. You're not responsible for your own happiness." These messages keep them captive and tormented.
One thing that I love during our workshops is the prospect of hope; to see hope where there had been despair. But often the hope disintegrates because, I think, we are so afraid to claim our freedom. Our hope exists in our freedom. A Behavior Change Request is the perfect opportunity to experience the power of our freedom. But often I hear, "Oh boy, you don't know him!" Or, "She would never agree to that!" - thus undermining the very idea of that process.
It seems that we are so afraid of freedom that we put all our energy into fiercely protecting our walls and our captivity.
If you are one of these people who jealously keeps yourself in the jail of insecurities and fears, I want to encourage you to keep working the program.
Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue! Don't forget frequent caring behaviors and a sprinkle of surprises. And do ask for Behavior Change Requests. These processes will break down barriers, remove bricks to your wall and liberate your spirit.
Therapy and healing is about breaking down walls so you can truly be free!
You are the architect of your life and only you can "Let freedom ring."
Let me end by quoting John James and Frank Cherry in their book The Grief Recovery Handbook, "The choice to recover is always yours and requires a recommitment to each small step along the way."
by Bruce Crapuchettes Ph.D.
For forty years of my life I went fishing in Alaska! When most people hear that they think I was on vacation. But the fishing I did was hard work! I went to Alaska each summer to do commercial salmon fishing. I owned a Bristol Bay gill-netter and we caught salmon to sell. It was a business.
I would like to differentiate for you the two kinds of fishing. Sport fishing has a very different goal than commercial fishing. The goal in sport fishing is the fishing. The goal in commercial fishing is the catch. A sport fisherman can come home as happy as pie even if he hasn't caught a fish, and he'll tell you exciting stories about all the ones that got away! You see, its the fishing that's important, not the catch.
But a commercial fisherman is only interested in the catch. The ones that get away have no interest for him. He is only interested in the ones that end up in the boat!
The energy each expend might be the same - long hours for both. The energy expended by the commercial fisherman is called hard work. But the energy expended by the sport fisherman is called passion!
Many of us commercial fishermen love to go sport fishing after a good commercial season. After all that hard work we can enjoy the passion!
I would like to compare marriage and life to commercial fishing and sport fishing. The first several years of marriage, or marriage recovery, is like commercial fishing. It is hard work. And hard work for a very real goal, that of healing our childhood wounds. It is daily work and it needs to be very focused, and the techniques used are specific. But the rewards are great! After a while, the fish that land in the boat are abundant. So then, with all that wealth of healing behind us, we go sport fishing, which is nothing more than getting on with life unencumbered by childhood wounds. Getting on with life has nothing to do with the end product but only the process. Now it's the fishing that becomes the focus not the catch. And the hard work now becomes life passion!
You And I Are One, And I’m The One
by Bruce Crapuchettes Ph.D. & Francine Beauvoir Ph.D.
Carol and John came out of the movie theater having just seen “Traffic.” They were in a heated argument. John was excited and clear that the movie was probably the year’s best and had a strong message saying, “We’ve tried everything to stop drugs. Nothing works, nor can work. Let’s get rid of the war on drugs. The only thing that will work in the last analysis is good parenting.” Carol was taken aback, “I can’t believe you’re saying that. I don’t think there was a message at all! It was violent and confusing. It makes me mad to hear you say what you’re saying. You just want the freedom to use drugs yourself.”
Does this seem familiar? Does it ever annoy you and even feel threatening when your partner sees a situation in a manner so diametrically opposed to the way you see it? When your partner has such a differing opinion, does it ever get you charged, mad, or sarcastic? Do you ever feel like you want to put down someone who has a different take on the world than you do? If you say yes to any of these questions, it means that, to some degree, you are self-absorbed.
But don’t worry. Everyone is self absorbed to varying degrees. It’s normal to be self-absorbed. The only problem is that it makes us argumentative, critical, and hard to live with. And that is one of the main problems with couples: they each have a need that the other see things their way.
At the beginning of our romance in Paris 39 years ago, we experienced connection and unity and it all felt so wonderful. We readily agreed with each other, were easily swayed to see things the other way, and if not, happy to keep it to ourselves. Similarities were magnified, and differences ignored. That’s why it felt so good to be with each other. We liked the same things!
Of course, all of that was an illusion. As pain entered into our lives as a couple, we gradually became self absorbed. So that now, we still want to be one, to feel unified, but now it is more like, “You and I are one, and I’m the one.” I want you to see things MY way. In fact, I would like everyone to see things my way. If everyone would see things my way, the world would be a better place (meaning, I would feel safe).
To protect our sense of safety, we sometimes desperately feel the need for our partner to be a clone of ourselves. We become the center of our world. We become self-absorbed and that self-absorption separates us and produces a loss of empathy for the other.
Pain is what makes one self absorbed. When pain enters one's life, it pulls the attention away from others onto oneself. When one becomes self absorbed, one loses empathy for others.
For example, imagine being on a walk in beautiful Yosemite with a group of very close friends. The magnificence of the valley, the water falls, the massive cliffs and the communion of sweet friendship causes you to feel close and part of nature. Empathy, love and care for the environment exudes from every pore of your being. How connected you feel to your friends, to nature, to the animals.
Then, unexpectedly you slip and twist your ankle. The pain is excruciating. You become faint. The pain is so severe that you feel nauseous. At that moment you become completely self absorbed. "To hell with half dome! deer and water falls! To hell with the beautiful sunset! And stop telling me I'm making a mountain out of molehill! If you aren't willing to sit with me and give me your full attention, then to hell with all of you! Go enjoy your walk without me."
Pain causes a person to become self-absorbed, the universe suddenly shrinks and centers in on the self. I lose empathy for others and my perspective becomes the only valid perspective.
This is a common human dilemma. It causes marriages to break up and nations to war against each other. It is often a part of ourselves we do not readily see, in fact, we deny it.
If this is such a problem, and it is, how do we get out of it?
The answer to this question is to learn how to Dialogue (capital “D”). We recommend that you practice the Couples Dialogue so often that it becomes like the air you breath.
When you Dialogue with your partner, you mirror, validate and empathize, thus lifting your partner to equal status with you. The Dialogue allows you to see that s/he has a different but equally valid view of the world. It forces you to put your own opinion aside while you show respect for your partner’s. Your partner becomes a full human being again without fear of annihilation.
The Imago Dialogue is the technology through which you learn to step out of self-absorption and move toward respect of and empathy for the other. All three steps of the Dialogue are stages of learning empathy.
We recommend that every couple Dialogue several times a week. Have an Imago Dialogue whenever you deal with a “touchy” topic. This is how you do it.
Make an appointment: “I would like to have an Imago Dialogue. Is now okay?” Then the listener (the receiver) does the following three things.
1. Mirror: "So what you’re saying is . .“ You move out of your self (your ego) and focus on the other using hand signals to keep the sending in short phrases. Mirroring develops your empathy for another person's content.
2. Validate: "I follow what you are saying. Your viewpoint is as valid as mine. You make sense!" The key here is to remember that validation is not agreement. You can validate someone with whom you totally disagree. Validation develops empathy for the other person's thinking processes.
3. Empathize: "I imagine you are feeling . . . (Hurt, angry, frustrated, afraid, sad)" Empathizing develops empathy for the other person’s feelings.
It is hard work to Dialogue, but it dignifies the other person. It takes you out of your self-absorption and gives you back empathy for the other, and for all of life.
Paradise Lost is a description of becoming self absorbed, the loss of empathy. Paradise Regained is a description of recapturing empathy and becoming vibrant again. If you want to get there, start Dialoguing with each other at least three times a week using the structure learned in the Couples Workshop.
My Clients’ Mouths
by Francine Beauvoir Ph.D.
I have been spending more and more time in my clients' mouths lately.
I have been using a lot of images from the dentist's chair. The analogy is related to the concept of blame. We live in a society that is willing to spend millions of dollars in order to "prove whose fault it is." Assigning fault is big business! We are so energized trying to prove our innocence or someone else's guilt. It permeates many aspects of our lives including our personal lives.
In our marriages, the minute we focus on looking for the right person to blame we are missing the point.
When we go to the dentist, I tell my clients, she often blows cold air on our teeth to determine whether there is some damage. As long as our teeth are not damaged, the cold air remains just that, neutral, innocuous, cold air blown in the mouth. But oh boy, if I have a decay or a damaged tooth, I will jump. The previously innocuous, cold air becomes the source of a sharp pain. Is it the dentist's fault? After all she is the one blowing cold air on my teeth! Or is it my fault? After all it is my tooth that is damaged
Of course the answer is that "Whose fault is it?" is the wrong question. The dentist is doing her job and none of us choose to have damaged teeth.
What is important here is to recognize that the pain we are experiencing is indicative of a problem. The cold air did not create the problem, it only brought it into our consciousness. We feel the sharp pain and become aware that our tooth needs fixing.
Each time our partner does something we feel hurt about, we know that a similar scenario is taking place. It is not just that our partners are doing something wrong, or bad, it is that whatever they are doing touches on a part of us that was wounded during childhood and has never been healed. Left alone, we do not feel the pain, but as soon as cold air is blown on it, it activates the pain, or the anger, or the frustration. And because we are Imago Matches our partners have the incredible ability to blow cold air where it hurts the most. It is nature's way to tell us that we have a big wound there, an area that is still raw, tender and very sensitive. Without our partner activating it, we would go on in our lives pretending we are not damaged since we ourselves would never choose to blow cold air on our own wounds. Yet getting in touch with that pain is the only way to heal it. We have got to face the wound before we can heal it.
"What a rotten concept," you are probably telling yourself. Don't we all dream of a dentist that will not inflict any pain? We want a totally pain free treatment if possible! We tell our partners, "Stop blowing that cold air! If you would just stop blowing that cold air, I would be fine."
Well, I would not feel the pain, but all the while the wounds would get deeper and the tooth decay worse. I am anesthetized. But each time I wake up from my anesthesia, it hurts even more since I have not taken care of the problem. The decay grows deeper, the nerve becomes involved, the tooth has to be killed.
That is what we do in our lives except that the pain and fears in our relationships are far greater than that of cavities and fillings. Facing our pain is so frightening, we feel so vulnerable, we often feel we are facing death itself. It is so much easier to ask our partner to stop doing whatever it is they are doing, while in the mean time the rot attacks us at the roots.
Usually we blow on our partner in an unconscious, hurtful and destructive manner.
Imago Relationship Therapy has developed tools to teach us how to blow in a kinder, gentler manner, a manner that can promote growth and healing in a conscious way.
So come and see us as a couple, join a couples group, or repeat the workshop. Not only will you learn how to blow in a way that can heal, you will not have to sit in a special chair nor spit every two minutes!