approaching therapy

musings as they come, and as they evolve …


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Paul: “I’m sorry I let you down.
I wish I could solve all your problems, Oliver. But I just – I can’t.
But one thing I can do, is–is–is talk with you, about everything that’s going on.”

Oliver: “So what?”

Paul: “But one thing maybe it will help you feel less, alone.”

– From In Treatment, Season 2: Week 7, episode with Oliver

Written by David

January 4th, 2011 at 11:28 am

Posted in truth

attachment vs differentiation and communication skills

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Will “validation of someone else’s feelings” interfere with that other person’s spiritual growth and foster a dependent sense of self?
Will it “reinforce the problem“, as David Schnarch writes?

I do like the point behind Schnarch’s exhortation: “Stop trying to get your partner to listen to you (or validate you); listen to yourself!”

And I agree when Schnarch says we gotta learn to self-soothe and regulate our own anxiety and connect with our core.

And I agree with his suggestion that people can’t do this for each other so easily when they themselves are activated. You gotta attend to your own needs.

But my understanding of communication skills includes more than just “reciprocal validation.”
I like the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model, because it’s really about a state of consciousness, which is then reflected in the way one communicates

By consciousnesses, I mean seeing our connectedness to each other, understanding and connecting with each others’ needs, and the compassion and the desire to contribute to others’ well-being that naturally arises from that perception. Communication techniques can also increase the chance the we will get our needs met — not a bad thing, eh? NVC is also very much about empathy, not only for others but for ourselves, which I see as a form of taking care of yourself.

The NVC model looks at underlying needs. Honoring them and finding ways to meet everyone’s needs. Schnarch’s model seems to be about learning to stand on our own two feet, but I also wonder if his gives a nod to the notion that with respect to some needs, we may be interdependent?

Do we need others to help us meet our needs for appreciation? for love? for companionship?

Is it’s like what Thich Nhat Hanh supposedly said: “Love is available; help yourself !” ??

Written by David

October 12th, 2010 at 10:36 am

Posted in couples

once a week

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Some therapists insist that folks come once a week.
Good reasons, too.
To keep momentum.
To stay involved and effective.

But I’m for whatever works.

But I’m noticing that sometimes if people don’t come once a week, then progress isn’t made.
It’s more about fire extinguishing.

If a couple can’t make it once a week because they are too busy, then that might be a part of the problem — or challenge.

They are too busy to nurture their relationship?
And yet they are hoping that things will change someday, somehow.

Yes, things will change, no matter what you do.
But they might not change in the way you might be hoping.
I think it really helps to water the relationship.

Written by David

October 11th, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Posted in couples

4 questions 1 decision

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Casey Truffo got these questions from Andrea Lee.
Below, I’m quoting Casey verbatim, who is partly quoting Andrea, but I changed one word. From business to relationship.

1. What is it you want for your relationship?

2. What is important to you?

3. What might you let stop you?

4. How can you prevent that from happening?

How do you break through a current obstacle that’s keeping you from where you want to be or even who you want to be.

Andrea Lee says,
A breakthrough is not a process, but a decision.
A decision to not stop yourself.
A decision to go for it.

Are you ready to be done with what is stopping you?

Written by David

October 11th, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Posted in couples,individuals

be nice

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When a couple left the other night, I asked them to please
“be compassionate towards each other; be nice to each other.”

Written by David

October 11th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Posted in couples

don’t be nice – be real

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That’s the title of a book by Kelly Bryson. I really do admire his work and perspective.

And then I read this quote in Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach. New York: Dell Publishing, 1977, p. 59:

Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.

But I like to question things.
So I ask, “really?”

Is that true for you?
If you can’t speak your truth, would you rather be dead?
Live free or die?

For you, are there some needs which may be more important than authenticity?
How about safety? A roof over your head?
Would you choose to hold your tongue in exchange for what scraps you do get in your relationship with your partner?

It’s easy for therapists to exhort people to “be authentic” and to suggest to them that they aren’t responsible for someone else’s reactions.

But just b/c you aren’t responsible for someone else’s experience doesn’t mean you don’t have to deal with that other person’s reactions. It’s what my teacher Judye Hesse calls the game of “truth AND consequences.”

What if you tell your partner that you love him and then he withdraws because he’s afraid to allow himself to receive love for fear that if he allows himself to receive, then he’ll also allow the possibility of loss, and now he’s admitted vulnerability, and that’s not a position he wants to put himself in. Or what if he yells at you back and tells you to stop taking care of him, and gives you the icy shoulder for three days?

Or what if you tell your partner you are disappointed that you didn’t get to spend some time with him this weekend and he just turns it back on you and gets on your case for the time you went out with a friend of yours two months ago, and he won’t stop yelling at you until he’s had the last word. Is it worth it to say anything?

Would you stay in this relationship? Would you rather be alone?

Sure, you can take responsibility for your own experience — you can try and manage what comes up in you in the face of your partner’s reactive display and soothe yourself. But how much tension and coldness can you stand?
And sure, you can always heed Jim Morrison’s advice and just “walk out of town.”

Written by David

October 11th, 2010 at 9:39 pm

fortune cookie

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Today I cracked open the cookie and read these words:

A good laugh and a good cry
both cleanse the mind

The back says: “LEARN CHINESE – ” and the word is:


and the Chinese characters follow underneath.

So there you have it, the answer to my pondering about whether to indulge the cry, or to just deal with it.
I was thinking that life calls for a little of both.
Cry, and then wipe your eyes so you can see reality, and move forward from there.
It’s a version of Leonard Jacobson’s teachings about presence.

Written by David

July 29th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Posted in truth


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How do you know?
To stay together or not?
Based on what?
What if it’s good some of the time and not good some of the time?
How do you weigh these things?
What if you butt heads?
Or argue?
What if you are crazy about each other but can’t do anything together because you have control battles?
What does it matter?
How do you know?

Written by David

July 1st, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Posted in couples

what did i do wrong now?

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If the partner is unhappy, that’s just what most men will think.
A natural conclusion.

Written by David

May 29th, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Posted in couples

gripe fest

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We don’t have any problems — except when we try and talk about things.

Reminds me of that phenomenon that Werner Herzog talks about* – about shining neon lights into every corner of a room. And what happens? It becomes uninhabitable.
Sometimes I think he may be right. When you focus on the negative, that’s what your experience will be.

For some couples, things will go along fine until the topic happens to be brought up. Then the argument starts.

So I asked some other couples about whether shining the light on so-called problems helped or just made them feel miserable.

One couple said, “We can air out stuff that’s bugging us. It’s a safe way to open up to each other and we know it’s not gonna get into a screaming match.”
Another couple said, “I like that it’s not a gripe fest.”

I’m not doing anything differently, but some couples want to blame and argue and some couples find they can talk.

*Interview with Terry Gross, Fresh Air from WHYY, Oct. 27, 1998

Written by David

May 20th, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Posted in couples