A caution in communication
The second session with Anna and Pedro was telling. She was surprised that he’d come to the first session.
He knew that their relationship was in trouble. Her patience was waning.
Her major complaint referenced a lack of communication. She talked freely, he was quiet. That Pedro opened up to reveal a childhood trauma gave rise to some optimism.
Yet, experience has taught me not to fall into a trap impulsively.
A therapist might jump on the opening that Pedro provided. Get him to continue opening, purging his soul.
That approach wasn’t a road I was willing to take willingly.
Welcome back, folks, Last session, Anna, you spoke about talking with Pedro over burgers. What more can you say about that experience?
“Well, after the first session, I didn’t want to go home. I needed to be close to Pedro,” Anna said, turning to Pedro. “I wanted to hear more from you. I figured the food would be a sharing thing and the car a place you might then talk. Back at home, well, I didn’t think you’d talk. I’m glad we did that. It was an example of what can be. We ate our burgers and we talked about the therapy session. Thanks for following my lead, Pedro. I love you very much. I want us to be together.”
Anna broke down in tears. I looked at Pedro, who hesitantly turned to Anna and held her. How do you feel right now, Pedro, I asked?
Tears were rolling down his cheeks. He and Anna held hands.
“Oh man, this is confusing. I love Anna. I know that I’ve not been good about showing it. She keeps trying. I pull back.”
One quick question, if you please, Pedro. When can you remember feeling your feelings, if you catch my drift? When do you remember crying? Do you know precisely how you feel right now?
“I feel kinda sad. Wow, I feel so weird. Like something new and scary. Sorta like scared that I’m going to lose it, man.”
Can you say more about losing it and that fear?
“I’m afraid to open up. My job is good. I get to be along a lot. At home, Anna wants me to talk. I use excuses not to talk. I’m learning about that now. I’ve been able to stay clear of my feelings for a long time. Now, I feel a bit threatened to open up. I don’t know myself how I really feel or if I want to know. I know that there’s pain inside me. What’s better for me, getting inside and talking or do I continue to shut others off?”
Well said, Pedro. How you related to us just now is shared by many in similar circumstances. However, we must be cautious, as I believe you also stated. Once opening that hidden place in your psyche, I find it helpful not to proceed until you are ready. Then what? Our bodies act as a second brain that lets us know what road to take. That’s where, too, patience and trust that I spoke of last session comes into play. Sometimes rushing into your stuff might be too painful and, therefore, difficult to manage. We want to manage your life, to function on a daily basis.
I turned to Anna. Do you understand what I’m saying, Anna?
“I think I do. I want it all to go away for Pedro. Now, I’m learning that my impatience could set off a greater problem. I get it, so, what do I do to encourage Pedro to open up without chancing him losing it?”
Good questions, Anna.
In situations that you both describe, I subscribe to folks being in the now. Rather than chancing a journey through pain, for the present time, talk with each other daily. The “how was your day” may work as a non-threatening, safe and revealing tool to utilize. That might establish trust and lessen tension.
Meanwhile, I want you both to continue therapy. You might learn new effective tools in communicating and slowly, gradually, decide upon that journey back to your past, Pedro.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email firstname.lastname@example.org.