After opening up, session turns emotional
We met Anna and Pedro in the first of three articles. Anna has called for an appointment. She said that they had relationship problems, specifically communication. She doubted — or more likely believed — Pedro may not join her. He, in fact, did come.
Anna reiterated her sentiments shared in our telephone conversation. She was a talker and Pedro was not, accordingly. She verbalized her frustration and openly questioned their future together. Pedro’s silence clearly affected Anna. I offered Pedro what might be considered an opening.
He shared his belief that the session would be threatening. Giving Pedro space and time to digest this forum provided less of a threat. Yet, tension persisted. We are intelligent human beings who use spoken language or signing to offer dialogue for understanding each other. I could only imagine Anna’s position. She talked and shared. Pedro was quiet, which had its root in the unknown. Maybe a non-threatening forum might give Pedro an opportunity to share in his own fashion.
I greeted Anna and Pedro as we began our second session. Did either of you care to share your experience from the first session. I was moved by your honesty, Anna. You obviously love Pedro. However, as a communicator, you might carry some impatience when it comes to your desire for dialogue with Pedro. And Pedro, how scary was it to come to what you imagined as a threatening place, hear Anna lay out her thoughts, her feelings, then let go of some of your own stuff? Man, that was pretty brave.
Anna spoke first.
“We went out for a burger and talked in the car. I told Pedro that I was proud of him. He opened up. I’ve been waiting patiently and my patience was wearing out.”
She read my gesture to turn and speak to Pedro.
“I love you. You know that. The stuff you said in here — I didn’t know about it. I’m glad you agreed to come back. Maybe this man can help us. I want us to work.”
What about you, Pedro? How did the first session go for you?
“It was tough man. I don’t like to cry. I haven’t been able to sleep or eat much since. I’m letting Anna hug me. She wants to learn more about my mom and what happened when I was a kid. I want us to work it out. This stuff is hard for me to talk about to Anna.”
Are you able to tell her what would be helpful coming from her?
“I don’t know man.”
I gestured for Pedro to speak directly to Anna.
“I want you to care but don’t be pushy. I know I get quiet. It’s a safe place for me. Can you understand, Anna?”
Anna nodded her understanding.
“Pedro, I want to help you. I guess I need help of my own to help you. Does that make sense?”
“Yes,” Pedro replied.
What tools do you need, Anna, in order to help Pedro?
“I want to learn to be more patient. Maybe I make Pedro tenser with my style of communication.”
Maybe you do, Anna. You love Pedro. Perhaps with that love in your heart, you will learn to read Pedro, how much he can absorb and when to back off. It takes time and practice.
Pedro, you need to find your own unique style of communication to Anna to relax her, which can ease the tension. Silence can be an asset. Too much of it may turn out to be a poor investment. Mix it up a little. That?s trust in you, trust in Anna. This may take time.
Patience, like trust, goes both ways. Pedro, what you spoke about regarding your mother might suggest a trauma. Perhaps, as a child, I wonder if anyone, your dad, anyone, comforted you? Did anyone explain to you or help you understand the trauma you experienced?
Pedro looked away, then said, “No one said much except that my momma was gone and wouldn’t be back. Damn it, I was only 5 years old. I was at the funeral; I think everyone came to the house. Some said words I didn’t understand to me. I felt so alone.”
He began to cry. No words were stated. Can I invite you to another session? Maybe we can discuss your loss and its impact on your life, including your relationship with Anna. They agreed.
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.