Why is it - that it is so hard to communicate sometimes? Through couple counselling I witness this a lot.
According to Fritz Perls, the answer lies in encounter. We all have filters through which we see and experience the world.
We see the world clearly on a sunny day. Then imagine putting on sunglasses. That is a filter. The world changes to a brown or green tinted hue.
We all have filters, which are deep, and through which we see our partners, sometimes. These can come from out thoughts, our past experiences, our childhood...
We know ourselves. We know our own hearts and what is in them. We know our intentions. We know our own emotions. We have that clarity.
When someone misrepresents us, and it is unlike we really are, there is a very good chance they are seeing through a particular filter.
Filters can be positive or negative - people can see us as better than we are - when tends to draw us towards the best in us, or they can see us as much worse than we are - and then go on in a timeline to make the worst possible case for us last night, last week, last year - into the future - ad infinitum.
If you have ever had the experience where one remark has escalated to catastrophic proportions out of some minor misunderstanding, this is exactly what may have been happening.
Unfortunately, when someone is seeing us through their particular filter, they may not be particularly good at rectifying things. They may tend to keep seeing things that way.
So no matter what we do after that, we may be the villain. No amount of pleading, shouting, calm quiet talking, can convince them to take off those sunglasses!
When Fritz Perls himself was confronted with a young woman who took absolute umbrage at something he said, he said she was not hearing him.
She kept going - seeing him through her filter.
As she kept going, Perls became more animated, and insisted that she was not hearing him.
This only made matters worse. And she became even more vociferous at how offensive Perls was, how unaware of himself he was, and could he not see what he had said, how he was being, the tone of voice he was using, and what he was doing!?!
I wondered where this would go next?
Perls then said even more determinedly that not only was she not hearing what he had said, she was not experiencing the real Fritz!!!!
There was a pause.
Something had broken.
In the calm that followed, a different quality of relationship came in. The woman became almost tender in her voice. She had at last heard him. Perls responded with kindness. And the whole interchange changed.
This is the meaning of encounter. Of encountering another human being As They Are.
This is so precious and so rare in relationships. Yet it is what each of us longs for. To be heard. To be seen for who we really are, and as we really are being.
In our real relationships in life, this kind of change virtually never happens. If someone mishears us - if they are seeing through a particular filter which is a deep part of them - they are likely to continue seeing us that way - no matter what we do or say.
People can get into whole relationships where they feel and actually are misheard and unseen. My partner doesn't understand me may be a cliche - but it may also be true if a relationship heads this way without any clarification and goodwill.
Being misheard and unseen can bee a lonely place to be. Especially if on top of that we are treated as unaware of ourselves to boot...
When we know our thoughts. We know our emotions. We know our heart and intentions. We know ourselves.
We may very likely - as Perls did - get frustrated, or we may retaliate - or even if we are not retaliatory - when someone is in a war with us - we are on the other side of a war...
Oh, to have peace! Imagine what that would be like!
In Couple Counselling I allow you to be really seen for who you are - and your partner can come into that space too, so they can encounter the real you.
Just like the woman with Perls who had the "Aha!" moment and stopped shouting to really see him, something genuine and real happens again and again as I work with couples - which creates a wonderful connection between them. They begin to hear each other deeply, perhaps for the first time, in problem areas. Instead of being the villain, they can begin to see their partner as their friend. They can hear their words and see who they are as a person. The scales of previous filters which distorted and damaged their relationship - caused misunderstanding - and kept them separate can fall away - and they can come into a space together.
I'm reminded of a psychiatrist who once was working with a paranoid schizophrenic who was very much seeing through one of his filters. He had his hands around the psychiatrist's neck and was choking him. The psychiatrist said to him, in a very plain direct way, "I am not your enemy, I am your friend." At which point the young man let go of his neck. And this was the beginning, of them working together, to the eventual recovery of the patient.
When we see each other for who we really are, we are not so terrible. When we see each other for who we really are, we are like angels of God, made in his image. Whether you believe in God or not, that is beautiful, to really see and be seen.
In our deep relationship patterns, unlike our social relationships, we are particularly vulnerable seeing through the filters of our past or our fears - as if we are not worthy or good. Particularly where we have been criticized or hurt. Or are feeling criticized and hurt in the present.
Couple counselling can literally help you take off your sunglasses and see the world in a whole new bright and real and true way.
And from there, life can happen...
You can begin to see and experience your own sweetness and goodness. And come into a space where your partner can see clearly too...
To see and be seen is a wonderful thing.
If you want to give yourself and your partner that gift, let's begin...
John Donlon Couple Counsellor
Call 0800 024 8647 to take the first step to free your life and relationship today.
THE RELATIONSHIP EXPERTS International Relationship Experts John Donlon and Linda Connors have over 30 experience between them. They offer powerful and life changing relationship couple counselling and personal development programmes. They work with individuals and couples in the UK, America, Europe and Australia. If you are in relationship crisis are ready to take the first step into saving your relationship you can contact us on 0800 024 86 47.
Linda and John offer relationship advice, solutions and share their thoughts on love, relationships, marriage and intimacy.
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