Case #185 - A heart to heart connection

Trisha’s husband, Mac, was in the group. They were a couple in their late 50’s. After Trisha’s personal work, the group gave feedback. They were impacted by her deep but wordless feelings.

Mac, however, was silent.

I invited him to give feedback. He said that he was glad she was able to feel supported. But in Gestalt terms, this is not the feedback we are after. What is important is not simply appreciation, approval, or acknowledgement. The inclusion of self is essential - the impact someone’s sharing has on the other person, especially on an emotional level. Mac found it very difficult to share on this level. He seemed as wordless as Trisha when it came to feelings. So I invited them to sit in front of each other.

I asked them to place on hand on each other’s chest, to breathe, and look in the other person’s eyes. They did so, and there was clearly much emotion going on. I invited them after some time to see if they could say a word or two, expressing their experience.

Trisha said,“connected.”
Mac said,“me too.”

This was a very strong intervention, meaning, this would not have naturally occurred. Such interventions always need to be thought through very carefully, weighed up, and permission sought. They can have a radical effect on people, opening up whole new experiences, outside of their familiarity or comfort zone. But they can also be impositions, and of little use unless people are really able to integrate them. This experiment provided the scaffolding for a level of intimacy in this couple. The question is whether such an experience opens up possibilities for them, or is a little frightening, and they simply go back to safer and more familiar ways.

This is the reason that ongoing therapy work is so important. Single interventions, no matter how powerful, need to be embedded over time. We need to check back as to the impact, how much the person was able to absorb, and whether they may need the therapy process to proceed much slower. There is no point going at the therapists’s pace - it is the client’s pace that is important. When we do experiments, we try to find the right balance between challenge and support. ‘Right’ meaning what is right for the client - our brilliant ideas are of little use if they are too far/too fast.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther