I recently was working with a married couple who were dealing with a long-term problem. She felt unloved, he felt disrespected. The issue seemed to be one of communication, so I used the “talking stick” technique, where she held a totem object (in this case a pen) and made a short statement. He had to repeat her statement back until she agreed he understood. Then he took the “talking stick” and made a short statement, and SHE had to repeat it back until he agreed that she “got it.” And back and forth.
What was immediately apparent is that each of them would distort the other’s thoughts and words, literally couldn’t hear what each other was saying, so intent were they on establishing or defending their own positions.
Instead of repeating what she said, he tended to speak of its impact on him. Instead of repeating what HE said, she tended to explain why she was right to do or think what she did.
In both cases, once I peeled away all of the distortion, what existed was a pair of wounded children. She was looking for security, he was looking for acknowledgement. Absent a sense of security, she had to “take control” which impinged upon his sense of autonomy and shut him down. Absent a sense of being heard and respected, he retreated emotionally and could no longer give her the affection she needed.
And in both cases, it was a simple matter of each of them not supplying their own core emotional needs, leading them to making fear and insecurity and resentment-based demands on each other, causing the shut down and attacks that created the problems.
It took less than an hour to disentangle the emotions, just by showing them how their male-female and adult-child dynamics had been totally snarled, and where the loose threads were.
The rest, of course, was up to them.
Afterwards, they were ecstatic: apparently they’d worked with some top-flight therapists, and hadn’t gotten those kinds of results (he felt heard and appreciated! She felt loved!)
The truth is that what happened here is just a model of what you, or anyone else can do if you have a working, effective model of inter and intra-personal communication. Human beings are a balance of male-female and child-adult aspects. These are not “real” like kidneys or livers, but ways to look at our dynamics. Creative-destructive, emotional-intellectual, passive-active.
Divide these up any way you want, as long as when you test it, you get the results you seek. Frankly, I find that most people divide up in a pretty “traditional” fashion. Whether you consider that nature or nurture is between you and you. I don’t care. What I care is: is it useful?
If you are going to be all you can be, you will need to have some way of moving through the layers of your own personality. Best case is to work at this every day. What are YOUR theories of the way we are designed, spiritually, psychologically, or whatever. Can you apply it to accomplish within your own life? Understand the people around you? Help them reach greater efficiency?
If so, you are heading in the right direction. Does it match academic or political/social models? Yes? No? What do you think about that? Does it help you create a healthy relationship with another human being?
Do the people who promote your favorite models of human being themselves express health and dynamism? Love and healing? Have they lasting intimate relationships? Yes? No? Do you believe this is an indication of their understanding?
The best study of reality is what works, not what someone can form an elegant rhetorical defense of. DOES IT WORK?
And of course with the human heart, there is at least one more thing: IS IT KIND?
DOES IT INCREASE THE NET AMOUNT OF LOVE IN THE WORLD?
Those are the things I look for, in understanding myself, sorting through the vast ocean of conflicting data and philosophies. What are yours?