Healthy Communication

Have you ever felt or thought to yourself, “How can this person not understand this about me? How is this not completely obvious to them?” I have thought this many times, and because I consider myself to be fairly sensitive and intuitive, I thought that all others would pick up on the same subtle signals that I do.

There is a major flaw with this reasoning. First of all, even I, with my intuition and general understanding of how people feel and think, filter my impressions through my own lens, my own beliefs, and my own fears. What I think others are thinking and feeling is not always the case. So how on earth can I expect other people who are interacting with me to know for certain what is going on inside of me?

And even more confounding, what is going on inside of me is in constant flux! I am never the same exact person I was yesterday. Every day I have had new experiences, new interactions, new thoughts and feelings, and new opportunities for growth and healing. What was working for me yesterday may not work for me today, and so I have to be prepared and willing to communicate my wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings in the moment with kindness and respect.

There are five levels of communication that we operate within:

1. Cliche level- This is small talk, like “How’s the weather?” and “How are you?” when we don’t expect much interaction or connection. This is the shallowest and least risky type of encounter you can have, and it can leave us feeling lonely and uninspired.

2. Reporting Facts about others level- This is more small talk or gossip, in which you report the comings and goings of other people. “Sam bought a new car, its amazing. Did you hear about what his wife has been up to?”

3. Sharing our ideas or judgements: This is still a protective kind of communication. We carefully test the waters with comments about external things, like “I don’t like sushi,” and we usually quickly retreat if what we say has any negative response.

4. Sharing our feelings or emotions level: This is the level in which we start to reveal ourselves, showing what lies behind our ideas or judgements. There is still some element of risk, and we can often back track into level 3 or less if we feel judged or shamed for our feelings or thoughts in any way.

5. Complete Truth Level- This is the level at which we can have unguarded freedom to be completely honest with one another. The risk factor is no longer prevalent because we have learned to trust one another and can share dreams, hopes, visions, and our deepest secrets. We can also communicate our truths about how we feel in the moment regardless of whether or not the feeling wanted or unwanted.

As a partner and friend, I try to work as much as I can to remain in the Level 5 communication, although it can at times be scary and hard to do. When I find that I struggle communicating my needs or feelings, I do several things:

1. I journal, and get my thoughts and feelings as much as I am capable of doing on paper.

2. I rehearse difficult conversations out loud. I will actually practice speaking my Truth so that when I have the actual conversation, it comes far more naturally.

3. When I feel lost in the trees and unable to contact what I am feeling or what I need to do, I reach out to people who can help get me focused. Cellular Release Therapy® is priceless for getting to the causes of why it is hard to communicate with certain people or about certain subjects.

I think one of the reasons why I have a successful practice is because I encourage people to communicate within these higher levels. Because this is something I practice myself, I can connect with people and give them the courage to share those deepest parts of themselves without fear.

Transference and Blame

 

In all relationships, we are prone to projecting our own feelings, beliefs, and experiences onto the other person. For example, if we feel disconnected from someone, feelings of abandonment, rejection, hurt, anger, or loss can arise and we can look at the actions or behaviors of the other person and want to blame them for these feelings. The fault of the emergence of these feelings lies with the other person, and this is victimization. “You make me feel this way” is the hallmark of this dynamic.

There is also transference, which in therapy parlance refers to the following:

“Transference is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual redirects emotions and feelings, often unconsciously, from one person to another. This process may occur in therapy, when a person receiving treatment applies feelings toward—or expectations of—another person onto the therapist and then begins to interact with the therapist as if the therapist were the other individual. Often, the patterns seen in transference will be representative of a relationship from childhood.”

In other words, when we develop the kind of intimacy with our clients that is required to facilitate the deeper work, we must be aware of the fact that people are coming to us with a long history of unhealthy relationships. It is because of these unhealthy relationships with others and with themselves that they seek us out, whether our intervention be at a physical or a soul level. And there will come a time when their unhealed feelings from these relationships may manifest in our therapeutic relationship.

Examples of this could be a client becoming angry at you for not making time in your schedule to see them, a client going out of their way to try and take care of you in some way (like asking many personal questions and giving you advice), blaming you for them not getting better, or even falling in love with you and/or making sexual advances.

It’s so important to be aware of this transference, and to also be very aware of our reaction to this (known as counter-transference) and to respond, not react, accordingly. We can also hold impeccable boundaries by gently but firmly talking about the therapeutic relationship and what is and is not appropriate in that relationship. Sometimes, that entails saying to the client, “I don’t think that I am the best person to help you with this,” if the client is not willing or able to see what is going on in the relationship.

I really love this passage from The Gift of Therapy, written by Irv Yalom on how powerful it can be when people begin to see their own patterns of blame, victimization, and transference:

“As long as patients persist in believing that their major problems are a result of something outside their .control—the actions of other people, bad nerves, social class injustices, genes—then we therapists are limited in what we can offer. We can commiserate, suggest more adaptive methods of responding to the assaults and unfairness of life; we can help patients attain equanimity, or teach them to be more effective in altering their environment.

But if we hope for more significant therapeutic change, we must encourage our patients to assume responsibility—that is, to apprehend how they themselves contribute to their distress.

Readiness to accept responsibility varies greatly from patient to patient. Some arrive quickly at an understanding of their role in their discomfiture; others find responsibility assumption so difficult that it constitutes the major part of therapy, and once that step is taken, therapeutic change may occur almost automatically and effortlessly.

Every therapist develops methods to facilitate responsibility assumption. Sometimes I emphasize to a much-exploited patient that for every exploiter there must be an exploitee—that is, if they find themselves in an exploited role time and again, then surely the role must contain some lure for them. What might it be? Some therapists make the same point by confronting patients with the question, “What’s the payoff for you in this situation?”

This passage is from a book on psychotherapy, but I think it’s quite important information for therapists of all kinds to be aware of, as we encounter the same dynamic constantly. Not to mention, when we can see these patterns within ourselves, we can make huge shifts in our lives and in all of our relationships. Taking self-responsibility is so empowering. Once you can really see yourself and others as things really are, you can begin to understand that things can change. And that change must start within ourselves.