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Travel Tools for Couples (a guest post for Bearleader Chronicle)

My good friends at Bearleader Chronicle asked me to write about how couples can make the most of their vacation time to build their sense of closeness and intimacy. The first post of my three-part series is available on their site. In it I explore a series of questions that can help a couple enrich their experience and build memories and closeness by paying attention to some of the often-overlooked aspects of their time away. Here's an excerpt:

"You’re on vacation in Paris with your beloved partner. You just walked into Sainte-Chapelle and are overcome with the beauty of the stained glass in the sunlight. Your emotions are powerful and somewhat surprising, and you’re flooded with memories from long ago.

"What do you do with your experience? Do you talk about it with your partner? Is he or she interested? How much do you say? And should you say anything about the surprisingly deep emotions and the powerful memories, which, as far as you can tell, are not directly related to the stained glass?"

You can read more by going to the Bearleader Chronicle site. While you're there, have a look around at the fabulous photography and the articles on unique places to eat and stay, and things to do, around the world.


Returning to Hot Conversations

How do you have a conversation that helps you better understand and address the complexities and difficult patterns of your relationship when those same complexities and patterns can jump up and derail the conversation at any time? Further, how do you have such a difficult conversation when life interrupts you every time you get started?

STOPPING

In an earlier piece I wrote about a couple who developed their ability to STOP when a difficult-but-familiar pattern was threatening to take their marriage down a painful, destructive path.

Forgiveness - Moving on from Hurt

Thomas had an affair. 

Gina has embarrassed Carlos in front of their closest friends.

LuAnn learned that Raymond wasn’t completely honest with her about the cost of a recent purchase. 

Royce looks on several years of marriage in which he’s felt prohibited from pursuing his interests.

Renee finally has a “voice” in her marriage, but is realizing how much resentment she’s built up for not feeling “seen” or “heard” for over 20 years.

Many of the couples I work with have experienced some painful incident that keeps them from “moving on” with their relationship. In therapy these couples often say, “We want to move on, but we don’t know how to get beyond this. How do we put this behind us?” 

Anger Issues for a Single Father

“Anger issues” is how Ben explained why he was in my office looking for help. Ben’s wife had passed away four years earlier, leaving him to raise their two sons on his own. Lately, he said, he had become “very short” and “lacked patience” with his teenage sons. He connected his current difficulties to a much longer term “problem with anger” and was eager to get a better understanding of his anger and develop some strategies for dealing with it. 

Change is Always Happening

In 2008 I had the privilege, along with about 200 others, of being with Michael White in San Diego for a conference on Narrative Therapy. Sadly, it was the last time we would get to be with Michael, as his heart failed that night and he passed away later that week (you can read more about his remarkable work and its effects on people around the world, here).

Michael was inspiring that day as he talked about the ideas and practices that comprise the familiar core of the narrative approach and as he shared the cutting edge of his own thinking about narrative.

Describing my Work with Couples

Recently, a client in couple’s therapy, who was obviously struggling with our work, asked me about the purpose of therapy and how it works. I thought it was a good question, and, surprisingly, one that I had been asked directly only a handful of times in my many years of working with couples. With his wife also in the therapy session, the three of us discussed his questions, but it was a brief conversation and left me wanting to give a more complete response. That led me to begin thinking more about how I would describe what actually happens in couples therapy and how I would capture that in writing. Below is my attempt to do so.

I think of this as a draft that will continue to be re-written and updated through time. Having articulated these ideas, having put them on paper, lets me step back and consider them from a little distance.

Name the Game

I loved recess in elementary school. It was all about playing games for me, and the games usually involved a bouncy red rubber ball.

Between my 2nd-grade and 5th-grade years the volleyball-sized red rubber ball was the only piece of equipment needed for several of the games that occupied most of my recesses. With it we’d play games called two-square, one-square, dodge ball, and kickball. In a pinch, the red rubber ball could also be used as a basketball or soccer ball or to play three-flies-up.

Because it could be used for many purposes, just being in possession of the red rubber ball on the playground at the beginning of recess did not give a clear indication of the game to be played. Unlike a football or basketball, which mostly spoke for themselves, your intentions with the red rubber ball had to be announced, in words or actions. You had to “name the game.”

Quick Note - An Anniversary

Hi friends and faithful readers.  You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  Alas, life has conspired against my finding much time to write.  But I didn't want to lose any good will I may have gained with you, so I wanted to send this little note to say that I'm working on some more pieces and aim to have the next one posted by the end of the month. 

I'm pleased to say that I just passed the one-year anniversary of my first post.  I started this blog as a vehicle for writing about some of the interesting things I get to experience as a narrative therapist.  Writing in such a public forum has been important to me as it's required that I think about my writing from the perspective of others: people real and imagined, known and unknown, critical, skeptical, open, curious, or just having stumbled in.  The main benefit to me, in addition to trying to imagine the many responses a given piece may elicit, has been that by "going public" I "get to" face the challenge of working on a piece -- revising, refining, throwing out and starting over -- until I feel good about having others read it.  So, thank you.  The fact that you're reading, and that some of you are even responding, questioning and engaging the ideas, is very helpful to me, and makes this whole process extremely satisfying.

Metaphors - Part 3

THE BOOKSHELF METAPHOR: SIDE-BY-SIDE UNDERSTANDINGS OF GRUMPINESS


Instead of arranging the different ideas about Dave’s grumpiness in a hierarchy, with one key underlying cause, in the bookshelf metaphor the ideas or explanations are arranged side-by-side, like books. Below are the items from the layers of the mining metaphor, now shifted 90 degrees to become books on a bookshelf, with slight name changes to move from “causes” to book titles:

Metaphors - Part 2

AN ILLUSTRATION: GRUMPINESS AND DAVE

In Parts 2 and 3 of this article I want to illustrate the mining and bookshelf metaphors by revisiting
Dave and his dealings with grumpiness (from one my first entries in this blog). You may recall that Dave struggled with grumpiness in the evenings at home with his wife and two kids. He described grumpiness as a fog settling over his house and we identified the effects of the fog on Dave and his family (increased tension, distance, feeling “on edge,” a sense of heaviness and sadness).

Our conversation eventually helped Dave to name his preference: He preferred to be happy, upbeat, and pleasant rather than grumpy.