(Originally published in Open Exchange Magazine, Vol. 36, No. 2, April, May, June, 2009).
As a psychotherapist for nearly thirty years, I've worked with many individuals and couples who long for greater intimacy. I've seen many others who feel a vague emptiness and discontent that they can't pinpoint. They often don't realize that the lack of connection is at the root of their dissatisfaction.
We are hard wired to seek connection. A holy longing moves us toward each other. There is no greater delight than two hearts resonating together in love and openness.
Yet our vulnerable heart is easily wounded. If we've been abused as a child, we may move into adult relationships constantly on alert for danger. If we've been neglected, we may not even know what we seek; we never had role models for connecting in a rich and meaningful way. We may rarely let down our guard and allow others to see and know us. Trust doesn't come easily. We are quick to defend ourselves through a frozen state of shut down when we feel hurt, shamed, or criticized.
Connecting with others begins with being more intimate with ourselves. This simply means allowing ourselves to experience feelings and longings that we may have shut down in order to survive. It means making a safe space for our feelings to surface and have a kind and compassionate relationship with all aspects of ourselves. Buddhist teacher Tara Brach calls this, "radical acceptance," which means that we don't shame or criticize ourselves for feeling what we feel. We make room for the full range of our human experience without thinking there is something wrong with us.
The couples I see in my therapy practice usually love each other dearly. But sadly, they don't know how to connect in satisfying ways. Oftentimes, their longings are so painfully unmet that they leap out by attacking and accusing. They blame, they shame, they criticize, they label each other. They try to get the other to change. Of course, this usually pushes their partner further away. I try to help them find another route to connection by getting out of their heads and judgments and learning the language of the heart.
Our heartfelt longings and desires are the most vulnerable part of us. Every time we blame and attack, we are not revealing this vulnerability; we are trying to control and fix our partner. This subtle act of aggression is likely to lead our partner to retaliate or withdraw.
Trying to get others to change is a defensive strategy that creates mutual heartache. We keep spinning our wheels in the slimy mud we keep slinging at each other. Instead of relying on our default mechanism of attack or withdrawal, we might consider being more spiritually courageous by taking risks to reveal the vulnerability that we so keenly feel.
Blame, criticism, and defensive anger are secondary emotions. Our primary feelings are often the sadness, hurt, and fear that we hide not only from our partner, but perhaps also from ourselves. It takes courage to recognize the deeper, primary feelings that we habitually hide and defend against.
As we allow a space for our primary feelings, we are better positioned to reveal these to people we want to feel close to. I have often observed how couples suddenly feel closer when their guard comes down and they show their authentic feelings and longings.
Oftentimes, couples think their partner knows — or "should" know — how they feel. But what their partner often thinks is not that their loved one is hurting and longing to connect with them. What they often conclude instead is that their partner thinks they are a bad, selfish, or dysfunctional person.
Just because we feel our own desires so acutely does not mean that our partner knows what we feel and want. There can be a wonderful magic in showing feelings and desires that we think are obvious. Congruently revealing the depth of our feelings and longings is a peace gesture. We lower our guard and let another into our tender world. Doing so often encourages the other person lowering their defenses as well, which often leads to a tender moment of connection for which we long.
We often need help in navigating the terrain of the heart and learning the language of the heart. It takes time to learn and embody these skills, as well as work wisely with inevitable setbacks. The mind learns quickly, but it takes time for the heart and body to absorb and incorporate these learnings and move forward.
We may revert back to destructive ways of communicating when we feel even the slightest hurt or rejection. The reptilian part of our brain is poised to protect us through a fight, flight, or freeze response when we feel threatened. We need to make space for these predictable reactions, and gently return to bodies when we notice that we've dissociated from ourselves.
As we begin to be vulnerable and show what is more genuine within us, things won't always go well. We need to learn how to hold our own tender feelings when our partner is not able to do so. This self-soothing skill is an essential part of loving ourselves, which allows us to tolerate the inevitable breaches of trust that happen in every relationship.
The good news is that we can learn to repair the trust by continually returning to our primary felt experience, being gentle toward ourselves, and taking the ongoing risk to reveal our authentic feelings and longings to each other.
A Focusing-Oriented Approach to Couples Therapy
John Amodeo, Ph.D.
Originally published in the Journal of Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies, Volume 6, Number 3.
Eugene Gendlin’s extensive research during the 1960s suggested that what made the crucial difference between success and failure in psychotherapy was not the therapist’s model or theoretical orientation. Instead, it was something that clients were doing quite naturally within themselves. Successful clients were not simply reporting events or their interpretations of events. They were freshly exploring and expressing, in the moment, their various felt senses regarding life issues and concerns. They were groping for words that conveyed the subtleties of their felt experience.
Buoyed by the research results, Gendlin developed specific steps so that others could learn what these gifted clients were doing quite naturally. He helped them slow down and attend to the more subtle aspects of their felt experience: “By focusing we mean spending time with something bodily sensed, but unclear (until it comes ‘into focus’)” (Gendlin, 1996, p. 34). Gendlin began to teach focusing to individuals, both inside and outside of the traditional therapy setting. But little, if anything, has been written about how to adapt focusing to the challenging work of couples therapy. If focusing can lead to a shift in experience and perspective, how might couples use the process to remove blocks to intimacy and understand themselves more deeply through exploring what their relationship is touching in them? How can focusing be used to shift the stuck dynamics between them, nurture their connection, and see each other with fresher eyes?
Individuals seek partnerships to feel cared about, connected, and loved. Intimacy and closeness is sought, though without losing themselves in a sloppy enmeshment. The deeper work of couples therapy, and my own style of working, is not short-term conflict resolution (although focusing can help here too), but rather in helping a couple find a way to converse about vital issues in ways that allow trust and intimacy to deepen and flourish. My own attempts to use focusing with couples have evolved gradually over the past twenty-five years as a marriage and family therapist. Although I had been using focusing with individuals since 1980, it was unclear to me whether focusing would be helpful for couples. But as the following principles became clearer to me, I discovered that focusing is a compelling way to help couples resolve conflicts and create deeper trust and intimacy.
PRINCIPLES FOR FOCUSING WITH COUPLES
Connecting with Each Person
As a Focusing-Oriented couples therapist, I do my best to make a connection with each of the partners by conveying that I hear their feelings, concerns, and perspectives, their fears, their hurts, and their hopes for a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Similar to many therapists, I may make reflections such as, “So what I’m hearing you say is ...” or, “you’re really feeling angry (or hurt or sad) around not feeling heard, and you’ve been feeling this way for a long time.” Connecting with my clients in this way is consistent with findings from neuroscience. As Lewis, Amini, and Lannon (2000, p. 170) explain, “The first part of limbic healing is being emotionally known — having someone with a keen ear catch your melodic essence.”
One complexity of couples therapy is in equalizing the expression of empathy in order to avoid the appearance of taking sides. Empathic listening by the therapist creates a climate where clients can begin to listen to themselves and each other more closely. This respectful attitude creates a safe and supportive environment in which issues can be openly explored. This person-centered, reflective listening is not limited to focusing, but forms an essential foundation for more specific focusing interventions to follow.
Interrupting the cycle of blame and attack
The cycle of blame and defensiveness that typically leads to an escalation of hostility can be painful to watch in the couples we come to care about. But rather than throw up our arms in frustration, how can we as couples therapists intervene in ways that might help the couple become more relational rather than reactive so that productive work can happen? To be sure, there are times when it is nigh impossible to stop high-conflict couples who cannot seem to help themselves from employing their most finely honed instruments of destruction: poison- tipped darts of blame and criticism, bloodcurdling contempt and sarcasm, and heart-piercing attacks upon each other’s character. These behaviors often continue despite cognitive awareness that they ravage the intimacy that is desired. John Gottman’s (1999) extensive research suggests that couples who regularly have destructive interactions are unlikely to survive as a couple. When interpersonal relating is frequently infused with criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness — what Gottman calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse — a couple is predictably headed for divorce.
Before productive therapy can occur, the cycle of mutual attacks and shaming that lead to escalation or shut down must be addressed in a nonthreatening way so that their intensity and frequency subside and are gradually replaced with more self-revealing, relational communication (Amodeo, 2001). The bleeding must stop before healing can begin. Similar to other approaches to couples therapy, a Focusing-Oriented therapist coaxes the couple to try a different tack.
One part of building trust with a couple is by uncovering core dynamics, conflicts, and differences, and offering a fresh approach to working with them and talking about them. Being gently direct, respectful, and clear in offering a different way of relating to themselves and each other creates a climate where each of them can begin to hear and understand each other, rather than repeatedly attack, stonewall, or get defensive. Couples are often open to a new way of being and relating. Although defenses are often robust, a strong part of them is seeking help because they want to try something different and are willing to accept guidance. However, resistance may remain fierce until they have the repeated experience of feeling closer as a result of practicing an approach that may seem odd or difficult at first. One way I try to build trust is by encouraging a couple to pause when I sense that a hurtful comment was just made. Rather than allow the pattern of attack and defensive counterpunch to continue, I will ask them to take a moment to notice what they are experiencing inside themselves right now, oftentimes directing their attention to their bodies. If they can begin to contact the deeper feelings beneath their surface emotions and decipher the meanings inherent in them, something new may happen between them.
Gendlin suggests that “people in therapy often have strong emotions and ‘gut feelings’ that are quite concrete and experiential. They are not just talking or intellectualizing. Yet despite the fullness of the emotional content, it does not change; they feel the same feelings over and over again” (Gendlin, 1996, p. 12). The same principle extends to couples. The expression of the same feelings and accusations is painfully common. Yet little will change between the partners until they learn to replace familiar criticisms with a deeper expression of their felt experience.
Allowing the Nervous System to Settle
A principle of focusing is that forward movement in our lives is wanting to happen. Our well-being suffers when our process gets stuck. Focusing leads awareness to a place within ourselves that allows our next step forward to naturally unfold. Applying this principle to couples, we might recognize that interpersonal stuckness and pain are the results of something that wants to happen for an individual within a partnership that is not happening. Focusing facilitates the sense of “what wants to happen.”
We move toward partnership in order to experience something more than what our individual existence can provide (secure bonding, love, connection, and even ecstasy). When this longing is frustrated or disrupted, we may experience it as a threat to our safety and well- being. Such a threat may trigger the lower structures of our brain (the reptilian brain), which are associated with fear and anxiety. Such fears are often acted out in destructive ways. Discord between partners reflects a bodily event that may involve activation of the nervous system, especially if there has been early trauma. Certain inflexible patterns of fight, flight, or freeze operate as defenses in couples. Such reactions are often amplified when nervous system pathways were laid down earlier in life from shock, especially during the first three years.
These particular developmental imprints, resulting from family dynamics or other traumas, become re-enacted when one partner perceives the other as threatening their bond and security, if not their very existence. Couples therapy can become more meaningful and productive as the nervous system settles. When one’s heart is racing, blood pressure rises, and the mind is working hard, the part of the brain that can relate to another’s feelings and needs shuts down. As Gottman’s research discovered, “If your heart rate exceeds 100 beats per minute you won’t be able to hear what your partner is trying to tell you no matter how hard you try” (Gottman, 1999, p. 180). The sense of being emotionally flooded must somehow be addressed before nondefensive listening and fruitful interaction can occur.
This view is consistent with Peter Levine’s (1997) and Levine and Kline’s (2007) work with trauma. The reptilian part of our brain gets activated when our organism experiences a threat to its survival or integrity. We are programmed with the fight, flight, or freeze responses as instinctual ways to survive such threats. This may explain why couples are so quick to blame and attack each other (fight), walk away (flight), or stonewall (freeze) when they experience words or behaviors that threaten their sense of safety in the relationship. Reactivity is especially strong when a history of trauma or betrayal has generated some degree of dissociation from the body. Since focusing gently leads attention inside the body, it addresses neurological patterns that can be problematic between partners. Future research on this would be helpful.
The varieties of betrayal that we experience, as explained in Love & Betrayal (Amodeo, 1994), can prompt a cutting off from uncomfortable experiences and parts of ourselves. This distancing from ourselves provided needed protection during a time when we lacked the resources, skills, or power to take care of ourselves in painful situations. Yet, allowing a continuation of this dissociation constitutes a kind of self-abandonment or self-betrayal that keeps us distant from the intimacy for which we long. Focusing helps us gently welcome these cut-off feelings and parts of ourselves, which enables our pain to heal and fosters the self-integration and wholeness that provides the foundation for a vibrant intimacy. As we become stronger in our capacity to face unpleasant feelings, we become more willing to accept the risks associated with being vulnerable and opening our heart to others.
Cultivating the Focusing Attitude
Focusing rests on what Gendlin calls, “a friendly inner attitude” (Gendlin, 1996, p. 56). This is a way of being respectful, gentle, and kind toward ourselves and the full range of our experience. As life issues and feelings emerge, we are asked to meet them with a spirit of nonjudgment, acceptance, and empathy. Rather than struggle to fix and change ourselves, we are invited to accept ourselves as we are as the starting point for positive change.
Focusing teacher and psychologist Joan Klagsbrun suggests that when we treat our “inside places” with receptivity, gentleness, kindness, friendliness, and a sense of acceptance, they respond favorably. Even when we don’t like what we find, we take the attitude that since it’s there anyway, we might as well be friendly towards it, acknowledge it, and accept it. When that happens, these ‘inside’ places begin to speak to us, to open up, and then they will change. (Klagsbrun, 1999, pp. 14–15)
Members of a couple typically develop fixed views of each other. The focusing attitude involves looking at things freshly. Couples are repeatedly invited to set aside pre-existing assumptions, opinions, and beliefs. This allows an open, unobstructed space for new richness, nuance, and complexity of feelings and experience to emerge. By helping the couple spend time with this unclear “growing edge” or “felt sense,” unexpected and creative possibilities for change begin to unfold.
Connecting with the Felt Sense
The core of focusing involves contacting a felt sense of personal concerns. The felt sense is a body sensation that is at first unclear, but definitely registers as a feeling of something that is going on, though this something is often vague. For example, we might feel uncomfortable with a person we meet, but not know what that is about. Our mind may come up with explanations, but until we take time to go inside and “feel into” the issue, we will only skim the surface. Perhaps we gradually realize that this person reminds us of someone we dislike, or we may feel hurt or shamed by a subtle criticism expressed indirectly.
As a Focusing-Oriented therapist, I ask open-ended questions designed to encourage the client to pause, listen, and allow the subtle bodily feel of a concern or situation to emerge. I might ask, “What is the feeling of this whole thing, e.g., the issue, situation, problem?” Or, “Would it feel okay to take some time to just sense into that anger?” Or, “Take a moment to feel that heaviness and see if anything more wants to come.” Words, images, and meanings gradually emerge that capture the feel of the whole issue. For example, “It feels like a heaviness in my chest,” or “There’s a hollowness in my stomach — it feels connected to a fear of being left.”
Partners often cling tenaciously to their viewpoint that the source of their impasse is their obstinate partner. If partners can suspend their beliefs and perspectives for a moment and attend to their bodily felt sense of what bothers them, then something new might arise from within them — and then gradually between them.
Focusing rests on the premise that there is always more going on than we intellectually know. As explained in The Authentic Heart (Amodeo, 2001), it is through an unlayering of felt experience that we come closer to what is really happening inside us. As we contact what is more deeply authentic within us we may notice that something inside us shifts: we discover more wholeness and more connection with ourselves. We feel better as we connect with what is real, even if it is something painful or difficult. This deeper connection with felt experience creates the ground for connecting with a partner in a more authentic, empathic, tender way. Partners often fail to realize that even if they have an accurate perception about each other’s limitations, this does not lead to a transformation of their interpersonal difficulties. The path toward healing and resolution lies not in trying to fix each other, but rather in bringing forward the more that implicitly exists in conflict situations, but is not yet known, embraced, and expressed in a felt way.
The Movement Between Tracking One’s Own Felt Sense and Helping Clients Track Theirs
A vital skill needed by the therapist is creating a container in which connection and intimacy can thrive. This requires that the therapist be connected with his or her own bodily felt sense of what fosters safety, openness, and connection in a session, and be prepared to intervene or reframe an issue when a client’s words are likely to be provocative or inflammatory — or create defensiveness or shut-down in his or her partner. For example, when Doris stated in our third couples session, “Andy never listens to me,” I sensed that this would provoke hurt, shame, or defensiveness in him. I turned to him and asked, “How did you feel hearing that?” My goal here was to be clear with the couple that I will address the communication process, not just the content, especially when their way of communicating is likely to push the other away. My hope is also to build some trust with Andy by implicitly conveying that I understand how hearing this criticism might be painful. I try to craft my words in a way that does not alienate or shame Doris.
Responding to my question, Andy replied that it hurts to hear Doris say that he never listens. He protested (defensively) that he “can never do anything right!” I then sought clarification whether Doris really means that he never listens, or if what she really means is that she does not feel heard as much as she wants or in the way she wants. My reframing intervention (where helping Doris find words that reflect her actual experience rather than blame him) is likely to be appreciated by Andy. She agrees that that says it better. Part of my work is to catch my clients’ deeper feelings and felt meanings by listening to my own felt sense of what they are trying to convey, and help them express this in ways that invite contact rather than promote alienation. This is consistent with the approach of couples therapist Daniel Wile (1981), who helps clients find ways to express feelings and meanings that they cannot find the words for.
As Andy’s nervous system settled, I turned to Doris and said, “I’m curious about how it feels for you to not be heard ... . Take your time ... and see if you notice anything in your body around this.” After a few moments of quietly attending within, Doris softened. She uncovered hurt and sadness underlying her initial anger and irritation: “I feel lonely and sad to not be heard. I want to feel closer to Andy.” I conveyed empathy and invited her to express those feelings to Andy directly. As Doris did so, I asked Andy how it feels to hear her sadness. As he saw (with my help) that these feelings are about her rather than an attack on him, it became easier to hear her. His defensiveness began to melt and a sense of connection arose in that moment.
Allowing a Space for Positive Feelings
As couples begin to share more from their hearts rather than from mental judgments, tender feelings often arise, which lead to moments of empathy and closeness. As such moments occur more frequently, trust and safety slowly grow. It is vital to allow time to experience positive feelings rather than solely focus on problems. As I develop some trust with a couple, I sometimes invite them to pause during these moments and I may say something like: “Would it be okay to just notice how it feels being closer right now?” This helps them experience something more positive, which may become an increasingly rich resource in the relationship. It is often challenging for a couple to tolerate warm, pleasant feelings. Allowing such feelings posits the risk of experiencing a more painful loss if or when the relationship ends.
This mini experience of beginning with a conflict, allowing their underlying felt senses to emerge, leading to increased feelings of closeness, becomes a template for future possibilities. Their nervous systems have had a small taste of something positive resulting from processing a difficult issue. If we can work consistently enough so that they re-experience this shift and movement over and over again, real progress is gradually made. Slowly, a couple can begin practicing this new way of processing issues apart from our sessions. But trying this at home prematurely may lead to discouragement if partners revert to old patterns. Without my being there to point out unhelpful communications, hold the container for the relationship, remind them to pause and attend to their felt sense, and help them find words that convey the deeper nuances of their felt experience, they may enter the slippery slope to escalating conflict. Couples need varying lengths of time to continue with training wheels before riding confidently on their own. Skillful, active interventions are necessary to educate couples, preserve safety, offer guidance, and nourish connection. Therapists must pick their battles wisely in order not to be overly directive or controlling, which can create mistrust of the therapist and a stifling atmosphere. This is not an easy balance to obtain.
What is Happening Between the Partners is a Reflection of What Is Happening Within the Two Individuals
Destructive criticism, blame and defensiveness are more likely to shift as the individuals contact the felt experience that drives them. The “Four Horsemen” that Gottman delineates are steered by something that is uncomfortable or difficult to face and feel. In my experience as a psychotherapist, this is usually some kind of fear, shame, hurt, pain and/or unmet longing. As these more tender experiences are contacted and explored, each person suddenly has something new to say to the other — something that may transform their usual way of relating.
As explained in Being Intimate (Amodeo & Wentworth, 1986), for a couple to become more relational with each other, they need to become more relational with themselves. Therefore, Focusing-Oriented couples work has both an intrapsychic and interpersonal aspect. Being more connected and intimate with oneself opens the door to intimacy with others. Conflicts between partners usually reflect some inner conflict, disconnection, or dissociation with some aspect of themselves. Most frequently there is something going on with both individuals that contributes to their trouble. Of course, this is not always true, such as in cases of domestic violence or unprompted verbal abuse (although the attribution “verbal abuse” may be misapplied by a person who has a sensitivity to any hint of criticism). As one person’s blind spots are gently addressed, there is often a welcome, surprising shift in the dynamic between the partners.
During a Focusing-Oriented couples session, I often find appropriate moments to work with each of the individuals. When one person gets activated by something their partner says, perhaps a critical word or a different take on what happened during an interaction at home, I slow the process down by inviting the activated person to notice what they are experiencing right now.
Attending to one person during a couples session is also common in the approach of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). As Sue Johnson describes it, “The therapeutic alliance is characterized by the therapist being able to be with each partner as that partner encounters his/her emotional responses and enacts his/her position in their relationship” (Johnson, 1996, p. 34).
An Example of Working with One Part of the Couple
Sue would frequently criticize her partner, Joe, for being too attached to his cat. Sue accused him of feeding Fido too often and insisted that there was something unhealthy about snuggling with this feline creature. She often drew upon her Buddhist belief that attachment leads to suffering. At first glance this appeared to be an obvious case of jealousy — he was paying more attention to his cat than to her!
Over many years, I have developed the humility to trust that something much more rich can emerge by letting awareness unfold from within the client, rather than trying to be clever (under the guise of being helpful) by interpreting what I think is going on. As Gendlin explains, “There are still therapists who are satisfied with a plausible interpretation if the client accepts it. They do not wonder, nor do they teach their clients to try to sense inwardly, whether an interpretation is a dead end or not” (Gendlin, 1996, p. 8).
During one session, Sue was criticizing Joe for buying a premium can of salmon cat food for his beloved cat. I asked if she would be willing to take a moment and notice how she was feeling in her body as she expressed this to him. She responded quickly and defensively that she was angry and had a right to be. I reassured her that she had a right to all of her feelings and wondered if she was willing to take some time to notice where in her body she felt angry and what it felt like. My approach here reflects Gendlin’s suggestion that things may shift as we connect with how we are experiencing them in our bodies. This way of working is also compatible with Levine’s Somatic Experiencing work with trauma. As he puts it, “The only way to consciously access our healing resources is through sensation and the felt sense. Sensation is the language of the reptilian brain” (Levine, 1997, p. 87). He goes on to suggest that the impact of trauma on our organism can only be resolved through accessing body sensations. Borrowing Gendlin’s term felt sense in his work with trauma, he asserts: “Resolution is accomplished through working with this unresolved impact through the felt sense” (Levine, 1997, p. 149).
As Sue slowed down and attended to her bodily sensations, she noticed a knot in her stomach that she identified as anger. I asked her to take time to just notice this knot along with her anger and see if anything more wanted to come. In effect, I invited her to be curious about her own experience. I prompted her to be with it in a gentle, caring way. This focusing attitude put her in a good place to notice if there is anything more that might want to emerge — without any pressure. If nothing comes, that is fine too. Gradually, she noticed a heavy feeling in her chest and a sense of sadness. At first she had no idea what this was about. I asked if it was okay to be with it. Asking whether it is okay builds safety into the focusing process. If it is too overwhelming, I want to know that. We can then back off. Focusing is very gentle and never crashes through people’s boundaries. They are always in control of whether or not to go further (as they check with their felt sense about this). If there is any sense of being overwhelmed I want to pause and try something else.
Staying with the sadness, something came that surprised all of us. Sue recognized that her sadness was related to the death of her own beloved cat many years ago. She had become very connected to her cat and vowed never to allow herself to get so attached to another pet. No longer would she be devastated by such a loss. As she discovered what was happening within herself, something shifted between them. Joe could now understand her concern about him, even though it was being expressed in a destructive way. Sue’s intention was to protect Joe from the painful loss associated with being attached. He could now see that her criticisms were reflections of something happening within her (outer reflections of her own inner critic), and were not about him doing anything wrong.
As Joe witnessed Sue’s flood of tears, he was moved. Her anger and criticism now made sense to him; they were driven by her own unresolved grief, as well as her caring for him. I asked, as I often do, how it felt to be with her right now. Joe said it felt good to hear Sue’s authentic feelings; he felt very close to her right now. The connection was palpable. Remembering that Sue had often complained that she was not being heard, I asked her, “Do you feel that you’re being heard by Joe right now?” She tenderly looked at him and nodded her head affirmatively.
This exchange became a template for how this couple connected by sharing the more tender, vulnerable feelings that existed beneath surface, defensive, or secondary emotions. It exemplifies how change happens as a couple learns to tolerate the discomfort of lingering on the “relational edge.” As psychotherapist Glenn Fleisch explains it, “The relational edge is that space wherein our already held understandings and implicit (bodily sensed) knowing converge or cross, and where something ‘more’ could be felt and carried forward” (Fleisch, 2006, p. 3). As Sue contacted the “more” that existed within her, something shifted between them. And this led to Joe sharing more about how he was feeling hurt by her criticisms and how he longed for tenderness from her.
The limbic brain and nervous system do not change quickly. It took many sessions such as this one for this couple to understand each other more deeply. Trust gradually grew and they felt safer with each other, though not without setbacks. I often tell a couple to expect setbacks, which can ease their sense of discouragement when they occur.
Some couples therapists might maintain that working individually with one partner is best done in individual therapy. I regularly encourage my couples to see individual therapists in order to further explore what comes up in our couples sessions, as well as excavate other issues that are more appropriate for private therapy. However, many clients cannot afford both individual and couples therapy. In the above example, Sue might benefit in individual therapy by getting support to explore her grief rather than brace herself against it, which limits her capacity to love and be loved. Joe might explore how he shuts down at the slightest hint of criticism. However, even without individual therapy, they are both likely to make progress with these issues through couples therapy. And there are additional advantages to working with one person during a session.
ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH ONE MEMBER OF THE COUPLE
My experience suggests four distinct advantages in using focusing with one of the partners in front of the other person. Firstly, such individual attention can be powerful in eliciting underlying issues. The deeper issues that have impact upon a couple may only surface by taking time to help one person go deeply within. Couples therapists often probe for underlying issues, but oftentimes do not give the kind of space, time, or tools necessary to allow deeper feelings and insights to emerge from within the client. The focusing process is structured in a way that invites experience to unfold. This tends to mitigate familiar defenses.
Secondly, working with one partner in front of the other can foster safety and trust. An observing partner is usually relieved that they are not the focus of the other’s usual attacks. They begin to trust that I will intervene when things get uncomfortably heated or overwhelming and that I will not allow them to attack each other. As they recognize that I will ask them to gently take responsibility to look within themselves to see what is really happening, they gradually begin to catch themselves when they start to blame or accuse. As a result, safety and trust have an opportunity to grow. This often takes time, and does not fit neatly into the limited number of sessions permitted by managed care.
A third effect relates to modeling. In Focusing-Oriented couples therapy, I am modeling how to be with someone in a gentle, caring way. Clients may notice the nonjudgmental, warm, curious attention I am giving to the other through experiential listening — hearing the feelings and meanings that are being expressed. Little by little, this way of being with another gets absorbed by the client. This is not to suggest that I encourage clients to use focusing with each other at home (this is often too difficult when issues are about the other person), but rather that my modeling naturally helps them apply some of this way of attending to each other. At times I may invite them to say back to their partner what they are hearing. This offers practice in experiential listening while helping them feel heard.
A fourth effect of working with one partner in front of the other is that it can deepen intimacy. Clients get to experience what it is like to connect when they can contact and speak from deeper layers of themselves. Through sharing of their actual feelings and needs, they come to understand each other in fresh ways. Defenses become less necessary as the foundation for trust and connection strengthens. Couples enjoy more intimacy as they begin to experience increased awareness, sensitivity, and empathy toward themselves and each other.
As couples sample what is possible they are motivated to continue interacting in this way at home, though they often need help for some time. Reversion to old patterns can happen quickly. When things are just starting to get better they are most at risk of regressing. Couples are often looking for evidence that the relationship is not working, which may reinforce their life story that love just does not work. The premature leaving of therapy is a setup for failure. Just as antibiotics continue to be necessary even after symptoms disappear, it is often helpful to continue forward momentum by reinforcing the current gains. The early renewal of trust is a fragile shoot tentatively emerging from the ground. There is risk involved in allowing ourselves to feel close and happy. Suspending defenses and letting in another person implies a deeper loss if things do not work out. Defenses serve to protect us from getting closer as a way to protect us against the pain of loss. Yet the very defenses that keep us safe also keep us isolated.
SUPPORTING THE COUPLE’S INTERACTION
A hallmark of Focusing-Oriented couples therapy is to bring attention to the partners’ interaction, which helps them recognize how they affect each other. They come to appreciate that they have the power to make the relationship better or worse. By becoming more aware of what works and cultivating interpersonal skills, both individuals can do their part to create a more intimacy-friendly climate. For example, partners can let each other know that they are being heard by reflecting back what each is feeling, wanting, or perceiving. They can replace blame and criticism with deeper expressions that derive from their felt sense. They can reveal how they are being affected by each other.
Janet Klein, a focusing teacher who created Interactive Focusing, encourages people to create a positive feedback loop as they employ the focusing attitude in their interactions. “After the first person has talked from the felt sense about an issue, the second person reflectively responds and then speaks from his/her own felt sense of what is going on for him/her in the moment about that issue” (Klein, 1994, p. 17). When applied to couples, this exchange can have a powerfully supportive and nurturing effect. As one person expresses their felt sense about something, the other senses how it affects them to hear that. This is then expressed in a gentle, focusing kind of way. Their partner may then notice how it feels to hear this, and what it touches in them — and so on. A trained therapist may help clients learn how to communicate in this intimacy-building way.
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR FOCUSING-ORIENTED COUPLES THERAPY
Focusing-oriented couples therapy is not for everyone. I use it to varying degrees with couples. Sometimes I mainly listen, reflect back what I hear, offer them new ways of seeing or understanding each other, or make practical suggestions about how they might connect better. Also, there are times when couples counseling may not be as helpful as individual therapy. When one or both partners has poor ego strength, has difficulty opening up, or is not self-reflective, they may not yet have the capacity to connect with their tender side, let alone show any vulnerability to each other. The work then proceeds slowly. I may use cognitive and behavioral approaches to help them understand and accept themselves, as well as explore new behaviors. I may make referrals to individual therapists to help them get more connected to themselves. If the partners cannot afford both individual and couples therapy, they may be encouraged to pursue individual therapy for some time before continuing with couples counseling. If there are situations of domestic violence or abuse, I refer to individual therapists.
Focusing involves taking time to attend to an inner bodily felt sense so that something new has an opportunity to emerge. Some clients feel disengaged or get bored if too much time — or even any time at all — is spent helping one partner to explore more deeply what is happening. This disengagement can sometimes be dispelled by a clear explanation of the value of working in this way, but nevertheless some couples may need a more interactively engaging style, especially if Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) appears to be present in one or both of the partners.
I encourage clients to tell me if they begin to feel uncomfortable with any aspect of the work so that we can address that. I also monitor as closely as possible any disruptions of trust they might experience with me. Gendlin frequently makes the crucial point that the relationship between therapist and client comes first. It is vital not to impose anything on clients, but rather work in a collaborative manner.
Focusing-Oriented couples therapy offers a powerful way to guide couples toward deeper layers of their authentic feelings and longings. At times, focusing will be used for varying lengths of time with one member of the couple as a way to explore blocks, reduce defenses, and uncover authentic feelings and wants that are not readily accessed. This process often leads to a deeper felt sense of intimacy in the room. Care is taken to ensure that the observing party is comfortable being a witness to his or her partner’s unfolding process. Checking in regularly with this person helps keep them engaged in the process. Also, private attention is reasonably balanced between the partners so that one does not conclude that they are the main problem in the relationship.
Amodeo, J. (1994). Love & betrayal: Broken trust in intimate relationships. New York: Ballantine Books.
Amodeo, J. (2001). The authentic heart: An eightfold path to midlife love. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Amodeo, J. & Wentworth, K. (1986). Being intimate: A guide to successful relationships. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Fleisch, G. (2006). An interactive model of how focusing works at the outset of therapy. Unpublished article.
Gendlin, E. (1996). Focusing-Oriented psychotherapy. New York: The Guilford Press.
Gottman, J. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publishers.
Johnson, S. M. (1996). The practice of emotionally focused marital therapy. Florence, KY: Brunnel/ Mazel.
Klagsbrun, J. (1999). How to teach a workshop in focusing. Self-published,
Klein, J. (1994). Interactive focusing. The Focusing Folio, 13, 17.
Levine, P. (1997). Waking the tiger. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
Levine, P. & Kline, M. (2007). Trauma through a child’s eyes: Awakening the ordinary miracle of healing. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2000). A general theory of love. New York: Random House.
Wile, D. (1981). Couples therapy: A non-traditional approach. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
BEYOND NEW AGE NARCISSISM: CREATING YOUR REALITY OR FASHIONING YOUR FANTASY?
John Amodeo, Ph.D.
One belief that needs a proper burial in the new millennium is the belief that "You create your own reality. You're 100% responsible for your own feelings and experience." As a practitioner of psychotherapy and meditation for over twenty years, I've witnessed many people being led into a curious kind of self-betrayal through this narcissistic belief.
The message, of course, is meant to empower us. "You don't have to be a victim of past history. You're a beautiful soul who deserves love and joy. Don't hold yourself back!" Well, I can't argue with that. In fact, these notions deserve to thrive in the years ahead. Its the next part that troubles me.
According to these New Age prophets of personal responsibility, the way to get these good things is simply by changing your thinking and beliefs. The problem is that you haven't taken charge of your life. You're a victim of the belief that other people have created your hurt, anger, and pain. You create your own feelings! After all, they're your feelings, so who else can be creating them?
Hold on there, that sounds pretty seductive. I no longer have to be inconvenienced by those pesky feelings of fear, anger, and sorrow? With a little attitude adjustment, I can forever be rid of grief, sadness, and anger and step buoyantly into a new life controlled totally by me?
There are seeds of wisdom here. Cognitive psychology has long recognized that many feelings are generated by our dysfunctional, inaccurate, self-berating thoughts. If we believe that being rejected means were unlovable, we're likely to walk around feeling shame-ridden and depressed. If we believe people cant be trusted, we may push people away with our cynicism, blame, or withdrawal, without realizing our role in keeping intimacy away.
But that's a far cry from insisting that through cognitive restructuring alone, we can magically transform our experience. Sure, it can help. But while self-affirming thoughts will alleviate unnecessary suffering, were still human beings with pores in our skin. Well continually be affected by the unavoidable pain (and pleasure) evoked by our environment. We don't have total control over life.
We exist in a complex web of relations. Buddhism teaches that we don't exist as separate entities. Thich Nhat Hahn has coined the term "inter-being" -- everything affects everything else. If you step on my toe, it will hurt! If you pollute the air, It will affect my lungs. If you discriminate against me due to race or gender, it will affect my career. To claim that I somehow created this is reminiscent of the narcissistic omnipotence of children, who believe they're responsible for their parents divorce or the abuse they suffer.
People have free will. They act from their own intricate web of feelings, wants, and motivations. We don't have that much power and control over people and the Universe.
Denying that people affect us, we roam in a world where no one can get to us -- a world without vulnerability. Do we really want a life where we're untouchable? This vision of the future will lead to isolation, not love and community. Exerting athletic will power against unwanted or threatening feelings sets us up for a fall. Striving to be a responsibility athlete, we foster a disconnection between how things are and how we'd like them to be. Unwanted feelings are then relegated to the shadow side of our being, where they quietly fester and eventually wreak havoc with our lives. Disowned feelings eventually leak out of their sealed containers in toxic moments of rage, shame, or fear. Those claiming to be spiritual are sometimes the most shaken -- or most vindictive -- when things don't go their way.
The belief that we create our own reality generates a hardness of heart. We lose empathy for peoples struggles. We don't allow ourselves to be touched by their world. We lose the richness of relating tenderly with loved ones and friends. Instead of spontaneously showing compassion toward a struggling or hurting person, we revert to the safe reference point of our belief system. Rather than opening our heart and responding with compassion, we share our belief about how this person could be different.
Do we want a world where we keep ourselves distant from the reality of other people's world? Rather than shedding a tear, appreciating a person's sense of helplessness, or sharing a moment of frustration or outrage as we hear how it is for them, we ride in on our white horse (our high horse) with news of how it could be . By assuming the role of the rescuing hero or heroine, we're actually hurting this person by remaining emotionally distant, thereby increasing their sense of isolation. We also reinforce their shame-based view that something is terribly wrong with them, since they're not applying the spiritually correct belief to their life. "Why can't I just get over this," I've often heard people say. "Why can't I figure out how I'm creating this so I can move on! Why can't I choose to be happy?" And thus another layer of pain is created through feeling shame about one's authentic felt experience.
I'd like to see a world where we can find the strength to allow ourselves to be touched by each other. This is what love and intimacy are all about. We sit quietly and listen attentively, with our heart and mind open. Rather than trying to fix, change, or control people by imposing our own trip, we simply be there. Being present with people without luring them into our own beliefs allows for connection and depth that's an exciting possibility in the new millennium.
Our path toward empowerment isn't to imagine that were responsible for our feelings and experience, but to realize that we can be responsive to our experience. The point isn't that were responsible for our suffering in the sense of creating it. But the good news is that we can respond to our pain rather than react. We have choice over how we meet life's difficulties. Our attitudes, approach, and yes, even our beliefs can influence how we experience events.
Do we inwardly collapse or fragment when something unpleasant arises? Or can we hold ourselves with warmth and caring? Can we greet a full range of experiences with a caring, feeling presence, without berating ourselves with self-critical thoughts, such as believing we should be over this by now? Can we recognize that we can only do our best, which means letting go of the compulsion to be perfect and allowing for human flaws and limits?
Change and growth occur not as we try to squeeze ourselves into some appetizing belief system, but as we simply be ourselves. The true beauty of who we are -- our capacity to realize our deeper potential and live an empowered life -- is born out of this radical self-acceptance and self-embracing. May the new millennium be an era of developing the awareness and skills necessary to truly accept ourselves as we are, and support each other in being our authentic selves.
Anderson, Margaret: "In real love you want the other person's good. In romantic love you want the other person."
Antoine De-Saint-Exupery: "And here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Bly, Robert: "Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us."
Buber, Martin, "The Thou meets Me through Grace it is not found by seeking. The Thou meets me. But I step into direct relation with it. All real living is meeting."
Buddha: "There is only one eternal law: Hate never destroys hate; only love does."
Buddha: "You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."
Don Juan (Carlos Casteneda): Ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question Does this path have a heart?If it does, the path is good; if it doesnt, it is of no use."
Emery, Stewart: "Love is when I am concerned with your relationship with your own life, rather than with your relationship to mine... There must be a commitment to each other's well-being. Most people who say they have a commitment don't; they have an attachment."
Gibran, Kahlil: "Work is love made visible."
Issa: "Arise from sleep, old cat. And with great yawns and stretchings Amble out for love."
Jesus: "A new commandment I give you , that you love one another."
Kierkegaard, Soren: "If anyone, therefore, will not learn from Christianity to love himself in the right way, then neither can he love his neighbor.... To love ones self in the right way and to love ones neighbor are absolutely analogous concepts... Hence the law is: You shall love yourself as you love your neighbor when you love him as yourself."
King, Martin Luther: "Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young but to live until I am seventy-five and yet not ever truly have lived."
Kopp, Sheldon: "Who can love me, if no one knows me? I must risk it, or live alone."
Krishnamurti, J.: "Using another as a means of satisfaction and security is not love. Love is never security; love is a state in which there is no desire to be secure; it is a state of vulnerability."
Krishnamurti, J.: "You can give your whole attention only when you care, which means you really love."
Levine, Stephen/Ondrea: "The distance from your pain, you grief, your unattended wounds, is the distance from you partner."
Levine, Stephen/Ondrea: "To heal is to touch with love what we previously touched with fear."
Lindbergh, Anne Morrow: "People talk about love as if it were something you could give, like an armful of flowers."
Merton, Thomas: "True love and prayer are learned in the moment when prayer has become impossible and the heart has turned to stone."
Miller, Henry: "Looking back, I realize my loves were, in actuality, obsessions. They caused more pain than pleasure. Sometimes, I can't distinguish between pain and ecstasy."
Mistral, Gabriella: "Love that stammers, that stutters, is apt to be the love that loves best."
Moore, Thomas: "Intimacy calls for love and acceptance of the souls less rational outposts."
Moore, Thomas: "One reason why we have so much trouble with relationships today may be our neglect of its study. We expect to find intimacy naturally, without education or initiation we can do nothing well in life, and that includes intimacy, unless we have the schooled imagination for it."
Mother Theresa: "There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer."
Mother Theresa: "Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other it doesnt matter who it is and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other."
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: "Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."
Rilke, Rainer Maria: "For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation."
Sai Baba: "The aim of all spiritual practice is love."
Sai Baba: "The eye of love makes every person in the world friendly and attractive."
Some, Sobonfu: "Intimacy is a song of spirit inviting 2 people to come and share their spirit together. It is a song which no one can resist."
Some, Sobonfu: "People in the West can begin to strengthen their intimate relationships by maintaining their connection with spirit through prayers, through walking in nature and dealing with natural forces, through connecting with the earth."
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj: "When you realize that you are the light of the world, you will also realize that you are the love of it; that to know is to love and to love is to know."
St. John: "God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him."
Tagore, Rabindranath: "I have spend many days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung."
Tarrant, John: "Attention is the most basic form of love: through it we bless and are blessed."
Thich Nhat Hanh: "The world will change because of your smile To sit, to smile, to look at things and really see them These form the basis of peace work."
Thompson, William Irwin: "The most perplexing form of evil, and especially so for all idealists, is that kind of evil which comes out of our efforts to do good. Perhaps when we try to do good without love, we create evil."
Van Dusen, Wilson: "Perhaps the single most important basic skill that should be taught to all persons is the capacity really to see, hear and understand others."
Vincent Van Gogh: "The best way to know God is to love many things."
Walker, Ralph: "Enlightened space, the place of unconditional love, cannot be achieved until and unless one is willing to be comfortable with paradox and confusion."
OTHER QUOTES YOU MIGHT LIKE
Adler, Alfred: "It is easier to fight for one's principles that to live up to them."
Baldwin, James: " If one cannot risk oneself, then one is simply incapable of giving."
Bly Robert: "As I've gotten older, I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow and to distinguish it from depression.".
Campbell, Peter and McMahon, Edwin: "God is as close to us as we can risk being close to our real self."
Chogyam Trungpa: "Tenderness contains an element of sadness. It is not the sadness of feeling sorry for yourself or feeling deprived but it is a natural situation of fullness. You feel so full and rich, as if you were about to shed tears. Your eyes are full of tears, and the moment you blink, the tears will spill out of your eyes and roll down your cheeks. In order to be a good warrior, one has to feel this sad and tender heart. If a person does not feel alone and sad, he cannot be a warrior at all."
Emerson, Ralph Waldo: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest criticism and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty and find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived -- this is to have success."
Frankenstein monster (Mary Shelly):" I am malicious because I am miserable; if any being felt emotions of benevolence toward me, I should return them, a hundred and a hundred fold."
Freud: "Everywhere I go, I find a poet has been there before me."
Gide, Andre: "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it."
Hopes, David, "Suffering is not the only road to grace, but it is the usual one."
Jewish Proverb, "What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul."
Jong, Erica: "And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more."
King, Martin L.: "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
Krishnamurti, J: " If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation."
Lincoln, A: "I destroy my enemy by making him my friend."
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth: "If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in each man's life a sorrow and a suffering enough to disarm all hostility."
Macy, Joanna: "The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe."
Nicolaides: The sooner you make you first 5000 mistakes, the sooner you can correct them."
Nietzsche, Frederick: "One's own self is well hidden from one's own self: of all the mines of treasure, one's own is the last to be dug up."
Nin. Anais: " Life shrinks or expands according to one's courage."
Nin, Anais: "Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or calous handling."
Nixon, Richard M.: "Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them back; and then you destroy yourself."
Paz, Octavio: "Believing ourselves to be possessors of absolute truth degrades us; we regard every person whose way of thinking is different from ours as a monster and a threat and by so doing turn our own selves into monsters and threats to our fellows."
Plato: "Please, my friends, be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Plato: "The penalty that good men pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by men worse than themselves."
Rilke, Rainer Maria, "Make your ego porous. Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing; fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything."
Rilke: "Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."
Rogers, Carl: The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."
Satir, Virginia: "We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us."
Source Unknown: "The truth knocks on your door and you say "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away."
Teasdale, Sara: " No one worth possessing can be quite possessed."
Thoreau, Henry David: "To affect the quality of they day, that is the highest of the arts."
Thoreau: "There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted."
Truman, Harry: "I never give them hell. I just tell them the truth and they think it's hell."
Twain, Mark: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."
Vivekananda, Swami: "Never are we nearer the Light than when darkness is deepest."
Zabor, Rafi: "God speaks as softly as he can and as loudly as he has to."
Zen saying: "No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place."
Zohar: "There is a palace that opens only to tears.
Zusya: "In the coming world, they will not ask me, "Why were you not Moses"? They will ask me, "Why were you not Zusya?"
MORE QUOTES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
Achtenberg, Jeanne: "Healing is embracing what is most feared; healing is opening what has been closed, softening what has been hardened into obstruction, healing is learning to trust life."
Ackerman, Diane: "I dont want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well."
Amichai, Yehuda: "Close one sad eye. Yes. Close the other sad eye. Yes. I can see now."
Bach, Richard: "Dont tell the quality of a master by the size of his crowds."
Baldwin, James: "I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."
Baruch, Bernard M.: "To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am."
Berenson, Bernard: "Consistency requires you be as ignorant today as you were a year ago."
Bly, Robert: "Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us."
Bruyere, Jean de La: "All men's misfortunes spring from their hatred of being alone."
Campbell, Joseph: "What we're really seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality, so that we can actually feel the rapture of being alive."
Campbell, Peter and McMahon, Edwin: "Whatever opens us to become more human is flesh of the God we can know."
Chekhov, Anton: "If you are afraid of loneliness, don't marry."
Chekhov, Anton: "You will not become a saint through other peoples sins."
Chinese Proverb: "There are three truths: my truth, your truth, and the truth."
Chuang Tzu: "Words exist because of meaning. Once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can talk with him?"
Confucius: "When two people understand each other in their inmost hearts, their words are sweet and strong, like the fragrance of orchards."
Dalai Lama: "My religion is very simple -- my religion is kindness."
Dwyer, Wayne: "How did you get to be so successful. I made good decisions. Well yes, but how did you make such good decisions? Through wisdom. Well yes, but how did you get so wise. Through making a lot of bad decisions."
Einstein, Albert: "When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it's only a minute. But when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it's two hours. That's relativity."
Einstein: "To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me authority myself."
Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, "Cynicism is the opposite of soulfulness. Many people are afraid to look at the inner life because the truth is often painful." Frankl, Victor: "What is to give light must first endure burning."
Gandhi, Mohandes K.: "My most formidable opponent is Mohandes K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence."
Hopes, David: "Too many who call themselves realists do not see things more clearly, but merely fewer things."
Huxley, Aldous (his last words) "Let us be kinder to one another."
Kempis, Thomas A: "Be assured that if you knew all, you would pardon all."
Kierkegaard, Soren: "If anyone, therefore, will not learn from Christianity to love himself in the right way, then neither can he love his neighbor.... To love ones self in the right way and to love ones neighbor are absolutely analogous concepts, are at bottom one and the same... Hence the law is: You shall love yourself as you love your neighbor when you love him as yourself."
Kopp, Sheldon: "Nothing about ourselves can be changed until it is first accepted"
Korzybski, Alfred: "There are two ways to slide through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking."
Lennon, John: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
May, Rollo: "To be tuned to the responses throughout one's body, as well as to be tuned to one's feelings in emotional relations with the world and people around him is to be on the way to a health which will not break down periodically."
Merton, Thomas: "At the root of all war is fear."
Nin, Anais: "Then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
Ramakrishna: "The winds of grace blow all the time. All we need to do is set our sails."
Roosevelt, Franklin D.: "We must especially beware of that small group of men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests."
Rumi: "Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."
Satir, Virginia: "We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us."
St. Augustine: "O Lord, give me chastity and continency, but not yet."
Thoreau, Henry David: "Be wary of any enterprise that requires new clothes."
Weakland, J: "Therapy helps you go from life being the same damn thing over and over to life being one damn thing after another."
Wile, Daniel: "Whenever you find yourself feeling less satisfied with, less love with, less turned on by, more walled off from, more disgruntled with, or more bored with your partner, look for feelings, wishes, worries, or complaints that you are not telling him/her and that he/she is not telling you -- and see if you can talk to you partner about them. People start acting in crazy, confused, offensive, and desperate ways when they are unable to say important things that they need to say."
Yeats, W.B.: "God guard me from the thoughts men think in the mind alone; he that sings a lasting song thinks in the marrow bone."
EVEN MORE QUOTES TO RELISH
Bach, Richard: "Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years."
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich: "We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer."
Campbell, Peter & McMahon, Edwin: "Whatever opens us to become more human is flesh of the God we can know."
Casteneda, Carlos: "We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount to work is the same."
Coffin, William Sloane: What is emotionally satisfying can be spiritually devastating."
Cochise: "You must speak truth so that your words may go as sunlight to our hearts."
Dosteyevsky, Fyodor: "One stands perplexed and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. Always decide to use humble love! If you resolve on that once and for all, you may subdue the whole world."
Dwyer, Wayne: "To reject something you know nothing about is the highest form of ignorance."
Einstein, Albert: "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving."
Einstein, Albert: A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the "universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
Elliott, T.S.: "Originality is the ability to conceal one's sources."
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
Freud, Sigmund: "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Freud, Sigmund: "We consider that we have succeeded when hysterical misery turns into ordinary unhappiness."Fromm, Erich: "Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one "object" of love... If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else "I love you," I must be able to say "I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself."
Fuller, Buckminster: "And to me, there's a good possibility that love is what I'd call metaphysical gravity. It really holds everything together.
Gandhi, M.K.: My most formidable opponent is Mohandes K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence. Garvey, John: "I think there are some clues as to what makes us willing to murder in the name of truth. One is our desire to possess truth, rather than serve it. I am increasingly convinced that the need to be right has nothing whatsoever to do with the love of truth. But to face the implications of this means to face a painful inner emptiness... it is the desire to fill up that emptiness which leads to political or religious fanaticism."
Gaskin, Stephen: "There is only one church and your membership is your belly button."
Gendlin, Eugene: "Your physical body is in fact part of a gigantic system of here and other places, now and other times, you and other peoplein fact, the whole universe. This sense of being bodily alive in a vast system is the body as it is felt from inside."
Hippocrates: "To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy."
Huxley, Alduos (his last words) : "Let us be kinder to one another."
Huxley, Alduos: "From being an activity mainly concerned with symbols, religion will be transformed into an activity concerned mainly with experience and intuition -- an everyday mysticism underlying and giving significance to everyday rationality, everyday tasks and duties, everyday human relationships."
Kopp, S: "Nothing about ourselves can be changed until it is first accepted."
Krishnamurti, J.: "Using another as a means of satisfaction and security is not love. Love is never security; love is a state in which there is no desire to be secure; it is a state of vulnerability."
Lessing, Doris: "That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all you life, but in a new way."
Mother Theresa: "There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much."
Nietzsche, F.: "Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies."
Nuveen, John: "You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea."
Post, Emily: " The single essential ingredient of good manners is a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others."
Rozinov, V.V.: "At times, although one is perfectly right, one's legs tremble; at other times, although one is completely in the wrong, birds sing in one's soul."
Sitting Bull: "It is not necessary for eagles to become crows."
Twain, Mark: " I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."