Click on the link feels like an important post from Jason on Facebook. The listening he describes is akin to the therapist’s openness to hearing ‘what is underneath the words’; unspoken; perhaps unknown or only partially known – awaiting a gentle invitation into presence and awareness. In exploring her own process, or collaborating with the person in the client’s chair in exploring their process, the writer often makes sense of the task in terms of following the roots down….We begin with content on the surface, and of course it is easy – and can be important – to spend time looking at that. And often the surface content signposts deeper meanings, hidden wounds and hidden treasure – inviting a dropping down and in.
The application of these principles to difficult relationship, and conflict resolution, is obvious at one level – and woefully under-employed. What works in the therapy room is what works in life – yet culturally we so often act as if the task is to browbeat or punish someone into acknowledgement, ownership or change, which does not work and by-passes any attempt at empathic understanding. We all have our reasons for how we act.
For those who have difficulty seeing Facebook links, here are Jason’s words:-
‘When we are speaking to someone we find difficult it can be helpful to listen to the content of what the other person is saying, but it may be even more important to pick up on their feelings and to try to sense or perceive their deepest values.
It can be helpful to remember that there are three levels of reality, which also manifest as three levels of a person’s identity: The first is the level of everyday consensus reality. The second level is the level of unconsciousness and dreams, which contains the somatic world and emotions and which can include trauma, but may also contains hidden potentialities.The third level is the medicine or earth dreaming level of reality.This third level of reality is where all opposites meet each other and all polarities come together. The medicine level often expresses some human value; it is this deepest level where a person’s deep values originate. The majority of people (but not all) are standing for some human values at some level of their being and everybody seems to have some kind of dreaming medicine essence behind their difficulties, aggression or reactivity.
One way we can apply this understanding in practice is that when we listen to a person, we listen to the content of what they are saying but also try to pick up on the essence or medicine behind it. What is at the bottom, at the root, of what they are standing for – the deepest most basic place they are coming from? What is at the core of the core of their being? What values might they be standing for? Sometimes we can pick up on this by watching a person’s body posture, tone of voice, body movements or ‘energy’ as well as what they say.
Often this essence is something surprising; for example someone might be angry, unreasonable, aggressive or defensive; but if you really feel into their position, what is under it at the deepest level is a need for security or protectiveness for the people or things they love. Their real values may be a need for security or a need to protect the people they love.
Even deeper under this might be a pride in who they are, in their identity. When we recognize what a person is standing for at the deepest level it is easier to relate to the person as another human being, even if they are, on the surface level, angry, confused and/or afraid. Sometimes, when we recognize and reflect back to a person what they are standing for, conflict begins to de-escalate. Instead of relating just to the angry or fearful content of what they are saying we may also be able to respond to their deepest soul or earth dreaming. Of course this doesn’t mean we should forget the 2nd level: of course we may also need to recognize that their trauma, aggression or woundedness also exists.
When we relate to a difficult person we can still stand up for ourselves, fiercely stand up for justice if necessary, defend ourselves and our values and say our own point of view strongly. But if we choose too we can also support the other person’s values too. We might want to say to the other person that we see what they are standing for. We may need to reflect to them the importance of the stand they are taking. We may need to say that we honour them for the stand they are taking in the face of the many challenges, fears, overwhelm, trauma, stress or other difficulties they have faced.
We may need to say our point of view strongly but also to support them to express their own essence. If we do this we are in a way supporting them in staying in contact with their own deepest soul or essence beneath their own surface level everyday identity.’
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994