Interest Area: Conscious Relationships
Inner Child Empathy
I call it Inner Child Empathy because the crux moment is when, because careful Empathic Listening and Experiential Focusing have created a sense of safety, one person in the interaction begins to drop defensiveness and show the vulnerable Inner Child needs that are the motor under troublesome behavior.
Suddenly, the other person sees this vulnerable needy part, and melts with empathy (often tearing up -- often, if the Focuser is a husband and the other party the wife, the wife has tears streaming down her face as she is allowed to see and contact the vulnerable person under the "macho" facade).
At this point, the other party becomes much more tolerant of the troublesome behavior, because he/she can remember the vulnerable child-needs underneath. And the two can also work out a signaling process, some way that, when the trouble starts, either person can name the Inner Child part : "I think my Child is scared here..." or "Is there some way I can help your Child feel safe in this situation?"
An example from my own life: When I am scared and confused and don't know what's happening, my Protector part comes out angrily, ready to do battle to take care of me. Initially, my husband would feel attacked and hurt by my anger, seeing me as a powerful, hurtful person. As he has become able to see the scared Inner Child underneath (for instance, one time he saw me cry about how hard and scary it was to keep going to my son's school and fighting for his rights -- it was the first time he realized that I didn't like fighting, that I had a part as weak and scared as anyone else), he doesn't fall into his own scared victim pattern, but can reach out a helping hand to my scared Child. One of the sweetest occasions of this was when I got scared and confused about something he was saying and started to attack and he reached out, literally took my hand and sat me on his knee and started to explain the situation to my scared Child. Of course, I was completely disarmed!
These moments of Inner Child Empathy in couples therapy are moments where Love becomes palpable in the room, and I can point and say, "There is the Love that brought you together. You can choose to keep doing the work to keep the channel open, or decide that is too hard , but there it is -- Love is nothing more mysterious than this feeling.
The intimate feelings which arise during listening/focusing turns quickly translate into sexual closeness as well, so exchanging turns can be a way to break down the walls to sexual intimacy as well.
You can consider your love relationship as a spiritual path, The Way of Relationship. While psychotherapy can be a place to work out relationship issues, nothing stirs up unconscious, unresolved parts of the Self better than an intimate relationship. If you can take the conflicts that come up as opportunities for personal, as well as relationship, growth, then time spent in Listening/Focusing turns with a loved one will return rewards on many levels – personal and spiritual growth as well as increased intimacy and sexuality.
Try the Ten Steps listed below. Using the Listening/Focusing skills is a fool-proof way of keeping real friendship, intimacy, and romance in your love relationships.
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These materials are offered purely as self-help skills. In providing them, Dr. McGuire is not engaged in rendering psychological, financial, legal, or other professional services. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.