You probably know what it is like to have had trouble in relationships from time to time with your parents, your kids, siblings, friends, coworkers and, perhaps, most important, with your spouse or romantic partner. During these periods, you probably felt frustrated, angry, hurt, undervalued, unappreciated, fearful, jealous—any one or more of a variety of unpleasant feelings. That’s only natural, because we are most vulnerable in our closest relationships, and daunting conflicts are common there.
Our natural inclination is to hold fast to our positions and feelings. In conflict situations we may feel completely justified in our arguments and actions while totally at odds with those of the other person. A workable solution may seem impossible. But therapy can unfreeze those attitudes by giving us a new perspective about our role and the role of the other person in the relationship.
Psychotherapy can teach you to identify and work with the emotions, beliefs and actions that drive your conflicts with others. Psychotherapy will help you discover how past relationships influence your current relationships, and how you can build a sense of mutual trust within these relationships.
I, as your therapist, will listen to you with empathy, but I will also have enough emotional distance from you to allow me to take an objective “top view,” so to speak. This “top view” enables me to make you aware of patterns in your interactions with others, or a specific other. The new clarity and insight you gain from this process promotes healing. It helps you feel compassion for yourself and others. You might find that you can stop blaming yourself or them.
Compassion can be in short supply at times of anger and emotional pain. That’s regrettable, because, like music, compassion can “soothe the savage beast.” It engenders honesty and respect, reduces defensiveness and fear, and gives others the feeling that they are heard, understood and acknowledged by you, perhaps for the first time in a long time.
Compassion is necessary, but won’t alone be sufficient to heal all damaged relationships. Psychotherapy will bring you closer to this ideal by taking you to the place where effective interpersonal problem-solving happens.
But what if it doesn’t happen? What if your damaged relationship doesn’t get healed, despite our best efforts? Sad but true, ending it is sometimes the best prescription. In this case, therapy can do more than help you cut your losses. It can benefit you by getting you to honestly face the reasons for the failure, and grow through that knowledge. You might discover that your sad outcome will yield many happy returns in your future life.