Linda: Once, many years ago, when I was out walking, I came upon a scene where a beagle had been off-leash, and had been hit by a car. The dog was crying in pain, unable to walk or even stand due to the severity of his injuries. His owner was attempting to gently lift him onto a blanket, in order to move him to his car to drive him to the vet. When his owner attempted to move him, the dog bit his hand. Now the two of them were injured, bleeding, and in pain. The owner was finally able to place the dog in his car to transfer him to the veterinary clinic.
Couples can be like the suffering, frightened injured dog.
Over the years, while seeing couples for counseling, I have observed one of them reacting like that injured pet. Their partner may be attempting to help them, but they are so frightened and consumed by their suffering that they metaphorically bite the one who is trying to help. They often take turns in the position of the suffering dog lashing out in pain.
But we humans can speak, and the success of the therapy rests on the willingness to identify where the pain comes from and then to reveal that pain to their partner. By showing their partner where it hurts, their partner can attempt to avoid that injury. In the very speaking of the places that are tender, the healing is taking place. The empathy and compassion that is brought to the emotional injuries are the best medicine.
With an attitude of curiosity and wonder, the couple’s dialogue becomes the setting of the bone that was broken and closing the gaping wounds with stitches. The couple’s discussions identify where the harm came from. Injuries come from childhood, prior adult relationships, and from their present partnership. No matter where the injuries originated, they can be healed with the talking cure.
Sometimes we can be like that beagle that snapped at his owner who was attempting to help him. But we can interrupt the automatic defensive cycle by reminding ourselves that our partner’s intention is to be helpful. Remembering their intention can help us to keep our composure so that we can continue the dialogue to tell them what will assist our recovery. Only then can we begin to operate as a healing team.
No biting is necessary. We no longer even need to growl or snarl. We can make a pact to address all injuries to become the healers that we have been longing for each other to be. Those painful injuries have held us back for way too long from reaching out to ask for help, from drawing clear boundaries, from seeing what is right in front of us, from hearing what is being spoken, from taking steps in our behalf, and from being the best version of ourselves that we can be.
Consider what making a healing contract might offer you.
Making a contract with our partner to be each other’s healer is a powerful agreement with mighty results. There’s not a moment to lose to establish high-level communication skills where we vulnerably speak our fear and pain. We can see evidence pour in right away of the agreement’s effectiveness when we experience peace of mind and harmony in our partnership. Once we make a full recovery, we can celebrate our accomplishments by enjoying our life to the fullest.
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