I was working with Sonja and Fredrick in one of my 5-Day Intensives. Sonja had previously shared how lonely she feels in their 12-year marriage. She loves Fredrick and wants to share love and intimacy with him, but something is in the way of their closeness. In working with her, it became apparent that Sonja had developed a tough exterior that would make it hard for anyone to get close to her. Her anger always seemed just below the surface. She was angry that Fredrick often seemed distant. She couldn't feel him.
Due to my many years of working with couples, I know that it is never one person creating the problem. It is always a system between both partners.
Now I was sitting with both of them and Fredrick was going on and on with story after story about the past, about Sonja, and about how much inner work he had done on himself. Like Sonja, I could not feel him - he was stuck in his head.
Finally, I interrupted his monologue, and gently said, "Fredrick, I need to stop you. I can't follow you. I can't connect with you. You are in your head telling stories and I just can't connect with what you are saying."
Wham! The attack came fast and furious. "You are the one having the problem here, not me. Why are you putting this on me? I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing here - sharing myself. You just think you know it all. You think you know more about me than I know about myself. I hate it when you think you know what I'm feeling. Why don't you deal with yourself instead of criticizing me?"
Fredrick was using a classic tactic of turning things around, hoping to get himself off the hook.
"Sonja, does Fredrick do this with you?"
"Yes, all the time! No matter what I say to him, he seems to find a way to turn it around on me. And lots of times he might even be right about what I'm doing, but it always ends up being about what I'm doing rather than what he's doing."
"Fredrick, I would be happy to look at anything you feel that I'm doing that is not working for you, but we can only do one thing at a time. Right now, I'd like to focus on the good reasons you have for story telling, staying in your head and turning things around. Then, if you want me to explore your feeling that I think I know everything, we can do that. But would you be willing to let that go for now and focus on what you are doing?"
Fredrick looked panicked.
"Fredrick," I said gently, "What are you afraid of right now?"
Fredrick started to cry. "I'm so afraid that everything is my fault. I'm so afraid of being wrong, of being rejected, and of not being good enough."
I breathed a sigh of relief. Fredrick was opening up, coming to grips with the fears behind his controlling behavior. Sonja also breathed a sigh of relief and gently put her arms around him.
"Honey, I'm so sorry that I've been so angry. I'm sorry I'm always making you wrong. When you let me in, I can see how hard that is for you."
The door was open for Sonja and Fredrick to explore their ways of controlling and learn how to take more loving care of themselves.