What's between you and me? We rarely ask this question in our relationship. Sure, at the beginning we might have questions like this more at the forefront. "What are you looking for?" "Where is this going?" "Who are we to each other?" These are all questions we ask ourselves and often our potential partners. It can set the parameters of what comes next. We are dating. We are moving in. We are getting married. We are living life together.
But these things are very much about how we are setting ourselves up in relation to each other. They are about our expectations of each other and our hopes for each other. They are also very much about monitoring how the other makes us feel while with them. When things are going "well" the feelings are positive and give us pleasure. When they are not, there is trouble of various kinds.
When we look at it in this way, we can see that it can be a very internal experience. Yes we may think of the other and hope we make them happy. We look for signs of whether we are succeeding or failing. When we succeed, pleasure. When we think we fail, trouble. Essentially, we are two people hanging out together having experiences of each other and ourselves hoping that we do it right and usually using our sense of self state to determine what that right thing is.
But what else can we use to figure things out? What else can help us understand why we feel the way we do in any given situation?
Since September of this year I've been teaching new therapists in my original training modality and teaching has helped me to make explicit a lot of how I've been working with people that had become instinct. One of the things we ask our students to pay attention to is "what is going on between us?" This includes how I feel and how you feel. It includes a discussion of the facts of the issues at hand. But it is much more than that. When you and I get in a room and talk about hard things, or even happy things, we both bring a whole history of these hard things and happy things as they have played out before. We bring all our learning about that and all our hopes. We also bring all our assumption and all our defense against pain. When we dump that all in the middle between us stuff happens. We have feelings. We make meanings and understandings and each of us has an experience.
The key here is that we need to acknowledge that our shared experience, all of it, is important. It is not just a matter of "did you make me happy just now". If you didn't, is it just you failing me? Or, did my perspective, understanding and history create something else for me? What is happening between us? Can you understand that? Can I?
If this all sounds very complex, it is. And also it isn't. One of the ways Psychotherapy can help is the way it provides a space to ask those questions, both in the context of your important relationships and also in the context of your work with me. You may tell me a story about a rotten thing that happened to you. You make a joke. I stay serious. This makes you uncomfortable and I notice that. What is going on between you and me? What's it like to be taken seriously in your pain? What's it like to make a joke and the person doesn't laugh? When we explore these things together, the work deepens and it benefits you in building courage to face uncomfortable situations or to speak your truth. It may benefit you in that you have a person who is actually paying attention to the pain underneath the joke. Where it goes depends on who you are and where you've come from in your life and how that mixes with what I bring.
These things are present in every relationship and that includes every therapy. The advantage of working with me is my deep knowledge of these interactions, my well- worn and accepting understanding of myself, and my ability to offer you a place to ask that question in whatever way you chose with safety and compassion.
If you are interested in finding out more, send me an email or call.