When you walk into a room with more than 10 people, chances are, 1 of those people will automatically determine what they know about you and what you are about. The way you walk, the way you talk, the clothes you wear and the way you present yourself is all taken into consideration (sometimes). Those folks are not necessarily judging you or condemning you (sometimes they can be, but that’s a different topic), but it is an easy action to look at others and immediately have an idea of who that person is.
Most individuals who do not know me will ask, “What do you do?” When I tell them I am a therapist they automatically think “physical therapist.” Even though physical therapy is great, some are surprised when I tell them I work as a mental health professional and I am currently working towards my license as a marriage and family therapist. Why are they surprised? In my circles, I would consider myself a “minority” towards the fact that I am one of very few men within the agencies of which I am apart. Out of 50 people, I am 1 of 5 therapist.
Let me be clear and honest.
I am a man… I have typical “man” tendencies and at times I do not make the right decisions or proper social etiquette seems to escape me, however, over the years I am have had several opportunities to develop certain skills that I would say a lot of men do not think to possess or simply do not know where to even begin.
I was able to spend 4 years building a foundation within undergraduate studies to prepare myself for graduate studies. Those next 2 years I had opportunity to look back through my past relationships, become enlightened to my own childhood and development, becoming increasingly intuitive, develop healthy relationships, and learn more about my faith and my relationship with God. In the middle of all of this, I was reading book after book, taking class after class, writing paper after paper, and counseling students, adults, children, parents, and couples during all of it.
The biggest aspect of my growth came in becoming emotionally attuned and emotionally intelligent.
The reason I chose to be a therapist was simple – I wanted to help people, but I was not ready to be prepared to help others. I was painfully broken down in every way imaginable during my time at Johnson. The great thing – I was never in danger. The staff, faculty and my cohort was consistently around me, supporting me and encouraging me. At the lowest and most difficult times, I had encouragement and resources. This allowed me to gain many different perspectives on my own life and how I then interacted with others and how I saw others’ lives and their own pain and suffering.
In her book, “Hold Me Tight,” Dr. Sue Johnson speaks to the skills and techniques that couples can use when they are arguing or the “dance” of how to resolve an ongoing conflict and subdue anger or set aside false beliefs about ourselves or family, spouse, etc. Dr. Johnson also seems to agree with Dr. John Gottman that these skills, although potentially beneficial if done properly, are not as important as the two people or the family involved. This “dance’ as Dr. Johnson states refers to the “steps” or skills presented when conflict or disconnection occurs.
Couples can “fight fair” through every conflict and take the right “steps” during their own dance and song, however the problem does not lie within the steps, but with the music they are dancing along with.
What?! Let me explain.
As a therapist, I take a lot of time introducing new skills and practicing those skills with individuals, couples and families during the therapy session. According to John Gottman and Sue Johnson, these skills are essentially worthless unless the person using the skills changes (the music changes).
During my time in graduate school, my communication with others changed, my observational skills developed, I became increasingly empathetic, I was able to be genuine and sincere and show compassion, give grace, forgive others, love Jesus in new ways and become molded into the man I am today. Since my graduation, I have learned a lot and have had the opportunities to forgive and be forgiven, give grace and receive grace, teach others and be taught. Not only have my “steps” changed, but I have changed.
Experience can account for maturity and informed and educated decisions, however, emotional attunement and becoming emotionally intelligent allows the opportunity to not only change our words, thoughts, emotions, actions or behaviors, but allows the opportunity to change who we are and how we identify within ourselves and relate to others, but more importantly, how we relate to our God.
I would not claim to be an expert on this process, however, I know and understand this process. I am able to identify potential roadblocks and how to overcome our “shortcomings.” Having a strong relationship or marriage comes from our ability to connect and become closer in many different expressions within the appropriate contexts, not dancing the right steps to a broken record. Our experience naturally allows us to make more informed decisions as life moves forward, but becoming emotionally connected is a single aspect that allows your relationships to thrive and your marriage to flourish.
Maybe you don’t think this is possible for you, your spouse or both of you as a couple. I encourage you to take a few more steps and reach out to someone and ask some questions (prepare yourselves for the answers). You can also reach out by clicking on the Contact Me tab at the top of this page or you may contact me here, emailing me a firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 317-474-6448 ext. 112