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Answer to Sample Question 

In real life, after you submit your counseling request, you first get an email with questions specific to your situation. This way, your counselor can quickly get to the point of how best to help you. 

This sample answer to the counseling question is an condensed example of my response. Remember, your response will be unique to you, with actual interaction between you and myself. In addition to what you read here, your replies include answers to your questions and comments you make to me, making your actual email longer than what is shown here.  

This sample response is broken down into 3 sections so you can see how the response develops with additional emails. If you'd like to know more about my services, they are listed on the Counseling Services page. 

The Counseling Response

Hi Chris,

A few issues need to be addressed here, the primary one being communication between yourself and your partner. Whenever we have an emotional reaction to a situation, it's a signal to step back find out what's triggering that emotion.

 Answer these questions:

  1. Is there anything else bothering you in the relationship that you haven't communicated to your partner?
  2. Is communication in your relationship becoming more difficult?
  3. When you're upset, do you feel comfortable expressing your needs to your partner?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're experiencing a communication breakdown with your partner. In relationships, we want acceptance from our partners but are afraid to express our needs to them. If we do or say something our partner doesn't like, we might be rejected. Communication is an exchange of information where a message is both sent and received. When communication isn't working, the information's either not fully sent, not fully received, or a combination of the two.

When we experience a communication breakdown with someone we care for, it triggers other fears. These subconscious fears further weaken communication, adding to the breakdown. Communication can be improved at any point by making sure the message we send is clear. What are your needs in a relationship? Write a list of what's important to you. When you make this list, make sure it's about your needs and not your partners actions. For example:

I want to be heard in my relationship (focus = your need)
I want to be trusted (focus = your need)

NOT

I want my partner to listen to me (focus = your partners behavior)
I want my partner to trust me (focus = your partners behavior)

Once you make this list, circle the three things most important to you. Ask yourself the following questions about each of those needs:

Do you meet this need for yourself? 

Using the trust example, do you fully trust yourself? Make notes of all the ways you don't trust yourself.

Do you meet this need with other people? 

Do you fully trust other people? Write down where you might be afraid to trust other people or situations. 

It's important to understand that each person has a set of needs different from yours. We usually try to guess what someone else thinks or feels, and as a result, make judgments about other people. It's important to be clear when you communicate and to never assume you know what the other person's feeling. This creates an environment where it's safe for others to share their feelings. 

Take some time to try the suggestions and think about what's written here. What makes sense to you and what feels right to you? Do you have any questions or is there anything you aren't sure about?

 

 

(This response is continued from the answer above, as if in a second email)

When we feel strongly about a situation, we need to feel our emotions without judging them as being good or bad or right or wrong. The more we try to ignore an emotion, judge it as being wrong, or prevent it from being expressed, the stronger and more out of control that emotion becomes. 

Anger is one of those feelings that can overwhelm us. We usually have a negative association with anger. Yet if we look underneath our anger, we can identify fear. With fear there is usually a judgment or belief that someone is hurting us.

For example, if you get angry at an interruption at work, you can identify the fears and what would happen as a result of those fears. You may be afraid that:

I'll lose my train of thought and won't finish my work in time.
The other person will take up too much time and I won't get more work done.
My employer will see me talking and think I'm not working enough.
This person will think it's okay to interrupt me any time.

Think back to other situations where you've experienced anger. Go through this exercise yourself, using your own situation.

When I see my partner talking to a person of the opposite sex I'm afraid that:

  
 
  
  

When we get upset over a situation, we don't fully understand our own needs because our emotional reactions that are based on our fear and judgments get in the way. We need to develop the ability to see underneath those reactions to recognize and identify what our needs really are. 

Tell your partner you'd like to talk about the feelings you experienced that night and are feeling now. The thought of doing so may initially create some anxiety, especially after the first attempt at discussing this situation didn't work. Once the two of you actually sit down and begin to express yourselves, a feeling of safety can be created so you can share some of your deeper and more honest feelings.

It's important to remember that this talk is about your feelings, not the judgments you have on your partner or what you think your partner was doing to you. Even though you may be sure you know what your partner was thinking, you really don't know. You're only guessing. Let go of what you think another person is thinking or feeling so that you'll actually be able to hear what that other person has to say without bias.

When we communicate, the words must be clear of any blame or the other person will feel threatened, become defensive, and shut down. Open communication consists of making your feelings your own, without trying to make the other person feel responsible for them.

If you do feel reactions or judgments coming up while your partner is talking to you, understand that those are old patterns of thinking and behavior that must be set aside. If you are reacting you are no longer listening. When it is your turn to talk, it is important that you expose those fears and judgments to stop them from becoming real in your own mind. When you do this, use words such as "I'm afraid that...".

Send me your feedback on this information along with any questions or comments on it. If you have any fears about doing this, let me know what they are.

 

 

(This response is continued from the answer written above as if in a third email)

So how do you have a discussion like this? First you have to commit to taking a risk in being fully honest with your partner. This thought can create fear because we equate being vulnerable with the possibility of being hurt. Yet, being  vulnerable allows us to get closer to other people and build trust. When you take a risk, others follow your lead and are then willing to take a risk with you. 

When you talk to your partner, be prepared to share your feelings in the following manner:

  1. Tell your partner you care for (love) them and want to work through the issues that stand between you.
  2. Tell your partner you want to talk about the feelings you experienced the night of the party and how you feel now. Ask your partner if they are willing to share their feelings with you with one rule: when one person is talking the other person must agree to listen until the person talking is finished.
  3. This part is critical. When you talk about your feelings, you must use "I" and "me" words, without blaming your partner for anything. Your feelings are yours, your partner didn't feel them or create them, you did. For example, you'd say "I was hurt that you weren't spending time with me" and NOT "you hurt me by not spending time with me".
  4. Continue to express a range of feelings, both from that night and what you feel in the moment. For example, "I'm afraid to share my feelings with you because you might think I'm.....", or "I'm scared to talk to you because I'm afraid we won't get past this and we'll drift apart".
  5. Once you've expressed your emotions, allow your partner to do the same with you, without your commenting on what your partner says to you. 
  6. Repeat this process again if more feelings came up while you listen to each other.

This type of communication creates a vulnerability that allows you both to trust each other more. We all have the desire to be understood, yet we frequently aren't really clear about what we want to say. This happens because either we're not sure what we feel or we have the belief we can't say exactly what we're thinking.

When we choose not to fully express our feelings, we really aren't telling the truth. It 's more honest and  vulnerable to say, " I'm scared of losing you" than it is to say, "your flirting hurts me". Flirting actually doesn't do anything to you, but your reaction to flirting is what causes you to feel pain. Your feelings are triggered by a behavior you witnessed. These feelings originate inside of you, no-one places them there.

When we learn to understand our emotional reactions to a situation, it gets easier to see what it is we really want in that situation. 

Try the suggestions and let me know what happens. Please feel free to ask any questions or make comments on any part that is written here. 

 

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