What would it be like to have a handy dandy guide to getting out of trouble quickly when in the midst of a head butting conversation with your sweetie? Even in the healthiest and most loving relationships, conflicts can ensue. You know you want to be all cozy and cuddly, but you just can’t seem to get through the impasse. Enter Talk To Me Like I’m Someone You Love: Relationship Repair In A Flash, penned by veteran therapist Nancy Dreyfus, Psy.D
The idea for the book came to be when in a session with a couple, Dreyfus found herself experiencing the bane of many a seasoned counselor, known as counter-transference. It began to feel like she was re-living the dynamics of her family of origin during which her mother would harangue her father. In a flash, she scribbled the 8 words that became the book’s primary title, handed it to the man and whispered for him to hold it up to his wife who, at that moment, was berating him. It was as if time stood still and their interaction shifted to one that was more healing.
She describes what to me sounds like a miracle: ” I haven’t been very nice, have I?….You deserve better from me.” The husband sat straighter in his chair, embodying the self-respect his message carried. He didn’t quite smile at her yet, but when he looked his wife in the eye, for the first time I had ever seen, it was without fear. Within minutes, the ancient power differential between the partners shifted, and a realer, gentler, and strikingly more mutual connection began emerging in front of everyone’s eyes.”
Over the course of the next two decades, this book took shape and Dreyfus’ accumulated wisdom, gleaned from work with other couples, is now in what I think of as an essential book for couples and should be on the reading list for those in undergrad or grad school, persuing any type of mental health degree, on the shelf in counseling offices, as it is in mine, and perhaps even given as wedding gifts. There are more than 100 ‘flashcard’ messages that can move through the heart of the matter in nearly every potential conflict, as well as Dreyfus’ commentary on each subject. These include:
“When you go on and on like that, I feel invisible to you.”
“Even though I’ve been arguing my position like a crazy person, I can see where your point of view makes sense.”
“What can I say that would make you feel understood?”
“I’m sorry if I acted like mine was the only reality.”
“I treasure you.”
The value in the book goes beyond the words themselves to the way in which it is to be used. In her practice, Dreyfus has discovered that vocalizing words can carry an emotional charge that simply reading them does not. There is no voice intonation, no chance to misinterpret when words are read and not said. Granted, it is not the same as sitting in the presence of this gifted therapist, but it is the next best thing to having her in your home.
I love the attitude Dreyfus speaks about with regard to the value of an open heart vs. a closed heart. She writes, “the only difference between an open heart and a closed one is that an open heart has opened only one more time than it’s closed…..only one more time.” This poignant and powerful book will ensure that hearts in your house will open much more quickly.
Nancy will be my guest on It’s All About Relationships next Thursday March 28th at 8pm est. Sit with us around the kitchen table. www.vividlife.me