Case #60 - Hating and loving

Jeremy and Mirada - a married couple - did an exercise which involved pushing hands against each other, to get in touch with their aggression.

Mirada became very upset after the exercise. She spoke about feeling very angry in relationship, and stuck in a pattern with Jeremy. When something was important to her, he would joke and laugh. She found this infuriating, and didn't feel met at all.

So I faced them towards each other, and invited her to tell him,“I hate you right now.” This is actually a very personal and contactful statement, from a Gestalt point of view. It does not blame the other, speaks of self, and is clear and clean.

She did so, and he burst into laughter.

Whilst at other times, this could be invitation to some mutual fun, in the context of a direct and important expression of feeling, it can be experienced as discounting, or what we term in Gestalt as a ‘deflection’.

His humour masked his underlying discomfort with her anger, and this overwhelm in being able to be with her in that place.

So I supported him by helping him breathe into his belly, relax his jaw, and encouraged him by offering understanding of how difficult it was for him to be with her in this place, his overwhelm etc.

He found it very hard to stay present, and every time he laughed, Mirada became more furious, pointing out this was exactly what happened in their relationship.

With a lot of support and encouragement from me, he was able to stay serious; I then encouraged her to tell him very directly, repeatedly, the ‘I hate you right now statement’. She did this with intensity, for several minutes. When she felt that she had been sufficiently met in this place, and expressed herself fully, she softened, and told him she was afraid if she showed him how angry she was, he would leave her.

I invited him to reassure her that this wasn't the case. He started to tell her he also felt insecure about her leaving him, but I stopped him - she hadn't really finished yet, and didn't have the space to hear him until she did.

She started settling, and then began telling him how much she loved him.

He was then able to talk to her about his feelings. The connection between them was strong, deep, and palpable.

In Gestalt, we are interested in supporting authentic and clear contact. When this is achieved, everything else flows from that. In order to do so, people need both emotional support, skill instruction, and containment.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther