Posted by: Marie | August 3, 2010

(370) Truth keeps flowing – Part 2 of 5

Post #370
[Email to my therapist written on Saturday, February 27, 2010 – continued from previous post]

Then, in the hours and days following, I found myself feeling a mix of emotions. The relief of knowing you had heard everything I needed to say was still with me. I also found myself feeling that the issues themselves had not been completed for me. The session ended without me gaining a sense of resolution.

When I walked into the session, I had been so focused on being heard that I hadn’t really thought about what I needed in the way of resolution. I had a general sense of “what would be nice”, but not a clear picture of what I needed or wanted.

I have since clarified the fuzzy picture – and here is what I have discovered I wanted from you as a result of my reading that script:

1) I wanted you to validate some or all of my complaints. I wanted you to take responsibility for the parts you played in creating the disharmony.

2) I wanted you to apologize for the pain I felt as a result of your behavior – even though clearly it was never your intention to cause me pain. Pain is still pain, even when it results from misdirected good intentions – even when the pain is caused accidentally. I wanted to know that you regret having caused me pain, especially in regard to the religion issue.

3) I wanted you to go over each of the six behaviors I find hurtful. I wanted you to restate, in your own words, what you heard me say so I would know you really understood. There is a difference between hearing and really understanding.

4) I wanted you to either promise me you would make every effort to not continue those six behaviors in the future, or tell me that you were not willing to make those promises. Not knowing which is the case is unsettling for me. If you are willing to make those promises, then I could relax into those promises and let my guard down. If you cannot make those promises, then I would have an opportunity to learn your reasons for not doing so – you may very well have good reasons. If the reasons don’t sit well with me, I would then have solid information on which to decide if I can feel safe enough to continue working with you. But, not knowing is unsettling for me – I feel hesitant about letting down my guard.

When I asked you if you planned to respond further to what I said in the script, you indicated you did not. That is when it became clear to me you have no intentions of doing any of the above. So, while I do feel good about most of what came out of our last session, I also feel an absence of resolution around the issues.

In order to better understand why I didn’t have a sense of resolution, I did some research on conflict resolution and apologies and found a relevant article written by Beverly Engel. I’ll quote a few paragraphs that really hit home for me:

“A meaningful apology is one that communicates what I call the three R’s–Regret, Responsibility, and Remedy:

“1) A statement of regret for having caused the inconvenience, hurt or damage. This includes an expression of empathy toward the other person, including an acknowledgement of the inconvenience, hurt, or damage that you caused the other person. Having empathy for the person you hurt or angered is the most important part of your apology. When you truly have empathy, the other person will feel it. Your apology will wash over him or her like a healing balm. On the other hand, if you don’t have empathy, your apology will sound and feel empty.

“2) An acceptance of responsibility for your actions. This means not blaming anyone else for what you did and not making excuses for your actions but instead accepting full responsibility for what you did and for the consequences of your actions.

“3) A statement of your willingness to take some action to remedy the situation–either by promising to not repeat your action, a promise to work toward not making the same mistake again, a statement as to how you are going to remedy the situation (go to therapy) or by making restitution for the damages you caused. Apologizing to your spouse for having an affair is insulting unless you offer reassurances: It will never happen again because we will seek therapy, because I’ve quit my job, because I’ll take you on my business trips.”

After reading those paragraphs, I realized the experience for which I was hoping was described in her second paragraph: “Your apology will wash over him or her like a healing balm.” I was hoping for that sense of healing and restoration in our relationship.

I started wondering if it was appropriate for me to want that kind of experience . . . if it was appropriate for me to ask for amends from you so I could possibly have that kind of experience – or, if it was most appropriate for me to just let it go and let how it stands between us right now be “good enough”.

In an effort to figure out the answer, I turned to my blog buddies – I published a post asking for input on asking for apologies. I find the readers of my blog often provide incredibly relevant and valuable feedback when I am struggling with things – they often help me find clarity. True to history, they came through for me and helped me get my arms around this . . .

The Mountain View by Martin Chen

I know from experience that when I receive validation, empathy and apologies after confronting someone about pain he or she has caused me, I feel deeply connected with and understood by that person. My trust in his or her commitment to honor my boundaries increases significantly – because I know he or she really understands the profound impact that honoring or not honoring my boundaries would have on me. Our relationship is restored and I become more invested in my relationship with that person.

I was hoping I would receive those same things from you because I want to feel emotionally connected to you. I want to have evidence there is good reason to trust that you will honor my boundaries even if/when I stop fighting to protect them – without that trust, the possibility of emotional connection is compromised.

I did receive the benefit of your undivided attention during the last session. I did receive a promise that you won’t discuss religious issues with me unless I initiate the conversation. I greatly appreciate your undivided attention and the promise – they are great first steps in a positive direction.

And, I wanted more from you. I wanted validation, empathy and an apology from you. I wanted proof you really understood my experience of your behavior. I wanted evidence you recognize my concerns and will willingly honor some or all of the boundaries I presented. But, I didn’t receive those things from you and I didn’t experience that sense of restoration. As a result, I continue to feel disconnected from you emotionally.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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