On a recent long cross-country coach journey, I found myself sitting behind someone who, at the start of the journey, was having a long conversation on her mobile. She had one of those voices that carried the length of the bus, and inevitably, after some time listening to all the details, I found myself getting weary, irritated and more than a little fed up.
We’ve all been there!
However, it also got me thinking about times in a therapeutic session when the client might relate a story I struggle to listen to. It’s entirely boring. Or it’s been repeated innumerable times. Or it’s one of those stories where I simply lose the thread…
So – if the story has that effect on me, it probably has the same effect on others close to that person. What response does s/he get from those around? My response in the therapeutic space needs to be different.
If my mind wanders onto my “to do” list, or my own issues, how much does my process reflect the process of others for that person when they tell their story?
When I recognise that process, if I bring myself back into the present with the other person and their story, I can start to focus on their need in telling the story over and over.
What is it that they are gaining here? How can I enable them to recognise that need for themselves and then meet that need from within?
Perhaps, equally significantly, what am I missing from the story, so that it needs a constant re-telling?
How can I convey my physical and emotional responses to the other person in a way that enables them to reflect on the processes as well?
Obviously sitting on a coach or train is a different situation, and when the person in the seat in front of me finished their conversation, there was an almost audible sigh of relief from the whole coach!
And, yes – you guessed it – there was a tangible sharp intake of breath from the whole coach, when part way through the journey she had another phone conversation….you get the picture!
Food for thought.