By Carrie Crossman
As the pandemic crosses the one-year threshold, relationship strain within households is understandably at an all-time high. Parents who are still overseeing school at home while also working from home are facing an added layer of stress.
I had the privilege of working with one such dad that recognized he needed help releasing some negative feelings and getting back on track for the sake of his marriage and family unit as a whole. I present this case as a testimony to the power of unfinished conversations with someone who is still very much alive and even living in the same house–during a pandemic.
Dan is a 50 year-old father of two teenage girls, who presented with intense feelings of resentment, anger, and sadness after he learned his oldest daughter decided she would not return to her boarding school. This was the third session with this client; he is very comfortable with tapping at this point and we have previously worked through some childhood trauma. He came to me desiring palliative relief around this very specific present-day event.
We started our session with heart coherence and, because he was very agitated, we also added a short EcoMeditation to help him ground and become calmer. As we then talked and tapped, he explained the situation with his daughter deciding not to return to boarding school (the same school he went to) and how he was very torn because he could see the positives (mainly wanting his daughter to be happy and enjoy her experience) in her decision but he was also very disappointed and sad because he loves the school and feels if she could stick it out, it would be a good experience.
We tapped (Full Basic Recipe) on several charged aspects of the conversation in which he learned from his wife about his daughter’s final decision. I asked him to imagine walking back in to have the conversation with his wife. He offered these shifts: “Why would I be mad that my kid is at home? Of course, that is great! I feel looser and more chill now. And I really feel like I want to get out of this ‘groove.’”
The one aspect that was still triggering for him, however, related to his wife and Dan feeling like she “won” since his daughter decided to do what his wife wanted. When I asked how he knew she won, he said it was because of “her smug look.”
We tried many rounds of the Full Basic Recipe with 9 Gamut, but Dan’s SUD level would not move below a 4, and during the last round he said, “I am just getting more and more resentful of what my wife did.” Dan felt the situation was too volatile and he was too upset to be able to have a productive conversation with his wife in real life, so I offered an “empty chair” to him so he could invite his wife to have the conversation.
He first expressed his anger and resentment to her for getting involved and making it personal, and that it felt like she was against him. This shifted into more specific feelings of not feeling like they were “together” as a parenting unit and how he felt like he was on the outside. I asked him to tell her what he needed in order to feel included in the process and he told her, “Be present for conversations, acknowledge my school is a good school, not gloat.”
I then had him switch roles and he spoke to himself as his wife and said, “I don’t want you to take it personally, I wanted to handle this so you could focus on work, I wanted to feel useful right now since I am not working, and I was on the outside and I want to be included.”
We were unfortunately at the end our session, so we put the conversation in a box in his office for now. Dan expressed that he felt happy for his daughter and more hopeful that he could work on his relationship with his wife. He said, “I want to feel I am communicating well with my wife, and I now feel like I am calmer and more centered to be able to work on this with her.”
Dan sent me an email two weeks after our session saying he had actually been able to have that conversation with his wife, and he was shocked that some of what he said in the session as her was nearly the same as what she actually said. He thanked me for getting him to the place he could have that conversation, as now a sense of peace and calm had been restored in their home and he and his wife felt like partners again.