Sometimes family sessions come to an impasse and it becomes more effective to move on, rather than continuing to escalate a disagreement. It is important to acknowledge that these stalemates exist and that they are part of healthy relationships.
“Agree to disagree” – Agree to disagree is an acknowledgement that each person has specific thoughts and feelings regarding a subject and that this disagreement can peacefully exist. There is no “right” or “wrong”, there is each person’s subjective truth about an experience or thought. “Agree to disagree” acknowledges the other person and their individuality and respects their freedom of thought or personal decisions.
“Permission to Disappoint” – Permission to disappoint realizes that we are each our own persons on our own journeys through life. Along that way, my decisions may affect the way you may perceive me and may not be what you would have chosen in a particular instance. Permission to disappoint acknowledges that in relationship, things that you may do will affect me and that I as a parent/child/spouse acknowledge that those things will occur and that we can move forward from them. Permission to disappoint doesn’t hold grudges or keep resentments.
“Short Version/Long Version” – There are times when we are so emotionally spent from our daily lives/jobs/studies that it becomes difficult to be able to communicate in depth and with meaning. We want to be able to hold space for our family and hear what may be important to them about an occurrence that happened during the day, but cannot empathetically hear a “laundry list” of specific details. Short Version/Long Version is an agreement that accepts those times where a partner wants to be heard and validated, but the other half doesn’t have the reservoir left to hold the space for them. “Give me Short Version” then becomes an agreement that one half will be given the space to provide a “Cliff Notes” version of events, with the understanding that if the partner needs clarification or at a later time can hold the space, ask for “Long Version”. This effectively creates the space for validity to occur, because they both are holding space for each other.
Family therapy is work. The joy in which I derive working with these systems is seeing significant change occurring in helping to guide and facilitate discussion and session. Couples and families don’t get “stuck” overnight. It is a pattern that has taken years to establish. Creating new ways of communicating and increasing congruency within the family is possible, however takes much time and patience. Challenging a family’s schema that is not working for them creates the opportunity for change with the added benefits of increased trust and harmony.
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