Counselling in Wokingham – Different Interpretations

Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406paulcockayne3@gmail.com
This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

In a couple relationship, we can interpret things, at times, quite differently to our partner.

An example from my recent work concerns the meaning of silence. In my work with a couple I shall call Bob and Liz, Bob was very comfortable to sit together in silence – he felt it was safe, companionable and comforting. Liz, on the other hand, felt that silence was a bad sign – that Bob was upset with her, or was feeling unwell. And so Liz tended to break silences, to try to start conversations, while Bob saw this as a bit of an annoyance, an interruption to a peaceful happiness.

The origins of these interpretations seemed to come from childhood – Bob came from a large family where there was a lot of noise, and so silences were relaxing for him, they were something he looked forward to, especially after a busy day at work. Liz came from a family where silences were sulky or angry, and so for her silences were stressful, she tended to think that if there was a silence, that meant something was wrong.

Counselling helped Bob and Liz to identify their different interpretations of silence, and hence to work with them differently. Liz was better able to accept silences as positive, better able to work with her instinct to break the silence, to fix the problem. Bob was aware that silences could be stressful for Liz and so recognised the need, sometimes, to break the silence himself, just to reassure Liz that he was happy.

interpretationThis is just one example of how we interpret things in different ways – others might be punctuality or forgetfulness. And individual words, too, can carry very different meanings. Is ambition a positive or a negative trait? Is competition healthy or unhealthy? And what about our interpretation of events? You and your partner probably remember different things about events you were both at, and will have experienced different emotions when your were there.

We cannot separate ourselves from our past experiences, and equally we cannot separate ourselves from our present experience. In having a conversation with someone we will inevitably be experiencing it differently from them, and of course this can lead to misunderstandings, and thus to arguments.

In all this, there is no right and wrong. Couples can sometimes get embroiled in trying to establish the truth, and so can find themselves bickering about details of past events, or turning to the dictionary (or a counsellor) in search of a referee. In my experience, looking for a referee is not constructive. Far better to acknowledge that we all interpret things differently, that our interpretations are equally valid, and indeed are a source of interest that adds colour to our lives. If we all agreed all the time, the world would be a dull place!

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About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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