Individual and Couple Therapy
in Tacoma and Seattle

Tacoma Office near Proctor District

35th & N. Cheyenne St

Ample Free Parking

Tacoma Detailed Directions

 

Seattle Office on Greenlake

Greenlake Wellness Group

7900 East Green Lake Drive North, Suite 202

Free Convenient Parking

Greenlake Office Detailed Directions

 

(253) 240-0625

parke@parkeburgess.com



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« Shame in the Bedroom | Main | Being Witnessed »
Friday
Aug112017

Interaction

We tend to think of ourselves as individuals going about our business. Things from the outside happen to us and then we react. We admit, of course, that we also “happen” to others and they react to that. But I think we tend to overlook, or over-simplify, what goes on there.

We tend to notice the big effects. When you insult me I feel angry or maybe ashamed. When I massage your shoulders you feel good or maybe loved. But what we may not see are the micro-events that occur unceasingly between us. How I look at you, or the way my look causes you to feel some small worry—so small you may not notice it in the flow of daily life but, upon reflection, there it is all the same. These tiny exchanges of action-and-response can form long chains that extend over weeks, months, decades, a lifetime.

In all that time we may only notice those most visible links where something dramatic happens. There is an explosion of temper, a breaking down into despair, an upwelling of love or lust. But these are just punctuation to a continuous weave of interaction. The big, memorable events emerge from this weave and cannot be fully grasped without it. When we chart only those outstanding moments we likely miss the actual logic that governs them.

In therapy, it is tempting to tell our stories of the big events—those that have punctuated the long trajectory of our life and those of the past week. But we may have trouble making sense of the big events if we lack the fine-grained understanding of the tiny interactions that form the chain linking these big events together. Part of the value of therapy, then, is to create a space to explore much more subtle features of our experience, to familiarize ourselves with the hidden stories within and around the big stories we already know.

These little bits of experience bring us closer to our own body. The granular detail of living reveals itself in small sensations, the quanta of experience. We begin to notice the feel of our tears ducts welling, or the rise of heat in our chest, a sense of constriction in the throat, our stomach tightening or sickening—little cues we might usually miss that nevertheless structure with precision what we do next, to which, in turn, another person reacts. Every moment of social interaction is like this. Even when we are alone, it is also like this—we react, after all, to ourselves. Whether solitary or social, interaction is always happening.

Therapy, too, is made entirely of interaction. When we bring explicit awareness to interaction, to the internal chains we build and the social chains that flow into and out of these internal chains, we begin to fathom the sheer complexity of human living and, together, we begin to know ourselves in the richness and intricacy that we all are.

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