February 23, 2016

How to Cut the Story and Get to the Heart of the Matter in 30 Minutes.


“What is bothering you most?” Jasmine, my therapist, asked.

I really didn’t want to drudge up this story again, but I was here to get some help. So I gave it a whirl. As I started to recount the bitter details of the fight I just had with my friend Alice, Jasmine asked me to stop talking. This was a first, I thought, my therapist is asking me to stop talking and we are not even five minutes into the session. Noticing the puzzled look on my face, Jasmine told me I had to stop the story.

Jasmine wanted me to cut the details. She wanted me to identify a single trait my friend was portraying—the one that I disliked the most. I was stumped. I began to talk again. “Well, Alice always knows best, she talks incessantly and over me. The other day she… “ Jasmine stopped me once again. I was reverting to my story.

Jasmine was really pushing me to dig deep, to get to the core of the matter. As I searched for the trait, I felt the same frustration, agitation and anger as I did when I was fighting with Alice. Well, Alice did have an opinion about everything.

As maddening as it was to identify this single trait, opinionated, it was no where near as exasperating as dedicating an entire session to going on and on about the same thing. And “the same thing” was what Jasmine called the story.

Jasmine will not let me or any of her clients tell her the story, because she feels it does not accomplish anything. It just stirs up the same thoughts that trouble us all week without providing relief. When Jasmine forces me to delve deeply to the core issue within the first five minutes of the session, she gets me to face what is really bothering me not simply dance around it by telling my story.

We tend to get stuck in our stories, but the story is just a different set of people and places. The underlying issue, the trait that we dislike, will continue to bother us until we identify it, define it and really understand why it bothers us so much. So instead of carrying this same problem that I have with Alice into another relationship, I am able to recognize my dislike for the trait of being opinionated and resolve it.

Jasmine does a few things—all of which are accomplished in 30 minutes—to help her clients recognize, understand and manage our behaviors when we are next faced with the trait we dislike.

1. Identify the trait we dislike/despise.

2. Describe the specific ways in which the person is portraying the trait .In this step, we list specific instances. For example, Alice was opinionated Tuesday afternoon when she told Sally and me that she could not possibly see the new movie because it was “stupid.”

3. Identify ways the person portrays the opposite of the trait. For example, Alice is openminded when it comes to trying new restaurants.

4. Finally, list the specific instances where we have portrayed the trait that we dislike/despise.

The last step is the hardest for me, but it really works. It is hard because I do not want to think of myself as portraying a trait that I dislike so much. As I think of the instances where I am opinionated, I start to feel hot, fidgety and angry. I am even tempted to leave the room. But once I identify the ways I too act in this way, I can then have compassion for my friend. This is the part of the session that helps me the most. I understand that it is just a trait; it does not define me. By taking ownership of the trait, I understand that no trait defines a person. It is just something, for good or for bad, we all exhibit at times.

But we push the trait away because we don’t want to think of ourselves in a way we dislike and I have found through my work with Jasmine, that the more I push away a trait the more I keep falling into situations where it confronts me. Now armed with the tools to not only recognize but deal with my own behaviors, I am able to manage what would once become a troublesome issue—all within 30 minutes and with a big sigh of relief.




Author: Jane CoCo Cowles

Editor: Travis May

Image: Flickr/Andrew Bowden

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Jane CoCo Cowles