The last several posts on this blog have described the purpose of recycling dramas in couple relationships and the four types of recycling dramas. A succinct statement of the goal of Neurodynamic Couples Therapy is to turn recycling dramas into repairing dramas. Couples have already been naturally experiencing recycling dramas before they come to treatment. The job of the therapist is to help a couple make the transition from recycling old childhood feelings to fully metabolizing and healing those feelings together.
From the first session, couples are telling us their stories about what it has been like to be them and which wounds, losses and traumas are awaiting metabolizing. They do this through playing out their assigned roles in their recycling dramas. The feelings that need to be relived in order to be metabolized become present spontaneously. In recycling dramas, the partners then blame each other’s present behavior for causing these feelings, instead of allowing themselves to be conscious of the true historical origins of their feelings.
Facilitating a repairing drama requires the therapist to interrupt the recycling drama, help the partners accurately label the feelings they are experiencing in the present, reinforce that these feelings are indeed valid, and guide the partners toward discovering the childhood origins of these feelings instead of focusing on blaming each other. In other words, the therapist assists the couple in creating a new ending to the old drama — a new repairing ending that helps their brains finish the metabolizing of those old wounds, losses and traumas and leads to a permanent transformation of both selves and their relationship.
It is important to emphasize here that all repairing dramas are a re-direction of a recycling drama. Repair cannot happen until a recycling drama invites childhood feelings into consciousness. Therapeutic intervention then helps a couple replace blame with genuine empathy and understanding. The frequent bonus of this process is that partners discover amazing levels of similarity in their childhood feelings, bolstering their budding empathy. One partner will turn to the other with childlike innocence in his or her eyes and say, “You mean you felt that way, too!” They have never been aware that this matching childhood pain is usually a significant piece of their attraction to each other from the beginning of their relationship.
There are three primary therapeutic skills involved in fostering repairing dramas. These will be further described and illustrated in the next three posts: 1) translating adult conflicts into child language that evokes the precise feelings that need to be repaired; 2) encouraging deeper and deeper explorations into feelings until the childhood experience of them is truly understood and felt by all parties; and 3) helping couples tolerate the heartbreaking pain that accompanies conscious awareness of childhood wounds, losses and traumas.
About the author:
Jana Edwards, MSW, LCSW, BCD is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specialized in treating couples in her private psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado, for 35 years. Through her experiences with around 200 couples, she developed Neurodynamic Couples Therapy. She has taught workshops for therapists on her method for the past 10 years and provides consultation services to many couples therapists.