+ How do you get someone to look at their issues if they don’t want to? – November – 05
I am enjoying your profoundly irreverent letters very much.
I think you are a naughty man.
I have a patient for lower back pain. She also has many
emotional conflicts and issues within her. She shows no
interest in addressing these issues. The opposite in fact.
Here is my question.
Is it possible to invoke someone to address their issues if they
don’t want to?
P.S. Be nice.
Cute . .
When someone first comes to me for treatment, after the
initial, ‘Hello’, and ‘Take a seat.’ etc. The first question I ask is,
‘What can I do for you?’
and then I shut up,
Whatever their answer is, is what they are asking me to help
‘No kidding Sherlock.’
That may sound obvious but it’s surprising how many
therapist don’t get it. From the sounds of it, you might be one
of them. [That’s me being nice, in case you missed that too.]
Whatever they answer to question, ‘What can I do for you?’
‘I want to sleep better.’
‘I want the headaches to stop.’
‘I want to stop attracting the wrong man/woman.’
‘I want to stop feeling so anxious.’
‘I want to get rid of my fibromyalgia’
It goes to form what I think of as a contract between us. It
forms the boundaries within which I work and a declaration on
their part of what they want assistance with.
Let’s say someone asks me to help them with a very physical
problem and while treating them, I palpate lots of emotional
disharmonies. If the emotional disharmonies are NOT causing
the particular physical symptoms I have been asked to help
with, then it would be very bad juju for me to try and start
working on the emotional issues.
First and foremost it’s disrespectful.
It’s like passing someone on the street struggling to carry
a new TV into their house. They ask me to help them carry
the TV into the house with them. I do this but once inside the
house I get a dose of ‘Queer eye for the straight guy,’ and take it
upon myself to redecorate the hall, stairs and landing
because, ‘Let’s face it, this person has shocking taste!’
Secondly, it’s more efficient to stick to the contract because it
can always be renegotiated in the future.
How come you are able to palpate the emotional issues in the
You can only ever see what you are shown.
If you stay within the bounds of the contract, it leaves space
for the person to say to you down the track, ‘I think I would
like you to help me deal with my emotional issues.’
It may sound unlikely but it happens. It’s another form of
trusting that the person will allow you deeper when they feel
safe. You’re job is not to invoke them to address their issues
but to provide the safest space you can, allowing them to feel
empowered enough to address their issues, if they’re ready to.