Today I was working with a young couple who like most at a point in the early family and career-making stages of life, struggle to come to terms with the stress, pain and loss associated with transitions. It was the second session and the young, European couple, of mixed national backgrounds, began to reveal how their thinking was past and future orientated in so many ways.
My hunch about the couples therapy at that moment emerged – they were going to the past of who they were when they originally met to soothe themselves about the frustrations about where they were now (feeling stuck as individuals) and as result as a couple, feeling increasingly unhappy together. My hunch emerged further – their persons and personalities, to each other, had undergone extensive “flattening”, as the blame thrown to the other for what was going wrong for them and in their couple mounted.
I found myself in the session trying to reach out to feel the frustration of who they were as individuals and at the time, I felt this to be the ‘work’ of the moment. (note: it may be something of model reminder for work with individuals with a contemporary, western cultural background and experience, that the order to consider is individual frustration first, couple frustration second). As I started thinking of my couple as individuals needing to hear, feel and see each other again, it came to me – Shrodinger’s cat, the thought experiment in theoretical physics!
No expert on the matter, the idea that we never know the state (i.e. dead or alive) of cat in the box until we open it, and that we effectively have to imagine and consider the cat inside, as being anywhere in a continuum of alive to dead in the box, to really live the quantum reality, became an interesting metaphor. I didn’t explain it to them in the 54th minute of what was to be 1.5hr session, but, I suddenly knew what I felt could be useful – a little reminder that the other is wife/husband, woman/man, each a career professional, each a social being, each with a worldview, each with individual needs and a personal path (that is spiritual even if you let it be). At the time we didn’t’ exactly do what I am proposing as a potentially fresh new couple’s therapy intervention. That is, each in the couple take turns viewing the other as the cat in Shrodinger’s box, observing the other in a continuum of themselves and all that they are or might want to be. The forgetting of this is problematic to the individual, man or woman, same sex etc. and the intervention designed to promote the summoning of the individual in more full view, may be restorative to a couple’s communication, fruitful to a compassionate understanding and accepting of the other’s needs, while it promotes a critical self-evaluation of how the man/woman has ‘othered’, ‘gendered’, ‘boxed-in’ the other as part of their couple narrative.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA