February 18, 2009
February 18, 2009


The TV show, Reba, is used in this column to illustrate how reinterpretations of another’s idea can cause anger and havoc. Van‘s wife, Cheyenne stated to Van and the family that she wanted a simple, dignified wedding with only relatives present when they renewed their wedding vows. Van turned it into a circus, with the help of (Cheyenne’s step mother) Barbara Jean, which he insisted was what Cheyenne required. Cheyenne told Van, “You just don’t get it do you?“ Van proceeded to get angry with Cheyenne for her lack of gratefulness for what he perceived as giving her what she desired. Lack of understanding of each person’s position created a huge divide. The resulting disaster almost brought the couple to divorce.

Relationships amongst people run aground when anyone redefines the attitude held by another. Sometimes, a memory of how a person was years before contaminates the thought process. Van was recalling the years when his wife was a teenager, not realizing that five years later as a mother and a wife she no longer wished to have a carnival for a serious event. In life we often repeat the same error. I have a friend who is the same age is I am with children of similar ages. For several years I tended to recall her son as the runny nosed infant, forgetting that her son had grown as well as mine. There is comedy in life as well as on the screen.

Replaying any event from the past to identify the feelings of their loved one utilizes “Active Listening”. This is usually very helpful. However, Active Listening becomes hurtful when the listener refuses to give up the elucidation after it is refuted by the participant.

If a client disagrees with my explanation, then as a counselor I must redirect my questions to find out the client’s point of view. Then approach the problem from that vantage point and dismiss my own concept.

When it is between clients who need to readjust their misconceptions that can be as difficult as when Van and Cheyenne misunderstood each other’s intentions. They were both angry because neither could identify the other person’s point of view.

To become angry when misunderstood is a very common event amongst people. In fact, not only do couples experience this discordant reaction, but countries will fight until there is subjugation. Clearly we need to approach events with an open mind and illuminate the discussion with facts which are not always in accord with our own. Holding tight to a misconstruction causes frustration and anger. Only when we view the incident from another’s experience can we then arrive at a solution.