THE PSYCHIATRIST AND HIS LADY: OWEN & ALEXANDRA
Names and data are changed to protect their identity
Owen is a psychiatrist. He is tall, handsome, quick, friendly, and sometimes ill tempered. His wife Alexandra is lovely – blonde, womanly, and an elegant hostess. She has a quick and sharp tongue; she is witty and sometimes sassy. A few months into their marriage they came to see me. Alexandra related: He doesn’t listen, he doesn’t understand. He was wonderful before we got married, attentive and caring. What happened to my love?” Alexandra was uncomfortable and angry. She shifted in her seat and looked at me. Owen was losing all his patience with her about what he should and shouldn’t do. I could see his eyes glaze over. I could see his mind leave the room as Alexandra went through a lengthy litany of complaints.
As I listened to them I noticed all the hallmarks of gender related problems. He stopped listening to her as she got more and more into her feelings, as she used more and more words and described her pain to him. Just like the current thinking, we should let it all hang out, we should tell the truth of how we feel. She related this event and that event. What he did, what she did, and what others said. I stopped her.
Then I talked to Owen. We discussed his opinion in the latest findings: Prozac issues with insurance, data facts. Owen seemed to perk up and we had a good discussion together, linear-to-linear, task-to-task, solution-to-solution. After a bit I said to him, “now listen how I talk to Alexandra.” I began to talk to Alexandra about my new rug, new movies, the weather, the newest fashions, did she want more coffee, and then about my rug.
I noticed that as I spoke to one the other one focused away and grew bored and annoyed. And then I told them what I had just done. With Alexandra, I talked the way women talked. With Owen, I talked about the way men talk. “Now Alexandra”, I said, “what did Owen and I talk about?”
“Oh you know, medicine and boring stuff”, she said.
And Owen, “what did Alexandra and I talk about?”
“The rug,” he said. After the rug and the movies he hadn’t been listening hard enough to notice anything else. I had video taped the session. We watched it together. We took note of Owen’s face as Alexandra and I talked. We saw that on the video that when she noticed him scowling, her response was to talk faster, and use more words. Using the film I showed Alexandra how she had lost Owen. He wasn’t following her circular mode of thought. He looked overwhelmed and annoyed.
Owen unable to follow her did what men often do when we use too many words/thoughts/messages, he zoned out. Unable/unwilling to follow he left the space.
Also it is said that woman’s verbal contact/way of speaking can actually overwhelm a man’s brain causing what therapists call flooding.
I told Owen that what he needed to do was to say something like I love you, but I am not following…could you use less words? Could you give me the headline about what you want.
I want to hear you but I cannot. MORE?
It is abundantly clear to me that Owen and Alexandra had a classic problem of men and women. They do not organize or speak the same language. In fact they use language quite differently. It took only a few more sessions to teach these two intelligent people their different modes of communicating.