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
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.
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
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