(To learn more about YUM - A Game for Couples, please go to the YUM website.)
I’m Not a Salesman…
I am a fairly solitary person. I’m rarely happier than when I’m walking in the woods alone, or sitting by a campfire, notebook in hand. If I am going to spend time with other humans, I tend to go in for long uninterrupted one-on-ones. This personality trait probably has something to do with my chosen profession of psychotherapy.
I’m not a salesperson. In fact, I feel really uncomfortable pushing anything on anyone. Live and let live, find your own way etc. But somehow, I find myself about to launch a product. And thus, find myself in a position of having to articulate what it is and why it’s good - indeed, why you should buy it. Ugh. If I see myself behaving at all like a salesperson I get squeamish. So, I’m writing this to try to tend to that squeamish part, and find a middle road.
So How Did This Happen?
I’ve been working as a psychotherapist for ten years now. I’m also a perpetual student of the craft - reading and studying about how to be with another person in a way that is most useful to them. And, while every client encounter is unique, there are certain abiding and universal themes.
Sometimes I think of what I do as helping people to be free. But free from what? Free to do what? I might answer: freedom from limiting emotional and behavioural patterns, freedom to live in service to their own souls, and freedom (capacity) to engage in fulfilling relationships.
How Childhood Adaptation Leads to Adult Incapacitation…
Every school of psychotherapy has its own way of talking about what we do, but there’s a great deal of crossover. For example, every school of therapy recognises that the early years are formative. As children we are supremely adaptable survivors. As a part of this process we internalise emotional maps of the world. These maps are not sophisticated, but they settle in deep, beneath the level of consciousness, and inform our everyday experience.
“If I let anyone get too close I’ll get hurt.”
“I must avoid all conflict in order to avoid isolation.”
“If I am articulate and impressive I won’t be rejected, people will love me”.
That last one is one of mine. These are not conscious thoughts but implicit emotional maps. We all have them, though without psychotherapy it can be hard to work out what they are, and even harder to find a way to work with them effectively.
Parts of Self - The Street Kids of the Psyche
One of the wonders of the human psyche is that these internalised rules show up as seemingly autonomous parts of self. They’re unsophisticated, but very powerful, and they often hijack the whole organism. In Gestalt therapy we talk about creative adjustments informing parts, and in Jungian psychology we talk of complexes. In other psychoanalytic schools these phenomena are less helpfully referred to in terms of defences. In yet other schools of psychotherapy we might hear of sub-personalities, or emotional schemas. The point is that every psychotherapeutic map has a way of sketching out and grappling with this territory.
These parts of self show up in all aspects of life, often manifesting alongside anxiety or depression. But there is one place where they show up with unmatched ferocity and monotonous regularity: intimate relationship. While these parts of self generally pick up their burdens in relationship to our parents, they deploy spectacularly in relationship to our boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives.
Working on parts of self with individuals is tender work. Sometimes we are engaging with inner critics and task masters. In most instances, these “protector” parts are trying to shield other “young” or “wounded” parts, parts that are craving closeness but terrified of it at the same time. Most of us carry more than one of these half-starved street-kids of the psyche. Parts that find it hard to trust, hard to open, hard to let down their walls. When threatened, they freeze, flee, or go on the attack. Often they’re resigned to solitude and are sadly more comfortable in a state of disconnection that true connection.
Parts in Relationship…
There’s a lot to explore here, but in this blog I want to focus on relationships. When two people form a couple, they also unwittingly form a kind of unintentional community of these intra-psychic street kids. And, once the honeymoon is over, all of these parts make themselves felt. Sometimes they hook into each other unhelpfully. Perhaps one of your parts withdraws from contact for fear of hurt, and this activates the part of me that is terrified of abandonment. Before long we find ourselves in difficult interactions - activated, angry, scared, defensive, or resentful. We are often stunned and confused by our own feelings or the words of our partners.
It’s hard to navigate these interactions. A lot of couples break up, only to find similar issues in their next relationship. Some couples find their way to couples counselling, but often only when it is too late. For those who do find help, it’s often prohibitively expensive and frustratingly infrequent. What is more, some couples arrive in therapy with a resigned sense of having failed, and of handing over their relationship to someone else to try and fix.
How YUM helps…
This is where our product - YUM - comes in. You can read all about the birth of YUM on the YUM website. The short version is that YUM didn’t start out as a product. My partner Emily and I met studying Gestalt Psychotherapy. This gave us a good head-start in navigating relationship. When we met, I had two sons, and she had two daughters. We made a blended family and then had twins. With six kids under twelve we had our hands full, not to mention the comings and goings of the older kids and negotiating parenting with exes. So, to help us with all of this, we developed our own structured meetings or check-ins.
The structure of these meetings was essential in helping us to find ways to work with our community of psychic street-kids - to listen generously, share honestly, and move through emotional resistance with connective touch. These check-ins developed in sophistication over time. We read things, listened to podcasts, attended workshops and experimented a great deal. And since deciding to take YUM public, we’ve refined it even further.
The Power of YUM
YUM is many things, but I personally feel that its simple genius comes in the form of the container it provides. YUM interrupts your habitual ways of interacting with your partner. It gives each person the time and space to feel and communicate, and it invites each to share about the things that truly matter.
YUM has been so good to us that we have decided to share it with the world. So here we are, reluctant sales people simply saying, here’s an amazing way to give your relationship some love. For our part, we hope to make the world a better place, one relationship at a time. So far, the feedback has been glowing…
Give Your Relationship Some Love…
So, I still feel squeamish pushing a product, but I also feel like there are a lot of people who could benefit from this. So here goes... ROLL UP! ROLL UP! Get your relationship enhancing copy of YUM today! For the cost of less than one-third of a couples-therapy session. It’s the bargain of the century!