Through my training as a counsellor, I was introduced to a practice within Narrative Therapy called Narrative letters and Narrative Poems.
The intention of these writings are to give the person we are working with a written form of witnessing and highlighting the person’s words and feelings, which have been accepted to be useful takeaways. This ultimately supports new perspectives in their lives, new sense of identity, confidence to act in a new way that aligns with their values and hope for their lives.
The research that was conducted from those who received these letters after their sessions were resoundingly positive. They were measured by how many sessions of progress the letter replaced. The average was 3.5 to 7 sessions.
This seemed such an amazing resource to tap into and so I began writing letters regulary early on in my practice.
My research with those I worked with seemed to reflect the same opinions as the initial research, they valued to these letters greatly. The process of writing the letter and seeing the effects this has on the people I work with has been so fulfilling and incredibly exciting to watch.
This process allows my creative writing and expression to come through the letters offering an outlet to reflect and create future possibilities for our work and to support the persons intentions for their life.
So when you work with me, I will offer a follow up letter for each time we meet, if you are willing.
A couple I have worked with has given permission for me to share the letter I wrote them after meeting them as a couple for the first session. Thank you to you both.
Of course names and any distinguishing details are fictional, to provide full confidentiality.
Hello Zoe and Frank,
I wrote this letter to offer another tangible witness to our conversation last night.
It is my hope I acknowledge all the main points and give honour to the intention of our meeting together to talk about what is most precious to you both, for now and for your future lives together.
The three hot topics/frustrations you gave expression for the presence of pain, hurt and stuckness you both feel in your relationship are ….
1. Togetherness time with each other is overly sacrificed for work commitments on a daily/weekly basis.
This was also referred to as ‘The Pressure’, you both get insidiously recruited into. You recognised this frustration is a ‘river runs deep’ wound, which means it has been around as an ongoing undercurrent of pain in your relationship and if it was to continue to have its ways with its ways of thinking it may create such disconnection that could be irretrievable for you both. Frank, you spoke of the overwhelming idea that originates and is enforced from your family, the work ethic “work comes first – if you work hard now, you can benefit from this later in life and become successful. To have free time, to holiday and be financially secure. On a daily basis this pervades your decisions which suggests work is the only commitment that requires your time and attention. This Pressure suggests you must people please to avoid disappointing clients/parents and staff. The pressure of the work also suggests if you ease up on the time you give it, you will not reach your financial goals, like owning a house debt free. This fearful or catastrophizing thinking also positions you to only consider work is your only value in your life. However this is not true for you and Zoe
So this leaves some questions for you both to consider, if you are willing?
What are the small but important ways in which you could honour your other values of
caring for your relationship and your future family.
I wonder what you both know of your strengths/skills of your relationship that ‘The
Pressure’ is not able to disable? If you were to engage in these strengths, what effect might this have on the powerful ideas of The Pressure?
2. The ‘negativity’ that is expressed triggers frustrations and fears, awakening coping mechanisms that exasperate your abilities to hear one another.
3. The ‘stubbornness’ that prevents you listening and validating for the other their different experience of the situation. The ‘Stubbornness’ suggests that “my way is the only right way’,this idea leaves no room for the other’s perspective to be present, which will position you both as adversaries.
You both expressed you long for your relationship to work for a long term view. Possibly a family etc.
You also said you would both like to feel loved, important, appreciated and cared for in ways that suit your different love languages and values.
You would like a relationship that is about supporting one another in each other’s interests and passions and spending quality time together that promotes a sense of being important to the other, a sense of connection and to feel worthy and accepted by each other.
Lastly, I want to acknowledge already some emerging alternative story to The Pressure of work vs spending quality time with each other.
Even to attend our meeting today Frank, you found some strategies that honoured what is important to you.
Frank, you were pleased to overcome The ‘pressuring thinking’ of completing a job, to make our meeting on time. You were able to do this by “locking in the time”, as “it was very very important.” by holding the idea “I want us to work” ,”I would love to have a family”.
You accepted this decision and challenged another powerful idea “of being time and cost efficient at all times”. Although this did have consequences, you were willing to accept them over the importance of your love and desire to make your relationship work with Zoe.
We recognise there will be some loss or effects of this decision, but it may require some more inquiry into how you weigh this up, day by day, moment by moment as there is only so much time and energy to give in each day.
We spoke of the concept of Boundaries, these are the parameters we define in our life and continue to protect them, especially when circumstances and people challenge these boundaries or values.
We also reflected on an opportunity and willingness to address these hot topics more in depth. To discover some small and steady incremental ways of change that could begin to reverse the effects of these frustrations and move you both closer to the relationship you both long for.
I hope this honours the key ideas you raised and if I have missed anything, I really welcome you to discuss these with me and I will include them in this document.
Hayley – an honoured witness to your love, determination and care for each other and your relationship.