Before psychologists are unleashed on the public, they’re formally trained in a variety of therapeutic approaches, each with characteristic ways of looking at human behavior. But it’s the informal descriptions of human interaction that psychologists use most to understand and guide their clients. One of those I learned from Dr. Vilma Ginzberg, while attending one of her group therapy sessions several years ago.
After a client claimed her “life was going great,” Vilma noted that she said so in a gloomy tone of voice while sitting on her hands with her shoulders caving inward. Vilma told her: “When I look at you, the words, the music, and the dance don’t line up.”
What a great description! I thought. I can use that. And I have ever since. In that simple, poetic, informal expression, Vilma provided a way to move to a more productive level. She continued: “Often our words say one thing, while the way we deliver them—the music—says something else. Add to that the physical component, such as how we sit, move, and respond in situations—the dance—and you can tell a lot about a person’s desires and emotional state.” After Vilma stopped talking, the client began to cry, openly sharing the difficulties in her life. Vilma then said: “Now all three are in line. How does it feel to be in sync?” The woman gathered herself and said: “It feels honest.”
Years later, another of those wonderful short-hand phrases came to my attention, which I immediately stole and use often. A client talking to a different psychologist shared his confusion over being told “I love you” by a woman he was dating who seemed increasingly unavailable as time went on. “Stop listening to her words,” he said. “Instead, watch her feet.” Wow! I thought, filing away the concept. “People say lots of things,” he went on. “The truth is more closely aligned with what they actually do. No doubt she’s lying. She says she loves you, but she keeps walking away.”
That got me thinking about the expression: “I love you”—how sometimes it’s said with music swelling in the background, other times as a perfunctory response—“I love you, too”—void of emotion and at times even eye contact. Still other times, “I love yous” fall somewhere in the middle. What I’d prefer to hear from someone unwilling to even look up is: “I don’t love you at all. In fact, I don’t even like you.” There’s honesty in that. The words, the music, and the dance line up.
I’ve long been a lover of people who show up, appreciating them immensely since most people in life don’t. People who show up put out the effort, pointing their feet in our direction. If, when they arrive, the things they say and the ways they say them are a delight to hear, they have us. We’re all in. (There’s another one I learned along the way: People who show up versus people who stay home.) Some people initiate to build and maintain relationships while others kick back, expecting others to do the heavy lifting.
Here are a few other short-hand descriptors I picked up and often employ because of their simple truth and usefulness …
Depression equals inactivity. To reduce depression, start doing things.
Anxiety is the gap between the present and the future. To return to the present, breath.
Appreciation yields abundance. Appreciate what you have and you’ll soon have a lot more of it.
We’ve all been told we’re soon to get a raise, the check’s in the mail, and the Cub’s will sweep the Series. Great words, but reality varies. Long ago I learned to listen to peoples’ words and more importantly watch their feet, always making sure the words, the music, and the dance line up.