Thursday, October 6, 2011

Too Deep For Words

There are some couples out there who can articulate all their successes and failures and habits. They have all kinds of insight into the dynamics of their relationship. When you ask them how their relationship is going they have a thoughtful answer prepared, and they will make you think about your relationship too. They can impress individual and couples counselors with their ability to describe their marriage.

But there is little joy in their relationship.

And that's because they haven't learned how to just be together. They can sit and have a well-articulated conversation about the intricacies of the budget or the tendencies that the other person has that frustrates the other, but they can't take a walk and hold hands and simply enjoy one another. Their eloquence belies an emotional distance between the two of them.

There is recent evidence that the people who are least "successful" as therapy patients are the most articulate about their lives and therapy experiences. They can tell a therapist all their problems and describe their childhoods and family of origins with accuracy and insight, and yet they are destined for a life of sitting on a therapist's couch because they're not actually getting any better. But the people who are most successful actually over time become less articulate about their experiences in therapy. Healing for them takes place on a deep level, on a level too deep for sounds except for the Spirit's groan, and though they don't necessarily understand what is happening for them, they know that they are changing.

In his new book Sanctuary of the Soul, on the value and experiences of meditative prayer, Richard Foster counsels people who have sat in silence beholding the Lord not to share much of their experiences with others. He explains that hearing the whispers of the Lord is an intensely personal experience, and that if you try to express too much, you will first have a hard time putting your experiences into words, and second, sharing these things has a tendency to trivialize them.

I wonder if sometimes those of us who can talk articulately about our relationships - our marriages, our experiences in therapy and spiritual direction, our life in the Spirit - are distancing ourselves from what we really want?