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Fear of Feelings! Treating Male Suicide & Depression
Male Suicide & Depression continuing education MFT CEUs

Section 7
Track #7 - How to Increase Intimacy with a 'Fishbowl Technique'

CEU Question 7 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Depression
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

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In the last track, we looked at homophobia.

Now let's discuss the ways in which the role of the male in our society affects how men relate to women. Here's an example of how I used a strategy called the Fishbowl Technique. You are probably familiar with this technique. So as I describe it, think about how you used this with your last client.

An example of this struggle with empathy is found in my client, 35-year old David, an accountant whom we discussed in a previous track. David was having trouble understanding why his wife, Amy, was angry with him. Amy had even threatened to leave him. David had not been spending much time with his family because of demands in the workplace. When he realized this, he tried to change his behavior and tried to spend more time with the family, yet Amy was still angry.

Every time she got upset, David became afraid and would try desperately to soothe her anger. He would do everything he could to stop her from being angry. During his third session he stated, when he came home late from work, without telling Amy, she expressed anger. He told her it would never happen again. David was confused as to why Amy would not be satisfied with his response.

I explained to David, "Intimate relationships require empathy. But as you said you are struggling to understand Amy. Part of the problem may be that you, like many men, have difficulty understanding your own feelings. Thus, as you stated, you cannot empathize with Amy's feelings."

Share on Facebook The Fishbowl Technique - 3 Steps
To help David feel empathy, I told him to use the Fishbowl Technique. Here's how I used this technique with David:

Step # 1 - Observe from an Objective Viewpoint
I told him, "Envision Amy and yourself in a fishbowl as you are arguing. Look at your behavior from an objective viewpoint now. A key to this exercise is for you to observe your external communication. As you see yourself talking with Amy, listen to the volume, force, pace, pitch, and tone of your voice." After some discussion, David stated, "I can see myself being louder and more assertive than I had thought I was."

Step # 2 - Pay Attention to Internal Communication
A second part to the Fishbowl exercise, after observing his external communication, was to have David paid attention to his internal communication. He listened to his self-talk to attempt to figure out exactly what he was feeling. By doing this, he realized that he was actually feeling hurt and frustrated and was trying to cover that up by being aggressive.

Step # 3 - Watch Nonverbal Communication
Also, in examining his internal communication through the Fishbowl, I told David, "Look at your nonverbal communication. Observe your facial expressions." David noticed that when he and Amy began to argue, he would tighten his lips and knit his eyebrows. He also noticed that he used angry hand gestures. After some discussion, he realized these hand gestures would be threatening to Amy.

As you know, the Fishbowl Technique is effective to enhance self-awareness. I told David he was able to use the eyes and ears of his imagination, as well as his physical senses, to observe his participation in his interactions with his wife. All of these were crucial in creating empathy towards Amy.

After trying the Fishbowl Technique, David realized he had never expressed to Amy his fear when she got mad. He saw himself as less of a man when she believed he was failing in a certain area. And as a result, he would become angry. He would do everything in his power to stop her from feeling angry, which denied her feelings.

Share on Facebook Three Preconditions to Empathy
After the Fishbowl Technique, I explained to David he might gain the empathy and the emotional connect he felt his relationship was lacking after three preconditions were met. As I describe these three preconditions, think of a client you are currently treating who might benefit from this information. The preconditions are trust, disclosure of emotions, and motivation to understand the other person.

-- Precondition # 1 - I told David, "First, you and Amy have to trust each other." If there's no basic level of trust, then neither partner will fully share himself or herself to the other.

-- Precondition # 2 - Second, there has to be the actual disclosure of emotions between the two. I explained to David, "A man often shares less, which means it's harder for the woman to show empathy for what she doesn't know about her partner." Men are often poor at having empathy for females, even though women are much more apt to share their feelings in the first place.

-- Precondition # 3 - Third, both must be motivated to understand each other.

Think of your David who is lacking intimacy. Would the Fishbowl Technique, perhaps followed by, or in conjunction with, information regarding trust, emotional disclosure, and understanding be beneficial? On the next track, we will discuss masculine narcissism.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What is a good follow-up for the Fishbowl Technique? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet?

 
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