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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.
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.
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."
Step # 1 - Observe from an Objective Viewpoint
Step # 2 - Pay Attention to Internal Communication
Step # 3 - Watch Nonverbal Communication
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.
Three Preconditions to Empathy
-- 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.
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