A New Kind of Marriage and Family Encounter and a Statement of Human Needs

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A NEW KIND OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY ENCOUNTER
AND A STATEMENT OF HUMAN NEEDS

 

I had a dream a year ago.  It was so real I had to readjust to this reality.   In the dream a pair of adults was confronting another pair of adults, similar to marriage encounter.  However, during my actual experience of marriage encounter, couples would hear a lecture or discussion by a lead couple.  Then the group is split up with each couple having a private setting and expected to solve their difficulties separately.  For many couples, no real insight was given how to solve the problem.  In my dream, a couple and their relatively mature children, usually over the age of 14, would be paired with another couple and their children.  Of course, confidentiality was the rule.  Even if one made a dangerously aggressive statement, no discussion outside the setting was permitted.   The group would attempt to interpret the statement and get the party to understand why he or she made the statement.

 

In this speech all references are to my dream encounter unless otherwise noted.  Furthermore, since this speech is subject to possible additions, it should not be considered a completed work at this time.

 

Those desiring to attend the marriage and family encounter would be mailed the themes and questions related to the themes.  Some of the material would not be the subject of discussion unless the discussions were held as if the problems happened to third parties.  No one is to be asked questions which could intimidate him.  No judgmental statements would be permitted at any time.

 

Other ground rules for my encounter groups would be the following:  Time limits are set, and everything could be discussed, subject to the consent of members of each group.  Some themes for discussion would be the storing of mistakes of one party against another, when mistakes are really learning experiences in the growth of individuals, countries, worlds, and universes; matrimonial and sibling rivalry;   parent-child rivalry, and other love/hate relationships; child abuse and incestuous tendencies; feelings of rejection, fear of failure and success; drug abuse; and medical and other psychological problems.  Even problems related to others not in the groups could be subjects for discussion, so long as the person is not identified.

 

Everyone is requested to and given a chance to speak.  In this way comments might not be made later that someone did not contribute or get a chance to contribute.  If someone did not speak up, perhaps because he was fearful of criticism, his reticence would be discussed.  No judgmental statements would be permitted at any time.  In this manner perhaps a child would overcome the feelings resulting from the commonly made statement parents make to their children, that “Children should be seen and not heard.”   This statement usually causes a child to hide out and not learn to express himself or do something inappropriate to get attention from others.

 

Since the encounter would be conducted with unconditional love, everyone would be  encouraged to speak up and not forced to listen to an extended tirade by another (of course,  these tirades would be less likely if the discussions were held about third parties.  Speaking and listening to extended tirades is how many couples share with each other in their belief that he or she can reform the “malfeasant” party.  Many times these tirades tend to be viewed as loveless, dominating, unfair and unreasonable criticisms of one or both of the parties.  Since many are not educated in confrontational techniques and their mates feel threatened or intimidated, many women give up on their mates, drive them out, or move out with their children.  Many men have not been encouraged to speak up, or if they have, they were judged.  Either mate may come home and carry his or her problems home, and are not able to hear, listen to or respond to another member of the household.  Or because the workday was boring and/or difficult, he or she might carry the boredom and feeling of frustration home.  Or he or she may feel resentful because he may believe another family member may have had a softer day than he.

 

Coincidently, during my writing of this discussion my cat woke up.  Here he was, making noise while I was trying to concentrate.  I petted him, but he still kept making noise.  I stopped and listened to him, and based upon past experience, deduced that he was hungry.  I then fed him.   How many of us fail to really listen to our children or mate, interpret their needs, respond to them in a loving manner and thereby make them feel important?  Perhaps the non-responding party feels that he has had enough confrontation for the day.  However, his pet might get more attention from him than other family members would!

 

In my dream the families in the encounter groups moved about, not staying long in any setting.  In this manner a family grouping would get various opinions, always worded, “If I were in that situation, I would…"  No one monopolized the conversation, and everyone would have his turn, even the children.  When anyone spoke, everyone in the setting listened to the party speaking.

 

The encounter group could discuss the theme of bias hate and bias hate crime.  I once heard of a child mentioning that on many occasions he heard his father state prejudicial comments about racial and religious groups. After years of listening to his father’s diatribe, the child responded by asking his father what he could do to support his father in his anti-racial and anti-religious campaign.  The child’s father realized the possibly deadly implications of his actions and felt so embarrassed by his son’s statement that he never made such negative comments in the presence of his son again. (For more on bias hate crime and other subjects, such as child abuse, see my website, “www.davidhakim.com.”

 

In the theme of sexual attraction, the lead couple could discuss the following scenario:  A man stated to his wife that he loved her friend.  This occurred because the other woman came around their home and took her sweater off and on (she had a blouse on).  Since the woman was very beautiful and had a fantastic figure, this drove the man wild.  His wife did not seem to notice what the other woman was doing.  If this discussion happened at the usual marriage encounter, the man probably would fail to state that he seems to love everyone, but that he loves his wife more, in a dear and special way.  If he were in a group setting, perhaps someone would save the marriage by inquiring whether he cared for his  wife at all.

 

More on sexual attraction:  Because of the need for preservation of the species, I believe the need for sex and sexual attraction is at least equal to if not greater than any other need, including the needs for survival, self-actualization and eating.  Some years ago Time Magazine published an article stating that despite being married, many men generally have more than one sexual partner during their lifetime because of this overwhelming attraction (some say, “to sow their wild oats”).  Some women have more than one partner to create more intelligent offspring.  Because of these intense needs, I believe it is foolish to get a divorce just because of adultery, especially considering the impact divorce has on the family unit.  Of course, if the man or wife makes the act of adultery an immense issue, and the group encounter and/or marriage counseling does not help, there may be no recourse but to have the marriage terminated.

 

In the theme of sexual development, the leaders would mention that the infant seems to make everything a plaything, an object of affection or sexual object.  One of the major purposes of parenting is to see that the child outgrows this preoccupation.  The leaders would also mention that at the pre-adolescent stage of development a child is attracted to his or her own sex, with the purposes being substantially self-discovery and subconscious sexual interest.  In addition, some children are prevented from, cannot contemplate or fear experiencing non-sexual intimacy with children of their own sex.  In addition, the maturing individual who wants only to experience sex with someone of his own sex may believe he is gay where it may be a passing phase.  Or the young adult who does not experience non-sexual intimacy with his own sex may subconsciously hold off getting serious with the opposite sex.  Even if he is dating the opposite sex, he may become aggressive and scare off a future mate or get “cold feet” and search for another.

 

These examples of sexual development can be carried even further.  The male with a sexual dysfunction who sets up an indefinite gay relationship may discover that his choice of his own sex was premature.  It may have been only an attempt to experience a needed phase of his own sexual development toward development of a heterosexual relationship.  Or, if he or she is truly gay or lesbian, and finds himself or herself in a heterosexual relationship, he or she may discover the truth and end the relationship or subconsciously set into play behavior which may destroy the relationship.

 

Another theme for the marriage and family encounter could be about power.

 

We can be born into this life with parents who can create for us tremendous feelings of power or powerlessness.  A tremendous feeling of power results when our parents cater to our needs and wants.  A tremendous feeling of powerless can result when our needs and wants are hardly satisfied and we are abused.   Either way trauma may later occur.  The child with a great feeling of power may find that the world will not cater to his whims, and the child who feels powerless may become fearful, non-expressive, inferior, unable to set goals and carry them through to successful completion, or believe that others are abusing him when it is not true.  Support for this proposition can be found in the writings of Dr.  Thomas Kelley of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on “power of mind.”  Briefly, it is the belief that people see or hear what they want to see or hear, that their preconceived view of the universe dictates what they see or hear.  For example, if a person was abused as a child, he would perceive that another, especially his mate, has or is trying to abuse him.  However, it may be impossible to overcome a dysfunctional abusive state of mind.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless  physical injury results.  Some couples actually thrive on the excitement derived by abusive encounters and may need it as a prelude to sexual intercourse.

                                                                                   

It would be explained at the encounter that the ideal is to raise the child with love; never a denial of love; strict discipline; no corporal punishment; and to assign the child tasks progressively more difficult and compatible with his age, tasks that he can accomplish, and praise when the tasks are accomplished.   In this manner the child may know he is loved and has confidence to accomplish his goals.  He may know that true power is power over self and that he does not have to prove anything to anybody.  With this upbringing he is more able to think for himself and less likely to make someone else his God whom he has given the power to dictate life and death for himself.

 

Another theme at the encounter group should be a discussion of the death wish:  A person subconsciously or consciously desires to pass on because either he has a learned desire for a better life (i.e., for heaven) or he desires to escape a troubled life.  I believe the death wish is universal but usually stays unconscious unless the individual is troubled.  I believe that other than one’s ignorance, the drug user who mixes crack or cocaine use with alcohol has a conscious or subconscious wish for death.  I also believe that the extremely violent individual, especially one that commits murder, would choose to end his life by suicide except that he is unable to.  For this reason I believe that capital punishment is not a deterrence to any crime, because the person who commits murder actually wants to die.

 

Another theme at the encounter group should be drug use.   It should be explained that other than experimental use of drugs which occurs with one’s peer group, the most common use of illegal drugs comes about because street drugs are more easily available than legal prescription drugs, both of which are commonly used to overcome nervousness.   Cigarettes should be recognized as a highly addictive drug with more potency than most illegal and legal drugs.  More free clinics should be organized to treat all forms of drug addiction.  A medical professional licensed to prescribe medication should staff each clinic and group therapy should be suggested to the client.  In this manner perhaps the war against drugs may someday be won.

 

It is my hope that someday my dream encounter will become true. Perhaps with these encounters we will see less of the need of bumper stickers such as, “Hatred is not a family value,” or “Hugs, like apples, keep the doctor away.”

 

David C. Hakim                                                                        Rochester, Michigan                                                                         August 29, 2004