Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On sounding imperative

When I suggest that someone do an enactment, most of the time I have no trouble wanting the enactment to be done or not. But from another person’s point of view, when I say, “Do this,” it must sound like an order.

Your invitation may indeed sound like an imperative. However, you know that it is not. So if you suspect someone perceives your suggestion as an order, then “perceiving suggestions as ordering” might be the process to work with. Trust your intuition. The worst that will happen is that the person will not know what you are talking about and you will have to discover that sometimes your intuition is incorrect. So use your perception as an invitation and work with the response, whatever it is.

  • “What I just said sounded like I was ordering you about. Is that what you heard too? What is your experience when you are ordered to do something?”
  • I wonder why you come all this way and pay me money to order you around.” “Why would you do what I want you to do in session, instead of what you want to do?”
  • Order him to practice telling you, “No.” If he laughs or says some version of “I don’t want to practice that,” then being “ordered” is probably not one of his underlying issues. In any case, work with his response to your ordering.

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