Getting to the Second Step

I was introduced to the original "someone likes somebody" form of the understatement at our Midwest USA Teachers' and Leaders' Workshop in the fall of 1996. I have used it intermittently since then, sometimes intensively for a series of ten or more sessions.

For many months, maybe a year, I used it only in sessions having to do with relationships, past and present. It helped me discharge lots of fear on the theme of liking, being liked, being likable, etc. I still use it sometimes when my session is about these things, to great effect. In this application though, I'm using it as a contradiction to the heavy, scary feelings around relationships and their "difficulty."

I made other versions for other distresses I ran into: "It sometimes happens that someone fits in somewhere . . . that someone changes something." These are useful, but they are nothing compared to how the understatement idea started working for me in 1997.

Harvey talked more about it and demonstrated it at our Pre-World-Conference Conference in August, 1997. I had gotten bored with the "likes" understatement by then, tired of looking for discharge in the same spot, over and over. But I heard something new in Harvey's explanation this time: to use the understatement to go anywhere your thoughts take you.

This little bit of "permission" changed the understatement from a contradiction to an on-ramp to the information superhighway of my consciousness. My boredom with the understatement gave way to a whole new level of counseling. Giggles about the silliness of the statement gave way to what I'm calling "random access memory" and copious, spontaneous discharge of all kinds.

After several of these sessions, I felt that the only thing limiting the flow of my session was the pull to go to the "likes" distresses. The understatement was still pointing at these particular hurts. I decided, as an experiment, to try saying anything, any little piece of benign reality, that didn't refer to a particular distress of mine. I said, "It sometimes happens that the phone book has both yellow and white pages" (delightedly, with lilting emphasis on "and white"). My counselor and I were both surprised by what rushed in on me after a few repetitions. I found myself discharging terror that I usually find difficult to access. My thinking went beyond any incidents in my personal life and zoomed on to wars, holocausts, great social injustices . . . things I'd not been able to discharge on in a direct way.

Eight months later, the phone book line is still working well for me. As far as I can tell, what happens is that the extreme triviality of the statement provokes my intelligence into a reactive scanning for things it regards as "truly important." If I get in too deep and the discharge starts to shut down, repeating the phrase brings enough irritation to start me up again with renewed vigor.

Most of my Co-Counseling peers seem to be content with using the understatement as a contradiction, creating lines (or having their counselor create lines for them) that point at their distresses and usually contain a subtle direction, e.g., "It sometimes happens that someone finds her niche in the world." These are more akin to the long understatement - designed to specifically contradict the client's particular distresses in a somewhat general way. I don't see them releasing the client's intelligence to work freely, away from the distress, to the extent that I now know is possible.

Deb Eisenmann
Drury, Missouri, USA

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00