Well, I have to kind of buckle myself down to cope when I don’t have him to talk to, don’t have my usual outlet for frustration and satisfaction. And I can only do that for so long. I can keep myself really well controlled for a while. Then I can’t do it anymore, That’s when I melt down and get real emotional.

In reaction to Sheila’s emotionality, Dave becomes even more focused and detached. He feels guilty because Sheila’s “meltdown” is his fault. Yet, he also seems to be resentful of Sheila’s lack of support for his own personal problems. While Dave sees his coping strategy as pulling in and focusing, Sheila sees it as an emotional withdrawal from her. It is important to note that the couple seems to have agreed upon the punctuation of this process: Dave hunkers down, Sheila melts down, conflict arises and reconnection is made. This sequence of events does serve to alleviate conflict, for Dave expresses his sense of guilt about causing the meltdown and Sheila responds by accepting his responsibility.

Sheila indicated during the interview that she does not see herself as responsible for Dave’s “emotional withdrawal,” while Dave indicated that: “whereas, often times, when she gets like this [meltdown], I feel like it’s my fault. What did I do?” This agreed upon punctuation serves a reconciling function for the couple and thus helps to keep the couple together. However, it is not at all clear from the description that Dave and Sheila give that this sequence is always what occurs. it is just as likely that Dave’s hunkering down is a response to Sheila’s mounting emotional demands. Much of the reason for the agreed punctuation lies in the differing levels of responsibility that are assumed by each party. Dave and Sheila seem to be unwilling to acknowledge Sheila’s own culpability in the precipitation of their conflict.

Digital and Analogical Messages

Humans have two ways of communicating. They can define things precisely in terms
of yes/no, good/bad and right/wrong categories. Much of the content aspects of communication is conveyed in this digital manner: “It is cold today.” “You should wear your gloves-if you’re going out in this weather.” “I think that we shouldn’t go out to dinner with Fred and Tamara tonight, given that it’s so cold outside.” These are digital statements that speak to facts in the world. Typically, digital statements are verbal, verifiable (you said so and so, didn’t you?) and subject to confirmation (is it really cold outside and should this influence my decision regarding glove or evening activities?)


Share this:

About the Author

Avatar photo

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

View all posts by William Bergquist

Leave a Reply