Sunday, January 10, 2016

Does He Do That Just to Annoy You?

OK, so you already know the answer. In the same way that you know how annoying it is when he/she tells you to please turn the music off, “I can’t study with that on.” Or, the opposite, “But I need the music on so I can study/cook/balance the checkbook.”

And do you have this in your home: “Why does the color of the sheets matter?” versus “They have to be flannel sheets and washed at least five times before we use them.”

There is a temptation—a great temptation—to interpret the sensory behaviors of those we love to be either designed to torture us or to be just plain wrong. “Do you really have to cut the tags out of your clothes?” “ Does he have to whistle while he drives?”

These issues affect any relationship—a romantic one or a friendship. And maybe you have been practicing acceptance, tolerance and compassion…until you’re about to blow. But now there is help.

Well, if not help then at least understanding. A new friend shared with me that her marriage squabbles had gotten so bad that she and her husband landed on the couch of a marriage counselor. She had had it with his key jingling, whistling, and TV blaring and the scratchy towels. He was frustrated that she only liked two restaurants, never wanted to go
to the movies and she kept turning the lights down-- even in the kitchen. Each one of them interpreted those behaviors as deliberate and intentional torture or at least as acts of being inconsiderate.

The therapist asked for few details and then gave them a book to read for homework. The book is, “Living Sensationally—Understanding Your Senses” by Winnie Dunn.

Dunn is an occupational therapist and a leading authority on sensory processing. In her simple and even fun book she quickly breaks down relational conflicts by sensory type. Remember how the Myers Briggs breaks out personality types in such helpful ways? Turns out that we also have a sensory type and we are either sensation seeking or avoiding and either a Sensor or a Bystander. 

My friend’s therapist told them to read the book and also to take the Sensation Type quiz in the front of the book. (The quiz takes less than ten minutes.) And voila! They discovered they were –of course—opposite sensory types. So they could then communicate, negotiate and compromise on sounds, colors, textures, spaces and their music.

This is a book for people in recovery. We are continuing to learn about ourselves and to learn how to get along with others. In the same way that the Myers Briggs helps us to accept that others are different than us in a nonjudgmental way, “Living Sensationally” helps us accept that others experience the sensory world differently as well. 

More on relationships in recovery in "Out of the Woods--A Guide to Longterm Recovery" published by Central Recovery Press.

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