During my recovery, I attended a workshop by therapist and author, Thom Rutledge. After the workshop, I contact Thom to see if he would do phone consultations with me, and he gladly agreed. Our first session took place on a 90-degree day in July. As I dialed the number, my belly was doing its usual flips. How is this going to go? Will I get anything out of it? Then the phone began to ring, and I heard, “Hello, this is Thom.” My voice quivered a bit as I said, “Hi, Thom. It’s Cheryl Kerrigan.” And the conversation began.
We were chatting about the work I had done at the workshop and my recovery steps thus far when he asked me something that threw me for a loop. “Would you be willing to role-play? I want to talk to Ed.” “I’ve never done that before” I answered. “I don’t know if I will do it right.” He reassured me. “If you are open to it, it will just happen. Ed will be there.” With fear in my voice I agreed. My heart was beating out of my chest when Thom asked the first question, “Ed, what are your intentions for Cheryl?”
“To make her happy, of course,” Ed replied. “How do you make her happy, and what is your relationship?” Thom asked. “I’ve been with Cheryl for a long time, Thom. I know what she needs and wants—you don’t!” “Ed, how do you know what’s best for her?” “I just do.” “That’s not an answer. I want specifics,” Thom pressed.“You are so stupid, Thom. You don’t know what you are talking about. She needs me.” “No she doesn’t, Ed. You are wrong.” Right from the start Ed was on the defensive, but Thom was persistent and gave it right back without backing down. When Thom asked Ed for specifics or to explain himself, he lashed out with insults and lame answers. He did not like to be questioned. He tried to show Thom that he was in charge, but Thom would not give him that position of power. This went on for about fifteen minutes. Afterwards, Thom gave me feedback, which blew my mind. He told me that when Ed speaks, his voice is low and monotone. He also said that Ed came across as an overconfident jerk. I was shocked. I didn’t realize that Ed actually sounded different than me, or that he had a separate persona! How would I? Ed had never spoken out loud to anyone else before—only to me. Then Thom asked me to listen carefully to Ed’s answer to the next question, concentrating on the sound of his voice. “Ed, what have you done for Cheryl today?” “I do everything for Cheryl, Thom. Leave us alone. You don’t know anything.” When I heard that answer, I couldn’t believe my ears. “Oh my God, Thom, I can hear him, I can really hear him!” Ed’s voice really was different than mine and he was acting like an overconfident jerk. I could feel it and hear it for the first time ever. I was totally freaking out. I was amazed! So my first conversation with Thom was incredible. With an open mind and heart, I had gone out on a limb, role-played for the first time, and truly learned from it. I couldn’t wait until we would talk again.Reflections
When you’re living with Ed, you might be listening to what he says, but not think of him as a separate person. The next time Ed wants to talk to you, have him do it out loud. Listen closely. What does your Ed sound like? Describe his voice and tone. Let him say what he wants, but come back with positive statements. “Talking back to Ed,” with the awareness of him as a separate person, will give you an experience of your own confidence and power.
With health, hope and strength,