At Innovative Resources we are so fortunate to hear about the amazing work that people do throughout the world, and to have the opportunity to share these rich stories with our readers. Paula Davis (from Connecting Matters) and her husband recently visited Sri Lanka and India. There they delivered training to counsellors and conducted workshops for married couples to assist them to move towards closeness in their relationships.
‘There is a mixture of arranged and love marriages, but longings for connection, closeness and love are universal.’
Paula said that at first, groups in Sri Lanka and India look stunned when she asked them to choose cards. Participants are used to attending workshops that tend to be didactic and rely heavily on the transfer of information. However, Paula and her husband work experientially. This is a pleasant surprise for most participants.
Paula recalls a session that occurred several years ago when they were conducting a 3-day workshop with a group of severely war-traumatised Tamil couples in northern Sri Lanka. She asked them to choose a Picture This card that represented what the word ‘trauma’ meant to them.
‘My husband and I shared first, as even though our experience differed enormously from theirs, we believe that traumatic experiences are relative. One by one the participants stood up holding their chosen card and shared their stories. It was heart-breaking. Every so often we needed to stop and practise grounding and emotional containment exercises, because the stories were so horrific. I kept asking them if it was too much but they ached to give voice to their stories. They ached for someone to bear witness to the horrors they had suffered. Without the cards, I doubt whether the sharing would have been as deep and profound.’
She said, ‘One of the first sessions we normally do is to help couples identify and celebrate their differences, especially their differing needs. The Strength Cards were fabulous for asking couples in each country to identify the strengths they brought to meet their spouse’s needs. Also, in both Sri Lanka and India, I used the cards in women’s counsellor training groups. Participants were asked to choose a card to represent the strength they perceived they brought to the counselling encounter and one that they don’t have but would like to develop. Discussion was rich and meaningful.
‘The Signposts cards were useful in many sessions. Participants were asked to choose a card that represented what closeness meant for them and to share it with their spouse. The cards were especially useful at the end of a workshop to represent what participants were taking away.
‘Picture This cards were also used multiple times in each country. Each spouse was asked to choose a card that represented a couple whose communication they admired and then to discuss it with their spouse. They were also asked to choose a card that represented a time when they felt listened to and another to represent a time when they did not feel listened to, and to share and write down the qualities of good listening and bad listening within a small group. Each group then shared the findings that they had written up on a whiteboard.
‘One memorable ”aha!” moment occurred when the husband in a couple shared how he realised that he hurt his wife by the brutal way he communicated to her. She sobbed as she sat beside him and welcomed his desire to change.’
July this year was Paula and her husband’s sixth trip and they now work mainly with married couples, many of whom have arranged marriages. Paula said that they try to work with community leaders as much as possible, such as church pastors, as they believe these people are the influencers and change agents in their communities. They also seek to recruit promising couples in both countries to attend a 3- or 4-day training to continue the work in their own countries.
Thank you Paula, for sharing your story with us!