"The Message Contains the Message": Opening Communication to Its Fullest Revelation
THE APPROACH I EMPHASIZE IN THIS CHAPTER, "the message contains the message," sounds more like a maxim than a guideline for psychotherapists. My intention in proposing it is to reorient the manner in which therapists attend to the flow of a patient's communication. I recommend listening to each patient's narrative, his or her unique rendering of an event or description and explanation of a symptom for what is stated as well as what is implied. Shifting from a skeptical stance of a detective listening for what is hidden, therapists attending to what is in or is close to awareness affirms for patients the value of their spontaneous associations, of their version of the story of their life as they bring it into their awareness. Listening in this way, therapists avoid communicating to a patient that the patient's message is really an attempt to divert both therapist and self from something else. Implied in such a listening stance is that what is not presented is necessarily of more therapeutic importance than what is presented. Guided by "the message contains the message," therapists see and hear the total delivered communication from the patient: verbal, gestural, and facial. They attempt to familiarize themselves with their patients' intentions as the patient
consciously wishes them to be known. When listened to in this way, patients feel safer to express themselves more freely and feel an enhanced esteem that allows them to explore and reflect in greater depth. In this way, patients are encouraged to make previously hidden or unconscious motives and messages more accessible to awareness.