Rationale and Distinguishing Features
Dr. Patricia Munhall, N.C. PsyA, CHt
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One of the most distinguishing features of the Munhall Mirror Reflective Technique is that it moves away from the latest formula for a successful relationship to an interactive individualized theory based on meaning, perception and the construction of reality for each member of the couple. The critical outcome of the MMRT is mutual understanding of each other. Only through understanding the other person and their perceptual realities can conflict be resolved and mutual love and respect be realized.
Before Dr. Munhall developed this theory, she utilized many of the formulas or strategies as they appeared in the professional and self-help literature. In fact if a couple prefers counseling in that manner, she will provide that as well.
However, after twenty years of approaching counseling in this way, Dr. Munhall began to wonder, why these formulas often fail and began to think of another approach. When she was a university professor she wrote many books on research and they were based on phenomenological philosophy. A fancy word that simply means that individuals experience events in different ways. They interpret words and situations, sometimes so differently that conflict is bound to occur.
If that is true, she thought how could one formula fit all?
The main aim of this approach is coming to understand these differences, which in this theory are called perceptual disparities and lead to different perceptual realities. In plain talk in a relationship there are really two different relationships occurring�. his and hers. Sometimes they compliment each other and other times they lead to discord.
Dr. Munhall had already seen how these individual differences were obstacles in a formula approach to the improvement of one's relationship. She recalls the many instances in her counseling career where if a self-help formula or formula technique was used, one or the other of the couple would resist the tests, the exercises and the suggestions. It was just that simple. One size does not fit all, even in a couple!!
Returning to the fact that we all experience events and words in different ways, she started focusing on the themes to gaining understanding which include individual perception, meanings, and how each person constructs their individual interpretation of situations. Through research she found that knowledge of these three themes for each couple was the foundation to understanding and assisting couples to succeed in fulfilling their desires, aims and dreams.
The MAIN complaint individuals have of their partners is �she/he does not understand me at all.� With the recognition that visual non-verbal communication and couples really not hearing each other is a common source of conflict, the MMRT came to be. Because Dr. Munhall like most everyone cannot remember exactly what was said and how it was said and realizes like others, that she too cannot read another person's mind, she was able to personalize this technique as essential to understanding.
One can easily see where understanding is essential if two people differ in their perceptions or how they see and value things. These perceptual differences lead to perceptual disparities and often to conflicts that cannot seem to be resolved. The MMRT provides the opportunity to learn how to resolve these differences, but first one has to know them. Some differences are complementary, and some differences may not be amenable to change but can be amenable to respect, so that those differences do not become the object of a campaign to change the other person. Learning to compromise based on mutual respect is the road to peace.
Here is an example of one couple's perceptual disparity. Actually this is a very frequent complaint. One member of a couple states that the other member does not care about her, �you don't care about me� and then the partner states, �but I do care� or becomes defensive. But if this is her or his perception that is the reality, that is what she or he believes. So we arrive at two different perceptual realities and interpretations of the situation, which characterize the many misunderstandings that cause great unhappiness in a relationship.
These perceptual beliefs of one another becomes visible through videos of couples interactions, verbal exchanges with the tone of voice and body language recorded for study. When Dr. Munhall identifies a perceptual disparity, she may stop the video at that point, and encourage the couple to interpret the meanings of that disparity. She encourages the couple to share their individual perception in detail and very important how the person developed the perception.
It is interesting to discover the particular perception is not actually stemming from the relationship itself but from perceptions believed by an individual even before they met their partner! For instance there was this man who grew up in a family where there was very little caring and he felt rightly that no one cared about him. So ingrained was this belief in him, when he did enter a relationship he came with that belief and transferred it to his partner. Formula therapy is not going to assist this couple. The couple need to discuss this in depth and Dr. Munhall's counseling can assist in growing understanding. Videotaping the exchange between two people, of what would help this man feel cared for or cared about, records with memory and therefore accuracy what is needed in this individual situation.
Once again the individualized approach is critical. What each person needs is going to be stated differently and be different. With knowledge like this your relationship can reach new heights, never imagined. Caring to participate in this process is the acknowledgement of your love and hope. The goal is to actualize your love so that each member of the couple has a heart, mind and soul filled with love!
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