The Client Who Couldn’t Answer the Question
Anna had lost interest in talking to her husband about how unhappy she was. He told her to get out more and do some things for herself. “Hire a maid, just go shopping,” he told her.
Depressed, she was contemplating divorce.
How could he be so cold-hearted?
After I asked her The Miracle Question, Anna told me she was so down she couldn’t even imagine a better day, much less answer the question. I wasn’t surprised.
While Anna told me about her life, I listened for the abilities that would describe how she had coped during other difficult times. I soon learned that she was both competent and resilient.
She emerged from a very unhappy childhood in which she was constantly criticized by her parents and moved out of her house at seventeen. After a few difficult relationships, she met her current husband, who was attracted by her independence.
She talked about her two young children fondly, bragged about their successful school life and even remarked how well her husband had built up their home business over the years. The fact that she was still able to take care of her kids, perform daily routines and not be totally consumed by her sadness meant that she could try to think of a different answer.
As you go through the next week, I want you to watch for any time, place and situation when you feel a little less sad. You’ll really have to watch closely! It could be happening at any time. It will help if you write down your discoveries. I look forward to hearing what you discovered when you return in a week.
Anna returned a week later to tell me about a day that she had spent volunteering at her daughter’s elementary school.
Something happened last week that was kind of … good. I spent an afternoon serving lunch at a PTA meeting as a volunteer. I usually do accounting for our business at home so I really don’t socialize much. After the lunch I thought about how much I enjoyed doing that. I even thought about calling the school again to find out whether they needed more help from me this week. I realized then that I needed to be a part of something. (Smiling) I felt like I had something in common with those women. I never thought I’d enjoy that so much.
During the next school year, Anna was the PTA’s hospitality chair. She liked the position because it required her attendance at the monthly meetings and didn’t detract from the time required for her home business. These new activities were just enough to form some new friendships and give Anna’s social life a needed boost.
Anna told me her husband seemed impressed by her new position and it pleased her that he noticed. During their time alone, she found that she had more to talk to him about. Since their discussions focused on topics other than housework, business or kids, he seemed more interested. In fact, since she began volunteering more at school, she started feeling less angry with her husband.
Anna didn’t have to divorce her husband to make the changes in her life that she felt she needed. When she was faced with answering The Miracle Question with a short-term goal for satisfaction, she watched for the change and became aware of the times when she felt better. Discovering her miracle, she began to focus on what she needed to do differently, stopped blaming her husband and took new actions for herself. She remained responsible to her family while becoming responsible for her own happiness.
Let’s look at how her process unfolded:
The Miracle Question Process
Anna noticed that if she were to affect a miracle, it would involve her enjoying social contact while contributing something worthwhile, particularly at her daughter’s school. She said that she enjoyed meeting up with other women and loved feeling as if she had a purpose.
The Miracle Goal
Anna felt important when she belonged to a group of people with similar interests. She liked the school atmosphere. She wanted to contribute and had a need to feel as though she was making a difference.
Anna was a strong, competent individual who had endured an unhappy childhood, absent of guidance, yet was able to move out and support herself independently while still a teenager. She was also able to function at home as a mother and wife even when depressed. She had the skills to set herself a goal and move toward it independently.
The Action Plan
Anna would add social time to her week on a regular basis, which would give her regular contact with other adult women, preferably at her daughter’s school, where she felt she was contributing something important.
Anna volunteered on a weekly basis and ran for a PTA office that had particular significance to her. Feeling better about herself, she and her husband had more to talk about and she was less dependent on him to feel valued. He, in turn, was impressed by her new actions and validated her efforts.
Extract taken from `The Miracle Question‘ by Linda Metcalf PhD © Linda Metcalf 2004, 2006 ISBN 9781845900403 and published with permission.
About the author
Linda Metcalf, Ph.D., is a former Classroom Teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is the author of ten books on solution focused therapy. Her research interests include relationship building between teacher and student, the use of solution focused therapy in regard to special education referrals, sexual abuse and addictions.
Dr. Metcalf has presented her work extensively throughout the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Norway, Germany, and UK. She is a Professor in the Department of Education at Texas Wesleyan University, and Coordinator of the School Counseling Program. She is also the President of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
To know more about Linda, visit her website www.metcalfconsulting.org.