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The Silent Movie Technique

January 7, 2021

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why would they do that?” Maybe it involves a romantic relationship going south. Maybe it involves a friend suddenly behaving differently. It’s that sense of confusion mixed with the fear of what will happen next.

A relationship is starting out well, then suddenly the person pulls away, stops texting as frequently, starts being difficult to meet with. Or maybe a friend is suddenly being irritable and grumpy. Or maybe a co-worker is starting to have an attitude. You try to confront the issue, but you get a lot of excuses and the trend continues. What happened? What did you do?

When patients, and even friends, come to me very confused about “Why would they do that?” they typically go into a very detailed analysis of who said what, when they said it, how they said it, what emoji they used, etc. They then over-analyze what they said, whether something they did prompted the change. There’s usually anxiety, fear, disappointment, and confusion.

What’s the advice I give that seems to provide a bit of clarity?

I want you to re-visit every moment in great detail…like a silent movie.

When they start describing the transition as if it were a silent movie, everything changes. Things start becoming clear. The sadness and disappointment are still there but there’s less anxiety, fear, and confusion. Why is that?

If there is conflict, words don’t matter.

This counts for internal or external conflict. The words people use often confuses the true picture. That’s where the phrase “actions speak louder than words” comes in. But I’d like to go deeper.

People often have poor insight into themselves, let alone others. And when someone has an internal conflict, words that are used often try to hide the conflict, even from themselves. When someone has a poor understanding of themselves, how will anything they say provide insight into the situation?

By turning a confusing social situation into a silent movie, all the words are gone and what is left are actions. That typically is a more coherent view if what is actually going on. Words confuse the overall picture.

So if you’re ever feeling confused about the actions of another, try the silent movie technique. It just might clear things up.

Dr. Eric

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