Open dialogical practice in relationship therapy
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Open Dialogical Practice in Relationship therapy. Writing our Book of Love Yves Dingens and Leo Bormans. 2nd International Conference on Dialogical Practices – 7 – 9 maart 2013. Love. New dialogues. New definitions of Love. Re-new-ed-identity.

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Open Dialogical Practice in Relationship therapy

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Open DialogicalPractice in Relationshiptherapy

WritingourBook of Love

Yves DingensandLeo Bormans

2nd International Conference onDialogicalPractices – 7 – 9 maart 2013


New dialogues

New definitions of Love


Europeanchairman Van Rompuy & Leo Bormans

KofiAnnan (Nobel Peaceprize)

& Leo Bormans

A bookwith 200 empty pages

2 pages foreachseason

starting 1 yearbefore the relation

today + 3 yearsempty pages

Timeline: Double page SeasonbySeason

Top of the page: partner A / Bottom: Partner B

Colour strip: each partner cangive colour to feltemotions

Open – end dreams


Create hope

Rational Level

Objective data e.g.

official date of cohabition, date of marriage, date of birthchildren, relocation, job change,

objective frame >> grip forinvolvedpeople in the dialogue (e.g. parents, friends, children,…)

Awareness of the systemicapproach

… hearing all voices

Timeline + strip of feelings + data

What do these partners feel, nowthatthey are face to face with the history of theirrelation ?

Second Level: emotiondriven.

addoldpictures, remembrances,…

to explore the meaning of Love

  • Making a new story out of

  • Highlights

  • Important moments

What do theyactuallyfeel in this moment?

What is IN the picture?

What is IN the picture?

What is IN the picture?

Repositioning of the self in relationship


Repositioning the relationshipitself.

A dialogicalspacearises

City of Words, Lithograph by Vito Acconci, image via Wikipedia


100 PhD’s >> everyone has hisownperspective, something the researcher is lookingfor, whenhe does aninvestigation

100 PhD’s>> eachwithhisowninterpretation of the results

100 PhD’s:>> theirown story must have been involved

Conclusion:>> the Worldbook of Love are 100 interpretationsabout Love in a multiculturalperspective

First element>> the clients

Second element>> the dialogue

between the cliënt(s) and the therapist

Third element>> the Worldbook a multiplicity of voices of the World outside

Peter Lenaerts, third element, Systeemtheoretisch Bulletin 2009, n°3



Compassionate Love

Companionate Love

Attachment Love

PhD Ellen S. Berscheid

University of Minnesota

Research documentsthatno 2 individualsuse the word in exactly the sameway

The meaning of the word Lovenotonly is likely to differamongindividuals…

..but even for a single individual, the word maycarry different meanings as it is used in different relationships

Ph D Ellen S. Berscheid

University of Minnesota

Even in a single relationship, the meaning of the word ‘Love’ mayvaryeach time the individualuses it.

Ph D Ellen S. Berscheid

University of Minnesota

Romantic Love:

passionate Love – erotic Love – being in Love

Companionate Love: friendship Love strongliking

Compassionate Love: caregiving Love - altruistic Love – selfless Love

Attachment Love: dependson a long familiarity – receiving comfort and protection

WritingourBook of Love:

continuous search formeaning of Love in an

ongoingdialoguewithcouple and therapist and the third element


To deependialogicalapproach


through the grid of

Romantic Love

Companionate Love

Compassionate Love



To deependialogicalapproach

Using the 100 narratives

about Love as a

third element


unfold the meaning of the relationship

Texts of the

Outer World


by a worldwidecommunity

Love is the lifeforce,

the soul, the idea.

There is nodialogicalrelation without love,

just as there is nolove in isolation.

Love is dialogic.

(Patterson, D. 1998) Literature and spirit: Essay onBakhtin and hiscontemporaries, 142)

Non-verbaldialogue and languageskills

Lesslinguisticlyproficient partners

modelingclay, paint, paper-mache, … .

The advantage of workingwith mondeling clay and othermaterials is thattherecanbe more bodilyfeltemotions. The hands, in contact withstructures as clay, draperie, cloth, etc… cancreate even betterdialoguesaboutfeelings. Goingintodialogthroughshapingclay and offering the form to the partner to reform and bringchanges, can open bodilyfeltdialogues as ancontinuingmeaning-shaping story.

Non-verbaldialogue and languageskills

Pictures, drawings and puppets may help to defineemotions

Putting puppets in intersubjectiveplacings - adjust the placing as theywould do in a verbal dialogue and certainexperiences, believes, sitationscanbe taken in dialogue.

Peoplecan “talk” with/through the puppets, expres feelings, etc..

Use of pictures

partners canfindpictures to go in dialoguewitheachother

about the meaning of the aspects of love, theycan show what is important forthem.


A couple, both have 2 childrenfrom a formerrelationship.

Each of the childrenneedextra caregivingbecause of different problemsthey are facing.

The parentsdidreceiveanautism diagnose forone boy, anotherone has a serious mental retardation, onedaughterwith high sensitivity etc..

The womanwas incapacitatedbecause of ofa chronicfatiguesyndrome.

There is a lot of hassle in the house.

Eachparentlosesitself in loyaltyfortheirownchildren

it’sdifficult to persistrules,

they are blamingeachother.

Man and wife are notinterested in eachotheranymore.

Intimicy is completelygone.

Theybarelyspeakwitheachother, except to reproach.

He was disappointedabouta lack of intimacyand sexuality.

When her partner talkedaboutthis topic, the womenstarted to cry.

Howeverthey want to staytogetherbecause, sotheysay,


In therapy, each week again >> negative – negative.

Text of Ph D Zak aboutoxytocinecameinto the conversations.

Theywereinterested in it. We talkedaboutwhatPh D Zak discovered, the so-calledLove-hormone.

Theyweresurprised. We talkedtogetherabout the positivesense of touch.

The textbecamea third element in ourdialogues.

Itdidshapeenoughdistance and safety to talk aboutintimacy,

it was not a diagnose abouttheirproblem, nor anadvice.

Theycouldre-memberfine feelings.

The fine feeling of touching was becoming a member of theirmemoryagain.

The nextdaysthey had planned a weekend withonly the 2 of them,

in Luxembourg.

One week later, I receivedthis postcard.

The devilescaped !

Oxytocine has


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