True example: Alan comes home from another business trip to find his wife is leaving him for someone else.
He is upset, but not as upset as when he hears his children are not sympathetic and do not want to see him.
He takes this as a major wake-up call. He asks his wife what the problem was and she lets him have it: “You’re never here and whenever I want to talk about something emotional, you suddenly discover a job you have to do.
When I’ve tried to love you and compliment you, it’s water off a duck’s back, but two words of praise from your boss and you’ll work all weekend for him. You’re an affirmation-junkie and you hide in your work.”
She has said it all before, but this time Alan listens.
He goes for counselling, scared of what he will find but hoping to repair his marriage—or even if not, to grow for himself. He says to the counsellor, “I’m not sure I want to know this, but let’s dig”. And they think about Alan’s family of origin.
His father was the top salesman in his company and on the road a lot—in fact, Alan barely remembers contact with him as a child.
On holidays, his father would be grumpy or asleep for the first four days and then he’d take on some project: painting the holiday house, making a boat, building a retaining wall.
If anything vaguely emotional came up at home, he would change the topic by saying, “Can we talk about something real?”