The problem is that we always look for the missing piece of the puzzle instead of finding a place for the one in our hand. Radoi

In the course of training future counselors, I would often caution those grad students about the importance of information gathering. All clinicians are prone to drawing erroneous conclusions when they lack relevant data. To drive home the point, I would remind them that everything makes sense when we have all the germane information. Conversely, when things don’t “add up” as we work with a given client, that simply tells us that we are missing an important puzzle piece.

For example, my book, Dump the Neanderthal and Choose your Prime Mate, was essentially a research project into why capable, intelligent and attractive women often end up with under-qualified relationship partners. A friend may lament, “Why is Allison with him (or her)?” My readers of the book learn that it typically had to do with Allison’s lack of self-esteem, or an exaggerated need to be helpful; or perhaps a lean toward excitement, or a desire for control, or one of the other factors listed therein. But the point is that, once we fully collect the factors related to an individual’s decision, we can better understand those choices and, in turn, help them move forward in their lives.

This principle came across to me recently during a conversation that I had with my lovely wife of 49 years. She recounted an incident that had occurred during our pre-marriage months together. She candidly shared with me her perceptions about the incident and, clearly, the memory was still vivid for her. I could barely recall the situation, but felt badly that it was a painful recollection for her.

But I was also pleased that she had shared her perceptions and feelings about the event and it, once again, enabled me to better understand this fine person that I’ve known for 50 years. After all of the years we have spent together, I am still learning about her in a positive and meaningful way.

Another bromide of the counseling profession is: “Secrets make us sick.” I don’t think that this event of 50 years ago made either my wife or me sick, but the non-sharing of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions can inhibit the growth and progress of any relationship. She showed courage in sharing those thoughts and feelings, and I appreciated her willingness to take that risk.

Homework: Think about a relationship that you have (with a partner, a friend, or a family member) that could benefit from the sharing of some event or experience. Caution: This should not take the form of a complaint or criticism. Instead, it should be a frank sharing of your perceptions about a past occurrence. As we share some previously unexpressed information, it frees us from non-productive emotions and enables the listener to better understand us.

In the end, everything does make sense when we gain access to the “missing pieces.”

That is the nature of endings, it seems. They never end. When all the missing pieces of your life are found, put together with glue of memory and reason, there are more pieces to be found. Amy Tan