Piggy in the middle

28 July, 2020

I was wandering along a sports field on a walk the other day and noticed three young men doing their rugby practice. They were lined up in a row, and whilst the two at either end booted the rugby ball to one another, the man in the middle tried to steal the ball away. A kind of grown up version of the children’s classic piggy in the middle. The man in the middle tries to disrupt the pair’s connection.

This got me thinking about the role of the therapist when meeting a pair in therapy. It might be a couple, it might be a parent and child, it might be siblings. When a pair comes along to therapy troubled by some discord in their relationship, the therapist joins with the dyad to form a new shape. A two pointed connection becomes a three pointed shape. The triangle. And unlike our middle man in the piggy in the middle game, the therapist’s aim is to strengthen the pair’s connection, not to disrupt it.

The triangle allows two things that seem separate to become integrated. When a therapist joins with a pair, then that therapist is becoming a version of the interaction between the pair. The pair can now experience something extra; from just me and you, to me, you and us. The therapist enables the pair to experience both themselves, the other person and their relationship. Relationship is the place where they are intimate with one another, where they truly meet. This is why relationships are so precious and so transformative for us humans.

Every one of us is a child of a pair, a living integration of two biological parents. We are created as triangles. We are born as a relationship between a pair, as a piece of integration itself. This perhaps tells us something very deeply about our human nature. We are connections. This probably also tells us why we are so harmed by circumstances which alienate us from connection and relationship. Without these, we humans dis-integrate.

And something else that it is useful to realise about the triangle that a therapist builds with her pair of clients: In transforming from a single line of connection between two points to a triangle shape between three points, the footing of the whole thing becomes more stable. This stability is a resource to the pair to work out and work through whatever it is that has stressed their single line of connection. Triangles are more stable than single lines. When we join in relationships we are more stable. When we feel unstable and stressed, relationships are our cure.

At MyST, we are all about relationships. There are triangles everywhere, with children, families, professionals, teams, organisations, models and values. We aim to be intimately connected with everyone and everything. Through this privileging of relationships, connections, intimacy with how it is for everyone involved, we find that some way forward usually reveals itself, even amongst the toughest stressors. No one wants to be ‘piggy in the middle’, and ‘piggy’ doesn’t help one bit by getting in the way. But perhaps the sweet spot is the meeting place amongst things that once seemed separate. When we see that we are all connected, everything is connected, perhaps that’s the sweetest spot there is.

Jen & Jael

A Gwent Partnership Board Service