Betterman

It’s amazing what I hear while driving in my car:

In hearing this song last night driving home, I was struck by the number people I’ve worked with over the years that this song could apply to. These men or women are in addicted/abusive/unhealthy relationships,and think that they “can’t find a better man”(or woman). These people who like the person in the song “practice their speech”, but rarely say anything to their partner about their needs. Over time, because they haven’t expressed their needs, they don’t have needs, and decide that they “can’t find a betterman, oh”.

How does this happen? In my experience, many of the people I’ve worked with come from families who have the same addiction/abuse/chaos and dysfunction. It’s what they know, so therefore they can’t find that “betterman” because they have no idea what he or she might look like. All they can find is the repeat of their family of origin. They probably have stated at least to themselves, that they hate the behavior of family members (or the family members themselves), and when they get married, there is no way in hell, that they will marry a person who acts this way. When they meet that special one, and decide to cement the partnership, it’s no surprise (to me) that they do exactly the opposite of their goal–they repeat exactly what they hate!!!? Later in the relationship, as the dysfunction grows to be destructive, “she loves him, she don’t want leave this way, she feeds him, that’s why she’ll be back again” is the day to day refrain of the relationship–the person knows nothing else.

With all of this stuck, rigid, predictble day-to-day mess, how does this person end up in my office? This is one of the most exciting and interesting parts of my day. How does the person find the courage to talk about all of this stuff when arguably they’ve never talked to anyone in their life? (“no one else needs to know, she tells herself”) What prompts them to pick up that “10,000 pound phone” and say “I need to make an appointment”? Some people come in because of other issues– anxiety, depression, their own addictive behaviors, others ask a trusted friend, “what should I do?” Some people, miraculously as it seems to me, find their way because they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”.

The first part of the journey is their own awareness that they don’t have to feel the way they do. They have other options. They can work on having feelings and validating them. They can identify their own personal boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. They can work on communicating the feelings and the boundaries. They can work on self care!!!–how to care about my needs, my wants, and feel like a real person. This is a long process, but a rather doable one. Each step of the way is highlighted by the person examining their own behaviors, motives, and feelings to “rewire” the dysfunctional family of origin wiring, and replace it with new, healthy, self care wiring. In the end, they can find a betterman(or woman) to complement their own growth,and their own happiness.
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We have met the enemy and it is us

The original concept behind a week in the life was to identify a common theme that occurred in my office and write about it. It was to be a kind of therapy diary—an opportunity to share my ideas with others. This topic goes back to the roots of the idea.

Many times people coming into therapy are upset with others around them–their spouses, employers, kids, family members, etc. Their anger, hurt, sadness, and fear is directed to those people, and how they have been treated unfairly. There have been people that I have seen over the years in which that’s all we talked about. For them, it’s what they needed – a chance to vent these feelings without carrying them around. This was helpful because it improved the quality of their life. Recently, a bunch of people have come in and have stated the standard “they are doing this to me” etc. However, in the session, something remarkable occurred. These people stated that they were responsible for other people’s reactions to them!!! They were asking “What role do I play in this?” “How have I contributed to my own unhappiness?” “What do I have to do to be better?”

It is exactly:

It’s amazing to me when this occurs–particularly with people who are coming to therapy for the first time. To have an insight like this is something that happens later in the therapy process. It is an “acquired taste”, which usually develops after the emotionality has decreased. For these new therapy entrants to ask the very insightful “what role do I play in this?” was very exciting and very energizing. It’s a statement of I want to work on ME– on my pain, on my issues.

The most interesting part of their insights was that it happened several times in the week. These were all different people with different sets of issues. I asked the very same question–”What’s my role in this?” I was probably more stumped than they were!!! Had I magically transformed my therapeutic skill to be able to direct people to insightful declarations earlier in therapy. Had I done something differently with these people than I have done over 26 years of being a therapist? Was this a function of too much snow in NJ in the months of January and February?

My conclusion to this stumper of a question was my belief in the power of change. People will change: when they are ready to change, have the right ingredients for change, and have the motivation for change. That was my role in this–I produced some of the right ingredients for the change process. People felt safe and not judged. They felt that they could open up and probe into themselves. They felt validated and understood. They were able to handle a little therapeutic “nudging” to push them a little further. Therapy is like a good recipe–the tastiness of the dish is not brought about by doing the exact same thing over and over. The tastiness occurs by adding a little of this or taking out a little of that. The end result is a good tasting meal. I’m going to keep “cooking” with my clients each and every session to keep making tasty dishes of change.

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Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

The interesection of music and therapy continues. Watch the classic Carole King song ?Will you still love me tomorrow?

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

Tonight you’re mine completely,
You give your love so sweetly,
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes,
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure,
Or just a moment’s pleasure,
Can I believe the magic of your sighs,
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken,
You said that I?m the only one,
But will my heart be broken,
When the night (When the night)
Meets the morning sun.

I’d like to know that your love,
Is love I can be sure of,
So tell me now and I won’t ask again,
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

A great song that talks about a person who is fearful that their partner will not love them tomorrow. Often times relationships occur with one partner feeling this way all of the time. They have significant issues with abandonment and rejection. They are fearful that due to their lack of self esteem, that their partner will leave them. They do all kinds of things to keep the person happy, keep them from that ultimate fear–rejection/abandonment. When that occurs, they are like to hurt themselves or others with anger/rage. People who fit this profile generally have

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

What is BPD?

This is a complicated disorder that affects many people and their families. I have seen many partners, who get into a relationship with a BPD person, have their self esteem shredded by the disorder. You can’t fix them, but you can fix yourself. Go to therapy, join a group, go to websites like bpdfamily.com and read the message boards. There is help, there is hope, change is possible.

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