Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On being bugged

This man is like a gnat, all over the place.

And you are bugged, right?

Yeah, I guess I am. For example, he’ll say, “I want to find out why I’m so impatient . . . ,” and then he’ll change the subject.

Interrupt him and invite him to do again, the thing he is doing. Invite him to pay attention while he does it even more.

You: Say again that you want to find out why you’re so impatient. And then change the subject.

Him: (gets a little confused, but does it.)

You: Good. Now say it again, and this time, before you change the subject, say out loud, ‘I’m gonna to change the subject, now.” And then change the subject.

The goal here isn’t to get him to change, it is to invite him to become more mindful, more aware, more conscious of himself.

Promote a dialogue between his impatience and the rest of him.

“Here is your impatience (pointing to a small pillow or empty chair), ask it what it wants from you.”

“Here’s your impatience. (You hold out an object, he does not take it). I notice you hesitate to touch it. What’s that about?”

Take responsibility for how you use his activity to bug yourself. Detach yourself from needing him to be different.

Find ways to work with his stated process which is, “I want to find out,” or work with his distracting behavior, which is the process, “Watch me not find out.”

When he says he wants to find something out, ask him how he will be sabotaging that today.

“If you Didn’t want to find that out, how might you go about not-finding it out? Show me. Do it now.”

At the beginning of every session, either ask him what he wants for himself that day or notice the very first subject he brings up. Then keep bringing the focus back to that subject. In the example you have given, no matter what subject he changes to, wonder out loud how the new topic is related to his impatience. Wonder what his response to all your wonderings has to do with impatience.

As he changes the subject, interrupt him and ask what he notices about himself, “right now.”

Towards the end of every session, ask if he got what he wanted and if not, what was his part in not getting it.

Roleplay impatience. Work with his reaction.

Any time he starts flitting around (isn’t that what gnats do, flit?), watch him for a moment and say,

“Say what it is you fear, right this moment.”

“On a scale from zero to 10, how afraid are you right now?”

If the answer to the above question is anything but zero, invite him to explore his fear.

He may just change the subject again.

That’s okay. Eventually, when he discovers it’s okay with you that he doesn’t answer, he may feel safe enough to introspect and share his findings.

Ask him to draw with markers or mess around with the sandtray while he is talking and flitting from subject to subject. His hands may be able to tell you what mouth cannot.

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