Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On being stuck

I haven’t a clue what to work on with this person. There is so much that I have no idea where to begin.

Sometimes your psyche tells you, “Stop working so hard. Let the other person do the work.” In this case, capitalize on the fact that you haven’t a clue. Figure out a way to invite the other guy to begin.

Here’s an idea. Memorize these words: “Show me.”

Have available in the room items such as paper, crayons, and markers. A small tray with a little sand in it plus a few rocks, shells, or small plastic doodads would be helpful. Keep in mind the room’s furniture, pillow cushions, etc. can also be used in numerous ways. These and other items can represent pretty much anything you or the client can think of. 1 If, when you say, “Show me,” the person professes not to understand what you are talking about, draw a couple of figures on a paper, put a couple of shells or rocks on the rug, or move a couple of chairs around, and say something like,

“If this circle/rock/chair represents you, and this doodle/shell/pillow represents (the other person), does the fact that they’re overlapping represent the relationship between the two of you? Or perhaps this is it . . . you present another configuration). Oh, neither is correct? Okay. Show me. What Is correct?”

Be a curious but slow learner. Take your time understanding.

She parries every invitation.

Your job is to make invitations; her job is to parry them. Let go of expectations each time you invite something. Notice and work with her response to your invitation. Stay separate and do not take any of her parries personally.

Part of what she does is to blame me. She’ll say, “If you hadn’t said that, I would’ve been able to stay in my feelings.”

Consider joining her. Acknowledge either the underlying positive intent or any part of what she says with which you can agree.

“Possibly so.”

“Considering (your circumstances), I can see how you might come to that conclusion.”

Then put the attention back on her.

“Tell me what you would have liked me to do instead.”

You are not responsible for whether another human being stays “in her feelings.” Just think. If you were, you could direct everyone to connect with their grief whenever they moved out of their joy and world peace would be attained in a year.

Work with the process you notice, which, in this case, is blaming.

As with any intervention, you have the choice of inviting her to work cognitively, introspectively, or within a relationship with Self or Other. Should you elect to invite the work to be within a relationship, you can invite the work to take place in the here- and-now or in the there-and-then. Here are some ideas, depending on what you prefer.

In relationship with Other, there and then:

“My guess is you blame other people a lot. Is that true? Who taught you to do that?”

“How old were you when you first learned that blaming was useful as a protective device?”

In relationship with Other, here and now:

“My guess is you’re blaming me. Is that true? Tell me what it is I’m doing that you don’t like?”

“Imagine your mother is in this chair. Tell her what it was like to be blamed. Tell her how angry that makes you.”

In relationship with Self, there and then:

“My guess is you blame other people a lot. Is that true? How does that benefit you?”

“How else do you usually keep yourself from connecting with your feelings?”

In relationship with Self, here and now.

“How do you experience that in your body? Breathe into your feeling. What’s coming up for you right now?”

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