Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
CE for Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, & MFT!!
Previously, we discussed using the Cold Weather Analogy to help your clients accept and experience negative feelings towards their highly valued “Great Catch.”
As you know, one of the reasons why accepting and expressing these negative feelings is so difficult is because victims of controlling-abusive relationships are "Invisible Victims and usually need feeling-validation.
you know, the victim of verbal abuse is invisible because she does not have physical
bruises as evidence of being victimized and attacked. Therefore, she is invisible
to, for example, the legal system. To magnify the problem, her family and friends
may view her as being lucky to have gotten such a great guy.
♦ Strategy #1: Jekyll-and-Hyde Reframing
I expanded upon Marcy's Jekyll-and-Hyde description by saying, “For you, when hearing Ron’s promises of time you would spend together, Ron was like “Dr. Jekyll.” He was your “Great Catch,” the ideal partner. Marcy agreed, “Yeah, at those times it’s easy to forget about his other side.”
However, as you know, the “Dr. Jekyll,” All-American guy-side, actually facilitates “Mr. Hyde's” abusive goal of control and dominance of the relationship.
b. To increase Marcy’s awareness, the second step, after expanding and exploring her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde description, was to reposition Ron and to increase her awareness that, while Ron may be kind and supportive on some occasions, this kind and supportive behavior did not excuse Ron for the times when he breaks an agreement and does not follow through with his promises of time to be spent together.
c. The third step, to increase Marcy’s awareness, after expanding and exploring her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde description, was to reposition Ron, and to enhance her understanding that, while Ron may be kind and supportive on some occasions, this kind and supportive behavior does not excuse Ron for the times when he broke an agreement and did not follow through with his promises to spend more time with Marcy.
Think of a client you are treating who feels she is in a relationship with a controlling-abusive partner, while at the same time, she feels that he is a "Great Catch," a prized possession so to speak.
Some other descriptions clients have
used are: two-faced, wearing a mask, phony knight on a white horse, and so on.
Take a moment and think. In your next session with your "Marcy," who
is being verbally but not physically abused by their significant other, would
it be a good idea for you expand upon her descriptions to reposition her "abusive partner?"
♦ Strategy #2: Decreasing Selective Forgetting
Have you found, like I, that disbelief and denial go hand in hand with selective forgetting? Can you name a client right now who has developed "amnesia," so-to-speak, as a means of coping? For many clients, like Jenny, her first encounter with verbal assaults led to a feeling of shock and then to blocking the memory. As I describe Jenny, see if you agree that, helping her to unblock the memory of Tom's abuse was crucial to her validation of the abuse taking place and the resulting motivation to change.
age 30, married Tom, an electrician, after they had dated for 4 months. The first
time he yelled in a rant for five minutes was on their wedding night. Jenny stated,
It was like an out-of-body experience for me. I couldnt believe that
Tom would yell so violently. And all over the fact that I tripped slightly on
the hem of my nightgown as I walked towards him in the bed. His face actually
turned red. He yelled things like, clumsy klutz, you ruined this perfect
moment for me! You don't think I'm going to put up with all your bullshit like
I did when we were dating, do you? At first I was afraid. What if he hit
me? But after he wound down, he felt so bad I didnt think it would ever
happen again. I remained optimistic. I thought we were going to be Mr. and Mrs.
Happily-Married couple again.
As you know, like many clients, Jenny put the honeymoon night incident behind her and tried to pretend that it had never happened. Think of a client you are currently treating whose way of coping is to ignore the problem. Your client convinces herself that feelings of devastation aren't such a big deal. Forgetting the impact of overwhelming events is a common defense mechanism we all use to cut life crises down to manageable bits and pieces that can be handled. I have found, like you, that just by the act of encouraging Jenny's expression of feelings, and recall of the forgotten events of the first time she can recall that sinking feeling of being abused, helps to affirm to Jenny that her feelings are valid.
Think of a client you are treating, or have treated, that might benefit by recalling the first time they felt abused. Would this recall be a beneficial feeling-validation strategy?
♦ Strategy #3:
As you will see, Jenny used excuse-making and minimizing to cope with Toms increasing angry flare-ups. She blamed the honeymoon-nightgown-tripping episode on too much stress for Tom at work. She explained, "I know he couldn't help himself from getting angry. Its no big deal now. There had just been a major subdivision power outage the day before our wedding. Who wouldn't be upset with that level of responsibility? I'm lucky to have him. I'm lucky to have someone like him as a husband. He's really a great guy and didn't mean it"
have found a good feeling-validation strategy with a client like Jenny, who is
excuse-making and minimizing, is assisting the client in identifying their underlying
values. As you know, underlying values guide your clients habitual reactions,
as part of their core self.
Compare this with Marcy, who I described at the beginning of this section. Marcy's inner dialogue was, "Oh, it looks like he's being Mr. Hyde again. I'm just going to forget this happened." What do you think about the idea of helping your client in their next session identify underlying values by asking them what their inner dialogue is? Do you feel a discussion of their inner dialogue will help your client identify his or her underlying values in your next session by asking them to describe their inner dialogue?
summary the three feeling-validation strategies just described are:
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Graham, S. M., & Clark, M. S. (2006). Self-esteem and organization of valenced information about others: The "Jekyll and Hyde"-ing of relationship partners. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(4), 652–665.
Halmos, Miklós B., Parrott, Dominic J., Henrich, Christopher C., & Eckhardt, Christopher I. (2020) The structure of aggression in conflict-prone couples: Validation of a measure of the Forms and Functions of Intimate Partner Aggression (FFIPA). Psychological Assessment, 32(5), 461-472.
Happ, C., Melzer, A., & Steffgen, G. (Apr 2015). Like the good or bad guy—Empathy in antisocial and prosocial games. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(2), 80-96.
Keulen, R. F., Adam, J. J., Fischer, M. H., Kuipers, H., & Jolles, J. (2002).
Lundh, L. (Mar 2017). Relation and technique in psychotherapy: Two partly overlapping categories. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 27(1), 59-78.
Winston, C. N., Maher, H., & Easvaradoss, V. (Jun 2017). Conceptualizations of the good and the bad life: Two sides of the same coin? The Humanistic Psychologist, 45(2), 134-161.