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Guide for Therapists
Case of Jim
GUIDE TO RELATIONAL THERAPY
A few things that may help you better your relationships
Some people will tell you that irrational (or emotional) behavior is bad, and that you must always be rational. But people are not robots, and the irrational is a necessary part of us. The problem is not irrational behavior, but mixing up rational with irrational, as in acting the way you feel instead of expressing your feelings through your body language (even if it is as "irrational" as a tantrum), or expressing your thoughts indirectly through your behavior, as if they were feelings (e. g. fabricated smiles or controlled gestures, avoidant or passiveaggressive behavior), instead of acting boldly according to what you think. This kind of "mixing up" can create conflicts and problems both within ourselves and in our relationships. Many conflicts and relationship problems arise from the fact that we act to please or harm others, and we feel pleased or harmed by other's actions. If we act to inform or change others at a rational level, and assess rationally instead of emotionally the actions of others, then we can avoid much of our minor or serious relational problems and breakups. It's more natural to be upset by the fact that the other does not value me positively, as I feel that from his body language, than to be saddened that he did something wrong to me. For the latter I should have no feelings, but rather think and do something about it! Let's start with the beginning: there are four main things that people do: they think, act, feel, and express through their body language (as in emotional expressions). Well-adjusted people act what they think, and express what they feel. Also, in a relationship, they think about others' acts, and feel about what others express. Unadjusted people act what they feel, instead of what they think, or express what they think, instead of what they feel. In a relationship, they think about what others express, or feel about others' acts. So, to become well-adjusted instead of unadjusted, we don't have to change the way we think, act, feel, or express, but change the relations among these within ourselves, in our relationships, or both. We will show you a few examples that might match or approximate your experiences, so you can learn to apply them to similar situations you encounter in your life. Make sure your partner does the same. Act what you think, do not content to express it: speak your mind, don't let me guess it
Instead of the unadjusted: "I decided that's better for me to leave my boyfriend, and I tried to show him that" Try the well-adjusted: "I decided that's better for me to leave my boyfriend, and I told him that" The first response would generally be appropriate in: I found out that I don't love my boyfriend anymore, and I tried to show him that" Instead of the unadjusted: "Today I decided that it's better for me to break up with my girlfriend, and I'll behave so that she will leave me" Try the well-adjusted: "Today I decided that it's better for me to break up with my girlfriend, and I will tell her that" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "I found out that I don't love my girlfriend anymore, and I'll behave so that she will leave me" So, if you know that the other expresses what he/she thinks, instead of acting it out, and if he/she is acting like trying to show you that he/she is not loving you anymore, or like trying to make you leave him/her, understand that he/she decided that's better for him/her to break up with you, but he/she is not necessarily not loving you anymore. What to do further is up to you. Express what you feel, do not act it out: "love don't cost a thing", and "love is a feeling, I don't wanna hear it" Instead of the unadjusted: "I love my girlfriend and I always buy her what she wants" Try the well-adjusted: "I love my girlfriend and I'm always gentle with her" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "I want her to be comfortable and I always buy her what she wants" Instead of the unadjusted: "We love each other; that's why we are moving in together" Try the well-adjusted: "We love each other; that's why we can't spend much time being apart" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "We are getting along very well and think we can share a household; that's why we are moving in together" So, if you know that the other acts out what he/she feels, instead of expressing it, and if he/she wants to move in with you, understand that he/she has feelings for you, but has not necessarily thought of all the things involved in living together. Think about others' acts, don't feel about them: get what I have in mind, do not mind Instead of the unadjusted: "My girlfriend wants to make up with me, and I'm thrilled about it, 'cause this means that she loves me" Try the well-adjusted: "My girlfriend wants to make up with me, and I agree, because that's better for both of us" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "I feel that my girlfriend loves me, and I'm thrilled about it" Instead of the unadjusted: "My partner wants to buy me a house, and therefore I assume he/she loves me" Try the well-adjusted: "My partner wants to buy me a house, and therefore I assume he/she wants to make me understand he/she is serious about us"
The first response would generally be appropriate in: "My partner always treats me kind, and therefore I assume he/she loves me" So, if you know that the other feels about your acts, instead of thinking about them, don't tell her you want to make up with her unless you really love her. Otherwise, she will not understand that it is a mere rational decision, and will build upon a love that isn't there. Feel what others express, do not think about it: I need you to feel what I feel, I don't want to fill you in Instead of the unadjusted: "She thinks that I'm smart, I can see it in her eyes" Try the well-adjusted: "She likes me, I can feel it in her eyes" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "She thinks that I'm smart, she asked my help in solving a difficult problem” Instead of the unadjusted: "He is giving me a bitter look, and I'm wondering what is wrong?" Try the well-adjusted: "He is giving me a bitter look, and I feel that he is sad or angry" The first response would generally be appropriate in: "He's not acting like he used to, and I'm wondering what is wrong?” So, if you know that the other thinks about what you express, instead of feeling about it, try not to show him/her your emotions, unless you thus want to make a point about your thoughts. For example, if you want to raise his self-esteem, you can flirt with him, but don't expect that this will make him understand that you like him as a man.
Give up fabricated smiles and controlled gestures. Express your fears or sadness, don't try to act against them. Act against dangerous or bad situations instead, and irrational fear or depression will go away Physical symptoms like shaking, crying, nausea, pain etc. (what is often called "sickness") can be no more than pathological emotional expressions. Unlike normal emotional expressions, symptoms appear not as a reaction to a perceived emotional state, but to a situation. People with such symptoms do not realize that these symptoms are in fact the result of their state of fear or depression, and rather think that they are provoked by events they perceive in the outside world, like dangers or bad situations. For example, when someone says "I cry for little or no reason", or "there is nothing to cry about", a rational cause is assumed that makes people cry, instead of their own emotions. People with symptoms also display avoidant or passive-aggressive behavior; they do not openly express their feelings, nor do they openly speak up their thoughts, nor act what they think. They act out their fears by deliberately avoiding or sabotaging unpleasant people or situations, and express their thoughts about someone or something through obstructionist, involuntary resistance/stubbornness (avoidant behavior and passive resistance). Fabricated smiles and controlled gestures are falling in the same category of expressing what you think (you should express), instead of what you feel. Also, whereas people without symptoms act against bad or dangerous situations, and not against their sadness or fears, people with symptoms try to act against their feelings, and naturally, they fail in doing that, because feelings are not subject to the control of reason.
So, if you are like: I'm depressed (afraid), and I try to do something about it.
The situation is bad, and I'm sick.
Try: I'm depressed (afraid), and I'm sick. The situation is bad, and I try to do something about it.
And you will soon be in the position that: The situation is bad, and I try to do something about it. So I'm not so depressed (afraid), and I'm not sick.
Tapu, C.S. (2001). Hypostatic Personality: Psychopathology of Doing and Being Made. Premier (Not a book for everyone; it requires a basic knowledge of psychology/psychiatry).
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