Much of my client work is in the tricky area of #deprogramming. Essentially deprogramming is about rupturing one set of fundamental beliefs by putting them in direct conflict with another set of beliefs. I proactively use #cognitivedissonance as a mechanism to push my clients to see the harsh reality of their current situation. Why? Because they need to be in reality to escape their Groundhog Day loop of a #divorce.
It’s necessary work so that my clients can learn to protect their mental health and build an independent life over the long haul. However, it means I have the difficult job of having to educate them on the unpalatable truths of their exes psychological presentation and what that means for their negotiations. I have to strip away their delusions.
Delusions aren’t always bad. They also function as healthy, psychological self-protections in the face of a ‘truth’ that is too painful or enormous to comprehend in one go. Delusions thus act to safeguard us against these disruptive truths.
As an example, think of a man who is told by the doctor his wife is dying. That truth is so dark, his mind literally does not let him comprehend the words. He continues to act and behave as though his wife will get better contrary to all objective evidence.
My clients go through a similar process. They hope, they desire, they dream that their partner will quickly and rationally negotiate so everyone can get on with their lives. They have years of experience on how their ex-partner behaves but they over-write this knowledge with a fantasy script of how they would ‘want them to behave’.
-Maybe today he will be reasonable and we can get an agreement.
My job is therefore to put my clients in touch with reality. It takes time. It takes some serious effort. It takes a multi-frontal assault to get through the psyche but we do get there in fits and starts.
Yesterday, I watched a lovely client begin to wake up to reality. The sheer horror of the true implications for her future, her life, her freedom begin to break through the delusion. It was not easy to witness.
I know today or tomorrow this new truth will embed and she will be stronger and wiser for knowing it, but still, having to guide my clients to this point and then watch this rupture happen time and time again is challenging.
Unfortunately, as a therapist I don’t have the luxury of centering my work on ‘positive mental attitude’ because I have to do the dirty, confrontational work to get movement in my clients.
It’s painful to watch my clients in pain, it’s painful to know I’ve been instrumental in getting them to these point of clarity, it’s painful to have nothing to offer other than being by their side when the enormity of their situation finally hits them. I try to take some comfort in knowing they will get out the other side – this thought though never lessens my vicarious suffering.
Yesterday was hard.