Posted by: ellyn on Oct 1, 2010
When you are doing Initiator-Inquirer sessions, be sure to watch how partners function in their assigned roles. The combination of the role and each partner's functioning will give you a clear insight into each partner's level of differentiation. You will see where each person breaks down and you will also be able to locate past trauma that is being re-enacted in the current relationship.
Today's blog post is a continuation of the session with Vicki and Tom.
This session originally began with a blaming initiation from Tom. "I am sick of being controlled by you. You want to control my whole life. You leave no area untouched." I started by helping Vicki ask Tom questions to uncover his feelings and perceptions that were unexpressed while he blamed her for being controlling.
She initially had difficulty not personalizing his issues, but she was able to take some of my developmental assists and use them to ask a few effective questions. At the very end of last month's post a lot happened very, very quickly. This is common when you are working simultaneously with core issues in each partner.
Tom began to regress as I commented on how much he disliked feeling helpless and especially how much he disliked it with his wife. Vicki also took a step backwards and again self-referenced. "I don't want you to feel that way. But can't you understand this isn't about what I am doing?"
As you'll see in the next part of the transcript, this resulted in Tom striking back with hostility, "I don't need an intellectualizing lecture from you right now." And now you have multiple choices, which is where the art and science of the Initiator-Inquirer process comes in. You could:
- Support Tom's regression
- Give more developmental assistance to Vicki in her role as Inquirer, so she personalizes less
- Confront the nastiness and hostility in Tom's response to her
- Try to do as much of all three of these as possible
There are no wrong answers. There are only choices. You must be resilient and willing to regroup if you make a choice that takes you in an ineffective direction.
I made a decision to start by supporting Tom's regression into the past. The issue he initiated was so strong and so clearly laced with old feelings that I guessed it would be valuable to explore the origin of his feeling controlled. Here is how the session progressed:
Ellyn: Tom, I hear that you don't like feeling helpless and it seems to bother you even more if Vicki is kind to you.
Tom: I never want to feel helpless. And it is even worse if I am getting an intellectualizing lecture from her.
Ellyn: And if you were getting compassion?
Tom: I don't want compassion. Damn it. How can she feel compassion when I feel pain?
Ellyn: I think she could feel compassion if you let her in more and told her more about the pain you experienced as a little boy and also why it affects you even now.
Tom: That pain is even worse than what I am feeling now.
Ellyn: Keeping that pain so secret is what results in you feeling so controlled by your wife. What was it like? Will you tell her a little about it?
Tom: (Starts sobbing) I was beaten by my father. I didn't make good grades. My grades never measured up to what my dad wanted. He wanted all A's.
Ellyn: Take your time. Stay there.
Tom: I was never good enough. (Sobbing)
Ellyn: (After waiting until his tears begin to subside) And tell Vicki some more.
Tom: He beat me. He beat me with a belt. More than once.
Tom: I went to the hospital.
Vicki: You went to the hospital? (said with surprise and softness in her voice)
Tom: Yes, I had 2 black eyes and I was nearly unconscious. I was there for a few days.
Ellyn: As you lay there in your hospital bed, feeling so much physical pain, what were you telling yourself about the emotional pain?
Tom: Nobody will ever be the boss of me again! No one! Nobody! No how.
(He says all this vehemently.)
Ellyn: And tell Vicki, "I won't ever let anyone boss me. I don't ever want to feel this bad again."
Tom: You bet. Vicki, I never ever want to be beaten into a pulp again. I don't care what grades I get. No one will ever hammer on me ever again!
So, let's stop again. Where do you go next? What have you learned? How did I facilitate Tom's regression without losing Vicki? Please read what your colleagues are thinking about these questions and share your own ideas, too.
I look forward to reading your comments. They are the very best source of my responses for future posts. Remember that this blog is public and your comments should not reveal your clients' identity.
Until next month,