Thursday, July 28, 2016

How to Break a Family Conflict Impasse

In Family Therapy there is a way to get people unstuck from a symptom by prescribing the very symptom he or she is fearful about. Say my client has a fear of panic attacks. I might suggest that she have one at home when no one is there with her.

It is a mischievous intervention that needs to be done carefully but if done right it will bring about real change.

For example, in Counseling a client may take a very hard line against the behavior of a loved one's drinking. Her husband goes to a bar nightly and she reads all the books on the dangers of booze and lectures him with her fervent insights. "You must stay home with me and the baby".

He of course, resists her nagging and goes earlier and stays later to "Just be with my friends". And, every night he begs her to go with him to have fun with these wonderful people. He knows she will refuse because she hates booze!

All her friends, her mother and her Pastor agree with her and attack her husband. The books on being tough on sin tell her to threaten and withhold her loving. She is mad!

His friends all tell him to get rid of this pious shrew that nags all the time. The males tell similar tales of woe about nagging wives and he gets mad!

She refuses to go with him on a "date" and he refuses to stay home. The cycle is repeated endlessly.

One day her friend says, "Go see ______. He is a Christian and a Counselor. He helped me."

she comes to see the Counselor who listens carefully to the situation. He sees that she is trapped in a losing Triangle. She and her husband are in conflict and the bar is one side of the triangle with the baby on the other side. The more she nags the stronger is his attraction to the the bar friends. The more he brags about the bar the stronger she holds on to her baby and home.

Look at the slides. I show the husband as the square and the wife is a circle. I have placed a lighting bolt between mom and dad. When a couple has conflict, they will automatically draw another person or thing into the middle making a triangle.

In this drawing, there are two smaller Dots that are easily drawn to their sides. The Dot above stands for the Bar and Friends. The Dot below stands for the Child she wants to protect. How can they break out of the impasse?

Doing the same thing and expecting different results is insanity! 

If it does not work, stop it.

The Counselor suggests a Paradoxical Intervention to break the impasse.

After a long discussion, he coaches her to change the interaction.

 "Tonight, hire a babysitter, take a shower, dress beautifully and greet him warmly when he arrives at home. Have nice meal and say 'Honey, you have convinced me that we can have fun together with your friends at the bar. I am eager to be with you tonight and go on our date!'"

It is a paradox to suggest the very thing she fears. 

Does the Counselor want her to get drunk? Is the goal to leave the baby more? Will her husband take her along? What will her friends say? What will she do? Can she face her fears?

What will happen?

Tune in tomorrow to find out.

Get our book How to be me in my Family Tree and learn how to get yourself and others unstuck.  

No comments: