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Three Steps to Helping Your Client Connect-the-Dots
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the previous section, we discussed Biderman's Brainwashing patterns of behavior,
as it related to your client's attempts to manage their manager or "Great
In this section... we will talk about techniques to further assist your
client in "connect the dots" of abuse. Here's the basic ground work
that sets the stage and makes connecting the dots of abuse such a therapeutic
challenge; the basic premise upon which the abuse is based.
♦ Nothing Without a Man
women think they are nothing without a man. Thus, they are unable to connect the
dots, so to speak, of abuse. Dr. Russianoff expands upon this basic underpinning,
upon which the Great Catch theory is based, in her book that is aptly titled "Why
do I think I Am Nothing Without a Man?" See if you can make the connection
between Dr. Russianoff's ideas and the therapeutic challenge you face in assisting
your client to recognize abusive behavior. Dr. Russianoff states: "Brenda,
an architect, does have a man in her life--Josh. Brenda didn't have to tell me
how successful she is; I had read a magazine article about her. But the Brenda
who showed up in my office was not the confident sophisticate depicted in the
don't know what's happened to me since my marriage," Brenda said. "I
used to go off on assignments to the other side of the world without even thinking
about it. Now I try to get out of such projects. I want local ones. I'm just not
happy, unless I'm with Josh. If he can't go to a party and I go alone, I don't
have fun. So I'd rather just stay home. And, you know, we just got a new car.
It's a sports car, and I can't drive stick, so I just let Josh drive us everywhere.
And the worst thing is, we could afford another car, one I could drive, but I
don't even want one. I like being chauffeured. I like it, but at the same time
I resent this
this symbol of my self-induced bondage."
Brenda's dilemma suggests, you don't have to live alone to think that you are
nothing without a man. You don't have to be divorced or widowed or never married.
You can be living with a man or married and think that without this man you would
be lonely, socially inhibited, emotionally and sexually barren.
counseled a number of married women who absolutely had no lives of their own,
because their hopes and dreams and plans and daily routines revolved so tightly
around those of the men with whom they lived.
women know their significant other better than anyone else. Some use this knowledge
to try to gain greater understanding of what she could do to make her "great
catch" act differently. Regardless of how poorly they are treated, some women
cling to the belief that they can bring out the best in their partner. In fact,
have you found, like I, the more extreme the controlling partner's actions, the
harder your client may try to understand him. They create a self-induced bondage.
when you see a pattern conflicting with your clients goals, how do you help the
client who is unable to draw her own conclusions or connect the dots, so to speak.
And by connecting the dots I mean: How can you help your verbally abused clients
to connect the dots for themselves and identify and gain a perspective on the
controlling abusive behavior to which they are subjected to daily? Here are three
perspectives I help my clients gain by connect the dots.
Three Perspectives for Connecting-the-Dots
♦ Perspective #1: Potential
to help them connect the dots, if they are open, where do they stand in their
relationship to "Potential?" They continue to try to manage the
unmanageable manager by looking for specific explanations and focusing on relationship
potential rather than relationship reality. To accomplish this, I use a Gestalt
exercise of focusing on the present. I ask the client, "Where do you feel
tension in your body right now? Describe that feeling. How often to you feel that
By increasing their awareness of how they actually feel right now,
they become increasingly aware that how they feel in the relationship most of
the time ranges from dis-ease to catastrophic. Over a succession of sessions,
they begin to connect the dots that they are focusing on the potential of the
relationship rather than the reality of the relationship
you recall, in the previous section Jenny stated, "I would try to remove anything
that might be a cause for Tom to yell and get red in the face." I asked,
"Do you feel you are living in more of a 'potential' relationship rather
than in a 'real' current relationship?" It helps her to continue believing
her "Great Catch" will become even more of a great prize as she is confident
their relationship will eventually improve
♦ Perspective #2 : Refocusing
what's a second perspective with your "Jenny?" To help her to connect the dots, I wanted to refocus Jenny
away from her denial of feelings, which kept her busily reacting and defending
against Tom's attacks. One way Jenny had of denying her feelings was to search
for the specific reason behind Tom's abusive controlling behavior. Jenny's looking
for specific explanations helps her to feel she has goal-directed productive behavior.
The more specific the explanation is, the more manageable Jenny felt the situation
was. Think of a client you are currently treating. I pointed out to Jenny that,
no matter how specific of an explanation she tried to construct, she was still
in the reaction mode and not taking action. However, as you know, in cases of
physical abuse the client's taking action against their abuser can lead to greater
physical harm and even death. Is there a client you are currently treated that
could benefit from be moved from reaction into action?
♦ Perspective #3 : Hoping
3 in connecting the dots of managing the unmanageable manager is through examining
"If Only" hoping. If some specific circumstances caused his bad
behavior, then she could believe that when the circumstances changed he would
be better. This is called the "if only" formula. Denise, age 25, had
been married to Robert for five years and has two children who are ages three
and five. She kept telling herself, "If only traffic hadn't been bad, Robert
wouldn't take it out on me. If only my three year old hadn't dropped his cup of
water when Robert was in the room, the evening would have been fine. If only I
could be thin like Julia Roberts, we would have a great sex life." Such explanations
gave Denise hope for change and the sense of being able to bring that change about:
by hoping for less traffic, hoping her children would behave perfectly, and hoping
for the perfect diet to give her the perfect body.
summary to assist your client to connect the dots that abuse is happening, even
though there are no physical scars as in physical abuse, would it be helpful to
introduce any of the following three concepts into your next session?
1. Living in the Potential and not living in the reality of the present.
2. Reacting by recreating elaborate explanations to feel productive action is being
3. Do "if only" wishful thinking in hopes that their "if
only" wishes will be grated
the "connecting the dots" concept one you could apply to a client you
are currently treating? Is she living in the potential rather then living in reality?
Is she reacting and defending rather than having goal-directed productive behavior?
How much is she involved in "if only" hoping that things will work out
with her "Great Catch?"
the next section... we will talk about 5 urban legends or myths you might consider
reviewing with your client concerning their beliefs about abuse.
What are three Connect-the-Dot perspectives? To select and enter your answer go to .