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Minimize Wishful Thinking with the Cake-and-Icing Principle
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the last section, we discussed power imbalances in relationships as a result of Lifetraps.
In this section, we'll explore the use of metaphors to help clients find closure.
you found that clients suffering from Lifetraps often become depressed due
to self-comparisons? Christy, a 19 year old student who we discussed in the
last section, stated she often felt depressed. Christy's depression seemed to stem
from her feeling of being "Unlovable". As you recall, Christy was dealing
with a power imbalance in her relationship with her now ex-boyfriend Jason.
stated, "I start thinking about what is "lovable" about me, but
the problem is that I also start thinking about how fat I am compared to Jason's
new girlfriend, Jen." Christy went on to say "I think to myself, 'If
I were more like Jen, Jason would be with me now.' Then I get caught up in thinking
about how much I want my parents to apologize to me for the things they did when
I was young that led me to feel that I wasn't good enough for Jason."
Principle - 3 Steps
you agree? Clients often know what kind of an outcome they want, but knowing what
they can realistically get isn't easy. Client's "wishful thinking" often
gets in the way of, delays, or totally stifles their growth. How do you address
wishful thinking in a session with a client? I call wishful thinking the Principle
of Cake-and-Icing. The cake is the solid part, it has substance. The icing is
the extra or the fluff. If you were hungry, you could feel satisfied with the
cake more easily than the icing.
♦ Step # 1 - The Cake: Clearly State How You Were Hurt & What You Want
how this worked with Christy. I asked Christy to think about the Cake-and-Icing
Principle in regard to the apology she feels she needs from her parents for
making her feel she wasn't good enough for Jason. Christy stated, "I need
to believe that they didn't really want me to feel unloved and unwanted. I need
to believe that my parents making me feel unwanted or unlovable was an accident,
or unintentional. I would like for them to apologize, and explain to me why I
wasn't important to them or, I guess, important enough to them."
♦ Step # 2 - The Icing: Eliciting an Apology
found that for a client, often the act of clearly stating how they were hurt
by another is most important for closure or the cake so to speak. But actually
eliciting an apology is the icing and may not be a realistic option. As you know,
it's important for clients to understand that they may never get an apology from
certain people. Have you found that this is especially true regarding childhood
abuse or neglect when the victim seeks an apology years later? Clearly stating
what they would want is the cake, and actually having the other person do it is
the Icing. Another metaphor for this is having a person do what you want them
to do might be the Cherry-on-top-of-the-Sundae.
asked Christy if she could apply the Cake-and-Icing or the Cherry-on-top metaphor
attitude towards not receiving an apology from her parents. Christy stated how
she felt, "My parents feel so strongly about being right; they can't bring
themselves to apologize for their actions to me." Christy stated, "Last
week I was talking with my dad about how he called me a stupid kid as a child
and how much that hurt me. I was hoping he'd apologize, but instead he just said,
'Well, you were stupid. I was just saying the truth. You know you never did well
♦ Step # 3 - Accept that There May Never be an Apology
felt that it was important to express what she was feeling about her childhood
in an open manner to her father. To do this, Christy found that she would have
to accept that her father was not going to apologize for hurting her feelings.
Christy knew this would be a difficult conversation, but that it was necessary
for her to air these feelings before she felt that she could move forward in dealing
with her depression and feeling she was Unlovable.
Think of a client you're currently
treating. Would it be helpful to use the metaphors of Cake-and-Icing or Cherry-on-top-of-the-Sundae
to help your client identify and set realistic relationship goals?
What are two metaphors to assist your clients who feel they're unlovable? To select and enter your answer go to .