Posted by Dr. Vollmer on June 8, 2012
Penelope, thirty-two, says “it is unbelievable how my boyfriend treats me It is so bad.” “You mean that you do not want to belive how Sam treats you?” I say, pointing out that her word “unbelievable” is really a shorthand way of saying that she was in denial about how he was treating her until now. “No, but I just can’t believe how mean he is to me. He insults my body. He tells me I am stupid. He puts me down constantly.” Penelope expands on her notion of “unbelievable”. “Is this new behavior?” I ask, knowing that we have talked about this many times before, but wanting to illustrate how hard it is for her to comprehend the kind of relationship she is in. “No, it is not new, but it just feels worse for some reason,” Penelope replies. “Maybe it feels worse because you are more honest with yourself about your dynamics with him.” I say, highlighting that what is new is her consciousness about the relationship. “Yea, but I really love Sam and I don’t want to break up with him,” Penelope says with a tone of fear. “It sounds like you are scared,” I say, pointing out the feeling in the room. “Yes, I am scared, but I also don’t like the way I am being treated. I know that I don’t get anywhere when I talk to him about it, so I am really stuck.” Penelope says, now with a tone of frustration. “Your frustration throws you back into denial, such that the next time Sam is mean to you, you will again be caught off-guard.” I say, helping her to see that the more she can stay conscious of her feelings, the more she will be able to deal with her painful interactions with Sam. “This is really hard,” Penelope says, understanding how our therapy is making her more in touch with her emotional interior. “Yep, it is a difficult journey,” I say, reminding her that this is a process which travels through many dark places, but hopefully ends up with internal peace.