Evan - II

This man was struggling to end a very unhappy marriage, and was stuck on the issue of possible separation from his son. (Have a look at Evan if youíve forgotten the details.)

He told me that he did not trust his wife to speak fairly about him to his son. We knew from our sessions that this worry over his son somehow being brainwashed by his mother was unfounded. His son was quite clear that his mother spoke out of anxiety, that he didnít take any of her character assassination to heart, and that in fact he preferred his fatherís company. We also knew that much of Evanís long buried feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy were tied up relationship with in his son. (He had, for example, a series of recurring dreams in which his and his sonís identities were blurred and often merged.)

In considering what to say to this man as worried that his son would be turned against him, I might have chosen among several approaches. I might have taken a cognitive focus and suggested the irrational belief that his son would be so susceptible to suggestion; in a similar vein I might have focused on the irrational belief that his relationship with his son would not withstand a little bad-mouthing from mother. I might have taken a Freudian approach and suggested that his worry about his sonís opinion of him reflected his worries about own father or even about me. As an Interpersonalist I might have addressed the latter, as well. As a Gestaltist I might have challenged his whining and his lack of faith in his son, or dared him to explore just how bad he felt about himself. As a Jungian, I might have invoked the universal fears of separation and disintegration, or appealed to Evanís "shadow" and/or his "animus" to help him cope with the problem. As a practitioner of dialectical behavior therapy, I might have focused on his feelings of dependency and weakness, that he so needs his sonís approval he cannot move or make a decision. And so on and on.

The lovely surprise is that any of these interventions might have proven successful depending on the Evanís style and personality, on those same qualities in myself, and on my specific relationship with him. Any one could have brought the increased awareness which cleared the way for his change in attitude, feelings, and behavior. If you look again at that list of different things I might have said to Evan, you may see that at bottom they donít differ much from each other. As one colleague of mine put it "Good therapy is good therapy, only the babble is different". (Another, who had trained at a psychoanalytic institute reputed to be one of the best in the world and who had subsequently pursued even more advanced training, put it more colorfully: "Theyíre all saying the same shit.")

What I did say to Evanís "I donít trust my wife" was, "It sounds like you donít trust your son". He was silent for a moment and then made a leap of his own. He sat up suddenly, his voice now much stronger, and said that what he really didnít trust was himself, and that this is why he had no belief that his son would maintain his good opinion of Daddy. He brought up an events of the previous week and of the more distant past as illustrations of this intense self-doubt, including things he had not thought of in years. Here again is that surge of energy, memory, and insight that is the sign of a productive session. During this discussion the worry about losing his sonís loyalty all but disappeared; he then turned a much clearer head to the issues of divorce and custody.

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