Anger and Relationships

Alaine De Botton on anger:

Not sure if this really Seneca’s take on Anger. It interesting though. The essential take on anger is that it is the result of holding unrealistic expectations and that more pessimism will help calm you down.

Anger is a philosophical problem with a philosophical solution. Perhaps a bit like CBT?

My philosophical response is that it is not sufficient. Unrealistic expectations can equally lead to sadness and then it is usually framed as disappointment. However there is something to this philosophical take. Our thoughts not the other persons behaviour are at the root of anger.

A fuller take on this idea from Marshall Rosenberg:

In short: Anger is the way we get a signal that there is an unmet need. I think he uses the example of the “check engine light”.

I’m aware of another form of anger that is not really either of the above. Anger at injustice. this is from wikipedia: “Socialism is the flame of anger against injustice.” I think of this being tied in with our fight response, adrenalin rushing to survive against onslaught. This not just in the eye of the beholder as some might say. Inequality, sexism, racism, exploitation and oppression really do exist. There is a good fight. Anger at violation of human rights surely is a good thing.

There are a couple of traps here though. Take this site:

Question: “How can I know for sure that my anger is righteous indignation?”

Answer: We can know for sure that our anger or indignation is righteous when it is directed toward what angers God Himself. Righteous anger and indignation are justly expressed when we are confronted with sin. Good examples would be anger toward child abuse, pornography, racism, homosexual activity, abortion, and the like.

Makes sense if you think God is against gay rights and women’s right to choose. But it does not make sense in the real world. Investigation is the key to knowing waht is real.

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Anger and Psychotherapy

I’ve heard this a lot in my profession:

“Anger is a socially suppressed emotion and people – especially women – need a safe place to get in touch with their anger. Expression of anger leads to discovering the emotions under the anger, being assertive and getting needs met. Anger is not the same as violence.”

The trouble with this is that it does not work like that if the person comes home and thinks it is a good idea to be angry with their partner. In some way anger can easily lead to violence verbal, emotional and physical. Marshall Rosenberg’s principle that other people are not the cause of our anger needs to be taken into the picture more fully than it often is.

It is easy for a therapist to side with the person in front of them. To see their side of the story. Much harder to concretise the “other” in the room with the other perspective.

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Angry Couples

In psychotherapy with couples the question about the nature of anger is important. It is held by many couple therapists that people who choose to be together in an intimate relationship are in a “horizontal relationship”. The tenet is that as therapists we should not take sides, but be a catalyst to the healing potential in the relationship. From an Imago website:

Romantic love is the door to a committed relationship and/or marriage and is nature’s way of connecting us with the perfect partner for our eventual healing.

In my work with couples I can hold that trust that the couples are equally wounded and that the power struggle can be nasty and that they have equal responsibility to get out of it. Each partner can take full responsibility for the relationship.

Talk so the other will listen.
Listen so the other will talk.

Even when there seems to be abuse of power, it usually does not take long to get to the fear, hurt, powerlessness and vulnerability under the surface. All problems in the relationship are co-created. i.e. the way one partner talks leads to the way the other listens – learn to talk without blaming shaming and criticism. Learn to listen so the other will talk. Even social inequalities can be addressed with this principle. I’m amazed how far I can take that principle in my work with couples. I’m amazed because I don’t think society is an even playing field.

Male Privilege

Look at the list here “160+ Examples of Male Privilege in All Areas of Life”. This social inequality seeps deeply onto marriage and committed relationships.

Michael White years ago drew my attention to a Gregory Bateson idea: there are “restraints of feedback and restraints of redundancy” The feed back ones are created on the level playing field.

The other restraint is due to the social values that are the ruin of a relationship.

Therapist’s Values

William Doherty is very good at seeing and responding to the social forces that mess up relationships. His book Take Back Your Marriage, Second Edition: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart is excellent. All about the restraints of redundancy to use Bateson’s impossible jargon.

In the psychotherapy Networker he advocates:

The biggest problem in couples therapy, beyond the raw incompetence that sadly abounds, is the myth of therapist neutrality, which keeps us from talking about our values with one another and our clients. If you think you’re neutral, you can’t frame clinical decisions in moral terms, let alone make your values known to your clients. That’s partly why stepfamilies and fragile couples get such bad treatment from even good therapists. Stepfamily life is like a morality play with conflicting claims for justice, loyalty, and preferential treatment. You can’t work with remarried couples without a moral compass. Fragile couples are caught in a moral crucible, trying to discern whether their personal suffering is enough to cancel their lifetime commitment, and whether their dreams for a better life outweigh their children’s needs for a stable family. The therapist’s moral values are writ large on these clinical landscapes, but we can’t talk about them without violating the neutrality taboo. And for clients, there’s the scary fact that what therapists can’t talk about may be decisive in the process and outcome of their therapy.

I think this is tricky terrain. I think it best to focus on the co-creation of the relationship rather than the unequal society it is born from. That is a value I have because there is a lot a couple can do to address these issues in their relationship IF they can connect.

Still I am pleased to have the “permission” to have values, to weave them in in such a way that I am not seen as taking sides, because I am not.

Roles Create Roles

“a role is the functioning form the individual assumes in the specific moment he reacts to a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved” (Moreno, 1977, p IV)

Lets take a list of roles, these are from Max Clayton’s article (Clayton, 1994),  it is a convenient list, and it is the one that got me to think about this:

Artist
Playful fun-lover
Coach
Companion
Adventurer
Manipulator
Teacher
Despairer
Self-doubter
Guard
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Angry controller
Condemning critic
Friend
Father
Good listener
Lover
Perfectionist

For each of these there is as Moreno puts it: “a specific situation in which other persons or objects are involved.” We can grasp the role it is possibly in relation to from the role.

Artist
Playful funlover
Coach
Companion
Adventure
Manipulator
Teacher
Despairer
Self-doubter
Guard
Frightened, abandoned orphan
Anxious and suspicious fantasiser
Angry controller
Condemning critic
Friend
Father
Good listener
Lover
Perfectionist
Art Materials or Audience
Playmates
Trainee
Companion
Wilderness, the unknown, adventurer
Compliant Follower, Sucker, victim
Student
The Void, Black dog, Stubborn controller
Critic
Invaders
Absent Parent, Threatening bully
Challenging person or situation
Helpless follower
Self doubter
Friend
Child
Speaker
Lover
Slob

Creating Change in a Role Relationship

These role pairs will change as one of the roles changes:

The teacher can’t teach without the student

Lovers need lovers

If the manipulatee ceases to be duped and becomes assertive the manipulator can’t manipulate.

If there is no speaker, become a good listener.

If there is no artist, become an appreciative audience and contribute materials

Be loving and love may come your way.

Stop criticising, appreciate and praise and you won’t be with a self-doubter for long.

Role relationships

There are different types of role relationship. Max talks of complementary roles and symmetrical roles.

“The diagrams made it easier to be aware of the complementary and symmetrical role systems that developed with other people and of the fact that there was an increase in complementary role relationships. As ability to analyse, plan and enjoy life came to the fore, so those roles pertaining to intimacy increased. There was a welcoming of closeness and an interest in complementing what others were doing. The aggressive approach to others diminished and along with this a lessening of symmetrical role relations and of the competitive dynamic that is associated with these. There was also a development of a real sense of being a role creator. Previously there had been much more of a sense of being a mundane person. A look at the diagrams also confirmed the ability to create forms of expression through which life purposes could be fulfilled. The experience of being a role creator was accompanied by an increase in motivation.”

An example of complementary role might be speaker / listener – and this would increase intimacy, as max suggests.

Symmetrical roles can escalate and be competitive e.g. Talker / talker can become shouter / shouter.

But some symmetrical roles can be intimate lover/lover gardener/gardener

Google search found the book online Note: I have a physical copy.

References

Clayton, G. M. (1994). Role Theory and its Application in Clinical Practice. In P. Holmes, K. Karp, & M. Watson (Eds.), Psychodrama Since Moreno (pp. 121–144). London: Routledge. Retrieved Tuesday, 9 February, 2016 from aanzpa.org
Moreno, J. L. (1977). Psychodrama Volume One (Fourth ed.). Beacon, New York: Beacon House.

Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter

Just added this to my Writing page.

Doubling, Spontaneity, Creativity and Encounter (docx) — Out of date (Saturday, 7 May, 2016)

Now working on a draft here in Google Docs

This is an article I’ve been working on since I presented something along these lines at 2014 AANZPA conference.  Its about the value of doubling what is adequate in the protagonist. Doubling is not coaching, but assisting the protagonist to say what is in them in a way that it can be heard.

It takes further the ideas I came away with from the Dan Wile workshop. He says something like this: I assist the couple to heave the conversation they would have if they were not fighting.

See additional notes from 6 October 2012 Zerka Moreno on Doubling and Tele

Varieties of Encounter

Facilitating interaction was the dictum I used for the first couple therapy I did. I recall, as an untrained social worker in a hospital being asked to work with a couple who had difficulties. The night before I read a gestalt based book on couple therapy and facilitate interaction was the central practical guide I took away. I could have done worse.

I have written on dialogue and encounter in the AANZPA Journal more recently: The Imago Affair. Let me quote a relevant chunck from that paper as I wish to further reflect on encounter.

Encounter

At their heart, both Moreno’s and Hendrix’s work go beyond technique and are an invitation to a profound experience. The aim of a dialogue is not a specific outcome, nor is it reliant on one method. Here is the section of Moreno’s well known poem that encapsulates the idea of encounter.

A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at you with your eyes
and you will look at me with mine.
Moreno

Harville Hendrix introduced the validation step into the Imago structure with an eye to facilitating just such an experience. It is often taught as understanding or making sense. The lead-in line goes like this: “You make sense. And one thing that makes sense is…” The listener is invited to cross a bridge into the world of the other, and to see what they see, and feel what they feel in that world. Note the similarity to Moreno in Hendrix’s idea.

Buber clarified for me that a “Thou” relationship with others required honouring their “otherness” as an “I” distinct from me and any concepts I might have of them. This required a willingness to look at the world of another through his or her eyes.
Hendrix

Linger on the moments of connection described here:

I will look at you with your eyes (Moreno)

look at the world of another through his or her eyes (Hendrix)

Are they the same?

Both Imago and in the work of Moreno there is the idea of a special meeting. Not just any meeting, but something profound, where you become the other…

How to facilitate, or operationalise encounter is different in the psychodramatic sphere than in the I Imago sphere. They use different contexts for their techniques as well, psychodrama: the stage. Imago: the couple in dialogue and Hedy Schleifer has a variation:  Host / Visitor to the other’s world.

There are techniques/concepts in these modalities that are sometimes akin, but differently nuanced, and sometimes unique to the method. There are other modalities and have techniques for interaction, of importance is the variation of Imago developed by Hedy Schleifer and her husband, and the work of Dan Wile.

My friend and colleague Dan Randow and I are working on describing the varieties of techniques for encounter. Here is a beginning.

Here is a list of techniques/concepts:

Doubling: in Psychodrama

Mirroring — Psychodrama

Role reversal — Psychodrama

Doubling in Imago:  Related to the use of lead-lines

Doubling in Dan Wile’s CRT

Mirroring in Imago

Validating,  Imago

Empathy as used in Imago

Dialogue (Imago)

Host, Visitor (Hedy Schleifer)

 

Notes:

How does role reversal relate to encounter? In role reversal and in doubling you become the other to the best of your ability. You take the physical position of the other, quite literally in role reversal and by being alongside and slightly behind the other when doubling.

Is it useful to distinguish the inter-psyche from the intra-psyche; what goes on in our subjective world and what goes on between us?  Maybe sometimes, all these encounter processes aim at improving the relationship and healing and growth of the individuals at the same time.

 

 

Evolution and human behaviour and culture.

So much on my mind – I can’t keep up with it!

Books to read on relationships – “Marriage is the medium”

I have been reflecting on the role of evolution in relationships.

I doubt that marriage was somehow hard wired or ‘natural’ yet what is our pairing history?

I have a hypothesis:

We became human through a process of evolutionary development where we gained an advantage by walking upright, liberating the hands, developing language, having a bigger brain. Some of these processes or all of them, involved us being born as infantile creatures more vulnerable than other mammals. We are born at what  might be a more juvenile stage in other primates. This means that the parents play a vital role in development.  Grandparents do too; an explaining why we live beyond our reproductive life. Through the grandparents the group has a collective memory and redundancy in its nurturing capacity.

Psychologically this can all go haywire, evolution did not provide a fool proof post-natal environment. In fact it may be that what does not kill us makes us stronger psychologically. We have attachment wounds and seek out spouses that offer the possibility for psychological healing, a second go at being nurtured. It may be that the fear of change leads us to seek out partners that confirm our familiar view of the world and ourselves and reinforce it. Or there may be strong out-of-awareness mechanisms that can see the healing opportunity. But for some reason pair-bonds evolve that have the potential for re-living (a hellish time) and then repairing attachment wounds.

Some of this may happen while the partners are young, though I imagine it is more likely in the grand-parent phase of life. It may not have happened a lot, but if a tribe had sufficient elders who were somewhat psychologically healed it would lead to significant advantages for the group. Hence the evolution of cultural taboos against divorce and incentives for staying together.

Whatever the reason for the power of hanging-on in a relationship, there is a process of healing that is possible if there is guidance and consciousness. This healing does not happen if at the point of difficulty in the relationship partners just move on. By staying in the relationship, and becoming conscious the marriage becomes a healing space just like a therapeutic relationship. In fact the therapeutic healing space is a surrogate marriage, it can even be a futile substitute. Marriage becomes an alchemical crucible, where stages of transformation can be facilitated by conscious attention. The evolutionary basis is there but we also have reason and consciousness and we have developed capacity for depth and loving relationships. This cultural evolution can happen much faster than physical changes, and there is currently a rapid shift from individualism to a relational paradigm.

There are plenty of other, less benign forces at work that explain marriage, such as inheritance of wealth and bonding families and tribes, however the healing potential of relationships is also there. Very recently (slowly) we as humans may be ridding ourselves of sexist elements of marriage such as ownership of women by men and becoming more conscious of the healing potential.

With this hypothesis to sharpen and examine I have a pile of books to read on my kindle:

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Darwin’s Legacy: Scenarios in Human Evolution (African Archaeology Series) [Kindle Edition] Sue Taylor Parker (Author), Karin Enstam Jaffe (Author)

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Sex, Murder, and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition, and Complexity are Revolutionizing our View of Human Nature

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The Dawn Warriors: Man’s Evolution Toward Peace

ScreenshotScreenshot

 

Robert Bigelow was my teacher in 1969 at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. I was deeply influenced by his teaching. It seemed like we were getting genetics 101, but I now see that his insights were very rare, and they did not get a good grip on the orthodoxies. Sone of the details may be wrong or dated – the overall hypothesis makes sense and makes his book a worthy candidate for Peace Studies.

Time I read it again – not on the kindle unfortunately.

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The Meaning of Human Existence [Kindle Edition]
Edward O. Wilson (Author)

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Then a couple by Stephanie Coontz (she is mentioned in an earlier post relevant to this discussion) here :

The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap Paperback – October 6, 1993
by Stephanie Coontz>

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Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage [Kindle Edition – downloaded sample] Stephanie Coontz

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Diane Wolfthal Images of Rape

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A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion
Here is a review: Goodreads

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Sex: A Natural History

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The Evolution of Marriage and of the Family
By Charles Jean Marie Letourneau

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The Origins and History of Consciousness: Erich Neumann

Further to my exploration of participation mystique in the last two posts I’m led – as some may expect – to:

Amazon

The amazon page has excellent reviews, the description of the book is at the end of this post.

Below are a couple of quotes that give me the sense that he thinks the participation mystique is of a primitive or childlike state of unity that is lost.

This is interesting as it might relate to attachment theory and Moreno’s notion of the matrix of all identity. The idea that it is a primitive state (presumingly leading to individuation) might skip the importance of adult attachment as Susan Johnson talks about it.

Is adult attachment really a stage of not being quite grown up. Schnarch might say that?

Here is a quote by an anonymous reviewer on Amazon:

An interesting side effect of this view of consciousness is the resultant synthesis of linear and cyclical notions of Time. To Neumann, Time is an open-ended linear progression (development) which is recursively cyclical. The recursion occurring in the subject self’s perception of time: That the individual’s subjective perception of time in an early part of his development, corresponds with the Human’s perception of Time in a corresponding earlier point in history.

For example, using Neumann’s framework, one can see the ‘mythological’ persona and teachings of Jesus (and his semi-contemporary Buddha) as the collective expression of the coming ‘personal’ transcendence and autonomy of the Ego (as in: “The Kingdom is in You!”).

Perhaps we are moving forward (and backwards) to the relational paradigm?

Quotes I found from the book follow:

This integration was not necessarily anything mysti-
cal, as the rather nebulous term participation mystique might
lead one to suppose. All it means is that, in the original group,
the solidarity of the group members is to be conceived more on
the analogy of an organ in relation to the body, or of a part in
relation to the whole, than of a part in relation to the sum, and
that the whole exercised a paramount effect, so that the ego
could only free itself very slowly from the tyranny of the group.
This late birth of the ego, consciousness, and the individual is
an incontestable fact.

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PSYCHOLOGICAL STAGES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF PERSONALITY – 295

Originally it was impossible for the ego
to distinguish the source of these images, for at the stage of
participation mystique an outside could not be perceived as distinct from an inside; the two sets of images overlapped, so
that experience of the world coincided with inner experience.

This original phase, when consciousness was a sense organ,
is marked by the functions of sensation and intuition, i.e., the
perceptive functions 84 which are the first to appear both in the
development of primitives and in that of the child.

Description.

The Origins and History of Consciousness (Bollingen Series,42): Erich Neumann,R. F. C. Hull,C. G. Jung: 9780691017617: Amazon.com: Books: “Book Description
Publication Date: 1970
The first of Erich Neumann’s works to be translated into English, this eloquent book draws on a full range of world mythology to show that individual consciousness undergoes the same archetypal stages of development as has human consciousness as a whole. Neumann, one of Jung’s most creative students and a renowned practitioner of analytical psychology in his own right, shows how the stages begin and end with the symbol of the Uroboros, or tail-eating serpent. The intermediate stages are projected in the universal myths of the World Creation, Great Mother, Separation of the World Parents, Birth of the Hero, Slaying of the Dragon, Rescue of the Captive, and Transformation and Deification of the Hero. Throughout the sequence the Hero is the evolving ego consciousness.”

Doubling in Couple Therapy

I updated an earlier post today with just a few extra words about doubling. They are important to me though.

The question of psych-education and the relationship with the therapist continues to be something I reflect on. After the Dan Wile workshop I went on I see how much could be achieved with virtually no psych-ed, no dialogue, all doubling.

I also updated this post. Also with more on doubling.

I’ll post up more on this.

Seven Transforming Conversations – 7 Conversations

 
More from Susan Johnson
 
 

Seven Transforming Conversations:

Recognizing Demon Dialogues—In this first conversation, couples identify negative and destructive remarks in order to get to the root of the problem and figure out what each other is really trying to say.

Finding the Raw Spots—Here, each partner learns to look beyond immediate, impulsive reactions to figure out what raw spots are being hit.

Revisiting a Rocky Moment—This conversation provides a platform for de-escalating conflict and repairing rifts in a relationship and building emotional safety.

Hold Me Tight—The heart of the program: this conversation moves partners into being more accessible, emotionally responsive, and deeply engaged with each other.

Forgiving Injuries—Injuries may be forgiven but they never disappear. Instead, they need to become integrated into couples’ conversations as demonstrations of renewal and connection. Knowing how to find and offer forgiveness empowers couples to strengthen their bond.

Bonding Through Sex and Touch—Here, couples find how emotional connection creates great sex, and good sex creates deeper emotional connection.

Keeping Your Love Alive—This last conversation is built on the understanding that love is a continual process of losing and finding emotional connection; it asks couples to be deliberate and mindful about maintaining connection.