055: Interpersonal Model (Part 2) — “And It’s All Your Fault!” Three Basic Assumptions

In this podcast, David describes the three assumptions of the Interpersonal TEAM Therapy he has developed”

  1. We cause the very relationship problems we are complaining about, but don’t realize this, so we blame the other person and feel like victims of his or her“badness.” David describes a man who endlessly complained about his wife during therapy sessions–she didn’t like having sex with him, she spend money behind his back, and never bragged about him when they were out to dinner with friends. He had even taken notes for years on all the “bad” things his wife had been doing every day throughout their marriage, but overlooked the many hurtful and self-centered things he was doing to break her heart every single day.
  2. We do not want to have to look at our own role in any relationship conflict because it is too painful to have to confront our “shadow,” to use a Jungian concept, and because we want to do our dirty work in the dark. So we will deny our role and angrily punish anyone who tries to shed light on our role in the problem. David describes a severely depressed woman who complained that she was the victim of “loneliness in marriage,” a concept she’d just read about in a popular women’s magazine. She explained that her husband would not and could not express his feelings, and felt that he was to blame for their marital problems as well as the severe depression and loneliness she’d been struggling with for 25 years. And yet, in a therapy session when he tried to express his feelings, she exploded angrily and told him to shut the F__ up! When Doctor Burns asked her to reflect on what had happened in the session with her husband, she angrily threatened to fire him if he ever brought up the topic again!
  3. The first two principles paint a dark picture of human nature. The third principle is more optimistic—namely, that we have far more power to heal a troubled relationship than we realize, and this can often happen quickly, but there’s a stiff price to be paid.  First, we have to be willing to stop blaming the other person so we can examine and pinpoint our own role in the conflict. Second, we have to focus all of our energy on changing ourselves, rather than trying to change the other person. This can be extremely liberating and joyful, but it involves the exceedingly painful death of the ego. The Buddhists have called this type of enlightenment “the Great Death.’

In the next podcast, David and Fabrice will show you how to transform your own troubled relationships into loving ones–if that’s what you want to do!

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Thanks! David


2 thoughts on “055: Interpersonal Model (Part 2) — “And It’s All Your Fault!” Three Basic Assumptions

  1. HI David, I have much to learn on this topic, and look forward to this series on relationships. It is such a complex subject. I’m curious, in your career, have you ever guided the patient in the direction of realizing the relationship may not be worth saving, or does the patient have to broach that subject with you? As you know, I am a layperson. If I were a therapist, and a woman who was dealing with an abusive husband came to me and asked how she can save her marriage (Agenda setting), I would be so tempted to first explore why she wanted to save the marriage, and see if she really needed support getting out of the marriage.

    • Thank, Rob, for your (as usual) thoughtful and on-target feedback. You are absolutely right, and this will be covered in the next podcast on Interpersonal Decision-Making. I use the interpersonal model only if the patient is strongly committed to the relationship, and if I am am comfortable that it is reasonable, and not dangerous, to try to improve the relationship. Sometimes this involves a negotiation between doctor and patient, a topic a bit too advanced for the podcasts, perhaps, as I try to keep things simple. But here’s the interesting thing. If the patient and I decide it is best to get out of a violent relationship with someone who is abusive and unlikely to change, then the Five Secrets of Effective Communication are even more important, so you can leave with maximum safety! Disarming, Stroking, and Feeling Empathy will be extremely important so as to avoid an escalation which may trigger more violence. Some people emphasize setting limits and assertiveness, but I have found these tools to be ineffective in many if not most cases. There’s a section on dealing with a narcissistic individual in the Feeling Good Together book, actually. Always wonderful hearing from you, Rob! We quoted one of your recent emails about Marilyn on the broadcast Fabrcie and I recorded yesterday, actually. Take care, my friend! David

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