Conquering Past Destructive Patterns To Enhance Life Experiences
The last article left Eric and Heather after an intensive couple’s therapy session in which they were attempting to learn and identify their self-defeating and destructive behavior patterns that continued to influence their relationships during adulthood. As they began to identify the origins of the emotionally contaminating behavior, discover the source of the thoughts or feelings, and recognize the issue for what it was, Eric and Heather began to remove the destructive behaviors and replace them with emotions, thoughts, feelings, and actions of their choice that were more adaptive to their adult lives.
Eric and Heather also learned to avoid the destructive pattern of judging or blaming one another because they both began to understand the deep roots some of the responses had and how difficult it could be to identify and change the responses. The couple recognized that criticizing or blaming each other for something from their childhood did nothing to help their relationship grow or expand the love they felt for one another.
As a couple, they learned the importance of maintaining their separateness, instead of seeing it as a loss of personal boundary. In celebrating his and her uniqueness and distinctive personalities with specified boundaries, Eric and Heather could develop a more objective point of view of the other during points in the relationship that could be considered acting in destructive ways. By helping one another without criticism, judgement, or self-interest, they found they were becoming true friends.
Heather reported in one therapy session that she was becoming adept at identifying the early signs that Eric was near a withdrawal point. Armed with this information, and because of their true friendship, she was able to help Eric identify his maladaptive patterns of response when they emerged. Heather was also able to help him before he reverted to old ways of thinking and began sinking into the abandonment issues he faced as a child and the resulting sadness. As they worked together, Eric came to see the distinction of his emotional ‘now’ as an adult, and the sad and poignant ‘then’ he experienced as a child that erupted occasionally.
To further aid their growing relationship, Eric and Heather developed some verbal clues together that permitted them to stay present and remain non-defensive during moments of withdrawal or distancing. These cues allowed them to continue to be the best of friends during difficult times. When there were signs of Eric’s withdrawals, Heather would notice the early warning signals and ask him if he was back in the 70s which was a cue to remind Eric to move his emotional responses back into the present day. Because they had become such good friends, Eric was able to see that Heather’s comments were made without criticism or judgement – and only in love.
With Heather’s love and support, Eric’s experience of living through a critical childhood could be left behind, and he could easily slip back into the present. As with most changes in live, this was not always an easy experience, but the more the couple worked through the situations as they arose, and the less judgement and criticism Eric felt, the easier and more fluid the transition to the present became for him.
Presented with many tools during the couple’s therapy, Eric and Heather were able to build and enhance their personal relationship. They found that although psychotherapy may not always be an easy process, the benefits of learning how to deal with the past and move into the present can be life enhancing.