Generally keeps a poker face during sessions; doesn’t respond to your breakthroughs with a smile or other expressions of happiness; doesn’t respond to your setbacks with empathy; doesn’t offer encouragement and verbal support when you need them
Speaks to you in a consistently formal, neutral tone, even after years of yoga poses together in which you have revealed your innermost thoughts and feelings
If these traits feel familiar, you’ll appreciate the godlike style of Sean’s therapist. Sean was a sheet metal worker who was married for twenty years and had four children with his wife, Dee. Recently he learned that his wife was having an affair with his best friend. Sean confronted his wife and friend and they stopped the affair. However, his wife was unapologetic, leaving Sean feeling heartbroken. He felt like he lost both his wife and his best friend. He became depressed, walking around in a state of grief. It was difficult for him to concentrate at work. He stopped enjoying being around his family. He found he wasn’t enjoying sports or anything else anymore. His beliefs about his marriage had been shattered. Finally, he engaged the services of a therapist to help him cope with feelings of hopelessness.
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He started seeing his therapist weekly. Immediately the therapist began to accuse him of not being as good a husband as he should have been. In fact, Sean was an excellent husband.
He was a good man, a good father, and a good provider, and he loved his wife. However, the therapist began a litany of judgments about how his overall performance was inadequate in his marriage. When he objected to her assumptions and accusations she would shut him down with a comment such as “Who is the therapist here, you or me?” He felt intimidated and gradually felt worse and worse until after several months of sessions, he decided that the therapist was making him worse instead of better.
A friend of Sean’s was seeing a relationship coach with his wife, and they were very pleased. Sean engaged the coach’s services as well and started to work with her individually. After a few sessions the coach recommended that Sean’s wife join them for a few sessions. In these sessions it became clear that Sean’s wife no longer loved him and desired to move out. As much as this was not the outcome Sean sought, at least it was clear and the current situation was not blamed on him. He actually found that he soon started to feel better because he realized that the end of his marriage was due to his wife’s dissatisfaction and not his behavior. He continued to work in individual yoga sessions, with the goal of becoming single again and eventually starting to date.
Sean realized that the coach had helped him greatly by figuring out what was actually happening and then coming up with a plan of action. He found that his mood and energy improved rapidly once he understood the next steps he needed to take. The therapist he started with was obviously projecting many of her own issues onto him in a godlike manner. Luckily, his core self was strong enough to get out and find an affirming and more humble coach.
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