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Counselling Couples: Phil & Trish Part 1

Updated: Jan 4, 2020

Philip had just done a bang-up job on making the bed in the extra room. In pops Trish with a comment.

Sparks begin to fly.


Adversity Makes for Strange Bedfellows

As You Make Your Bed, So You Must Lie In It



Robert Davies © 2019



Phillip had described his wife, Trish’s and his disagreement over how he‘d made the bed one Saturday morning. She’d criticized and judged him, and he didn’t like it.


“I’m in a grouchy mood, Bob.”

“You’re upset or maybe under the weather, Philip?”


“It’s my wife, I’d tried helping around the house this morning. You know, doing my part with the kids and any chores and such.”

“You are upset with your wife?”

“You bet. I was in a terrific mood this morning, and I’d just finished making our guestroom bed to surprise Trish when she comes in, looks at the bed, give me this sour face and says in a disrespectful tone:


“Don’t bother making the bed if you can’t do it right.”


“What happened then?” “Well, I gave her the silent treatment and walked away.”

“Did you talk about it later?” “Nope.”


“So, you’d like to discuss this Saturday morning incident?”

“Yep!”

“Go ahead, Philip.”


“As I was saying, I was feeling in a great mood. To surprise Trish, I had made up the bed in the guest room. Her mother who was visiting, had just left. I thought I’d done a great job making the bed. Then Trish trashes my effort at helping around the house. It just plain pissed me off – excuse my language – but she got under my skin!”


Bob, the counselor, had suggested a Mood Log to look at the incident more closely and then to use CIT or Cognitive interpersonal Therapy to learn how to communicate these feelings with Trish. They would use the Relationship Journal, another technique, to do so.


“I know that it seems just plain crazy that I’d have all these emotions about getting shredded for doing a lousy job on making a bed. I mean I’m a professional. People lean on my expertise for decisions. And now I can’t make a bed!”


With Bob, Robert Jenkins, Phillip had gone over his emotions which were anywhere from 30% to 90% strong. He’d felt sad, anxious, guilty, inadequate, rejected, self-conscious, hopeless, frustrated, angry, exhausted and confused.


“So, Phillip, we started with choosing an incident, the bed-making incident and then we pulled out the strength of your negative emotions around that incident. Then from those feelings, I asked you to try to remember what you’d been saying to yourself, thinking to yourself at the time.”


Phillip and Mr. Jenkins were completing the same mood log as they went along.

“Okay, Phillip, correct me if I am wrong. We have these eight thoughts that you had. Let me read them to you.”


1. This shouldn’t be happening to me.

2. Trish shouldn’t be doing this to me.

3. I made it worse.

4. I don’t have what it takes to please her.

5. Trish doesn’t love me anymore.

6. We are going to get divorced.

7. I don’t deserve this.


Mr. Jenkins agreed that Phillip was feeling pretty uptight as was his wife.

“We are going to get divorced!” is the first thought that I want to work on,”


“Okay, Philip. Remember that it is these thoughts that are causing all your negative emotions. Of course, when we get ‘ticked off’ as you were when Trish commented on your bed-making skills, it would be hard to think clearly, being upset.”

“You are darn right. All I saw was red!”


“Right, so in feeling that way, it’d be hard to think straight. That is where those mistakes in thinking happen, those cognitive distortions.”

“Cognitive distortions?”

“Exactly. Everyone gets them when we are involved in something we find upsetting. There are lots of them, but the most common are the following:


1. All or nothing thinking: we look at things in extreme ways.

2. Overgeneralization: we generalize one event to our entire life.

3. Mental Filter: we see the negatives of the situation and ignore the positives.

4. Discounting the Positive: we don’t even look at the positive.

5. Jumping to Conclusions: we think we really know what others are thinking called mind-reading or we think we can predict the future,called fortune telling.

6. Magnification: We make some bigger or even smaller than it actually is.

7. Emotional Reasoning: we reason from our emotions instead of our minds.

8. Should statements: we insist people think or act as we do or have the same set of rules.

9. Labelling: you label yourself. We can all act stupid but no one is 100% stupid.

10. Blame: you can blame yourself for something not entirely your fault or you can blame others, overlooking how you contributed to the problem.



“So Bob, Do I have some of these distortions in my thought: We are going to get divorced?”

“I don’t know, Philip. Let’s check it out. Let’s look at All or Nothing Thinking. You have yourself getting divorced, right?”

“Right.”


“There would be two extremes here, staying together or breaking up. Would there be degrees in between?”

“You mean like moving out of the house temporarily?”

“Kind of. I mean divorce means: leaving your wife, leaving the house and so on. What about leaving her for an hour and taking a long walk. How about spending the day with friends in order to cool off. How about Trish going home to her parents for a weekend or week or couple of weeks?”

“I see, Bob. There are degrees between the two extremes which I ignored all together.”

“Exactly. So, Philip, would you have All or Nothing Thinking in your thought?”

“I’d say so.”


“Let’s go to Mental Filter. When you are thinking of divorce or leaving, are you thinking of all those times you would have done almost anything to be near Trish. Perhaps, you would have swum across rivers and climbed mountains to be in the arms of your beloved Trish?”

“Well, I know what you mean. That is so true. I remember hitch-hiking 500 miles to see her at her parent’s cottage.” “That’s what I mean. So there are lots of times when you wanted to be near Trish and there are times when you might have been a little miffed and needed space. My point is: when you are thinking of divorce, are you forgetting all those great times together?”

“I sure am, Bob.”

“Well, that is not realistic. You have had both good and bad times together. So, would you be ‘filtering out’ the good times?”

Philip agreed and circled number 3 for Mental Filter.


Then he circled Jumping to Conclusions because he was Fortune Telling that things would turn out bad when no one can tell the future. Anyway, Philip, told Bob that the rest of the day after the bed-making incident was very good.


After five minutes or so, Philip and Bob had found 9 cognitive distortions in his thought:

We are going to get divorced.


“So, Philip, your thought was 90% true that you were going to get divorced. It can’t be that true with all those distortions in it. What thought would indeed be true?”

“That we won’t get divorced?”


“Well, that is Jumping to Conclusions with Fortune Telling - won't or will not. You can’t predict your future. But let me ask you about conflicts, which by the way, are part-and-parcel of all relationships. How can conflicts help you and Trish.”

“Well, a couple of things, first off. 1. I guess we can get to know each other better, our sensitivities. 2. We can get to work things out, which allows us to grow as people and a married couple. 3. And I guess conflicts are part of the package of being a couple. They are not the end of the world although it felt like it.”


“Well, Philip, Maybe I can help here. Let me ask you. Can hard times make your relationship with Trish stronger?”

“Yes. And I just thought of the fact that we do learn from our mistakes. At least, I believe we can if we take the time to see conflicts as opportunities for improvement like a workout at the gym. No pain. No gain. ”


“I like that, Philip! How about writing– Conflicts can help and strengthen marriages?”

“You mean as I was just saying that if Trish and I talk about the situation and learn from it?”

“For sure, Philip!”


“Should we write that down?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.” “Would it be 100% true?” “Certainly.”

“Then how can the thought about getting divorced be true at the same time, especially with all those mind traps or distortions?”


“Well, I’d say the old thought was about 30% true.”

“Well that is a big, 66% less true, which is huge.”


Together Philip and Bob went through all the other negative thoughts and came up with new positive and realistic thoughts.


1. This shouldn't be happening to me became I don't like conflicts, but at least I can learn to be humble and work at making myself a little easier to live with.


2. She shouldn't be doing this to me became It would be nice if we always got along, but most couples butt heads sometimes. I guess it is the price of living so closely together. But my Trish is worth the effort.


3. I made it worse became It takes two to tango and we both could have done a better job of being interacting.


4. I don't have what it takes to please her became I can learn to listen better and to respond more appropriately. Also, we can go to a marriage therapist like Bob.


5. Trish doesn't love me anymore became Conflicts can be about learning to love better. The best of friends and lovers can bump heads.


6. I don't deserve this became If I listen for a change, I can learn to turn a conflict into an intimate sharing of our deep emotions. It's an opportunity. How else can we grow. Conflicts are just signals - Time to get in tune again - After all, even the finest instruments have to be kept in tune.



When Bob asked him if the strength of his original emotions had dropped, he said yes with most of his negative emotions reduced to 50%. His anger , in particular, had been 80% strong but had dropped to 0%.


“How do you feel now, Phil?”

“Much, much better. Thank you, Bob.”

"Don't thank me. You are the player. I just coached you. You did the changing. Congrats!"

"Okay, Coach!"


“Okay, Philip, the next time we meet we will look at how you communicated your thoughts to Trish the first time and see how you both could have done a better job. Sounds good?”

“Sounds good.”


“By the way, we have just finished TEAM CBT – TEAM Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for individual problems. The next time we will do TEAM CIT – TEAM Interpersonal Therapy, which is directed toward both you and Trish.”

“Still sounds good?”

“Sure does.” END



Finish reading about Phil and Trish in the second part - Counselling Couples: Phil & Trish - Part 2 (Coming soon!)



Dear Reader.


Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy and TEAM CIT therapy demystify these therapies one story at a time.Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT or CIT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts, making the client unrecognizable .


Robert Davies

Counselling Therapist

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