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Therapy : The Oxygen Mask

26 Jun
Concepts in Eric Berne's Transactional Analysis

Concepts in Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently met my husbands therapist for the first time. We ended up staying for an extra hour and in those 2 hours I learned so much. There’s a lot of ‘she said’ and numbers involved in this post so apologies if I lose a few of you – a few times throughout lol.

Let me say that due to the nature of this post, this topic…this situation… I’m obviously not going to go into detail of anything that isn’t mine to share so any examples used are purely fabricated for the purpose of… Well giving an example basically lol

The first thing she did was explain all the transactional analysis stuff – which I’ve posted about here– but explained it so it made sense and was relevant to us. The bottom line is that my husband is REALLY hard on himself, maybe not out loud but he is nonetheless. I realised he had low self esteem on some level but I never knew quite the extent of it. For example spilling a drink… To me that’s nothing but for him he hates himself for it – all due to childhood.

She explained that he knows he NEEDS to change but some things he doesn’t necessarily WANT to… Not yet anyway. The reason he NEEDS to change… the reason he wants to WANT to change is to stay with me. He’s doing this for us because he knows that I cant live like this forever. (sounds like I’m a bitch but I need to look out for me too and basically he doesn’t want to lose me) She told me that it would be a long road but he has made so much progress already and I should be proud (I am) and that the trick is to make HIM feel proud of himself too.

She told me that some of his secrets, the things he doesn’t tell me aren’t necessarily BAD, it’s more that he finds hard to tell me because he’s kept them close for years, they’re his good memories and he wants to keep them and needs to learn that he CAN tell them without bad repercussions. I suppose in childhood he learnt (subconsciously) that if he didn’t tell then he couldn’t get in trouble etc so instead he kept everything to himself.

She then used the example of rating each “secret” on a scale of difficulty, 1 being ‘without MUCH effort’ (though for him that’s still a lot) and 10 being ‘wouldn’t tell a soul’. She asked me to give examples of a 1 – which I found difficult in itself as there’s not much I DONT find easy to disclose. So Instead I chose a 2… ‘My mum and dad split when I was nine and he has lived in America ever since’ That statement – for me- has been said so often that now it’s just another fact. I don’t LIKE that fact, I don’t LIKE the ‘awwws’ and the questions that follow but I find it relatively easy to tell. On my husbands scale that would be a ‘7’.

I was then asked to give an example (not necessarily true) of a 10 in my mind. I honestly could not think of anything of my own bad enough to be rated a 10. I mean telling someone their family member just died etc that’s pretty hard but that’s not MY secret is it? The therapist stepped in and said she would find it quite hard to think of one too but maybe if she had cheated on her husband then telling him would be a 10. I have to be honest here…I disagree…and that’s made me question whether I’m just too brutal/blunt/open….THAT for me would be a ‘7’ yes it would be hard but surely if I had cheated in the first place I wouldn’t find it that hard to hurt him anyway.

ANYWAY, seeing as my 2 (pretty easy) was the equivalent of his 7 (really hard) hopefully I haven’t lost you and you see the difference – AND my point. They explained the consequences of telling me (or anyone) anything over a 2, he feels physically sick the higher the number, he berates himself, he panics, he worries….and these symptoms or repercussions can last for days afterwards so basically whenever he reveals things I need to soothe him and thank him etc and at the same time try not to react too much either way -basically don’t make a big deal out of it but don’t ignore the fact he’s opening up…to me.

We agreed to state the rating whenever anything new has been discussed as some of them – to me- are so ‘normal’ i.e. ‘one time this guy at work….’ = ‘4’… that I often don’t realise that it was anything other than small talk.

To put it into perspective once more she asked him the following questions:

How many people have you told a ‘1’ ? – one or two (being me and her)
How many people have you told a ‘5’? – one (me)
How many people have you told a ’10’? one (me again)

Bottom line is...I am the one he trusts, I am the one he is opening up to and I am the one he wants to talk to and be himself with. It suddenly dawned on me that when we first started dating he would often say ‘god I’ve never told anyone that before’ about things which – again- didn’t seem like a big deal to me… well now it does. I asked if that’s the reason he married me – ‘I guess so’

She did ask me how it (our situation) affects me day to day etc but I will leave that for another post so I can pour my heart out a little without taking away from the stuff in this one as all of the above really did open my eyes to exactly what we are going through – and that’s the focus here.

When wrapping up our session she asked if I had any questions….

‘What would you say were the 3 things I CAN to do help….and what 3 things should I steer clear of?’

Oxygen mask made in NY

Oxygen mask made in NY (Photo credit: K. Todd Storch)

To help:

  • He’s already critical of everything so ease off – don’t ignore issues when they arise but think about wording and calming before exploding etc – basically give him a shit sandwich where you give a positive then the negative and follow it with another positive.
  • Thank him when he opens up – its really fucking hard for him to do so
  • Appreciate that he’s trying– for US

As for things to avoid she gave the example of the oxygen mask dropping when a plane is going down….

Who do you put the mask on first? (I said the kids lol) WRONG!
You put it on yourself and THEN help others because how can you help others if you’re not strong enough? Basically I need to take care of myself too otherwise I wont be any good to anyone, take a break, have some fun, treat myself… because I need to be strong for him…just like he is using therapy as his oxygen mask….so that he can be strong for me too.

xBx

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9 responses to “Therapy : The Oxygen Mask

  1. beetleypete

    June 26, 2013 at 8:35 am

    The oxygen mask is a good example. Get well first, then you are strong enough to help others. Not so sure about the ‘scoring system’. You give things unrealistic numbers (as you showed) and then agonise about them afterwards. Hmm…
    As ever, Pete. X

     
    • Comfortably Numb

      June 26, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks Pete, I think the main point of the numbers was to show me just how different we are when it comes to opening up. I’m a little too logical/analytical so for me the numbers were hard to scale because I was thinking too much about the context rather than the difficulty level but I get the basics of it and it definitely helped me to understand him better in doing so. Also since that session it has helped with letting me understand what’s small talk and what’s not (for him) as he will rate them. I’ve even had a 9 from him! – which obviously I won’t be going into detail about lol And like she said he would he felt sick during and for the next day or two but it allowed me to react in a way that lets him know that nothing bad comes from letting me in – rather than making an innapropriate joke or blogging it and putting him off for good etc xB

       
  2. Charles Yallowitz

    June 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

    That’s very true. Even in a relationship, you need to take care of yourself first. Need to start remembering that one myself.

     
    • Comfortably Numb

      June 26, 2013 at 1:18 pm

      I think we all do Charles, it’s so easy to go into autopilot for the sake of someone else but at the end of it all by ignoring our own needs we are just prolonging the agony xB

       
  3. behindthemaskofabuse

    June 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    I’m so glad the therapist explained it so well. I’m sure it’s really helpful and how you see and respond to him. xo

     
  4. Chris"TAL"

    June 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you for the shout out! Good post 🙂

     

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