Categorizing Behaviors

I had my third therapy session yesterday.  My therapist decided to make a client-centered approach part of my treatment plan.  I bristled at that.  I’ve never progressed in a client-centered therapeutic environment.  What? Just sit there and talk about what’s bothering me? I could kvetch all day! There were goals, too, which softened the blow.  My goal-oriented self needed something to accomplish.

So, what did we do yesterday? Well, he brought forth the legal pad.  He made a chart.  He said, “Let’s divide your husband’s behaviors into different kinds of behaviors, okay? We need a category called Abuse.  Under Abuse we will put behavior that is intolerable always.  It is never to be tolerated.  It is destructive.  Then, there is behavior that is classified as Rude or Mean.  Then, we will put a category of behavior BETWEEN Rude/Mean and Abuse.  This is clearly dysfunctional behavior that is on the verge of abusive.  We can simply call this Dysfunctional.”

And we went on like this until we had a chart.  Here are the behavior categories that we listed:

  • Clueless
  • Unwilling
  • Entitled
  • Arrested in Development from childhood
  • Rude/Mean
  • Dysfunctional
  • Abusive

This was a very good exercise because he was able to go back and categorize some of the behaviors from situations that I had discussed with him.  Two were clearly abusive.  He was very forthright about it.  There was no denying it.  He said it a few times.  “What he did there was abusive.  There is no justifying it.  That was abuse.”

When he said that to me my jaw started to hurt.  He spoke particularly about an event that involved an area around my face where my husband had hurt me.  When he looked at me and named the event as abuse, pain in my jaw bloomed.  I started to feel pain in my head.  By the time I left I was in tremendous pain.  I could hardly open my mouth.

It may have been too much for me to accept in the moment.  I can intellectually agree with him, and I can remember the event with great clarity.  I cannot yet connect emotions to the event.  If I were safe to do it, then I think I would.  At the same time, hearing that kind of validation–“That was abuse.  You have a reason to feel what you feel.”–is powerful stuff.

This is an excellent exercise because it helps you see your own confusion and where you’ve fallen victim to crazymaking.  When you can’t decipher behaviors anymore because you’ve been exposed to them for so long, then it’s time to get outside help.  There were behaviors that I’ve witnessed for so long that I could no longer recognize them as abusive.  After we discussed them, we came to the conclusion that they were to be categorized under Abuse because they were emotionally abusive.  The other issue at play here is my Resiliency Spectrum.  I intellectually know what healthy behavior looks like, but my limbic system does not.  I don’t get a response from my body anymore unless someone yells.  If he were to yell at me, then I might get a clue.  At the same time, is it ever appropriate to yell? This is a question for my therapist.

What was more unsettling than the chart was my therapist’s hypothesis.  He told me that he knew that he was only hearing my narrative.  He had not met my husband.  Keeping that in mind, he also believed me and felt it necessary to ask me if I was prepared to look at this chart in terms of what behaviors could be shaped and modeled through therapy and modeling and what behaviors would not change.  He went on to say that my capacity to love was great and his capacity to love might be lesser.  My intellectual, emotional, and spiritual “IQs” were very well developed, and he may be lesser in those areas.  He may not be a good match for me simply because of his unwillingness to change.  What’s more, he may never be able to meet me where I’m at.  My desires may always go unmet, and I may always be a target for some sort of abuse through his behavior.  What was I prepared to live with, and what was I not prepared to live with?

Well, that’s some kind of question.  He asked me this directly.

“What are you prepared to live with in terms of this behavior, and what are you NOT prepared to live with?”

Do you know what I heard myself say?

“Well, he doesn’t abuse me that often…”


He just looked at me.  Then, I said, “Did I just say that out loud?” to which he replied, “Yes, you did.”

“Clearly, I need help,” I said.

I was trembling when I left.  The right side of my face felt like it was going to slide off my skull it hurt so badly.  I didn’t go home because he was there.  He’s always there.  I am never alone.  He’s always hovering.  So, I went to drink coffee alone and read a book.  I highly recommend decompressing after a therapy session.  Don’t dive back into your life.  Transition.  Do something nice for yourself.  Be kind to yourself because this kind of therapeutic work is grueling.

So far, I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary.  Sort of like a tetanus shot.

And, I really hate those.

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