Apr 072014
 

As a psychotherapist, I am often asked what my theoretical foundation is. Sure, regular folks don’t ask this question. They usually ask me what theory or theories have helped me and my clients. This week I will devote to the theory that changed my life and has been very successful with my clients.

victim triangle 255x300 The Victim Triangle

The Victim Triangle.

Transactional Analysis (TA) is an integrative system of therapy that uses some psychoanalytic, cognitive and humanist theories as the basis of a theory of personality and therapeutic system. TA has many theories within it that stress game theory. The idea is that we interact with others with certain systems of communication and ways of being that have their origins in our upbringing. One of these theories is Karpman’s Drama Triangle which is also referred to as the Victim Triangle.

The idea is that one of the most common forms of transactions between people (and many times within us) is the victim triangle. The triangle consists of 3 ways of being: Victim, Rescuer and Persecutor. The terms are self-explanatory but we will get more in-depth on each position during the week.

Look at the following scenario as a good example of the victim triangle:

Husband picks the kids up from soccer and gets home to find Wife in the kitchen making dinner. He starts to complain that he is so tired after a day of work and is pissed that he had to pick up the kids. He goes and grabs a beer from the fridge and pulls out some cheese and deli meat to make a sandwich. Wife reminds him that she is making dinner and it should be ready with ½ an hour. Husband begins to argue that he works all day and missed lunch because he had so much to do and the least his wife could do is pick up the kids and have dinner ready at a decent time. The wife begins to cry and starts to say things like ‘I can’t do anything right’ and ‘no one helps me’. The kids hear the argument and come in the kitchen and explain to their father how Mom also works and she had picked them up, helped them with their homework and take them to soccer even though she had a deadline and now is getting dinner ready and he should be ashamed of himself because she works so hard. Dad starts yelling about how now ‘he’s the bad guy’ and ‘no one stands up for him’ and grabs another beer. Now Mom turns to the kids and begins to reprimand them for yelling at their Dad that works so hard for them and how ungrateful they are.

Does anything here sound familiar?

Come back tomorrow and we will discuss the Victim.

Mar 312014
 

Why is it that we spend so many years in school and never learn the skills to developing successful interpersonal relationships? Instead of teaching kids how to behave in relationships, they learn dysfunctional social skills. Cliques, bullying and gossip are the foundational skills to most of our social education. When we consider that most of us began dating and experiencing love while in our adolescents, there should be no wonder we behave with this much dysfunction. It is up to us, then, to teach our kids about interpersonal relationships and this week we will give you a few lessons that may help.

be considerate 300x200 The Considerate Relationship

Consideration

We teach kids to share their toys because it’s the nice thing to do.

We teach kids to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ because it is polite and civil.

We teach kids to ask permission to show that they have manners and respect for other people.

All of these behaviors are the basis of being considerate to others. The difference between a miserable relationship and a happy relationship is consideration. Consideration is simply that you consider how someone will react or feel before you do something.

Gifts are nice but getting up to get your boyfriend an aspirin when he has a headache or washing the dishes when your wife is tired is real consideration. We give to the people we love. We make their favorite meal. We let them sleep in when they are tired. We fold the clothes and put them away because it has been a while and your wife will like that more than flowers or a date night.

We think and consider them when we make a decision. It is not necessary if you are married to confer on every decision that is made. If you are always considerate to the needs and desires of your spouse, you know how they will respond and you act accordingly.

This is one of the places where people kind of freak out when we tell them that we don’t really confer with each other when we make a decision. In many ways it is a waste of time. We know what the other wants and would never make a decision to the contrary. That would be inconsiderate. I can honestly say that Paul has never made a decision without me that I have not agreed with.

Teaching your children to be considerate is a surefire way that they will be considerate adults and be considerate to their loved ones in the future. That is the real lesson. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ are just the icing on the cake.

Mar 242014
 

Romantic Relationships are considered to be the greatest source of meaning in a person’s life. The research has shown that married people live longer, are happier and tend to be wealthier than singles. With all this good press, it seems silly that people would sabotage their relationships or not get the most of the ones that they are in. This week we are jumping back into the dysfunctional relationship pool and discussing the common ‘relationship crimes’ people commit to destroy and undermine their relationships.

gavel 300x300 Relationship Penal Code

The most common relationship crime that tends to destroy relationships is ignoring and taking your partner for granted. This is the easiest crime to commit in a relationship. It’s kind of like speeding; you are driving along, not paying attention and you look down and you are going 80 miles per hour! If you are lucky, you notice and slow down or the sirens and lights pull you over. This is like a real relationship. You may notice that you haven’t paid attention to your partner. You think some flowers or maybe a random date night should quell any fears of distance. However, taking someone for granted is not a misdemeanor in the penal code of relationships- it is a Class 1 Felony.

When you choose to enter into a relationship, the commitment somehow signifies that you will love, honor and cherish the union. Whether you are in a long term dating relationship or actually take the plunge and do the vows, the commitment is real and the assumption of loving, honoring and cherishing are present. When we ignore our partners or take them for granted, we are making a choice to not cherish the relationship. We assume that they will be there when we need them and that our relationship is in a stasis just waiting to be reawakened like a deep space astronaut. No harm. No foul.

The reality is that the person who is taken for granted is actually not in stasis but is in a bizarre state of psuedo-abandonment. They cannot count on their partner to be there for them but are still required to go through the motions of the relationship on the hope that ‘one day’ he/she will love them again. The sadness deepens every night that they lay next to their partner, hoping for a touch or snuggle to reassure them they are not alone. Unfortunately, this is the most painful form of loneliness and the depression that follows attacks and destroys the last vestiges of self-esteem of the person.

From our aerial view, this is abusive. This is neglect on a level that should be criminal. The couple fakes their relationship and never lets on that they are no longer connected. There are no obvious signs of abuse like bruises but the neglect cuts deeper than a back hand with a wedding ring.

For this crime, the marriage/relationship is just a matter of either calling the death or deciding to recommit. The wounded must either decide that there is something to save or make the decision that the neglect was too much and choose their happiness. Staying in that state is not an option. Or, at the very least, it should not be an option. No one should live like that.

Feb 172014
 

… and her absence feels like a chasm in my reality. I am committed to filling the void with her undying love and the love I have for her. In her death, she is still teaching me how to be a better person, woman and mother. These are some of the lessons I have learned in the last week since my Mother passed away.

aida 200x300 My Mother Was Larger Than Life

1. I will never assume that someone’s loss is more or less than anyone else’s.

I sat in her hospice room and listened to my father speak of how he was alone now. I tried to comfort him with reassurances that he had us and we would always be with him. In that moment, my Dad became a man who lost his partner of almost 55 years. I was crushed by the magnitude of his loss. I always saw them as a matching set there at my bidding, never allowing the idea that they were first and foremost husband and wife. Funny, the very thing I teach and believe with all my heart that the couple should always be a priority was lost on me when it came to my Mommy and Daddy.

I also spoke with my uncle concerning his loss. Whereas I saw him as a distant family member who was more trouble than anything else, by my Mother’s bedside, he was her brother who watched as his last surviving family passed away. I hurt for him as he spoke of being by himself and I had nothing pithy to say because he was right. I may have lost my Mother but I still had my amazing sister and brother plus their spouses who are also my siblings. I still had my Dad and all of us were a close and loving family.

My husband’s loss was just as profound as mine. Many people came to me during my Mother’s funeral and spoke of how my husband captured my Mom’s essence. She loved him like a son and reminded him every chance she had to tell him that he was loved. And like Paul and Dad and my uncle, there were many people who felt the pain of this loss; their grief was not easier than mine.

2. I will never give a pat statement of condolences to anyone who is grieving again.

Death is a part of life and at some point we will all experience it. We learn the phrases that are standard fare for those who must approach or deal with the grieving; the further from the feeling of loss, the colder the statement. Some people feel that they must say something but the words fail them. Instead of a “Hallmark” greeting to express yourself, just say that- “I have no words”. That is more heartfelt than a sterile “My deepest condolences for your loss”. The truth is that those words have been so overused that we have zapped all meaning from them.

The word “condolences” comes from the Latin which means “to suffer together” which is not sympathy but empathy. You are with me in my pain! However, the words are being used to mean just the opposite! Tell me you are sorry for my loss. Tell me that you are there for me. Tell me that you love me and are sad. Feel with me. Send me love and light. But, for God sake, don’t fake it.

3. Grief is not something you get over.

You never “get over” a loss. Grief is something you go through. Grief is a perpetual state of being. The moment you lose something you will never end grieving it. Of course, you are not in the same pained experience ad infinitum but you are constantly feeling the loss to a greater or lesser degree of pain. Just these last few days since my Mother’s passing, I have felt deep sadness which has turned to numbness to feelings of being lost to joy of being with the people that I love. I miss her terribly and feel that she is just behind a door or getting ready to make an entrance. As time passes and my anticipation turns to disappointment, I return to the sadness and feel the ache of the loss. I know that pain will ease with time. I trust in the process of grief and am lifted by the love and support my family and friends give me.

But, I will not fool myself. She was a teeny woman who cut a wide swath with her fire brand spunk and her indomitable spirit. You don’t get over people like that. I will learn to live with the memory and knowledge that her DNA is running through my veins and that of my children. It makes me smile knowing that even when she was sick, she refused to let some people know. Sure, that denial and unwillingness to be honest was not her healthiest move but in her own words, “no me da la gana”.  Even in the end, she would not let people tell her how to live or let her enemies see her sweat. There is a message there but I am still in the fog of loss to find that lesson. Suffice it to say, she was a bitch to her dying breath and I respect that.

My post may lack the pure love and eloquence of my husband’s but I hope my love and respect for my Mother is there. She was my teacher, friend, care giver, confidant, playmate and rock. I miss her but am heartened by the idea of her fighting for me on the other side. The priest today mentioned that she was now with the choir of angels. As my daughter said, “I don’t know if the choir is where she would want to be”. My guess is she will be management within a week.

Feb 092014
 

As I write this, my mother-in-law, Lee’s mom, is in hospice probably completing the last days of her life. I might be alright with calling myself a marriage expert but when it comes to death, I am horribly ill equipped. So what I am writing now is not a lesson on how to grieve. It is me coming to terms with the loss of a woman that helped mold me, who supported me, and who loved me.

mamuchi 300x225 Untitled Because I Have No Words

Being an in-law comes with a lot of decisions. You cannot choose your family but with your in-laws you can choose whether or not to love and be loved. My mother-in-law chose to love me with a tigress’ loyalty. I was her Flaco and she made sure that everyone knew it. She was the first in the family to accept me, probably because she saw in me an unwavering adoration for her daughter that we both share.

In one moment, she became my family and my friend, ramped up with Cuban coffee and an ADD-like energy. I became her evil minion. I say this with some guilt but some of the things that are killing her now are some of my fondest memories. I remember splitting a bottle of wine, long before Lee and I married. She spoke in Spanish and I spoke in English, neither of us fully understanding the other. We laughed for two hours straight, just her and me. I was the first to be fed. The first to be offered wine. The first to be allowed into her family.

At weddings, it was my job to collect all of the centerpieces and guest gift for her. This task I would accomplish with joy, even if it meant pushing down an old lady or scamming a bride’s maid. I once brought her a four foot tall arrangement that may or may not have been part of the bridal gifts to the guests. A little petty theft was worth it to see her smile. While she had chosen to love and accept me, I made the choice to let her into my heart. What Lee would call trans-generational lunacy, I found hilarious, endearing and joyous. Where every bottle of wine, cup of Cuban coffee, and overly salted French fry that we shared may bring me sadness now, I would not trade the memories for anything.

She taught me a fearless joy of life that I carry with me today. It has defined that man that I am. It is her lessons to me that I want to pass down to my children, her grandchildren that she loved unconditionally and with a passion. I am having problems grieving her much like I cannot grieve the sun after it sets. I still feel her warmth, her fire in my heart. I will forever be her Flaco. It has always been my honor.

Ps. God is going to have His hands full with you.