Someone Else’s Opinion of Me is None of My Business

This oft-repeated phrase in AA and Alanon is profound in its simplicity. The capacity to define oneself in spite of the approval or judgment of another is a sign of emotional maturity and a quality that makes life work better. “Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business.” Say it to yourself.

Differentiation is about knowing who you are, about your purpose. It is about distinguishing between the business that is yours and the business that is others. It is about self-definition and the management of opinions.

Trying to live up (or down) to others opinions of you is undifferentiation. Needing others to have your opinion is also undifferentiation. These are patterns of immaturity. Lots of conflict comes from this.

A client friend said to me this week, “I have spent my life working for my father’s approval that I have never received. I am unhappy, overworked, compulsive about everything and I no longer know who I am or what I enjoy.” He is a doctor, newly married, often angry, lost in compulsivity – what used to give him pleasure is now bland. Undifferentiation is a trap that can take years to close.

A few questions for you:

• When do you most feel yourself? When are you most in control of yourself?

• What relationships most allow you to be you? What relationships trap?

• Does your faith mostly freeze you with others, or free you for God?

1950s Marriage Boing

I have been writing a book entitled “Couple’s Journey of a Lifetime: Mentoring for Pre-marriage, Re-marriage and Early Marriage” and I came across this funny YouTube clip on 1950s premarriage counselling. Watch it and you will discover the “Cupid’s Checklist,” a “Marriage Development Board” and advice on how to keep the “boing” in your marriage. (I might get one of those boards.) Enjoy.

Counselling Can Be Expensive (An Update)

Now that is a truism. Sometimes I tell my clients that I can’t even afford me! (I am never sure how they take that.) But how you feel about the expense of counselling depends a lot on what you get out of it.

My fee is $180 per hour (Carole’s fee is $160 per hour). I usually see someone for about 10, 1-hour sessions, so the total is about $1650 over several months. That is a lot of money. And then you take your car in for a tune-up (actually they don’t tune up anymore – they download computer upgrades) or sign up for a course at Capilano U.

Here is what I do about fees:
• I charge $20 per hour less than the going rate for Psychologists ($200 as of January, 2015). I charge less because I want to give back to you.
• Many of you will have your fees covered under an employee assistance plan or an insurance program. Make sure that you check your coverage for “Psychologists” before you visit with me.
• By the way, both you and your spouse may both be covered under your EAP or insurance program. This means that you can have twice the number of appointments for couple counselling. Imagine how many family appointments you can have!
• Keep your receipts for your income tax – some of it may be reimbursable. Ask an accountant.
• I also create my own assistance plan with your church or community group. You pay half the fee and they pay the other half for a maximum of 10 sessions. You would be surprised how many caring people want to provide financial assistance.
• I also reduce my rates for those who demonstrate a pressing need. Please let me know.

I am happy to say that most of my client-friends consider therapy to be good value and many recommend their family, friends and work associates. Counselling can be a valuable investment and worth much more than it costs.

(This blog is an update from one in January entitled “Counselling Can Be Expensive.”)

When Life Happens: A + B = C

“Julie” had a lot of anxiety about most things. Relationships seemed to paralyze her. Her husband complained about the embarrassment of leaving parties before everyone else, or having to make excuses for declining business events that he wanted to attend. Sometimes Julie would even avoid contact with her own adult children if it involved meeting in a public place, like a coffee shop. Her behaviours at church were routinized so that incidental contacts were almost eliminated. Coming to church late and leaving a bit early allowed her to cope with her anxieties. She needed to sit on the aisle to lessen personal contact.

As she talked, I listened and doodled a simple psych formula: A + B = C, where A is the activating event (the “trigger”), B is the belief or beliefs (often unconscious) about that trigger, and C is the inevitable consequence or predictable outcome.

I made three columns for Julie on the whiteboard and listed the As (activators), the Bs (beliefs) and the Cs (consequences). The As were obvious: involvement with people where she might feel looked at or measured against others. Her beliefs (Bs) spilled out. “I am never good enough.” “I am too tall and boney looking.” “I am afraid of being seen as foolish when I talk.” The consequence was that she avoided people and shut down most relationships. She felt friendless and lonely, and saw her life getting ever worse.

Initially Julie was reluctant to talk about the Bs (her “beliefs” about life) – she “knew” that the problem was that she was an “introvert” in an extroverted world (see blog: Renewing Our Energies) and she really felt that she could not fit in her husband’s social and business milieu where “everyone is more competent than me.” As Julie examined her unexamined misbeliefs she discovered that “nothing but perfect is ever good enough,” that “failure is never an option,” and that “anything but exceptional is mediocre.” This was the harsh and compulsive environment of her growing-up years.

Examining prayerfully, thoroughly, and in scribbling her thoughts in the 3 columns, she adjusted her Bs – just a bit. Her inner urgencies softened. She became less abusive toward herself. Therapy was now testing her new self-evaluations. She saw how unimaginative and thoughtless she had been in incorporating outdated belief structures into her ever-emerging life. Her re-written beliefs were truer to life and more representative of who she was and who she wanted to become. And just bringing her beliefs into the daylight of conversation reduced their hurt and harm enormously.

Social events are hard for Julie still. She has to do hard thinking in most every encounter – not just run. Our goal was simple: reduce 70% of the curse caused by irrational beliefs and then see what happens. Life happens.