Gwen was happy to have finally met a man with whom she had a great deal in common and felt drawn to more so than to any other man she had dated in years. Initially, in her therapy sessions, I heard about the “really great guy” who “has lots of potential,” “swept me off my feet,” and who she could not wait to see for their next encounter. Somewhere around date number five or six, Gwen reported that her new beau “had too much baggage” and was not “the same guy I met several weeks ago.” She requested my help in finding a gracious way out of the relationship.
Pauline just “loved” the flute, her flute teacher, practicing the instrument, the way it relaxed her, and more. I got “the flute report” at the beginning of each session for several weeks …until I no longer did and wondered out loud why. “Too hard,” “too boring,” and “I really don’t have the time for this sort of thing” was that session’s flute report.
So, what happened to Neal, Gwen, and Pauline? Clearly, each client’s situation is different and, as always, many forces and factors are at work, which need to be understood in order to explain phenomena like those described above. Nonetheless, each of their stories seemed to have something in common; namely, this behavior was not exceptional, but was a pattern and, therefore, evident in other areas in their lives and not just in the individual examples described above.
If this was Neal’s first change in career choice, Gwen’s first dissatisfaction with a romantic partner, or Pauline’s first “giving up” something newly tried, it might not have been treated as problematic and addressed in therapy. Each of them was initially inclined to see the “problem” as lying outside themselves and not coming from within. Neal used to think that not much interested him because not that much was interesting. He sometimes sounded as though the world was simply devoid of “good” careers or “good” jobs. Similarly, Gwen would complain about the “quality of available men,” believing that the “good ones” were all taken and besides those “good ones” were the few exceptions and not the rule in the world of men. Pauline, too, has been heard to comment that there seems to be “no suitable instrument” for her. It took her awhile to begin to wonder why she cannot seem to be satisfied no matter how many instruments (5) she has tried over the years.