Monday, February 8, 2010

Full plate.

Okay, so I'm working on a metaphor here and I would appreciate your feedback. One of the concepts in therapy is that of Differentiation (click here for an explanation). I've used the idea of having a full plate that keeps getting stuff piled on it to explain to clients how they are taking on someone else's anxiety for them, or "By holding their anxiety, you are doing for them what they ought to be doing for themselves". Anyhow, if you have time, please read the following narrative and post feedback. Thanks!

The full plate: A metaphorical narrative.

Josie was a sweet person. She cared deeply about people that were in her life and hated to disappoint them. However, she was having some trouble because she was feeling pretty overwhelmed with stress. She was in college and now, in her second year, classes were starting to get a little tougher. Josie was having to study harder and lately her mom had been pressuring her about her friendships. Actually, she was pressuring Josie to spend less time with school and more time connecting with friends. Josie knew that her mom had never taken any college classes and considered it a waste of time. After all, she had done just fine for herself with just a beautician’s license and she knew that Josie was just putting on airs. So, when Josie came over to the house one evening, her mom launched into another lecture on how it was time for Josie to stop trying to get ahead and start taking care of what she was capable of becoming. Josie’s mom had always been a little critical and never had any problems telling Josie what she thought Josie ought to be doing. The problem was, Josie had made some mistakes in the past and in those circumstances, her mom had been right. So, part of Josie doubted herself and trusted that her mom knew what was best for her. Another part of Josie knew that going to school would give her more opportunities for her future. It was frustrating, dealing with the anxiety that grew from those feuding parts of herself. Her mom knew that she was struggling with those things, so she took some of her own anxiety and verbally dumped it onto Josie’s plate. Whew, now that she’d vented her opinion about Josie’s activities, her mom felt much better! Josie, on the other hand, left her mom’s house with her already full plate piled high with not just her worry and anxiety, but also her mother’s junk.

Josie tried to go about her routine; study for class, put in a few hours at work, go to school, clean up her apartment. However, she couldn’t shake the anxious feeling that maybe her mom was right. She called her boyfriend to visit with him about how she was feeling. Seth, Josie’s boyfriend, didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for her. He told her that it was just another example of her mom trying to run her life. Besides, he was angry with her because she hadn’t called in three days. He told her that he couldn’t live without her and that she needed to check in with him so he didn’t have to worry about her. She knew better than to ask why he didn’t just call her if he was worried. Last time that happened, he’d yelled at her about how he did all the work in their relationship and he made her feel really guilty, so she just kept quiet. Seth did that a lot: take his own anger about things and twist their conversations so that the problems in their relationship were Josie’s fault, not his. He was angry and scared about his situation because he’d been laid off yesterday and this verbal exchange gave him the opportunity to take some of his anxiety off his own plate and put it on Josie’s. Once he did that, he felt a little better. Josie, on the other end of the phone line, looked at her already overflowing plate and began to despair. She could felt like she could barely handle her own issues and now, she’d let her mom and her boyfriend dump some of their anxiety on her plate, too.

Josie’s best friend, Georgia, asked her to lunch. Georgia sat across from Josie and commented on how full Josie’s plate looked. “How did you manage to get all that piled on there?” asked Georgia, good-naturedly. Josie began to explain, all in a rush, about her problems. Without realizing that she was doing it, Josie began to spoon all the excess from her plate onto Georgia’s. Georgia laughed and pointed out, “Jo, you’re trying to do to me what your mom and Seth did to you!” Embarrassed, Josie scooped it all back onto her own plate. Georgia told her, “I’m not upset, hon. I understand how overwhelming this must be for you, but let me show you a better way to handle this stuff.” Georgia called the waitress over and asked for some to-go boxes. When they arrived, Georgia asked Josie to tell her again about the issues she was dealing with. As Josie talked, she and Georgia moved the junk that Josie’s mom and Seth had dumped on her plate into separate boxes. Once she got the stuff off her plate, Josie immediate felt better. “But what do I do with those?”, she asked her friend, gesturing toward the Styrofoam containers. Georgia asked, “Does that stuff belong to you?” Josie caught on and laughed at her friend. “I think I get it now!” She and Georgia spent the rest of their lunch talking about Josie’s stress and Josie managed to not spoon any onto Georgia’s plate. Georgia said, “See, it is possible to deal with this stuff and still maintain a healthy relationship, like our friendship. I’ll always be here for you, but these are things that you have to manage for yourself.” They hugged and promised to get together again soon. As Georgia left, Josie knew she needed to drop off a few items with her mother and her boyfriend that she didn’t want to carry around any more. She would let them learn the same lesson she’d just learned about dealing with one’s own anxiety and issues.

Again, I would appreciate feedback; therapeutic, grammatical or just informative.


Martha said...

Hey Jeff! You wrote a story about me!! I think your narrative gets right to the heart of the problem. I hope you use it with your clients. My mom aways tells me that everyone has a monkey to carry on their back and that I can't walk around all day picking up other peoples' monkeys. Oh, and no grammatical problems :~)

Anonymous said...

I share a love-hate relationship with digital memory because of how prices are always,and I mean always falling. I absolutely hate buying SDs for my R4 / R4i at (seemingly) a crazy bargain price only to see it become 10% cheaper a few months later.

(Submitted by KwZa for R4i Nintendo DS.)

Martha said...

Yeah, so my comment was better than anonymous' comment. So there.