PUZZLE PIECES: REFLECTIONS ON REPAIR

For the past few months we’ve been working through various aspects of the 4 Rs model (Rupture, Regression, Repair and Resolution). We have learned that when a Rupture unbalances us in the here-and-now, Regressive emotions can be activated to bring the past unexpectedly into the present with a disorienting array of feelings. The discomfort that follows can be painful and often puzzling. In Repair, we take time to approach and honor these feelings in order to identify and explore their significance.

For many, making sense of Regressive emotions is like sitting down to one of those puzzles of a thousand pieces. It requires patience sorting for patterns, persistence linking the pieces, and cleverness joining them to reflect the picture on the puzzle lid. The difference when decoding one’s personal emotions is that there is no picture for guidance, only painstaking effort until awareness and meaning evolve.

In this blog post, we will rejoin the group members from the June 2015 vignette. Observe how, in Repair, their collaborative approach supports curiosity about oneself and each other as they identify puzzle pieces which emerge in their ongoing work.

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IN HONOR OF MOTHER'S DAY

When honoring my “mothers,” I remember the women who positively guided me early on as well as those who inspired me later. Regardless of when they arrived in my life, each distinctly influenced, shaped and enhanced my well-being in a multitude of ways. When I was a young clinician, Virginia Satir fortified the foundations of my professional development. That she was later considered the “Mother of Family Therapy” makes honoring her this month all the more special. 

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RESOLUTION: MOVING FORWARD WITH THE 4 R'S

Creating new habits requires focused attention on the weakest links of one’s deepest vulnerabilities in order to break out of unconscious, reactive, and regressive behaviors. A willingness to tolerate the temporary discomfort of recurring regressive feelings in Rupture and Regression helps to tame defensive reactions. The key emotional muscles needed to build secure connections are: humility, compassion (for oneself and others), dedication (to staying connected to oneself and another), and communication (by openly sharing one’s feelings with words).

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REPAIR: A JOURNEY TO CONNECTION

Repair does not require a dramatic rupture to get it started; it can begin anytime one is curious about what is going on with them. Much of repair involves the time consuming work of unpacking the unknown, hidden and buried regressive feelings exposed by a rupture.

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REGRESSION: WHAT'S GOING ON?

We started off the year by introducing the 4R’s - Rupture, Regression, Repair and Resolution. This helpful easy-to-remember model was developed to effectively deal with internal and interpersonal upsets: to figure out what’s going on and to regain emotional balance. Last month, we focused on a Rupture - an unexpected incident/event - that occurred between Barb and Tim. This month, we will explore Regression - the reappearance of long-buried feelings that were awakened in each of them by their rupture. 

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HAPPY NEW YEAR: INTRODUCING THE 4 R'S

In 2014, we explored examples of how interpersonal upsets can regularly occur between and among our friends, spouses, family members, in-laws, and co-workers. Although these upsets are something we all experience, we often have no idea how they occur, much less how to untangle them. To start off 2015, we’ll track a single, initial upset to its eventual resolution within a series of four blog posts, focusing on the complexities of each step in the example and how they manifest within one’s own self and among others.

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SEEKING THE PERFECT GIFT...

As holiday expectations awaken nostalgic feelings of how life could be and merge with “the stuff that dreams are made of,” disillusionment abounds. The power of these wistful longings can take us by surprise amidst the demands of our busy lives. As seen in the group interactions below, added bumps in the road can impose unsettling ‘shoulds’ that make it difficult to contain disappointment in a season when cheerfulness is the holiday norm.

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SHARING THANKS

We met Kara and Dave in the September 2014 blog post. At Dave’s request, they came for a couples session to check on how they were doing as newlyweds and then decided to continue couples therapy to strengthen their relationship. A big issue for Dave was his concern that Kara agreed with whatever he wanted without ever letting him know what she wants. Kara appreciated his honesty; however, she didn’t understand how her desire to please Dave didn’t make him happy.

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DITCHING THE DISGUISE

Kristin is a 29-year old who appears to “have it all”: she is successful at work; she is popular with her colleagues and friends; and she has been with her boyfriend, Josh, for two years and anticipates a marriage proposal soon. Yet, she feels overwhelmed and inundated by the eagerness of her girlfriends, who seem certain about almost everything: when couples get engaged, how much time between the proposal and wedding, when to merge households, what type of wedding, where to honeymoon and so forth. Kristin’s secretly struggling because her preference has always been to accommodate the expectations of others rather than to make her own choices. 

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GETTING REAL

Kara and Dave came in for a counseling session at his suggestion, just to make sure they were doing okay a little over a year into their marriage. They both described their relationship as being pretty easygoing and conflict-free. Kara said she thinks she is a good wife; she likes supporting Dave, and he likes her pampering attention. He just wishes she would let him pamper her too.

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NOT ALWAYS AS IT SEEMS

Chris is in his early 30s. A talented accountant, he’s succeeded in many areas of his life despite a less-than-ideal childhood. His father was a harsh and erratic disciplinarian and the whole family simply endured his volatile moods. Once Chris left for college and was able to distance himself from this unpredictable environment, he started to realize that he had real trouble letting his guard down enough to connect with others. After getting settled in a good job, he decided individual therapy might be beneficial. Therapy really helped him understand how his difficulties at home were complicating his life. 

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SETTING BOUNDARIES/SHAPING CONNECTIONS

Laurie and John are struggling with how best to discipline their generally well-behaved teenaged son, Sam. They share similar views on parenting except when it comes to discipline. Specifically, they are at odds with each other about grounding Sam. Both John and Laurie’s parents grounded them as adolescents. While John didn’t like being grounded, he appreciates the merit of his parents’ methods now. Laurie’s memories of being grounded remind her how painfully harsh her parents acted by giving the emotional equivalent of bread and water—like jailers.

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WHAT NOW?

Jessica just graduated from college with a liberal arts degree, but with the economy being so poor, she’s having trouble finding work. So, to tide her over in the meantime, she’s increased her hours at the part-time retail job she’s held since sophomore year…or so she’s told her friends and family.

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PROBLEM SOLVED?

Max is 36, married, and has a good job in sales. He’s a capable and committed partner to his wife, Kristen, and a likeable friend and coworker to others. Max prides himself on his ability to keep his cool and problem-solve, which he considers among his strongest traits. The only problem is, when Max doesn’t know how to handle a situation or he needs help, he has tremendous trouble asking for assistance.

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INSIDE OUT

Debbie’s daughter, Carrie, is in her second year of high school, and Debbie offered to help organize the school’s annual spring fundraiser. She’s regretting her decision because one of the other mothers, Laura, is a former high school rival, and Debbie is remembering all the times she felt the need to compete with Laura for friends and recognition. Laura’s experience as a part-time event planner makes her better equipped to handle the job at hand; because of Laura’s work connections, it has been easy to book a location, find caterers, and hire entertainment. All of the other volunteers are delighted by how easily the event is coming together, but Debbie is focusing on how little she’s been able to contribute.

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GROWING PAINS

Meet Jim, a 48-year-old father of two. His son and daughter, Jack and Christy, are now in high school. Jim has always had high standards for his children and pushed them to excel academically. While his expectations produced positive results in the past, he now feels extremely challenged by their lack of effort. He hates feeling disappointed and angry with them, but doesn’t know what to do.  

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CAREGIVE-AND-TAKE?

Sarah and Jack have been dating for just over a year, and their relationship has generally been problem-free. In the early stages, Sarah was pleasantly surprised by Jack’s nurturing behavior; it seemed he was constantly surprising her with flowers, picking up her favorite foods on trips to the store, and leaving notes for her to find. More recently though, Sarah has begun to question what drives Jack’s considerate actions.

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