Wednesday, September 10, 2014

But, What Do YOU Want?

I'm guessing this won't come as a surprise to anyone, but sometimes there are a number of power struggles involved in our lives. A good number of us really don't like to be told what to do. And, sometimes, this can become a challenge in therapy, as sometimes, the best intended suggestions can end up feeling like we are telling our clients what to do.

As you might guess, this is a not uncommon phenomenon with teenagers. Teenagers do not want to be told what to do! At least most of the time... So, being the therapist to a teenager carries the risk of just being the next adult in line to have authority worthy of bucking. And the last thing a therapist wants to create is
a power struggle.

So, I often find myself asking clients what they want for themselves, who do they want to be? What are their values, morals, and beliefs? And, in going down this path, I find that it's not uncommon that the client actually wants the same thing that the person they are defying wants. The client actually wants to be a good student, a good worker, reliable, trustworthy, and to have good relationships. So, for example, rather than continuing to battle the parent over grades, the focus can change to the reality that the client wants to be a good student, or wants to be respected by teachers, or wants a particular job some day.

Of course, this can also be applied directly to eating disorders. What does the eating disorder client want more? To be thin? To feel in control? To be numb? To have good relationships? To enjoy life? To have integrity? To be honest?

If you will identify what you truly want, you can then measure your behaviors against that. Is what you are doing in any given moment consistent with your long-term desires? If yes, fantastic! If no, you have to decide whether this means your desire has changed, or something is overriding it. And, you have to distinguish between what you want in that moment, versus in the big picture.

This way, it no longer matters what anyone else wants, and whether you want to follow their direction; it only matters that you are pursuing what you want.

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