Updated Dec, 27th 2012
I visited my family for the first time in two years since my father’s death with much dread anticipating the pain to come inevitable due to seeing my alcoholic mother and bi-polar sister. My sister posed an excellent suggestion to see her therapist.
Brother: (gesticulating with his hands in a frustrated motion) Why did you start an argument with me yesterday when you knew we’d be seeing your therapist today?
Sister: (passively sitting in the large couch, head down) I couldn’t help myself; I told you I was sorry.
Brother: (still frustrated) I think you get off on provoking me; it gives you a sense of power!
Therapist: (Edgy, pale mid 30’s, dark hair with tie, talking fast) The communication style you’re both engaged in doesn’t work! Here’s a structure I want you to use. Start off and end what you say to each other with positive, loving regard as a reminder of your relationship. Between those points of positive regard, say whatever is necessary. Think of it as a shit sandwich!
Sarah, go ahead.
Sister: (Leaning forward, making eye contact) I admire you not complaining about the effort and cost of traveling here and your willingness to come to therapy with me.
Therapist: (waving his arms)
Sister: (Looking straight ahead, crouching forward) Why are you such a selfish self-involved narcissist pinhead when it comes to being available for your family? Why do you let me suffer when I’m the family martyr all the time? Oh, and I admire your writing
and that you know so much about nutrition.
Therapist: OK, Steve…
Brother: (Looking at the therapist, esperated, eyes straight up, shaking his head) Are you fucking kidding me?
Therapist: (motioning) Let’s keep moving here…
Brother: (leaning back, legs leaning down) Sarah I appreciate you being there for Mom and Dad and admire you for your writing. (Suddenly moving forward, standing, pacing) Why are you attacking me all the time? Do you realize part of what’s happened between us is I never know what to expect any time we talk? One time your friendly and the next hostile and unpredictable. You give me shit, can be very black or white and then wonder why I’m distant, passive? It’s like your Dad lite, just as arbitrary tastes great. Oh and thanks for getting me high when I was 15 for the first time, assisting me on the road to addiction.
Oh, and I think your very capable and a good businessperson. (Steve exasperated sits down)
Therapist: OK Sarah…
Sister: (Distracted, dazed)
Therapist: (Impatient, waving his arms) Let’s keep it moving…
Sister: (Brooding, regaining composure) Steve, I appreciate your intelligence and are shared love of movies and that there have been good times too. And before you were born I got all the attention and when you arrived I was resentful and have always been to this day. And I dislike how much you put your needs before the family. And I admire your independence and that you have your own business.
Brother: (Looking forward expressing warmth) Sarah I’ve always admired your intelligence and creativity and despite all our conflicts and pain and know you love me. I wish you were less dependent on Mom and that you take better care of yourself.
Therapist: (Arms raised) Good!