10. Personal Effects - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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10. Personal Effects

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Out Monkey Trap- Breaking Cycles Rel

Out of the Monkey Trap, Breaking Negative Cycles for Relationships and Therapy
by Ronald Mah

The harm experienced will create any of several personal effects.  Each effect becomes a potential point of intervention.  Within the categories of control and power, respect, security, sense of self, and sense of competence and their sub-categories there are common personal effects that the individual, couple, or family experiences or suffers.  These are areas that the therapist tries to work on.  Reducing negative effects is a point of therapeutic intervention.  For example, loss of power and control can result in these eight potential personal effects among others:

Sadness, Depression, Grief, and Loss

Anxiety, Nervous, Insecure, and Worried

These are not the only personal effects from loss of power and control.  And power and control is not an exclusive separate experience but tied to the need to be important to others or to be respected.  Not being valued or getting respect- that is, getting disrespect in addition to the last eight effects just listed can lead to potential personal effects such as feeling:

Angry and Upset

Scared and Fearful

Wounded and Hurt


Loss of power and control is also related to harm to ones sense of security.  Loss of respect affects the emotional and psychological sense of security- that is, relationship and intimacy.  These can lead to various negative experiences including feeling:

Worthless, Disrespected, and Invalidated

Shock, Frustration. and Confusion

Rejection, Alone, Isolated, or Abandoned

Experiences of disrespect or invalidation in turn also lead to injuries to ones sense of self as a worthy person.  This can result in:

Shame, Feeling Deficient, or Guilty

In reaction or response to harm to ones positive core self (or loss of power and control, respect, etc.), a person may:

Disconnect-Emotionally, Disassociated-Cognitively, Disassociate and even become Psychotic

Feel Disrupted, Violated, or Unsupported

When someone feels incompetent due to a lack of skill or abilities, including of having power and control, being liked and respected, not being able to stay secure or safe, and so forth- not being able to handle things, one may feel:

Deceived, Exploited, Betrayed, Fragile, Vulnerable, or Victimized

While the harms suffered or endured may cause predictable effects, the effect on any actual person' will vary and/or be triggered by variable triggers.  In general however, two effects can become pervasive and deeply harm individuals, couples, or families:



No one in the relationship may be aware that one of them has suffered harm and has endured a negative personal effect.  An individual may automatically respond in equally toxic ways that create a comparable or identical effect on another.  Back and forth, individuals repeat the process and intensify the harm and negative effects.  The therapist can make this an intervention point by naming the negative personal effect- "You look sad."  The therapist can prompt the individual by asking, "How do you feel right now?" or "When he or she says that, what do you feel?"  Or, prompt the other person, "What you said… did right now?  How do you think he or she feels?"  The individual's relationship or life experience may consist of not having one's feelings noticed or validated.  In bringing up the individual's feelings, the therapist may be not just breaking the negative communication cycle between the individuals, but a more pervasive pattern of one's feelings not being noticed.  Prompting the other person to notice or validate the feelings in the midst of an otherwise morass of accusations and misunderstanding changes the process.  Rather than futilely focusing on the facts of the argument- the "things that happen," the individuals may connect around their mutual concern about their feelings.  This may serve to the essential relationship need for emotional connectiveness that their dysfunctional interactions had lost.  Thus, therapy directs attention to the personal effects from harm that may prompt a different and qualitatively healthier response from the other person.

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3056 Castro Valley Blvd., #82
Castro Valley, CA 94546
Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT32136
office: (510) 582-5788
fax: (510) 889-6553
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