1. Dillard does something that Genevieve doesn't like or perhaps, only isn't clear about.2. Then Genevieve questions him (sometimes, impatiently… sometimes just for clarification... often from a cultural or her family-of-origin perspective).3. Dillard assumes that she is being critical.4. Then Dillard snaps back in an impatient tone5. That Genevieve feels insinuates that she is stupid.6. Genevieve snaps back criticizing his tone.7. Dillard experiences it as even more criticism.8. And, snaps back that there Genevieve goes again!9. They repeat 1-8 several times, until10. Genevieve shuts down from anger and frustration (similar to how it felt with her parents... or because it is the only cultural option available to her)11. Which terrifies Dillard that he's being abandoned (again like his dad abandoned him, or since emotional abandonment is part of the cultural pattern of discipline)12. Which makes him even more angry and aggressive towards her.13. Which makes Genevieve shut down even more.14. Which confirms Dillard's abandonment, and intensifies his hurt and then, anger.15. And, on and on.
The therapist can interrupt early on and block Dillard's retort, and ask what tone he is hearing? This can be an interruption in individual therapy as the person is blaming, judging, or angered about something he or she is talking about. This interrupts because it may push the individuals into owning, examining, and articulating their underlying hurt that comes before the anger. It also may block a toxic response.The therapist can interrupt by asking the individual such as Genevieve, "Who did this insult to you first." What does the dynamic or experience reminds them of from their youth? This interrupts because it promotes insight to the original traumas that are being played out, rather than letting them believe that it is simply about each other in the present.The therapist can interrupt by asking what is going on inside them as they repeat the same thing over and over. This interrupts because it promotes self-awareness of the process where there may have been none, and of their intensification process as well. "Where does that come from?" which is a family-of-origin or cultural prompting for the original modeling of the response.The therapist may also ask Dillard, "Why did Genevieve shut down; what was the alternative?" Or ask Genevieve, "Where did you learn to do that?" Or, when the Genevieve shuts down, "I see what you do when Dillard shuts down, but what does his shutting down do to you? What is the feeling before the anger? And the nasty retorts?" which leads again to insight and self-awareness.The therapist can instruct Genevieve to articulate these feelings verbally rather than act out. "Tell him why it's hard for you to stay present when it gets this intense." This request is in itself an interjection in the cycle, since it reframes "shutting down" as not Genevieve abandoning him, but her having difficulty staying emotionally or psychologically present. It challenges the automatic cognitive assumption that can only be abandoning.The therapist can instruct Dillard to express the feelings to Genevieve with the prompt, "Tell her what you feel. Do it by repeating and completing these series of sentences, 'I get hurt when __________. I need you to __________. I get scared when _______.' She needs to know this. Genevieve WANTS to know this."