5. Indicators FamOriginTher-X Factors - RonaldMah

Ronald Mah, M.A., Ph.D.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
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5. Indicators FamOriginTher-X Factors

Therapist Resources > Therapy Books > Ghost Guest Family Past

Ghosts and Guests of Family Past in Relationships and Therapy
by Ronald Mah

The therapist may find family-of-origin oriented therapy to be indicated with certain clinical cues.  The individual, one or more partners or family members may present an experience, an interpretation, or a belief that does not compute based on normal human processes, especially the therapist's knowledge of intrapsychic, interpersonal, family, and social dynamics.  A useful metaphor is to invoke psychological or emotional algebra.

1 + 1 + 1 = 8 !?

That equation just does not "add up!  For example, Kamaka asserts that on the one hand, he believes in logic.  An addition point is that his wife Hatiti is too emotional.  The third element of assertion is that logic is loss by being so emotional.  The summation of his analysis of the factors is that Kamaka asserts that it is logical to reject his wife's feelings since she's being illogical.  

Personal logic + Wife's over-emotionality + Emotion harms logic
= Rejects wife's feelings.  

The therapist can challenge that his logic or psychological algebra does not add up, by asserting that logic without emotion is pointless.  Kamaka's relationship calculations do not add up because the subsequent behavior is unjustified.  The therapist asserts a new conclusion with another psychological algebraic equation.  One, Kamaka as the husband loves and respects his wife Hatiti.  Second point, he knows how he treats her affects her.  And third, as her husband he wants to her to feel happy.  The behavioral summation of these points is that he would act to make her feel loved, respected, and happy.

Love/respect + His actions affect wife + Wife's happiness important
= Action for wife to feel loved, respect, and happy

Combining both the initial psychological and emotional equations with the behavioral consequences result in a husband self-definition incongruity.  While he owns the validity and importance of both equations, they cannot co-exist.  Kamaka's logical justification to reject his wife's feelings as illogical contradicts his commitment to act in ways that make Hatiti feel loved, respected, and happy.  The therapist can verbalizes this with something like, "Your logical process says your wife gets over-emotional, which you assert causes her to think illogically.  Thus, you feel justified rejecting her feelings.  Despite saying you know how much your actions affect Hatiti, and you love and respect her and want her to be happy, you choose to make her feel unloved, disrespected, and unhappy by dismissing her feelings.  That doesn't make sense.  Something else must be going on.  That something else must be very compelling that you would do something that hurts her anyway.  If you didn't know that before, you know that now.  If you accept that you have hurt her that means you care which fits into who you want to be as a good husband.  If you refuse to accept that you hurt her… or deny that she 'should' be hurt, then that doesn't add up as a loving caring husband… or being respectful.  So Kamaka, what is it that is so compelling that you forget her feelings… that you forget yourself?"

1 + 1 + 1 = 8 does not add up, but
1 + 1 + 1 + "X" = 8 does add up!  

What is the compelling emotional, psychological, spiritual, social/cultural, or other element that makes this add up?  The therapist may find that family-of-origin exploration as well as addiction issues, personality disorders, trauma, and other issues beyond the present "facts" can make sense out of nonsense… logic out of illogic.  When the therapist should be alert to his or her counter-transference in asking oneself a rhetorical question such as, "How can he or she think that?!" or "What the hell?!"  That is a cue for the therapist to look for symbolic meanings underlying attitudes, beliefs, values, or behaviors.

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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