Excerpt: Lisa and Bryan in the Toxic Tango from Just Stop Picking Losers!

February 13, 2012


From Just Stop Picking Losers!

Lisa and Bryan met at a college fraternity party and immediately hit it off. They began dating and shortly thereafter, Lisa had a complaint. Byran was always 30 minutes late; even when they had a specific time to be somewhere, he was late. This drove Lisa mad. Lisa had a mission; to get Bryan to show up on time.  In order to manage him, she came up with some clever tricks. For instance, she would tell him that they needed to be at an event 1 hour earlier, hoping that he would arrive in time to get them there without being late. Sometimes, she used the repetitive telephoning angle; calling him with the same question, “Have you left yet?” His response was always the same; “In a few minutes.”  Other tricks were screaming, begging, cajoling and threatening; none of which were effective. Not only were they always late but Lisa was continuously a wreck. Bryan on the other hand was as calm, cool and collected as ever. Lisa eventually became exhausted in this Toxic Tango and came to see us.

Lisa revealed her history which included a passive father who was directed by an intrusive, dominating wife. Lisa’s father would make many agreements with her and then either forget about them or unilaterally decide that they weren’t important enough for follow-through. Lisa shared her sadness and disappointment about her father’s behavior. The fear she carried, or her Impasse, was that in some way, she must have not been a lovable enough daughter for her father to take seriously and follow through on his commitments to her. The challenge was that not only did Lisa take Bryan’s tardiness personally, she took it “historically” and so her reaction was exaggerated for the nature of his transgression. Unfortunately, her reaction didn’t fix Bryan’s chronic lateness, in fact, it made it worse. The more she carried on, the later he’d run.

Once you recognize the Impasse as you set it up in the present, you might notice that you move around in a chronic state of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety refers to the upset a child feels when he or she must detach from a parent. Consider this thought;  what if separation anxiety is actually the chronic underlying distress you feel as a result of being separated from the most loving and nurturing spiritual part of YOURSELF?   If this is true, we remain separated by fear in adulthood and latch onto losers and then try to fix them as a way to avoid feeling this unpleasant anxiety. Imagine what might happen if you were to recognize and then meet this anxiety head on. Then, maybe your relationship choices would look very different.

Ellie Izzo, PhD, LPC

Ellie has been in clinical practice for over 30 years. She also serves as a trainer, Divorce Coach and Child Specialist in Collaborative Divorce cases. She developed the Rapid Advance Process, a standardized five-session brief model of counseling that was presented at the American Counseling Association convention in Atlanta in 1997 and with Vicki Carpel Miller in Honolulu in 2008. Ellie is the author of The Bridge To I Am, a self-help book outlining the Rapid Advance Process. Ellie hosted a call-in radio show in Phoenix and served as Self-Help Editor for a nationally syndicated trade magazine.

She runs several ongoing groups called the Encouragers where people meet to offer each other peace, support and acceptance.

Vicki Carpel Miller, BSN, MS, LMFT

Vicki Carpel Miller is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in clinical practice for over 20 years. Vicki was instrumental in bringing Collaborative Divorce to Arizona and functions as a Divorce Coach and Child Specialist in Collaborative Divorce cases. She specializes in the treatment of Vicarious Trauma, the Rapid Advance Process, the practice of Collaborative Divorce and other divorce-related issues such as blended family and stepfamily issues. Vicki is internationally recognized as a trainer with the Collaborative Divorce Training Team. Vicki and Ellie are co-founders of the Collaborative Divorce Institute and the Vicarious Trauma Institute. Their offices are located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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