Watching My Tapes - An Exercise in Avoidance

Before we get started, I wanted to tell you about three awesome podcasts I've been listening to:

Therapist Clubhouse by Annie Schuessler - she interviews a talented therapist each episode and they share how they grew their unique practice. I LOVE this podcast and can't wait for each to come out.

Abundant Practice Podcast by Allison Puryear - THE guru of practice building. On Mondays she consults with a therapist struggling with an aspect of their practice, Wednesdays she brings in a fellow expert to give further advice, and Fridays give some homework.

Therapy for Black Girls by Dr. Joy - more geared towards clients but also great for therapists. Dr. Joy is doing amazing work, plus she's delightful to listen to and has the best laugh in town.

I listen to them all on my podcast app on my phone

Now back to our regular programming - A Dialogue Between Me and Myself

Self: Ok, it’s time to watch your tape!

AP (Avoidant Part): Hhhhhhmmmmm, I hate watching our tapes.

Self: It’s going to be fine! It’s really good for you!

AP: Let’s clean the bathroom instead.

Self: No, come on, you set aside time for this, let’s do it.

AP: It takes forever. It’s like an hour and a half. It's boring and nerve-wracking all at the same time.

Self: Well, we need to do it, it’s important.

AP: You’re just going to see where you mess up.

Self: That’s good, that’s how we learn.

AP: Let’s write a blog post about this instead!

Self: Darn, that is a good idea.

 

It is really hard to motivate myself to watch my tapes. I made myself sit down and watch some of my tapes yesterday and I noticed a few things about what helps me get over the hump of avoidance.

1.     It helps me to wait a week after the session so when I watch my brain isn’t quite sure what happens next. Something about not knowing exactly what’s going to happen next helps me keep watching. Also, these sessions are intense and we need breaks from them.

2.     Having a pad of paper and pen next to me so I can write what time the clip starts and stops, and also make notes. It’s helps me feel like I’m not just sitting and being tortured but that I’m doing something while I watch.

3.     Putting my phone on silent and turning it over so I don’t see the screen

4.     Watching just 10 minutes at a time. I can see a lot in 10 minutes of what I need to do better, and it might be too overwhelming to see 75 minutes of what I can do better right now.

5.      Realizing I really want help with this. So I have to watch it so I can bring it to my supervisor. And knowing she’s going to have such good advice on what I could do differently. I don’t know how it is for you supervisors out there, but I have to imagine you can do a lot more with seeing the couple and therapist than just hearing about them.

6.     “Eat the frog.” This is a term I heard that says, you just have to do the thing that sucks. Eat the frog. Watch the tapes.

 

When I watched my tapes yesterday I could see I am not validating enough. I can get on a mission of what I want the couple to do that session – like, today I really wanted to see if one of my Pursuers could do some Step 2 of owning their part of the cycle. We’ve had many sessions and I still don’t see them able to do this. Watching the tape, though, showed me that I need to slow down and really validate the feelings the Pursuer is feeling and I wasn’t validating nearly enough.

What I saw on my tape today:

I really unpacked with the Withdrawer what was happening on the inside during a recent argument where the outside was definitely old cycle, and the Pursuer came in with “I don’t believe that’s how he feels, I don’t see that happen in the moment.”

Me: “Right, you’re not seeing that in the moment, it’s so hard to believe that because in the moment you don’t see he’s feeling all these things.”

Then I turned back to the Withdrawer and continued to unpack. I went way too fast, mostly because I was still on this mission to get the Pursuer to hear the Withdrawer's feelings. I thought if she heard more of Withdrawer’s vulnerable feelings they could connect to her vulnerability.

 

But I think it would have been much more powerful and de-escalating if I had really piled on the validation:

 

Better Me: “Right, that’s not at all what you’re seeing in the moment. Right now we’re hearing about the underneath emotions but all you see is … what? Can you tell me more about what you see?”

(she would say she sees him act like he doesn’t care)

Me, continuing to validate: “That would be so difficult! Of course that would be so incredibly frustrating to feel like this person you love so much doesn’t care that he hurt you. Of course you got angry and told him to go away. Can you tell me more about what happens for you in these moments, when it looks like Bill doesn’t care at all that he hurt you?”

And later, after all the validation, I may have been able to say:

“So it looks like the cycle caught you up again. Bill, the more you act like you don’t care and dismiss, the more Vicky gets escalated and upset, and the more upset and sharp Vicky gets, the more Bill is desperate to make it seem like it’s not a big deal.” And possibly set up an enactment here. 

Although my initial goal was to help the Pursuer hear the Withdrawer, in hindsight I think she was too escalated to really hear him. If I could have validated and unpacked more with her, I might have been able to de-escalate her enough to allow them a "moment of contact" with their more vulnerable emotions. 

Honestly, I wouldn’t have seen this without watching my tape. When I was remembering the session I didn’t know I had not validated the Pursuer enough (although I should have, since it never seems like I validate the Pursuer enough. IS there ever enough for my Pursuers?). I didn’t realize I had done the above. So even though it’s one of my least favorite chores, it’s important for me to eat the frog and watch my tapes.  Do any of you have helpful ways you overcome the tape-dread? Do you have certain times during the week you watch them? Share any helpful tips in the comments below!