The Sara Session—Total Blow Away! (Part 1 of 2) In one of my recent Tuesday psychotherapy training groups at Stanford, we reviewed the Interpersonal Downward Arrow Technique. This is a high-speed technique I created that allows you to rapidly identify the roles that you play in your relationships with others so you can pinpoint the patterns that create tension and unhappiness for yourself as well as the people you care about.
The Interpersonal Downward Arrow Technique is similar to what psychoanalysts try to do with free association on the couch, except it only takes five to ten minutes, as opposed to five to ten years. In addition, I have also developed fairly rapid ways to change and modify those dysfunctional patterns—IF this is what you want to do.
Some of the psychoanalysts call these hidden patterns “core conflicts.” The late Dr. Lester Luborsky (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_Luborsky), a prominent psychotherapy researcher at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has written about core conflicts extensively.
He gave as an example of a core conflict, a person who might have the belief that “my needs will never be met in my personal relationships.” Beliefs like this not only create unhappiness, but they can also function as self-fulfilling prophecies.
In addition, most people re not aware of these “core conflicts,” and do not realize they are just beliefs. Most people just believe that “this is just the way the world is,” and think they have a profound insight into the reality of human nature.
But we actually create our own interpersonal realities at every moment of every day. Since we usually cannot “see” what we’re doing, we may wrongly conclude that we’re victims of the “badness” of others. And, of course, there is always a grain of truth in that belief as well!
During the training group, we had group members identify some of their own “core conflicts,” using the Interpersonal Downward Arrow Technique, and this hit one of our members, Sara Shane, like a ton of bricks. She discovered that she sees herself as “an outsider” and has always believed she is stupid and inferior to others. And this intense belief has caused tremendous suffering for Sara for decades, including her participation in the Tuesday training group, where she is usually totally silent.
Sara traced this pattern to her childhood, growing up in a village in Mexico, where she was bullied and put down because she was short and overweight, and had the darkest skin of any of her many siblings. In addition, she struggled with a learning problem and was frequently put down and labeled as stupid.
Sara’s sudden decent into emotional hell was fueled by the fact that she was planning the wedding of her niece at a town in Mexico which was only two hours from the town where she grew up. And the thought of showing her daughter that town filled her with feelings of shame and terror, fearing she would run into the people she grew up with, including the people who cruelly put her down.
Here’s what she wrote prior to doing personal work on this problem in a subsequent Tuesday group:
Hello Jill and David,
Where to begin…all day yesterday it was very painful as I thought about emailing you...
As I’m writing this, I am in tears and I know it is going to take me a while to write everything I want to say. But first let me say that it has taken me a long time to even sit in front of the computer because this has been very difficult for me. I had earlier said I would email you yesterday morning but I know now why I could not. I procrastinating mainly because this hurts a lot, beyond what I had earlier experienced. Right now, I am not even paying any attention to proper writing because I just want to write this without worry about correctness and just express my feelings.
Let me describe what I have been feeling physically all week long since Tuesday. I have been feeling sick to my stomach especial