For some clients, their go-to response to hurt or disappointment may be to find something (or more often someone) to blame it on.
And when that blame is accompanied by anger and harsh criticism, it can wreak havoc on their relationships.
So how can we help clients begin to manage distressing emotions, instead of jumping right to blame?
Zindel Segal, PhD walks us through a mindfulness approach that can help.
Take a look.
I stay with features of moment to moment experience that are often based in the body. So sensory processing, because in some ways I think the sensory processing can be less shame inducing than some of the cognitive processing. So someone who can tell me about a sensation of tightness in the chest, someone who can tell me about a sensation of throbbing in the temples might be more willing to talk about that, or at least to note it compared to feelings of anger or even beyond that, which I think is where you want to get to, feelings of hurt and disappointment, sadness and really shame.And then the lens of mindfulness allows her to start to catalog any sensations that were present, any thoughts that came through her mind, any emotions. And I would say that probably the thoughts came first, but I might say, “When you thought to yourself, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. I really need this,’ for example, ‘How can she do this to me?'” Then I might say, “And when you have that thought or even now as you replay it in your head, are there any sensations in your body that you’re aware of?” So she knows that I’m accompanying her in this investigation and I’m kind of holding her close to what she’s monitoring, what she’s talking about and yet we’re not necessarily getting to a place where it’s a right or wrong. I’m wrong to blame her or she’s wrong to cancel. It’s more, let’s see this in a greater sense of fullness and richness. And in doing that, I think it allows her to start to see that there are elements of her experience that might be minimized.
So for example, if she’s talking primarily about anger, she’s talking primarily about judgment of her friend. How could she do this to me? I’ve done so much for her. We were planning this, I need this, et cetera, et cetera. If she’s not saying something about her internal experience, I might ask her, “What about ways in which this made it harder for you? Did you feel disappointed or did you feel let down?” And she might kind of aggressively say, “Of course I did.” And then that would be for me an opening to say, “So if you’re aware of any of those feelings now, what sensations are present for you? Can we amplify? Can you hold onto some of this and just tell me what that feels like?” And then the invitation of course is not to say, “Look, this is really what’s happening, don’t blame your friend.” The invitation for her is to see that all of this is part of the experience. So the blaming, the name calling of her friend alongside with her disappointment, her sense of having something taken away, and how that hurts and being able to hold some of that. So it’s trying to increase her capacity to have a fuller sense of that experience. That’s one way that I would work with it.
For expert strategies on helping to shift clients out of patterns of blame, anger, pain, and resentment, check out this course featuring Bessel van der Kolk, MD; Dan Siegel, MD; Marsha Linehan, PhD; Richard Schwartz, PhD; and more.
Now, please let us know your takeaways in the comments below. Do you have a client who might benefit from this approach? What other strategies have you found to be effective in working with a client’s patterns of blame?”