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Interpretation

Maria appears to believe that others need more than she is able to give. Her mistaken belief might be that she must be responsible for everyone or she will not be loved. This seems to be one theme that runs consistently through Maria's life, making her sensitive to her parents' and siblings' demands as well as her ex-husband's demeaning remarks about her profession, culture, and religion. As Adler would reflect in this situation, Maria's solution to her situation is to be depressed, fearful, overwhelmed, and unable to cope. Rather than setting limits with others when she should, Maria chooses to be depressed. Maria's private logic dictated that she be responsible for "everyone and everything." Her scheme of apperception sharply divided the need to be responsible from her need to take care of herself. Characteristics of the oldest child can be seen in Maria's relationships; she feels responsible for everyone. Maria's feeling of being overwhelmed is based on the responsibilities she mistakenly believes she must carry or she will lose the love of her parents and others. Maria's striving for superiority and lifestyle is expressed in being a responsible daughter, mother, and teacher so that her parents and others will love her.

Through the use of Socratic questioning by her counselor, Maria could become aware of her narrow focus of needing to take care of everything. As suggested by Stein (2008), a counselor's use of guided and eidetic images may elicit Maria's first experiences of being responsible for others when she was a child. After experiencing a gradual series of missing developmental experiences through these techniques, she can become open to having relationships without always having to care take of others. She may then be willing to redirect her striving for connectedness into social interest that involves cooperation. She may understand that it is not always she who must contribute. She could work toward her goal of having more comfortable, sharing, and healthy relationships with family and friends.

Reorientation

Counseling with Maria will involve a lot of encouragement as well as confrontation based on a collaborative relationship. The counselor will reflect to Maria that she has a great deal of social interest as indicated by her history. "Spitting in Maria's soup" will be used to illuminate her mistaken belief that she is responsible for everyone. Maria will need to examine her own lifestyle thoroughly through discussion and personal evaluation of the clues embedded in her earliest childhood recollections. In addition, the counselor will educate Maria that feelings of inferiority are normal feelings that can be used as fuel for connecting and making changes in her life. The counselor will work with Maria to improve her self- confidence, self-esteem, and feelings of self-worth at the same time encouraging Maria to have healthy boundaries within her lifestyle. Once she has been empowered to be aware of the decisions and choices she has made, Maria can then be empowered to make different choices. Maria's strengths on which to build include her strong family and cultural ties as well as her education and ability to work and support herself and her children. Gradually, she can learn how much her "responsibility crusade" drove her life and what she had been missing, as a child and as an adult – warm, friendly contact with others without unlimited responsibility.

 
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