Sometimes, conflicts with people are unavoidable. Problems with a coworker or family member leave you feeling angry or frustrated. It may feel like it is the other person’s fault. But what if you keep getting into similar conflicts with other people? What if there seems to be a pattern of recurring problems?
One woman* believed that her superiors were ‘stupid’ or didn’t appreciate her. She found herself subtly undermining their authority and bringing on their criticism. She had been told she “had an attitude”. She quit a number of jobs and was fired from several others.
A man is chronically late for appointments. He has angered and lost several friends. His remaining friends don’t depend on him. Even though he is otherwise competent at his job, he has been passed over for promotions that have been awarded to less creative and less intelligent colleagues.
Surprisingly people often handle situations in ways that work against their best interests. When you have a consistent pattern of dysfunctional behavior, there is a reason for it.
Psychotherapy can be a valuable tool for identifying, understanding and changing self-defeating behavior. If you haven’t recognized your destructive habits and found healthier ways to handle these situations, there is little chance you can keep yourself from repeating them.
In psychotherapy, the patient and therapist explore a territory where the patient is both the expert and a wary stranger. The therapist helps guide the patient as the patient examines his or her assumptions and attitudes. The therapist should understand how you see yourself and help you learn the role that the maladaptive behaviors play in your own inner world. Generally the problems are related to erroneous assumptions that you make about yourself and your relationships with other people. When your assumptions are faulty, your reactions may be inappropriate to the real situation. Once you understand why you have been behaving in personally destructive ways, you become free to change your behavior. Psychotherapy is about choice. It is about freedom from dysfunctional patterns.