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On the last track, we discussed guiding couples through high cost behavioral change to help a relationship survive an infidelity crisis.
On this track, we will discuss overcoming the resistance to behavior change in cognitive behavioral therapy. We will specifically discuss 7 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes.
Remember Keith and Natalie from Track 11? As Keith and Natalie began working on their Trust Enhancing Chart, they began to experience some resistance. Keith stated, “we both really liked the idea of the chart at first. But some of the things Natalie’s asked for, I just balk at. I think it’s the same for her. Does this mean I’m not committed as I thought? Are we just doomed?”
I explained to Keith and Natalie that experiencing resistance to behavioral change is normal and natural. I stated, “experiencing resistance does not mean that you’re a bad person, or that you don’t want to improve your relationship. Instead, resistance usually means that you have some deep-wired assumptions that are getting in your way.”
7 Cognitive Blocks-Awareness Technique
-- Cognitive Block # 1 - "I Don't Have the Right"
I stated, “this cognitive block prevents partners from finding out whether their partner is willing to respond to their grievances, and robs their partner of a chance to make things right. If you experience this belief, try to think about why it is so hard for you to request something from your partner. When did you first experience a feeling of the lack of entitlement. Did a parent punish me when I tried to speak up? Did someone teach me not to ‘burden’ others with my needs?”
-- Cognitive Block # 2 - "It's Better to Keep my Dissatisfaction to Myself"
Shawn also recognized he would never be satisfied at home until Kerry addressed her addiction. Shawn stated, “growing up, my mom would actually smack me if I questioned her authority. I learned to be quiet if I had a problem.” After Shawn became ready to honestly speak to Kerry about her behavior, Shawn found that some of his dread of speaking up lessened.
-- Cognitive Block # 3 - "They Should Already Know"
-- Cognitive Block # 4 - "If I Have to Ask, I Don't Want It"
I stated to Keith and Natalie, “if you believe your partner is consciously or unconsciously deceiving you, you may find that growth and recovery is very difficult. If you always read duplicity into your partner’s high or low risk behaviors, how can you ever be comforted or reassured by them?” Clearly, this cognitive block can interfere with the effectiveness of the Trust Enhancement Chart exercise. I explained to Kevin and Natalie that the goal is not to get rid of skepticism, but to suspend skepticism long enough for the healing process to take hold.
-- Cognitive Block # 6 - "He Should Change First"
I stated, “scorekeeping like this can lead to highly competitive behaviors that interfere with trust enhancing exercises. This may satisfy a sense of indignation, but scorekeeping does not help heal trust. I encourage you to adopt the attitude that ‘the best way to change my partner’s behavior is to change my own first’. Although this may not seem ‘fair’ at first, this may help to create an environment where your partner is more likely to fulfill your needs.”
-- Cognitive Block # 7 - "I'm So Angry"
Do you remember Ellen from Track 2? Ellen stated, “right now I’m so angry at Paul that I can’t even look at him. How am I supposed to work on these trust exercises if I can hardly stand to be in the same room?” I explained to Ellen and Paul that this attitude is understandable but counterproductive.
I stated, “anger makes us feel less exposed and vulnerable. But in the end, this anger may deny you the opportunity to test what you and Paul are capable of creating together.” I asked Ellen to try a reframing technique called the Anger Adjustment with me. As I explain this technique, consider whether this Anger Adjustment is similar to a reframing technique you may already be using with clients attempting behavioral change.
Anger Adjustment Technique
Would this Anger Adjustment technique be useful for your Ellen?
On this track, we have discussed overcoming the resistance to behavior change in order to help couples survive cheating. We specifically discussed 7 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes. These 7 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to ask my partner to change; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to tell my partner what I need; If I have to ask for love, I don’t want it; as soon as I start trusting again, we’ll be back where we started; my partner hurt me so they should change first; and I can’t act in trust enhancing ways when I’m so angry.
On the next track, we will discuss helping couples who have experienced an infidelity crisis to talk about the affair. We will also discuss two techniques for enhancing intimate listening, the Cross-Over technique, and the Disarming technique.
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