This essay involves the discussion of a personal incident for the author, basically involving the practical analysis of a situation through the various theory based psychological interventions based on the person centred, cognitive behavioural or psychodynamic approaches.
The personal incident under discussion here is based on the day I lost my job last year, which really shook my confidence as it ended badly. On the same day I was served the court papers which will mean the end of my decade-long marriage for good. Things had been good until that day and, apart from a fight or two, we had never had any disagreements. The last argument, which was silly to say the least, had ended in a partial separation on our behalf, only for me to find out. The sequence of events as they occurred began with me trying to call my spouse for the tenth time at breakfast hoping they would pick up the phone. The tone of the lady saying that the phone was switched off took quite a while to sink in, but at one point I was in denial I just let the recorded voice message of the lady linger on, as it rang loudly on the speaker phone – and slowly poked at the burnt toast in front me of. I felt numb and for the first time for many days I felt used, abandoned and worthless. My marriage had been a happy one until last year when my spouse found out about a short affair I had during a business trip. After that, all I felt was that they were feeling estranged towards me. Apology after apology, even an offer to opt to have a child, did not change their mind. And then we started to have silly arguments. I felt these arguments were silly because it seemed that all the time we fought about the housework and the bills; my spouse had that look of accusation in their eyes which told me that I had cheated on them. However, I had never seen the divorce coming in the first place. As I walked to my office in a dejected, semi-numb state, to say the least, I realized I was feeling a sort of suffocation. At the point when I reached my office, the senior manager asked me to hand over my office keys and the office laptop as I had been fired from my job. Apparently the letter stating that I was no longer required to be at work had been issued over the weekend, and I had in my failed endeavours to contact my estranged spouse missed checking the mail during the entire weekend.
After this incident, I developed serious breathing problems and a fear of closed envelopes. I felt useless and inadequate for months as I battled with my unemployment and marital rejection alike. Yet I made no effort contact my employers or my spouse to take me back. One year down the road, now that I analyze the events in hindsight, I see that my disturbed health and fear of the ordinary routine of the day played out a nasty surprise on me as a result of that incident. If my state is to be analyzed through the lens of psychoanalysis, it is possible to integrate these events into the totality of an “incident” and then partially analyze them as the subsets of the same and how they interrelate to the consequences of the main incident.
The table below attempts to link in some of my feelings and my thinking process:
|Event 1||The serving of the Divorce Papers by post |
Discovering them after failing to contact spouse
Denial of Event
Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy
Unpleasant flashbacks of fights
An effort by the mind and the subconscious to rationalize the basis of what had happened
|Fear of closed envelopes |
Loss of trust and lack of confidence.
Loss of a Routine (Routine=Married Life)
|Occurrence of a mental Defence mechanism|
Denial? Fear and Avoidance of the normal routines of life.
Rogers Theory could be addressed here to address the belief that a subject has become useless and inadequate. This theory is similar to Maslow’s theory of self adequacy
|Event 2||The knowledge that I had lost my job|
Did not open envelope which held the notice of dismissal but felt that envelopes would always have bad news for me
Subsequent refusal to deal with or acknowledge sealed envelopes.
Prior notice or hunch of occurrence (No, as the termination letter only mentioned some redundancy policy of the company in the wake of the subprime fiscal crisis)
|Subconscious Fears? The theory by Sigmund Freud relating our current reactions allowed the viewing of our current problems from our childhood development.|
One reason for the feelings of dejection and fear of the unknown could stem from a similar time during my second grade where I was awarded a “Fail” grade in Third Standard during the point my own parents were going through a failing marriage which subsequently led to divorce. Just like I failed on a perfectly normal day and the day my mother took suicide pills after my father threatened to leave us for another woman I began to fear horrible things arising from ordinary events and fear closed envelops.
This fear subsided until my later marital crisis and then the loss of my job when I began fearing intimacy and closed envelopes.
The sleeplessness and breathlessness had been present before as well whenever I was called into the principal’s office for bad behaviour. Going into that door on that day reminded me of that point, as if I was about to be punished for something very bad which I had done and would now be punished for it. The incident of the divorce papers earlier that morning lent credence to this belief.
As a child I also remember having the feeling that perhaps God was punishing me for touching my own private parts out of curiosity as an 8 year old by failing me in Third Grade and getting my parents divorced > Why? > Because the priest at our church had called sex a sin.
Despite my own dysfunctional sexual relationships with my spouse now I felt God had punished me for having sex outside marriage.
So maybe there was a link between my bad luck and any “dirty” sexual endeavour?
|Consequence||Event 1 and Event 2 |
· Ill Health
· Fear of dealing with reality to a point where I still avoid opening sealed envelopes
· Feelings of adequacy in trying to come close to another person.
· Feelings of anger, numbness, confusion during my subsequent dates and sexual encounters and failure to perform sexually
|Loss of confidence in the reliability of long standing relationships (15 year job and 10 year marriage)|
|What other theories can be used to explain what was happening here in terms of my subsequent mental deterioration?|
Behaviourist theories based on the theories of theories of Pavlov, Thorndyke, Watson, Skinner and Bandura
Beck’s Cognitive Theory
For example the ABC Model where as
A= Activating event, B= Beliefs, C= Emotional Consequence
The ABC would help to explain that there was indeed a relationship between thought and emotions ~which would seem to indicate that my subsequent problems arose not from the opening of the envelopes and the termination but how I began to perceive certain things in my life after this incident.
Analysis of the breakdown of events and the childhood experiences
The humanistic approach (based on the observations by Carl Rogers) as explained in detail in the table above, can elucidate in part my deteriorating perceptions of the “self” as I felt worthless after the loss of my spouse and the job. Furthermore, if we now tie this in with Freud’s theories it would seem that I was giving in to the belief that I had in fact messed up my life or sinned (by cheating on my spouse a year back) which had caused God to get angry and take away my spouse and my job on the same day. Moreover, being “called” into the office to be given bad news or to be punished was something lingering in my subconscious mind at this point, and as I walked into the office of my senior manager I was already dreading “punishment” which was affirmed when I was told that I no longer had my job. The bad news arriving in a “closed envelope” belief stemmed from receiving my result in a closed envelope during third grade. For this reason, when I received the court papers, another childhood fear was confirmed. However, if we take a step away from such humanistic and subconscious premises of analysis, it is possible to see that the cognitive behavioural theories as developed by Skinner and Bandura of negative and positive enforcement explained how the words of our priest that sex was a sin when I was caught once by parents staring at my genitals in curiosity had not struck me as significant until now, lending credence to the belief that somehow sex had something to do with my bad luck, my failing third grade, my parents’ divorce, my mother’s attempted suicide and now , the loss of my job and failed marriage.
Last but not least, the cognitive view when applied to the table of events and analysis above explain the subsequent wheezing/breathing and sleeping problems I inherited, and the depression that I suffered. Under Beck’s cognitive therapy model I could base the entire incident into a cycle of how my early life experiences and the core beliefs which stemmed from same later contributed to the perceptions and assumptions about the events. In line with the above, one possible explanation might also lie with the ABC model of cognitive therapy, which sought to explain that problems are not a consequence of events but our own perceptions about those events. This theory, when combined with the CBT model, could then also explain why I was subscribing to low self-esteem and self-defeating thoughts based on my subconscious experiences (refer to table above).
Some sources consulted:
- Bandura, A. (1989) Social cognitive theory.
- Bandura, Albert (1997), Self-efficacy: The exercise of control, New York: Freeman, p. 604
- Freud, Sigmund. An Outline of Psychoanalysis The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXII 1940
- Judith S. Beck. “Questions and Answers about Cognitive Therapy” About Cognitive Therapy. Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research
- Rogers, Carl. (1942). Counselling and Psychotherapy: Newer Concepts in Practice.
- Rogers, Carl. (1951). Client-centered Therapy: Its Current Practice, Implications and Theory. London: Constable