Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northwestern Washington

Demonstration of Fourth Interview in
Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy

This is an unedited transcription of a demonstration of various stages of individual adult psychotherapy. It was presented at the Cape Cod Seminars in June of 1997. Henry T. Stein, Ph.D. worked with Martha E. Edwards, Ph.D. who played her client. This material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced, in whole or part, without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein.

H= Henry


M - Oh, you know, I’ve been thinking about where I am with my life, and I -- I don’t -- I don’t know if I want to stay at the center, I don’t know if I want to stay in my job, I’m -- I’ve really had it with those people. You know, they don’t -- what?

H - Before -- (inaudible) the center right now, ok, but (inaudible) in a little while. Do you feel any different from when we started right now? Even a little bit?

M - Different like how?

H - Do you feel perhaps, um, a little more, um, confident or a little more optimistic? Has -- has -

- has anything -- have you tried anything that has worked a little better, that gives you a sense, well, maybe there’s hope?

M - Yes and no. I -- I mean, in some ways -- in some ways I feel like, yeah, things are changing. But then I almost feel like it’s -- hope isn’t the word. It’s like, um, I begin to see how crappy the rest of my life is.

H - Ok. But you have a feeling of being able to look at it now and wanting to look at it?

M - Yeah.

H - Ok.

M - I -- I didn’t want to look at it before.

H - Ok. I would take that as a good sign, as a encouragement that you’re willing to look at more difficult issues now. You must feel stronger to do that.

M - I hadn’t thought about it that way.

H - Ok. You haven’t thought about it, but might it fit?

M - Yeah.

H - Maybe.

M - Yeah, yeah.

H - Ok. Well, now let’s talk about the center, ok? You started talking about it.

M - It’s just -- it’s like why am I doing this, you know? I don’t even -- I don’t even know if I like it anymore, you know, if I ever liked it. Umm, I thought, you know, it -- being there was good on my resume but, you know, I’ve been -- I’m a special events coordinator. Is that what I want to do the rest of my life? It’s like why -- why? So I don’t know, I really don’t know.

H - You don’t know what else you want to do, or whether you want to stay there?

M - Right, right. I mean, there are days I just want to say -- go in and just throw my stuff on the desk and just say, “Fuck you.” You know?

H - You want to say that to who?

M - To, uh, Joan Gideon, who is the president -- or the chairman of the board, to Jay, my boss, to Lisa, who I have to -- who I think wants to stab me in the back, um, you know, to a lot of people.

H - To a lot of people you could say that. And who -- how do you say it?

M - I don’t -- I wouldn’t say something like that.

H - Have you ever said it to anybody?

M - Well, I’ve said it to John, but...

H - You said it to John. How recently?

M - Not for a while. But I used to say it, you know, when I’d get really, really angry at him, I would say it, and I sometimes just walked out because I couldn’t take it anymore.

H - Can you recall how you felt when you said that?

M - Sure, I was really pissed.

H - You were very angry.

M - Yeah.

H - Very pissed. Ok. What did it do for you to say that?

M - It was as if it was, like, whew, you know?

H - (Inaudible)

M - Yeah. Or even, mhrrmm!

H - (A push). That’s sort of a strong movement. Did you feel strong? For the moment?

M - Yeah, yeah, I did. Yeah.

H - Do you think it’s possible for anger to be kind of -- a little addictive?

M - Addictive?

H - Yeah. Like it can give you a feeling at the moment of power. GRRRRR! Very powerful. Just hurt you and knock you down (and be devastating).

M - Yeah.

H - Ever feel that way?

M - Yeah.

H - That -- that’s sort of common, you know. Did you know that? Children sometimes get very angry and feel very powerful. But it’s an illusion of power. But people do it anyhow.

M - So what’s real power?

H - What’s real power? I wonder if power is important. I mean, there’s electric power, there’s physical power, there’s mental power. I mean, you could have power. I mean, you could be tremendously powerful physically but could we ask the question what are you going to use it for? I mean, what would do -- say you were the world’s most powerful woman physically. What would you use it for? (Opening cans of food?)

M - No, (inaudible).

H - (Are you) into wrestling?

M - No. I just got this image of “Get the fuck away from me,” you know? GRRRR, get out of my way!

H - Pushing every body away.

M - Mmhm.

H - Clearing a path.

M - Mmhm.

H - Here she comes folks. She’s a mean mother, you know?

M - Wonder woman. Not really mean.

H - Wonder woman. Oh, ok. So people would just back up in admiration and respect, not in fear?

M - Well, they might be fearful if -- if they were going to do me wrong, they’d better watch out.

H - Ok, does -- does Wonder woman have to say fuck you because...

M - No, she doesn’t have to say it, no.

H - Oh, she doesn’t have to say that. Why not?

M - Because everyone knows she’s powerful.

H - And she would do what if they gave her a bad time?

M - (Makes punching? sound). With one swipe of the hand.

H - That would make you feel pretty good?

M - Maybe not actually doing it, but knowing I could do it.

H - Well, if you knew you could do it, and maybe didn’t ever have to do it, but everybody else knew you could do it, would that be a good combination?

M - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

H - What about your friends? What kind of friends would you have if you were Wonder woman?

M - I would -- not all my friends would know I was Wonder woman. I would be, um -- they would -- they would guess, they would wonder if I was Wonder woman, you know.

H - (Laughs) That’s good. I like that. Good.

M - But I wouldn’t have my costume on. I would just, you know, be kind of like Clark Kent in Superman. And they would always, you know, wonder, is that -- I think it might be, but they’re not sure.

H - They’re not sure. Not all your friends. So some of them would know?

M - Well, most of them. Yeah, I -- maybe only one or two would know.

H - But who would know? Who would you let know that you were Wonder woman?

M - John.

H - John. Which means that if John did anything wrong, he’d be in big trouble.

M - Yeah.

H - Physical.

M - Well, he would -- yeah. He would -- he would know not to do it because the possibility was there.

H - Would he be afraid of you then?

M - No, because he -- he would know that I really wouldn’t hurt him, but I could hurt him if I wanted to.

H - Would you tell him that?

M - That I could hurt him?

H - Yeah...

M - No, he would just know it. No, he’d just know it.

H - He would just know it. Why are you smiling?

M - Well, there’s something kind of nice about his knowing, and I don’t have to do anything. He just knows it.

H - How does a person become Wonder woman?

M - Well, that -- I thought this was fantasy.

H - I know, but I’m trying to think, if -- it sounds so enticing. I’m just wondering if it’s possible.

M - I don’t -- I don’t know how she became -- I don’t know, a bolt of lightning or something.

H - A bolt of lightning.

M - I don’t know.

H - What if you found out that it could never happen to you, that you could never be Wonder woman, and that powerful?

M - Well, I already know that.

H - You already know that?

M - Yes. I mean, you know...

H - And yet you feel that this would be quite wonderful, yeah?

M - Well, yeah, but what -- I mean, doesn’t everybody have some fantasy that they feel it’s like, you know, if they were only Superman or if they were only, you know, Marilyn Monroe -- well, not her, but you know, someone like that?

H - I don’t know. I’m just talking with you. Maybe. But see, what I’m wondering here is if -- you sort of know that it’s not possible but in your imagination it appeals to you, so there’s some (inaudible).

M - Yeah, sure.

H - Yeah, ok. And yet there’s a sense of, “I’m not there, I’ll never be there.” So there’s a gap

here, isn’t there, between your imagination, your ideal, and where you are?

M - That’s right, yeah.

H - Does that bother you?

M - Sure, yeah.

H - What could be bothering you enough that you would want to be Wonder woman? That’s a pretty big role. Wonder woman’s very powerful. Is it possible that you don’t feel very powerful?

M - Well, not when John is yelling at me or....

H - Yeah, I could see that, but...

M - Or when my boss is, you know, making me look like I’m the problem, or -- or, you know, Mrs. Gideon is looking down her nose at me, or...

H - Well, how do you feel -- if you don’t feel powerful, do you feel powerless?

M - Yeah, yeah.

H - Powerless...

M - Like no matter what I do, they -- I don’t know, they won’t give me a break, they won’t -- I don’t know.

H - They won’t do something that would be evidence of how powerful you are.

M - I don’t know that I want power. I just want them to -- you know, I don’t know if I want them to like me, I don’t know if I -- I don’t know what I want.

H - Wait, wait, and just relax for a moment. Take your time and get a sense of what it is that you want. Ok? From them.

M - I want them to know that I know what I’m doing, that I’m good at what I do, that I don’t screw up, that I’m as good as they are, they can’t blame me, that I do exist.

H - That’s a lot. That’s an awful lot. (Inaudible)?

M - Well, they don’t treat me very well.

H - I know. I wonder -- the things that you want from them -- is it possible if you kind of think back into childhood that you felt in some cases the opposite of what you (want now)? That you want -- let’s go through your list again. You want what from them?

M - I can’t remember. Umm, I want them to know that I know what I’m doing.

H - That you know what you’re doing. Ok, let’s take one at a time. As a child, was there a time when you felt that you didn’t know what you were doing?

M - Oh! My mother -- oh, I remember my mother -- it would always be these hands that would -

- I’d be sitting there playing on the floor, and it’s like, ok, I’m doing -- she’d come in and these hands would come in and just change it or fix it -- it was never good enough. My father, I could never please him. I was never good enough.

H - Ok. And you had the feeling at that moment perhaps that you didn’t know what you were doing. That that -- the message was you...

M - They didn’t think I knew what I was doing. I thought I knew what I was doing.

H - Now, that’s interesting because there’s a difference here. They were giving you a message that you don’t know what you’re doing, but you knew what you were (doing).

M - Well, maybe I -- sometimes I knew. Not always.

H - You weren’t sure.

M - They sure didn’t help me, you know, feel very good about what I was doing.

H - Is it possible your parents, by doing this intervening, made a mistake, that they interrupted you, they should have left you -- or they should have left you alone and let you do it?

M - Yeah, yeah, yeah.

H - Ok. They may have made a mistake.

M - And then they should have said, “Oh, wow, Liz. That’s really good.”

H - Would have been nice. But they didn’t, right? But then you started thinking and feeling about this, well yes I do know what I’m doing, well, maybe I don’t know what -- you were uncertain about it, right?

M - Yeah, I just got -- I think I used to say some version of “fuck you,” you know. Maybe not as a kid, but...

H - Well, maybe -- but you had that feeling.

M - Yeah.

H - And what you were saying is, “Leave me alone,” or “If you’re gonna come by, do something useful or stay away.”

M - Yeah, get the hell out -- ugh, God.

H - Ok. I wonder if you could compare that to the “fuck you,” ok, which is -- it doesn’t give you information. But it’s more specific, it’s like saying to the parents, “Leave me alone, mind your own business, let me deal with it by myself...”

M - (Butt out)

H - Yeah, if I need you I’ll ask for you. You see, it’s very normal for a child to reach sticking points where they don’t know what to do. That’s normal, right? At the moment the child doesn’t know what to do, what should the parent do? If they notice it?

M - Umm, ask? You know, they could say, well, you’ve done this and this, um, what about this?

H - What if the parent didn’t even ask? What if they just waited to be asked?

M - You mean for me to ask them?

H - What if you had a parent who didn’t interrupt what is available, but didn’t, you know, intrude. But you -- the parents said to you, look, if you have any difficulty with what you’re doing, you want my help, let me know, I’ll be in the kitchen.

M- But you know, when I asked, I wouldn’t get a response.

H - You didn’t. I’m asking you to think about what if, ok? What if you could ask? What if you knew that it was normal for a child not to be able to know how to do certain things, and that it didn’t feel very good, but that you weren’t stupid, or you weren’t incompetent, you were just a normal child and that you needed the help of an adult at certain times. Ok? Now it’s important for a child to do things independently, don’t you think?

M - Yeah.

H - Ok. You agree with that.

M - Yeah, yeah.

H - But do you think it’s also important for a child to know when to ask for help?

M - Yeah, I guess, yeah.

H - Yes. Now, if the parent is available when needed, then the child may struggle, the child may figure it out for themselves, or the child may say could you help me. Now, if you had a situation like that, do you think that you would grow up with a feeling of uncertainty about your ability?

M - Wouldn’t it depend on if I -- how smart I was and if I wasn’t very smart, I wouldn’t feel very certain.

H - Well, unless you wanted to be super smart, because you could always learn how to do things. Why do you have to be smart from the beginning? Why can’t you just be curious?

M - But if I didn’t have a very high IQ, wouldn’t I not be able to learn very much?

H - Well, did you not have a high IQ?

M - No, I think I have a high IQ, but I was just...

H - Really? How -- what IQ do you have? Do you know? Are you average or above or...

M - I think I’m above.

H - You’re above average.

M - Yeah.

H - You think that’s enough for most things to do? Enough for a normal life? Is it enough to be a genius?

M - No.

H - No. Enough for a normal life.

M - But it’s like you’re saying, you know, don’t -- don’t strive to do a lot, just kind of stay normal...

H - Excuse me, did I say that?

M - That’s what -- I mean, it sounds like it.

H - Did I just say that?

M - It sounds like...

H - Oh, ok, sorry.

M - It’s like, you know, don’t do too much, just do a normal amount. Just do it, like you know -- just be ordinary.

H - You don’t want to be ordinary. Do you think I’m suggesting that you be ordinary?

M - Yeah.

H - I’m sorry you’re getting that impression. I don’t think of you as ordinary. I think of you as unique. But I have no idea what you can accomplish and I don’t think you really do either. And you know what’s interesting in life is not to start out with a fixed idea of how great you are or how terrible you are, but to discover what you actually can do. That’s much more interesting. You might discover how bright you are or how quick you are or inventive you are in some things. You might also discover how clumsy you are in others. And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to deal with both without making a fuss about it? And you wouldn’t be ordinary at all. You’d be one of a kind. You could be the best you that you could be. You wouldn’t have to be a genius and you wouldn’t have to be Wonder woman. You’d be Liz. The best Liz. Without tension, without pressure, and without anxiety, who might be doing an awful lot and then decides she needs a vacation. And she’d take a vacation and then she’d do some more.

M - I don’t take vacations.

H - Why not?

M - I don’t think -- I don’t know that people would accept -- you know, I -- I have a lot of work to do and -- they think I ought to work 14 hours a day.

H - I know. Liz, I think you sometimes overwork because you’re -- what you’re trying to do is get rid of a feeling that’s bothering you inside. Not just about John.

M - What -- what do -- what do you think the feeling is?

H - A feeling of your own worth, your own sense of self, that you have to do an extraordinary amount to be acceptable to yourself and to other people. Do you -- I don’t think you had this experience, but I think what a parent can do at best is to give a child a feeling that the child is accepted as they are at their age and for who they are, and that all you have to do is do whatever you can a day at a time. Give it a try.

M - No, my parents didn’t do that.

H - I know they didn’t do that. Then the child begins to feel it’s ok to be a child. It’s ok to be 4 years old, 4 ½, 5. And they don’t just sit there and stare into space. They go out and try things. And they struggle with things. And they have the feeling of satisfaction. You know what a child is like when they can do it, you know? The frustration, I can’t -- oh! I can do it! Do you know that feeling? Do you remember it?

M - Yeah.

H - Liz, every child has a feeling of being kind of small and being kind of weak. It’s normal. Absolutely normal. But the way the child begins to overcome it is when they have the encouragement and begin struggling with things and they begin to feel I can do it. Not jump over tall buildings but to do the simple tasks -- you might call it ordinary, but it’s the simple task in front of you.

M - It feels ordinary, but...

H - I know. But I think that idea has been hurting you because what I’m sensing is you want extraordinary. There’s nothing wrong with that unless it becomes a demand every single day in every single task.

M - Yeah.

H - Extraordinary sometimes happens if you keep very busy. What if you let it surprise you instead of going after it?

M - It’s an idea.

H - I think you have the capacity to function much better with more satisfaction if you could take these early feelings of doubt that you have that still are with you and just think of them as childhood mistaken thinking that would be very understandable but maybe they don’t apply anymore. Maybe you need to let go of them.

M - I’ll try.

H - We’ll talk more about this, all right? Ok.

Distance Training in Classical Adlerian Depth Psychotherapy
Back to Adler Institute Home Page