Power, prestige and therapy~~~

No matter how much you might respect your therapist, sharing the power in the room, rather than one person alone hoarding it, makes a difference. No matter how immature or troubled you might feel at times, in therapy or in life, it’s important that you feel you are being treated like a respected adult. Your therapist is there to help you, not parent you. For better or worse, you already had parents. Your therapist is there to support you as well as to sometimes challenge you, not agree with every single thing you say or every single thing you do. Most therapists are ethical, humane, decent human beings. If you ever feel, however, that you are being patronized, or condescended to, speak up. Speak out. Own your power, and recognize that power prestige and a feeling of autonomy and choice, should be as available to you as it is to your therapist. They are the professional expert only. You both are human beings, and the playing ground of feeling okay about yourself should ideally feel level.

Are you the family scapegoat?

I came across this article and I think it says something important. thank you Laura Connell!


by Laura Connellin Personal GrowthToxic Peopleon Posted on

family scapegoat
Image by Masaaki Komori

My mother suffered with an undiagnosed mental illness which made her incapable of experiencing empathy or compassion. My role as the family scapegoat began with me bearing the burden of my mother’s emotional neediness while displaying no needs of my own. 

As I grew up and began to act out as a result of the years of emotional abuse and neglect, my family labeled me the problem child. I became a convenient diversion from the family’s real problems which were multi-faceted and generational. 

Through studying the dynamics of dysfunctional family systems, I’ve learned my role as the repository for the family’s grievances is archetypal. They used me as the scapegoat for their own shortcomings, making me the problem instead of facing their need to change.

Origins of the family scapegoat

The scapegoat is first mentioned in the Bible as a living sacrifice. Rather than kill the animal, the community releases it into the wild to carry away the sins of the whole group. 

Its only purpose is to bear the burden of sins that are not its own. Today, we more often see scapegoats in dysfunctional families. 

The family singles out one person to take the blame for all the problems in the family. Rather than look at themselves, the family points a collective finger at the scapegoat. 

This allows them to carry on in their dysfunctional patterns without changing. They pretend to themselves they’re all right while the scapegoat is all wrong.

The scapegoat is the one who tells the truth about obvious defects in the family. Rather than support, she experiences gaslighting from the rest of the family. 

She may be the mentally healthiest member of the family but by banding together, the clan convinces itself, and the scapegoat, that the opposite is true. 

She may not understand why the rest of the family is unwilling to admit the obvious, keeps secrets, and hides the truth. For the scapegoat, the truth will set you free, but she is part of a family system that would rather remain in chains.

Fear of change and exposure motivates the family to sacrifice the scapegoat this way. Rather than face the truth and the possibility of deconstructing the whole family system, they demonize the truth teller. 

If any of this resonates with you and you believe you’ve been targeted as the family scapegoat, here are nine signs you’ve been put in this role. 


It seems like anytime you speak the truth, your family rebukes you. They abandon or punish you when you don’t go along with the status quo. 

They can’t acknowledge the obvious truths you point out and instead point the finger at you and say you are the one with the problem. 


Perhaps you threatened to expose a family secret but somehow got branded the bad guy. That’s because your desire to bring the truth to light poses a threat to a family dynamic that functions in the dark. 

The hardest part of being a scapegoat is that families can be exceptionally good at hiding their dysfunction. This results in further isolation when the victim is not believed.


They refuse to examine the poor behavior you’re asking them to acknowledge. Instead, they point to your human reaction to that behavior and pretend that’s the issue instead. 

A valid emotional response becomes further evidence you’re “crazy” or always stirring up trouble. 


You may notice thoughts and opinions similar to yours are celebrated when others express them. But when you say or do the same things you get maligned. In psychology, this is known as the black sheep effect. 


You may find yourself left out of family events or conversations. Because you tell the truth, they’d rather not hear from you. 

At the same time, you get criticized for your absence at events you were never invited to. This provokes guilt in you even though you’re the one who has been ostracized.


Family members talk about you behind your back and speak poorly of you even to those outside the family circle. Rather than face their dysfunction they’ll tarnish your reputation publicly. 

This is so you won’t receive support from outside the family and they can continue in their collective delusion.


As a result of years of unjust treatment, you have internalized a false sense of being bad or wrong. This can lead to over responsibility as you try to prove your “goodness”. 

You fail to protect yourself from offences against you as a means of “taking the high road”. Or bear the burden of repairing relationships that are either bad for you or not your job to fix.


Your family downplays your accomplishments. You may have never been praised or encouraged for your achievements in life. 

Without the motivation provided by a pat on the back for a job well done, you give up and fail to achieve anything close to your potential. On the flip side, you work ever harder trying to prove yourself. 


You have trouble connecting with your siblings as equals. They treat you with the same disdain as the rest of the family, promoting a false narrative of you as a troublemaker, or even someone with mental health issues. 

They disrespect and discredit you at every turn. And do not provide you with the support you see in other sibling relationships. 

While there’s no magic number that confirms you are a family scapegoat, it’s safe to say answering yes to five or more of these signs would be a good indication. 

It’s important to know it’s not your fault and you had no control over your position within the family. It’s a role that was forced on you from a young age. 

Stay tuned for the next post on how to heal from scapegoating and reclaim your life from the lies your family has told you.

Take the dysfunctional family roles quiz here.

Is your family strangling you or supporting you or somewhere in the middle ?

Read the following article by Michael Samsel, practicing mental health counselor. It is so excellent!

Michael Samsel MA, LMHC           206-931-8355                    Click to Contact Michael Samse

Fusion in Relationships

Fusion is a way of relating between people who do not have a strong sense of self. Largely unconscious, it avoids the anxiety of feeling separate. Fusion exists in families, both extended and nuclear, in groups, and in pairs (especially intensely in marital pairs or parent-child pairs.)

When optimal relational development has occurred, separation anxiety has been mostly resolved allowing flexible connection with moments of intense closeness and moments of secure separateness. This opposite of fusion has the name differentiation.

Fusion is strongly self-perpetuating–growing up in a fused family stunts differentiation and produces the tendency or need to seek fused relationships with everyone including one’s children. Fusion has far-reaching effects on the lives of those who must participate:

  • Participants believe, and often are openly told by the others, that they are there to meet the needs of the others. While healthy human groups and families do care for individual members in need generally, turning it into a rule produces a distortion in which neediness becomes power.
  • In a fused relationship, each participant believes they are compelled by the feelings (especially ‘negative ones’) and vulnerabilities of the other. This results first, in a great deal of compliant caretaking behavior that can’t be sustained, second in a great deal of repression of anger and resentment, and third, when the first two strategies become unbearable, the feelings of the others are disputed and invalidated. It doesn’t occur to participants that they can listen, acknowledge, but not ‘obey.’
  • It is considered a real ‘crime’ to do or say anything that upsets another member. The most anxious or constricted family member dictates the ceiling of freedom of action or freedom of expression
  • All thinking, feeling and acting is done with the other members potential feelings and reactions in mind. This results either into a cautious paralysis or strategic ‘gaming’
  • It is considered a ‘deeper crime’ to broach something a member has already been upset by (“You meant to hurt me!) so reactions tend to turn into rigid rules. Unlike healthy relationships in which topics and conflicts become more comfortable from progressive exposure, an ‘allergy’ develops to certain reactive topics.
  • Relationships devolve into pairs with an under-functioning participant and an over-functioning one. The over-functioning participant both enables the under-functioning one and becomes obsessed with changing him or her. The under-functioning one becomes obsessed with freedom from the constraints of the other but fails to act independently. No one can focus on themselves. This is especially common with parent-child and marriage relationships. The underfunctioning won’t change unless the overfunctioning changes first.
  • In healthy relationships, there is an inverse relationship between autonomy and dependency. In fused relationships, the two are uncoupled. Often members divide up as having little dependency and little autonomy (codependent) and great dependency and great autonomy (counterdependent) See Addictive Relationships.
  • Life is reaction-rich with very little real effective action. Said differently strong reactions are allowed but strong actions are not.
  • Difficulties and feelings are automatically projected outward. When asked to talk about themselves, participants talk about others–this is usually blame, which is rife in fused relationships. If one tries to redirect attention back onto the member of interest it only lasts only moments until the ‘other’ is being talked about. This ‘other-focus’ is far from a healthy interest in others. Despite talking about others, participants are trying to get their own needs met.
  • Fusion affects relationships globally. Strife arises from the attachment function, not, as members tend to believe, from the sensitivity or difficulty of the issues that face them. It is the fusion that makes the subjects or conflict unmanageable, not the other way around.
  • There is a de facto line between insiders and outsiders. Members do not relate to outsiders the same way as insiders. Being a romantic interest however immediately makes one an insider. However, very differentiated people will not seem attractive to fusion-prone people.
  • There is constant squabbling over what everyone ‘should’ do, even in minor issues. In healthy (differentiated) relationships, very few actions require consensus.
  • Usually there is constant fighting but no resolution of issues. Alternately there is compulsive avoidance of any conflictual subject, the list of which grows longer in time. Life becomes stilted and boring. Sometimes there are stretches of the latter with cyclical explosions of the former.
  • There is a ‘war’ against true autonomy. If any member acts truly differently, he or she is deemed crazy or bad, and strong united pressure is borne on him or her to change back.
  • It is considered wrong for any member to thrive when others are not. While the most ‘symptomatic’ member doesn’t dictate a ceiling on achievement (achievement is often high among the over-functioning members) he or she does dictate a ceiling on enjoying success,
  • No one trusts their own desires, motives or impulses, and no one trusts the desires, motives or impulses of the others.
  • There is actual confusion about who is doing what. Participants, despite being obsessed with the traits and behaviors of the others, have a very difficult time actually describing what the others are actually like, or actually doing. Without the vantage point of a self, others cannot really be seen.
  • If any member is a strong narcissist, fusion will be present but the relationship is probably better understood according to my page on pathological narcissism.

Rupture and Repair-(I repost this wonderful article by the late Jeremy Safran about how to evaluate the therapy process for all concerned)

Therapeutic Alliance Ruptures

Research sheds light on what to do when therapy isn’t working.

Posted January 23, 2018 |  Reviewed by Jessica Schrader


Dalia Spektor, used with permission

Source: Dalia Spektor, used with permission

Dalia Spektor, used with permission

Source: Dalia Spektor, used with permission

Over the last 30 years, psychotherapy research has clearly demonstrated that the quality of the relationship between client and therapist (or what is referred to as the therapeutic alliance) is a much better predictor of whether therapy works than the particular brand of therapy (e.g., cognitive-behavioral, psychodynamic, humanistic, etc.). In the late 1980s, my colleagues and I began conducting research on what we called “therapeutic alliance ruptures.” [1] Alliance ruptures are moments or periods in therapy when there is a strain or breakdown in the therapeutic alliance. These ruptures can range in quality and intensity from dramatic episodes during which clients lose trust in their therapists and may drop out of treatment, to more subtle ruptures during which they have a vague sense that something is not right, but ignore.

We began to find that alliance ruptures are extremely common in all types of therapy, and that often clients are reluctant to bring up concerns about how the therapy is going with their therapists. They can also be very reluctant to talk about any concerns or negative feelings they have about their therapists. Even more troubling was the finding that therapists often fail to notice when there are ruptures in the therapeutic alliance. Moreover, when they do notice ruptures, therapists often lack the skills to deal with them in a constructive way. The good news is that when therapists are good at detecting ruptures in the therapeutic alliance and have the skills to work with them therapeutically, it can end up being one of the most valuable things that happen during the treatment. [2]

Since the late 1980s, my colleagues and I have continued to conduct research on what leads alliance ruptures to take place, and how best to address them in treatment. We have also developed training programs for therapists that focus on working with alliance ruptures and conducted research supporting the value of this type of training. [3][4]

Many other research teams around the world have also been studying the topic of alliance ruptures, and there is a large and growing body of empirical evidence that provides clear guidelines to therapists regarding how to identify alliance ruptures and work with them therapeutically. [5]

Here are some general guidelines for therapists:

  • Provide a clear therapeutic rationale for your techniques, actions, and/or behaviors.
  • Expect that there will be ruptures in the therapeutic alliance, and recognize that they provide valuable opportunities for exploration and change rather than obstacles to treatment.
  • Pay careful attention to the level of agreement between you and your client concerning the overall goals of treatment and the tasks necessary to achieve those goals.

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If a client expresses concerns or complaints about a particular way of proceeding in therapy, work with him or her collaboratively to explore alternative ways of proceeding:

  • Respect your clients’ defenses and explore their adaptive function collaboratively.
  • Discuss the here-and-now of the therapeutic relationship with your client.
  • Give and ask for feedback about the therapeutic relationship.
  • Track your clients’ responses to all interventions.
  • Pay attention to subtle cues that there may be a problem with the alliance.
  • Remember that problems in the alliance can be difficult to detect and often show up as in the form of compliance or withdrawal.
  • Allow and encourage clients to assert their negative feelings about the therapeutic relationship.
  • Accept responsibility for your part in alliance ruptures.
  • Admit mistakes when you have made them.
  • Explore clients’ fears about asserting negative feelings about the treatment or the therapeutic relationship.
  • Pay attention to fluctuations in your own feelings as potential cues about what may be going on in the therapeutic relationship.

Below are some general tips for clients:

  • Remember that the quality of the therapeutic alliance is one of the better predictors of whether or not your therapy will be helpful.
  • Do you feel that you and your therapist are on the same page?
  • Do you trust your therapist?
  • Do you have confidence that the way you and your therapist are working in therapy makes sense?
  • Does your therapist respond to your questions about how therapy works in a straightforward and nondefensive way?
  • Remember that ruptures in the alliance are common in therapy and that discussing them with your therapist can be a valuable part of the treatment process.
  • Don’t be afraid to bring it up in the session, if you feel misunderstood by your therapist or you’re feeling, mistrustful skeptical, hurt or angry.
  • If you are considering quitting treatment because you feel your therapist is not on the same page as you, first try bringing up your concerns to see how he or she responds.
  • Does your therapist seem open to discussing ruptures in the therapeutic alliance with you?
  • Does your therapist seem open to admitting mistakes?

If you find that your therapist becomes defensive or blames you when you bring up your concerns about how the treatment is going or the therapeutic relationship, it’s probably time to look for another therapist.

If, however, your therapist seems open, and makes a genuine attempt to see things from your perspective and to explore how he or she may be contributing to the rupture, it’s probably worth giving things a chance. Working through alliance ruptures can take time, but it can also be an extremely valuable part of your treatment. 

Research on therapeutic alliance ruptures has become an increasingly important area of investigation, and new developments are emerging on an ongoing basis.


[1] Safran, J.D., Crocker, P., McMain, S., & Murray, P. (1990). The Therapeutic alliance rupture as a therapy event for empirical investigation. Psychotherapy, 27, 154-165. 

[2] Safran, J.D., Muran, J.C., Wallner Samstag, L. & Stevens, C. (2001). Repairing therapeutic alliance ruptures. Psychotherapy, 38, 406-412.

[3] Safran, J. D. , Muran, J. C., Demaria, A., Boutwell, C., Eubanks-Carter, C. & Winston, A. (2014). Investigating the impact of alliance focused training on interpersonal process and therapists’ capacity for experiential reflection. Psychotherapy Research, 24, 269-285.

[4] Center for Alliance Focused Training

[5] Safran, J.D., Muran, J.C., & Eubanks-Carter, C. (2011). Repairing alliance ruptures. Psychotherapy, 48,1, 80-87.Morereferences

About the Author

Jeremy D. Safran, Ph.D., was a professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research in New York, a clinical psychologist, psychoanalyst, psychotherapy researcher and author.


 Personal Website

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Are you a monster or a mensch? Halloween musings about “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”

State Dependent Memory and Dissociation

Does your memory contain incidents that are bright in your consciousness as well as shady areas? Do you remember some things in exquisite detail and completely space out on other things? State dependent memory means that we remember specific details in particular settings, and sometimes we need cues from the particular setting we were in at the time to retrieve the memory. So next time you forget something, consider that you are in a different setting when you are trying to remember it, and think back to where you were at the time the incident occurred and look for clues to what you might have forgotten, and why.

We are living in a culture where power, control and narcissism ‘trumps’ caring, sensitivity and treating men and women both as intelligent human beings.

In many social groups, in certain states right now (e.g.Texas re abortion rights) , women are dominated and coerced and men and women both receive little training in how to value their feelings, how to listen to others and get their emotional needs met in ways that respect and value their unique individuality, their conscious and unconscious selves , their sense of wonder, hope for the future, playfulness and creativity. I advocate for NVC nonviolent communication and post a link about it below. The use of NVC requires a radical shift in consciousness. https://www.cnvc.org/learn-nvc/what-is-nvc

I am posting about NVC in the first of two articles about how we might begin shifting our priorities to a culture of accountability, emotionally and interpersonally, so each person in the exchange feels valued. Of course this is a vision, an ideal, something to strive towards, realizing also that suffering of all kinds is part of the journey of life as well. Both links are excellent although the second one is more explicit about the dominator partnership idea.


Transforming Domination Systems