In the previous post on contracts KYLady makes some good comments about lying to self, others and breaking them.
Thanx for that as it allows me to clarify what I mean by lying to self. In one sense people lie to themselves regularly and indeed one could say it is the role of the counsellor to ‘expose’ these lies in some way. Any time one packages off part of their thinking, feeling or behaving to the unconscious you could say they are lying to self. They are pretending to self that they are one way when they are in fact another. Every projection is a lie to self as is every denial that we all have.
For example, I was working with a woman recently and she expressed much sadness about being sent to boarding school as a child. Within just a few minutes it became obvious to me (as an outside observer) she also had considerable anger at her mother for doing such a thing. She was completely unaware of this and she had used the defence mechanism of denial. To be angry at her mother was unacceptable to her so she moved it into her unconscious and then could pretend to herself that she was not angry.
For some of us our own inner angry child is unacceptable. To deal with this we place it in the unconscious and then can pretend it does not exist.
I suppose one could call this a lie, and one of my jobs as the counsellor is to expose the lie and bring it into her conscious which I did. I had to say it on 4 different occasion before she acknowledged what I was saying. Finally she did let in what I saying and then expressed some surprise that she felt such anger.
However this is not really what I am talking about when it comes to contracts. I often suggest homework contracts to the client at the end of the session. When they make them I will often ask, “Do you think there is any chance you will do it” and people generally can answer that question quite readily and easily. Sometimes they say yes with certainty and other times they will say no. If they say no then I suggest they forget the contract. This is what I am really talking about when it comes to lying to self.
If you know you are not going to do it or there is quite a probability you wont then don’t make the contract in the first place. What I am communicating to the client is - Contracts are not promises or statements from you to me. If you know you wont do it then don’t make it and most people quickly see that is a senseless task, as indeed it is. I not only do this with homework contracts but will do it with every contract including a no suicide contract. If a person will not make a no suicide contract that does not mean they are necessarily a current suicide risk.
In this sense the process of contracting is changed. Consider the contract,
“I will tell my husband I am angry he wont keep to the budget each week”.
Bill Holloway makes this point about contracts:
My preference is that the client elaborates the objective to include behavioral confirmation that the objective had been reached. A simple question by the therapist is often useful, “How will you know and how will I know that you have achieved the change you desire and intend?” (end quote)
Others would agree with him as this is not an uncommon thing to do with contracts. The client and counsellor define what behaviors will show the contract has been completed. This works on the basis that the client may or may not carry out the contract and effort is expended in the contracting to establish if they have or have not. For example the wife may say, “I will sit down with him after dinner on Wednesday and tell him about my angry feelings”. After Wednesday the client and the counsellor will know if she carried out the contract or not.
The contracting I am suggesting here is that even before the contract is made the client has established they are going to complete it so there is no need to ask the question suggested by Holloway. The ambivalence or reluctance to complete the contract is dealt with before the contract is made rather than setting the contract and then seeing if it is completed or not.
If a contact is a statement the individual makes to self then this alternative approach has to be the case. They will not make a contract in the first place if they do not intend to complete it.
If you break promises to self all the time I would suggest you don’t make them. If you break most of them what is the point. If you stop making them, after some time you may find a new attitude developing in yourself about this.