This nine-part series will illustrate the emotional intelligence (EI) theory intervention paradigm. The content of these dialogues may be of interest to the casual reader as well as the therapist seeking to increase h/er understanding and application of EI theory. An update of the problem solving adventure between Elliot and his EI guide will be posted each day, for nine days.
I chose the following session to illustrate how self-defeating thoughts and behaviors have the potential of interfering with an individual’s prospects for happiness, generally. Unless EI is improved over the broader dimensions of an individual’s life, simple issues can take on additional dimension.
Background: Elliot is a white, English-speaking, unmarried 17-year-old high school student. Elliot is an only child. He lives with his father, who is an air force chief master sergeant, and his stepmother, who works at the Base Exchange.
Elliot is attending EI skill building at the request of his stepmother. Elliot recently told his father he is gay, and his father responded by shouting at him, slapping him in the face and telling him he was no longer my son. Elliot’s father also told him he was filthy, an abomination, disgusting, a drug addict, a sex fiend and a pedophile. He ordered him out of the house and forbade his wife to ever speak with him again.
Elliot went to his room and when he didn’t leave, his father left the home. His father has been away from home for three days. His stepmother is worried the family is collapsing.
EI Guide: How can I help you?
Elliot: I told my father I was gay and he slapped me and disowned me.
EI Guide: How is that a problem for you?
EI Guide: I mean just that. How is your father’s rejection of you a problem for you?
Elliot: I wasn’t expecting that question.
EI Guide: Then we are off to a good start. How is it a problem for you?
Elliot: I guess it’s a problem for me because I want him to accept me.
EI Guide: What does it mean when your father doesn’t accept you?
Elliot: This is getting even more confusing.
EI Guide: If your father doesn’t care for you, what does it mean?
Elliot: It means he doesn’t love me.
EI Guide: Does it mean anything else?
Elliot: It means he doesn’t respect me.
EI Guide: Anything else?
Elliot: It means I don’t live up to his expectations of me.
EI Guide: Anything else?
Elliot: I think that’s about it.
EI Guide: Let’s arrange all this information. You told your father you were gay and he rejected you. You took that to mean he doesn’t love you; he doesn’t respect you and you are not living up to his expectations. Is that correct?
Elliot: Yes. That’s about the size of it.
EI Guide: That is what you think.
Elliot: Yes, that is what I think.
EI Guide: What are you feeling?
Elliot: I’m pissed. I’m angry.
EI Guide: Sometimes when we are feeling anger, we are also feeling fear. What are you afraid of?
Elliot: I’m afraid my father thinks I am a piece of shit.
EI Guide: Yes, I can see that. What would it mean if he did?
Elliot: What would it mean? It would mean that I am a piece of shit.
EI Guide: Can it mean anything else?
EI Guide: Your father’s opinion seems to have the power to turn you into a piece of shit. Yes, I can understand your fear. You don’t look like a piece of shit, but I’ll take your word for it.