Love Doc

Plumbing the depths of the psychology and neurobiology of love.

Unsteady Teddy

An Emotional Roller Coaster Relationship

Ted, a wiry, hyper, curly haired man worked as a commodities broker. In his career, he glided up and down with the market swings, but in his love life his ups and downs were not working.

Now, I invite you to take a peek at one of my sessions with him.

Tie askew, still in his working clothes, Ted was clearly agitated, ” I can’t believe it, but she’s dumping me again.” He said.

“Again?” I remarked.

“She says I lie to her and she doesn’t want to see me.” Ted explained sadly.

“Do you lie?” I asked.

“No I don’t lie. It’s that she found me on a dating website. I didn’t know I was on it. But she won’t believe me,” Ted said.

“I see. Why do you think she’s so suspicious?” I inquired.

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Ted took a deep breath and said, “I don’t know.”

“I recall you telling me something about a pin you promised Christie,” I said.

Ted went on to elaborate. “Oh yeah I remember. My mother left me a sapphire and diamond pin that Christie admired. And I said it was hers.”

“And?” I asked.

“Well, my sister always wanted that pin and I landed up giving it to her and not to Christie.” Ted responded.

“Oh my,” I remarked.

Ted went on, “Yeah. Christie was furious, she cried, and told me it’s over. We made up, but then we had another fight.”

“Uh, huh,” I said.

Ted’s face reddened as he said, “Yeah, I promised to marry her and I didn’t act on it. She says that’s a lie. But it’s not a lie. I meant it when I said it, but realized later that I wasn’t ready.”

I then inquired, “Did you discuss it with her, that you weren’t ready to marry her?”

“No I didn’t,” he said.

“What were you feeling?” I asked.

Ted looked down and said, “I was afraid that she’d be mad.”

“I then interpreted, “It seems you fear people will be mad at you and not approve of you and that you must please everyone. I know your mother’s dream was that you become a successful business man and you did. But you always wanted to paint or write, and in order to please her, you forewent your wishes to paint or write. ”

Ted looked up and said, “Yeah she wanted big things for me.”

“I guess pleasing her was more important than pleasing yourself. In a sense you are always being a big man, pleasing others and fearing their disapproval. The result is that you never feel grounded. Your roller coaster relationship is a perfect example of not feeling grounded.”

Ted looked confused as he said, “You’re right, we have this roller coaster relationship. But I love Christie. She’s good to me, she makes me happy, and yet, I keep hurting her.”

“I guess she’s like the painting and writing that you neglected in order to please your mother,” I said.

Í felt sad and addressed him, “How do you feel?”

Tears welled up as Ted said, “I feel terrible.”

I then said, “Focus on the feelings in your body. Stay with the feelings.”

“I feel ashamed of myself,” he said tearfully. He sat upright and said, “The only person I want to please is Christie.”

In therapy, Ted and I are working on awareness of his emotional life so that he would be more inner directed. He is trying to act in concert with his internal needs and not go up and down according to other people’s directives. He is often in turmoil about making decisions, but he is learning to stop, think, and focus on his emotions. His determination to feel emotionally grounded augers well for his wish to change the roller coaster relationship to a smooth ride.

To learn more about how to become more inner directed, read my book The New Science of Love: How Understanding the Brain’s Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship (Sourcebooks, Casablanca, 2011). In this primer on love, you will learn about the power of mirror neurons on your marriage, how love comes, goes, and how you can bring it back.

Email: drpraver@cs.com

Web : www.drfranpraver.com

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Frances Cohen Praver, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and relational psychoanalyst and author.

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