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Section 6
Track #6 - Utilizing the "Experience Neediness" Technique

Question 6 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Couples
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

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On the last track we discussed the stretching technique.  The six steps of the stretching technique are identify grievances, identify underlying desires, make a specific request, share underlying desires, rank requests, andunhappily married Treating Men in Search of Intimacy social work continuing ed exchanged lists. 

On this track we will discuss testing.  Most of this track focuses on a technique for overcoming testing that tends to be productive for male intimacy clients.  Therefore, after examining testing and the Two Stages of Progression Through Abandonment that often accompany testing, we’ll discuss the experiencing neediness technique.  In my use of the experiencing neediness technique there are five steps.  The five steps I use are confessing an inability to need, don’t fake it, keeping boundaries, confessing needs that can’t be experienced, and paying attention to what evokes hunger. 

Share on Facebook Examination of Testing
Chuck, age 39
, was unhappily married.  Prior to his marriage, Chuck had resigned himself to the idea that he would only be able to have superficial relationships.  Chuck stated, “The women I love or try to love don’t ever pass the test.  But when I met Karen, I thought to myself, ‘This is it Chuck.’  She makes me so happy.”  Karen and Chuck had married.  Chuck sought counseling at Karen’s request after he became jealous

Karen explained to me, “One day Chuck told me he loved me so much that he wanted to know everything about me.  I tried to answer all his questions, but the questioning started to seem like subtle hostility.”  I found that what Chuck was doing was ‘testing’ Karen. 

I stated, “Recognizing that a partner in a relationship is a tester is the first step toward facing and resolving this potential destroyer of intimate relationships.”  Chuck’s testing was in the form of asking difficult questions.  If Karen failed to answer a question truthfully, Chuck then questioned her honesty regarding all aspects of their relationship. 

Think of your Chuck.  Why might your male intimacy client ‘test’ his partner?

In therapy, Chuck began to learn about his fear of abandonment.  I find that generally a fear of abandonment is directly attached to childhood fears.

For Chuck, like many male clients, the fear was of losing his mother.  Would you agree that when male clients grow to be adults, the continuation of this fear indicates a shaky self esteem, which may be another common problem regarding intimacy issues of clients like Chuck?  

Share on Facebook Two Stages of Progression Through Abandonment
Throughout the course of therapy, I found that Chuck had moved through the two stages of progression through abandonment.  Chuck was a textbook case of a male intimacy client with a fear of abandonment. 

Stage # 1 - Unconscious Fear
As Chuck progressed through the first stage of abandonment, he acted out of unconscious fear.  Chuck stated, “When I found out that Karen had lied about her trip to Spain with her ex, I couldn’t understand why she would lie to me.  I felt sure that she had lied about other things, too.  And if she’d lie about that, she could have been lying about never abandoning me!”  Karen stated, “I knew that if we didn’t deal with this testing that it could ruin our marriage.  But Chuck couldn’t leave it alone.”  I responded, “Chuck’s unconscious fears refused to be denied.” 

Stage # 2 - Conscious Fear
In the second stage of progression through abandonment, Chuck acted out of the conscious fear of commitment.  Chuck stated, “It seems that whether or not Karen sticks with me, I have already committed to her.  It’s like I’m committed to abandonment!”  As you may know, a fear of abandonment can be likened to an aversion to the experience of neediness. 

Your client, like Chuck, may have a fear of abandonment because at some point he was in need and was let down.  How might your Chuck learn to feel comfortable with neediness again?  Chuck used the Experience Neediness technique to learn to rely on and feel safe with Karen.

Share on Facebook 5-Step "Experience Neediness" Technique
Because I felt that Chuck’s fear of abandonment was based on an aversion to neediness, I introduced a technique Chuck could use to experience neediness. 

Step 1: Confess the Inability to Need
First, Chuck benefited from confessing his inability to need.  I asked Chuck, “How hard is it to rely on others, depend on others, and actually want others to get close?”  Chuck responded, “Hard?  It’s impossible.  I don’t put myself in a position to be let down.  If I wanted to count on others, it would be a goal and not a skill.  I just can’t do it.”  As Chuck confessed his inability to need, I stated, “What is occurring is that your internal need is requesting the warmth, constancy, and safety of your relationships.” 

Step 2: Don't Fake It
The second step in the experiencing neediness technique is don’t fake it.  I stated to Chuck, “As you progress through an acceptance of your neediness, you might be tempted to pretend you’re closer and needier than you feel in order to generate these feelings.  This can be counter productive as it can distract the safe relationships in your life from how you really feel.  Faking it may also discourage the lost part of you from being known. 

Step 3: Keep Boundaries
In addition to confessing his inability to need and don’t fake it, the third step in the experiencing neediness technique is keeping boundaries.  I stated, “though you may be trying to embrace the idea that you need others, especially Karen, pay attention to your need for separateness.  You might be tempted to become a ‘hugger’ when that activity causes discomfort.  Or you might think you should spend extended time doing things that make you feel overwhelmed or resentful. 

"This also creates more distance inside.  Let Karen and others know when you’ve had enough connecting time and don’t push it too hard.  This helps you feel much safer internally and more ready to take risks because you can feel comfortable that you won’t be swallowed up by relationships.”  Think of your Chuck.  Could the way I described keeping boundaries to him benefit your male intimacy client ?

Step 4: Confess Needs
The fourth step in the experiencing neediness technique is to confess needs that can’t be experienced.  Basically, this step refers to clients stating what they are asking for even though they cannot yet feel it.  For example, Chuck stated to Karen, “I need my relationship with you.  I need intimacy.” 

Chuck then stated to me, “I don’t really know if I’m sure that’s true.”  How might you have responded to Chuck?  I stated, “Bear in mind you may not be able to feel these truths.  That doesn’t mean they are less true.  And you are integrating as much of yourself as you can into your relationships.  This paves the way for the rest of yourself.”

Step 5: Pay Attention to What Evokes Hunger
The final step in the experiencing neediness technique is to pay attention to what evokes your hunger.  I find that after a certain amount of time working on experiencing neediness, clients experience some event that allows their needs to emerge. 

I stated to Chuck, “It may be an empathic statement from Karen or she may identify with you on a fundamental level you’ve never experienced.  But you’ll find yourself moved.  You may feel loved or feel closer to her.  That is your need awakening.  Whenever you sense that you’ve responded internally to Karen, trace down what it is about what she said or did, and how that relates to her character.”  Karen added, “Tell me what it is that you’re drawn to, also, and how it helps.  Let me know what you want more of.” 

I felt that the experiencing neediness technique could help Chuck overcome his fear of abandonment.  Is your male intimacy client struggling with a fear of abandonment?  Could the technique on this track benefit him?  Would playing this track in a future session help?

On this track we have discussed testing.  Most of this track focuses on a technique for overcoming testing that tends to be productive for male intimacy clients.  Therefore, after examining testing and the Two Stages of Progression Through Abandonment that often accompany testing, we’ll discuss the experiencing neediness technique.  In my use of the experiencing neediness technique there are five steps.  The five steps I use are confessing an inability to need, don’t fake it, keeping boundaries, confessing needs that can’t be experienced, and paying attention to what evokes hunger. 

On the next track we will discuss intimacy as a stressor.  We will look at the scale of fulfillment and rating aspects of the relationship as ways to identify the cause of stress and a method to begin coping. 

QUESTION 6
What are five steps to the experiencing neediness technique? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.

 
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