The Common Denominator Principle: Start taking responsibility for your s#@t!
An important question I ask my clients at the time of our first session is whether or not they’ve seen a psychologist before me. I ask this because if they have seen any other practitioners, I need to know why they’ve not gone back and instead have come to see me. I know we have our work cut out for us when my client responds with something like, “I’ve seen at least 5 people before you and they just didn’t get me. It has just never worked out with any other therapist.” Well oh boy…this is my code for, “brace yourself, Anna, this ain’t gonna be easy.” I mean, chances are if they did not return to any of their 75 previous therapists, our therapeutic relationship is also pretty much doomed from the get-go. So what do I do? In order to help this client successfully stay in therapy for at least a few sessions, I cannot simply delve into symptom reduction and ignore this person’s faulty interpersonal patterns. I must start helping my client realize that they may, in fact, have a responsibility in these failed therapeutic relationships…and that they probably have something to do with other let-downs in their life too.
I call this operating via the Common Denominator Principle and it is relevant in many different contexts, not just unsuccessful therapy sessions. Whether or not we are talking about your many a) unsuccessful romantic relationships, b) failed job ventures or c) ruptured friendships, you need to think about the Common Denominator Principle; you need to realize that the common denominator in many of your reoccurring disappointments, is no one other than YOU. People often blindly blame “the other person” and are in constant and reliable victim consciousness. Not only can I think of multiple clients who have this “woe is me” mindset but I can also think about a bajillion people in my personal life who were, unfortunately, stuck in a can-you-believe-what-she-did-to-me/it-was-totally-her-fault, school of thought. Well, I hate to break it to you but if you are chronically single, or unemployed, or friendless, or just plain bitching all the time…IT’S NOT THEM, IT’S YOU!! The sooner you realize this, the sooner you’ll achieve a level of relief, calmness, peace and acceptance that will set you free. Moreover, taking this type of radical self-responsibility will feel great because: if you are now to blame, you now have the power to make it right. When you blame other people, you put the ball is in their court…but the power is so much more delicious when it lies with you.