Sonya Thomas lcsw

Symptoms, Substances, Psychosis or Discussion: You Pick

I recently read an article entitled Aggression in the Long­term Relationship and Progressive Emotional Communication by Jean Hantman.  The use of the word “aggression” in the title of the article is somewhat misleading.  By aggression, she means “the processes involved in attempting to suppress negative feelings which leads to half­ relationships”.  When we attempt to suppress negative feelings, we end up inviting them to come out sideways, always to the detriment of our relationships.  Hantman suggests that “in the face of emotional pain people have four choices: symptoms, substances, psychosis or discussion”.  Here is what each might look like:

  • Symptoms include anxiety, phobias, psychosomatic illnesses, decrease in sexual desire, and unconscious hostile actions such as passive aggression, shutting down, and avoidance.
  • Substances involve overeating, drinking and drug abuse.  She also includes taking psychotropic medications when mental illness is not the issue.  I would also include in this category excessive spending, addiction to screens, exercise, gambling, pornography etc.  Basically, anything done in a compulsive manner.
  • Psychosis meaning being detached from reality in the more severe forms, but can also include the “everyday” forms.  This can be seen in relationships as in, for example, splitting.  Splitting looks like this:  “I do all the work to make our marriage better; he doesn’t do anything.” And, “If you don’t do what I want, then you don’t love me.”  Black and white thinking and all good/all bad thinking are other examples of splitting, which is a way of being detached from full reality, aka psychosis.
  • Discussion, meaning expressing the more vulnerable emotions in a way that is direct, reflected upon and respectful.

Hartman goes on to say that “psychoanalysts understand that what we are working with are two people with good intentions in fierce battle with their unconscious urge to repeat historically destructive patterns.  Repressed and suppressed hate, and unhealthy styles of communicating anger that have been going on for years in a long­term relationship, which is always learned in childhood, is not going to be amenable to a quick fix. There will be, before the couple fights productively, a fight from the unconscious.”

I want to strongly encourage you to read the article in it’s entirety.  Yes, there is some clinical jargon, but it is also very accessible.  I predict you will find something worthwhile in what she has to say.

Until next time, peace.