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  • Writer's pictureDr. Fillman

Looking For The Bad Guy

Have you ever been frustrated as you try to find a solution to a problem when everyone else seemed more preoccupied with trying to find fault? Just about anyone who has tried to use a problem solving approach has run into one of our society’s favorite activities – “Looking for the Bad Guy!” Psychologists call this negative transference, or more proactively, an attempt at ‘mastery,’ (Weiss & Sampson). It can be part of a constructive process when directed at therapists by many of their clients, but negative transference is experienced by almost everyone. With a therapist’s help, it allows one to understand his emotional history enough to master it so that it no longer contaminates his present day decisions and circumstances.

The psychotherapist can eventually redirect the client to express himself proactively, then, together, they can take a problem solving approach in their therapist-client relationship. This creates a new emotional/mental template that is the first step in changing long standing feelings of helplessness and victimization by circumstances or people. Once that’s accomplished, even though the outside circumstances may not have changed at all, the inside sense of self has experienced a dramatic change and the client feels empowered. She begins to side step ‘looking for the bad guy’ and approaches challenges with zest, creativity, and enthusiasm.

The emotional challenge he has going forward is quickly (or not so quickly) recognizing his own vulnerability to slipping back into the history of feeling powerless. I call that the ‘Donner Pass Detour’ of the mind. You see it, but why take it? Who wants to get bogged down? And, if it’s all about the journey, focusing on present day challenges can be a whole lot more fun and rewarding.

Unfortunately, everywhere we look, we see ‘looking for the bad guy’ in action! The additional challenge, after we have wrestled our own feelings of helplessness and victimization to the mat, is how to inspire our families, friends, co-workers, employees, and, yes, employers to constructively problem solve without tearing down the fabric of their work and fun relationships. That will be an additional post on what I call Empathic Detachment, which simply put, means detaching from someone else’s negative emotional contamination in an empathic way, so that you don’t validate helplessness and, instead, more often than not, encourage them to be proactive and have an opportunity to create a healthier attachment. But, we’ll get to that in a future post.

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