The case of Alan and his family. Alan is a 40-year old man, who has been married to Betty for 20 years. Together, they have two children, 19 year-old Carl and 16 year-old Denise. For the past 10 years, Alan worked for an established software development firm. Recently, Alan quit his job with the established firm to join an upstart company. Leaving his secure job to take a chance on the upstart firm was a difficult choice; Alan considered all of his possible options, then selected what looked like the best option. It hasn’t worked out as well as he’d hoped. The workload at Alan’s new job is very heavy.
His boss expects him to “work until the job gets done”, even if it means working late into the evening and on weekends. It doesn’t help that Alan is a chronic overachiever and perfectionist. Alan is driven to accomplish difficult tasks and to meet the highest standards of excellence. However, he is also trying to be a good husband and father. His family resents the time he spends away from home. The strain of trying to fill both roles has worn him down. In the past, Alan has seemed immune to everything, but he has contracted viral illnesses several times since joining the upstart firm.
People who know Alan well can see that he has becoming increasingly irritable and unhappy since taking his new position. Betty thinks that Alan is directing his work-related anger towards her. On her last visit, Alan’s sister Erin asked him about his feelings regarding his new situation. “What kind of question is that? ,” he said. “Who cares how I feel? I’ve got nothing to complain about. I suppose that I feel happy. Yeah, I’m happy – very happy, in fact”. Alan’s daughter Denise, who just got her driver’s license, had a near miss on the freeway the other day, when a Jeep cut in front of her unexpectedly.
She said “it happened so fast, I didn’t even know I was scared until I felt my heart pounding in my chest. ” The night after the incident, she had a nightmare in which motorists kept cutting in front of her on the freeway. Denise’s former boyfriend Tom recently broke off the relationship, leaving her heartbroken.. She told her parents “That’s it. I know I’ll never be able to have a good relationship with a guy. Woe is me. All is lost. ” “Such catastrophizing,” Alan exclaimed. “Don’t worry! There are plenty of fish in the sea. Believe me, you’re better off without Tom”. Your Dad’s right”, said Betty, “I knew that Tom lacked good character that time when he cancelled the movie date so that he could go to the pizza party with his football buddies. I knew then that he was shifty and self-serving. ” “That’s so not true! ”, cried Denise. “That football party is practically mandatory. The assistant coach told Tom that he should attend. It was circumstance, rather than a character defect, that caused him to cancel the date”. Alan and Betty worry about their oldest son Carl, who is still living at home.
After graduating from high school, Carl went to a community college for a semester, but then quit. Since then, Carl has worked a number of different jobs, but hasn’t stayed with anything for long. Carl has also changed his style of dress a couple of times. His plans seem to change every week. He seems to be struggling to find himself. Carl told his sister that he feels that something is missing from his life. “What are you complaining about? ,” said Denise. “Count your blessings! You’ve got air to breathe, fresh water, and all the food you can eat.
You’ve got a roof over your head. Not only that, but our house is in the safest neighborhood in town. Our family gives you a sense of belonging. You have friends and social support. What more do you need? ” Last week, Alan was scheduled to make a presentation to a delegation of clients. He knew the material very well. However, he became increasingly anxious and uneasy, as the day of the presentation approached. Upon arriving at work that day, he was sweating and his heart was pounding. Moreover, he was having trouble concentrating. He then told his boss that e was ill with the flu, and thus, could not give his presentation. His boss sent him home. A wave of relief washed over Alan, but he felt guilty. He also worried about the consequences. Alan’s wife saw this as cause for concern. “You’ve rewarded yourself for not giving the presentation”, she said, “That kind of reinforcement is going to lead you to repeat the same behavior. If don’t watch out, you’ll soon be unemployed. ” Later that evening, Alan stopped off for a beer at O’Hooley’s Bar and Grill. He told the bartender about what had happened with the presentation. Look buddy,” said the bartender, “somewhere along the way you’ve learned to associate public speaking with something bad. Maybe you were ridiculed in school when you stood up and spoke – or maybe you saw this happen to someone else. Either way, you learned the connection. Now, all you’ve got to do is unlearn it”. Later that night, Alan confided to a friend that he didn’t feel good about himself. “When I look in the mirror I see that I’m not the person I wanted to be. Somewhere along the way I slipped off track”, he said. He also said that “I’m a chronic underachiever”.
The other day, Alan was talking on the phone when he suddenly felt short of breath and anxious. He was sweating and his heart was pounding. His chest felt tight. He felt certain that he was dying. The episode passed, but he went to see his family physician. His doctor said “The rule of thumb for chest pain in a man your age is to rule out heart problems. There’s nothing wrong with your heart. In fact, I can’t find anything wrong with you physically. I’ll give you some pills to calm you down. You may have a biochemical imbalance with chemicals in your brain.
If such episodes become a problem for you, I’ll prescribe some pills that will help restore that biochemical balance. ” When Alan related what the doctor said to his sister, Erin, she said “Medical doctors are such pill-pushers! ‘Biochemical imbalance’ my foot! The real problem is that your ego is becoming aware that the impulses of your id are becoming too strong. Also, your ego is afraid of disappointing your superego, which is really just the internalization of parental injunctions. You should really see my therapist, Dr. Gottlieb.
I’ve been seeing him for 10 years. He’s shown me how unconscious conflicts sabotage my relationships. ” In addition to their other problems, Alan and Betty have a very tight budget. They need to watch every penny. Alan is trying to figure out how much money they have left until the next paycheck. Unfortunately, Betty misplaced her checkbook and other records. “Just tell me which bills you paid”, said Alan. “I don’t remember,” said Betty, “but I was sitting at the kitchen table. Let me go sit there again, and see if that refreshes my memory. ”