Case Study

Case Study

Breaking Free: A Mind-Body Approach to Retraining the Brain

By Janina Fisher

March/April 2011

Carrie, 67—a mother and grandmother—came into therapy because of increasing difficulties in her marriage of 40-odd years to her childhood sweetheart, a Vietnam vet. Ever since Vietnam, he'd been moody and easily irritated, but in the past year or so, she reported, he'd developed health problems, and his moods had gotten worse.

"Out of nowhere, he starts screaming at me or putting me down—ridiculing me for being useless and inadequate," she said. "When he does that, I just freeze; it feels as if I'm rooted to the floor and can't move. He'll scream at me to 'say something!' but I can't; no words come. Then I try to think how to make him happy: what does he need? When I can talk, I ask him what I can do. Does he need to know I love him? I try to say something nice, but that just makes him madder."

Carrie vividly remembered growing up with parents who'd been moody, unpredictable, and quick to anger. Alcohol had fueled their hair-trigger reactivity, making them even more volatile and frightening. When she heard certain tones in their voices or saw particular facial expressions, her young body would freeze and become quiet and still—her eyes tracking their movements and expressions intently. She'd then automatically shift into a calmer, compliant state, in which she'd try to soothe them and minimize the abuse. Sometimes, she'd try to placate them by giving each a hug, smiling brightly, and telling them how much she loved them and how pretty her mother looked. These…

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1 Comment

Wednesday, July 26, 2017 11:09:47 AM | posted by Daniel
Interesting article and commentary. Dovetails nicely with "Power Pose" work by Amy Cuddy. Expanding the body through willful action changes our feelings. We become more relaxed and confident.