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The Caller's Coping Styles

Role Plays


Husband of a mastectomy patient who had thought that he could be very supportive of his wife during and after her surgery. She has come home from the hospital and he found that her surgical scar evoked an intense feeling of repugnance. Instead of being accepting and supportive, he had to leave the bedroom and sleep on the couch. He is full of recriminations. He is emotionally overwrought and in tears throughout the phone conversation. He considers himself a failure, garbage, unforgivable. He has not talked to his wife but presumes that she will, as he has always done, forgive him. He wants no part of forgiveness. He clings tenaciously to his self-blame while presenting a sympathetic, even pathetic view of himself.


A married woman on the brink of divorce, having trouble with her teen aged kids, and also at risk of losing her job. She calls feeling desperate about these situations with the seeming legitimate questions of "what can she do about her situation?" As her story unfolds, it becomes clear that the marital problems are all her husband's fault. (E.g., he stays out late, he watches sports on tv incessantly, he doesn't get along with the in-laws, he wants no responsibility for the kids, etc., etc.) Problems with the two teenage daughters are also all the kids fault. At work, the same conditions prevail. Her boss is unrelenting, difficult to please, never praises, always demands more. She sees herself as a victim and a martyr. She believes she has tried everything and continues to be taken advantage of.


A University of Chicago senior whose engagement is getting rocky because his fiancee is complaining that he is too cerebral and never has feelings about anything. The story is presented coolly, calmly, precisely, intellectually from the fiancee's point of view. It has a distinctly clinical air to it as if the caller has called to confer with the liner about some third party. Feelings are totally absent (giving some real credence to the fiancee's complaint). Attempts by the liner to elicit feelings should bring forth additional intellectualization. If really pushed, the caller should talk about a family that saw little use in the expression of feelings, the sense that feelings only confuse and muddy the water. If asked about the fiancee, the caller should indicate that she is quite emotional and that he was drawn to her because of her ability to be loose, have fun, be spontaneous, etc.


A middle aged woman whose husband has just lost his job. She was informed by her husband's boss that he was fired because he had been reporting to work drunk. The situation had gone on for some time, efforts had been made to work with the husband by the employer but there had been no positive results. The woman is clearly upset and presents as if she is totally surprised by the news that she has received. She had no inkling the her husband's job was in jeopardy. She had no idea that her husband might have a drinking problem. Even now, she wonders if the boss might simply be making the whole thing up as an excuse to fire her husband. It has been several days since her husband's dismissal and they have not really sat down to talk about things. She is concerned about whether they will be able to live on unemployment. She does not want to have to turn to her children for help. She does not want to have to face the fact that she may be married to an alcoholic. Attempts to draw her to that issue are met with massive attempts to deny that painful possibility.


A young woman calls wanting to know why men are only interested in going to bed. She poses her question in terms of the fact that every guy she meets or goes out with tries to get her into bed the moment they learn each other's names. She is fed up with men and clearly a part of her reason for calling is just to ventilate her anger and frustration. Inquiry into her life style reveals that she tends to frequent singles bars almost every evening of the week. She sees herself as somewhat flirtatious. She has recently had an operation to augment her breasts because she always had the feeling that they were too small. She enjoys her new figure and remarks that she is now able to wear clothes that in the past she couldn't. There is absolutely no awareness that her behavior may be sexually provocative. In fact, she is likely to deny any interest in sex other than liking to do a little kissing. Her presentation is naive, almost hard to believe, but it is clear that she believes it.

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