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Transformations Issue 7 - January/February/March 2013

 

TRANSFORMATIONS

from the office of

Christopher Emerson, Ph.D. 

January/February/March 2013 Issue No. 7  
American Sky

 

Welcome to the seventh edition of TRANSFORMATIONS, our official endorsement of the year 2013. Dr Katie Barnes and I are thrilled about the progress the practice made in 2012 and look forward to continuing our work in this new year.  

Emerson Ph.D. and Barnes Psy.D. 

In this edition, Dr. Katie Barnes explores introversion and extroversion in psychotherapy, and I interview figure skater Tai Babilonia about recovery, psychotherapy, and personal development. We also introduce two important new books dealing with addiction and recovery.
 
Thanks, as always, to practice administrator Dylan Maddalena for his help in assembling and editing this issue of TRANSFORMATIONS.  Dr. Katie Barnes is currently accepting new patients, and is often willing to work on a sliding fee scale. As always, we welcome your thoughts, inquiries, comments, and questions.

 

Dr. Chris Emerson
 

 

Introverts, Extroverts and Psychotherapy

 

 

by Dr. Katie Barnes


Dr. Katherine Barnes Headshot

 

Do you know where you fall on the introversion-extroversion spectrum?  Or, the better question might be, how would you know, and what exactly is the definition of an introvert versus an extrovert, versus the person possessing equal qualities of both-the "ambivert?" 
 

In this article I hope to highlight these key distinctions, and shed some light on how psychotherapy can, or perhaps should consider our differences in the ways we process information, express ourselves and ultimately need different things from therapy.

           
Carl Jung first identified these two "types" of temperaments, and would define them as follows:  Let's say there is a room full of people and each person is presented with a problem... the introvert, making up between 1/3 to ½ of the room, carefully and quietly takes time to reflect upon and work-out the problem alone, in his or her head before arriving at what they think to be the precise answer.  They then deliver the answer, simply and precisely to the others in the room.  Their energies are spent and directed inward, as this process for them is less emotionally and cognitively taxing. 

The extrovert, in contrast, when presented with the same problem, would first be inclined to verbally talk it through, and would prefer to engage others in the room to help their process.  Their energies are best spent directed outside themselves, and it would be more emotionally draining for them to be asked to work in solitude. 
 

The introvert recharges his or her energy sources by spending time alone, because this removes the outside stimulation they are more sensitive and emotionally reactive to than their outward counterparts.  

Likewise, the extrovert recharges their energy sources by being stimulated - by surrounding themselves with people or simply being out and "absorbing" the stimulating world. 

 

Whereas each end of the spectrum is perfectly capable of spending time outside of their comfort zones, Susan Cain, the author of the best-selling novel, Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Talks Too Much, holds that in order for us to maintain a state of emotional balance (and therefore physical health), the time spent engaging in "non-characteristic" activities should be balanced with our time spent "recharging" in our comfort zones.  

Introverts should find careers in which they can be themselves most of the time, for they will thrive and contribute more intellectually and creatively.  Extroverts should arrange their lives so they too can thrive, whether it resemble a more socially-centric position or leadership role in which his or her voice can be heard and reflected. 

 

These essential differences between us should also be considered in the therapy room.  As therapists, we need to consider who we are working with, how our interactional style might be similar or different, and whether we are meeting the needs of the extrovert versus the introvert.  For example, some therapists are quick to talk or share while the introverted patient is busy formulating their exact words that need to be expressed. 

If the introvert isn't allowed the space to carefully express their words, a disconnect may easily develop between patient and therapist and harm the therapeutic alliance, which we know to be central to a person's prognosis in therapy.  Likewise, "speaking over" an extrovert, or as some research suggests, maintaining certain postures, can throw them off of their game and potentially harm the alliance.   

One study comparing the two personality types in a mock therapy scenario showed that extroverts were more likely to feel "threatened" by a therapist sitting in a "neutral" stance.  Introverts rated the therapist higher in both posture scenarios, which although the why may only be speculated about, might suggest a slightly more inclined preference for the therapist-patient relationship and the expectations and benefits it traditionally entails.  Or, introverts might have rated their therapists more highly in this study because they actually perceived they needed therapy more.

 

Arguments have been made that introverts generally benefit more from therapy than their extroverted counterparts.  (Herein lies a major theory of psychotherapy:  that the proper (verbal) expression of emotion is healing.)  Studies have also shown that, not surprisingly, introverts demonstrate higher levels of depression and anxiety than do extroverts.  This might be due to a "holding in" of emotions, a tendency to withdraw from necessary social connections and/or a heightened emotional sensitivity to external stimuli. 

Not surprisingly, extroverts as a population might even be underrepresented in therapy, as their "need" for an outlet to express themselves is not as great as for introverts.

 

So, what does this all mean for psychotherapy? 

 

It is helpful to be aware of where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum, whether we're a patient, therapist or someone who ever has to relate to people. 

Once we have a better awareness of the way we process information, we can become aware of others' ways of relating to the world and be able to more effectively communicate and tolerate difference. 

Introverts and extroverts need to be able to identify each other and accommodate one another's needs in the therapy room, workplace and social arena if we want to more efficiently work together and produce better, more creative solutions to problems and maximize each of our talents.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINDING HER WINGS:

Honesty, Sobriety, & Finding a Voice

A Dialogue with Tai Babilonia


Dr. christopher Emerson, Ph.D.By Dr. Chris Emerson 

 

 

 

Dr. Chris Emerson recently interviewed American pair figure skater Tai Babilonia. With partner Randy Gardner, the pair were five-time gold medalists at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and won the gold medal at the 1979World Figure Skating Championships. Babilonia and Gardner were medal favorites at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, but were forced to withdraw due to an injury to Gardner.

After time away from California, living in Las Vegas and Ashland, Oregon, Tai is back in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a memoir. We began our talk by discussing relationships, and Tai described the recent ending of a long-term romantic relationship.

 

 

DR. CHRIS EMERSON:  What happened in your relationship?

 

TAI BABILONIA:  It ended last November. What happened was I found my voice.  If I wasn't sober, we wouldn't even be here, it was that bad.  But I was able to keep it together, just believe in myself and take it as "...this is part of life." I said "thank you" to him, because it was a good thing. I turned it around. I grew, I grew up.

 

CE:  Is your sobriety a big part of your capacity to say "thank you" and move on?

 

TB:  Absolutely (flexes her biceps).

 

CE:  Muscles?

 

TB:   Wings!  Finding My Wings will probably be the title of the book. So, with that, I turned it around, said "thank you" for allowing me to go and grow. And now all of this stuff is starting to happen.

 

CE:  So what's happening to you as a result of all this? What's the transformation?

 

TB:  It's the confidence, and finding my voice, being able to say "No."  I think the voice was always there, but I let people push it down.  I always wanted a strong person in my life, a male figure, a companion, but it became too strong, too controlling, where I lost the control. I have the control now. I'm in control.

 

CE:  You took control of your life back.

 

TB:  I really didn't know I had it. And I'm just using it in a positive way. . .  I can't explain it.  It was a struggle when it first ended because I was scared, and I knew I had to work.  I needed the confidence to know I could do it alone. And I want to try everything.

 

CE:  How do you describe this person you're becoming?

 

TB:  I don't know for sure. But I'm finding out. I just know she has the confidence and the strength and the voice to stand up to anyone.

 

CE:  I think a position of not knowing is a very powerful position. It allows for a movement into something new.

 

TB:  I just know it feels good - it feels great, that I call the shots. Not that I know everything, because I don't. But I can pick the phone up and I can get through the door. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it sucks, but I'm proud of myself. For the first time, I'm proud of myself.

 

CE:  That's an interesting thing to hear you say, that for the first time, you're proud of yourself, when you're a woman who has accomplished so much in your life...

 

TB: For the first time, yeah. The first thing I was proud of is sobriety. Not forty-five years with my skating partner, not giving birth - that's up there, of course - but I didn't realize it until I was sober. Now looking at all those accomplishments - and it's a lot - I appreciate it, and I'm now proud of all of that.

 

CE:  So the sobriety gives you a framework to experience those aspects of your life of which you can be proud?

 

TB:  Yes, absolutely. I can go to YouTube and watch old footage and say, "Wow, we were good, I didn't notice it before -- I was so in it -- and with the drama, the work, and all the stuff, I wasn't able to appreciate it."  So I have found the love by stopping. Found the love for skating, for the performing, for all of it. But I had to stop it first.

When you read (Andre) Agassi's book, probably the best sports autobiography - he hated tennis, he hated it. He was doing it for his father; he was good, he was the golden ticket. Now, and he's still playing, he appreciates it, so it's similar. He's doing it for himself.

 

CE:  And his life has expanded. He's such a force for others.

 

TB:  Yes. He gave back. Giving back is key, too, for me - not money, but physically, being with kids, paying it forward -- is huge for me. And that's part of feeling proud of myself.

 

CE:  You said that therapy was one of the tools for transformation for you.

 

TB:  The first time I went into therapy, basically they insisted on it -- back in 1988 we were working non-stop, from '81 until I crashed in '88 -- I did try to take my life, did not want to be here, took a handful of sleeping pills and some booze, and obviously I'm still here . . . it was a cry for help - I was in therapy three days a week.

I hated it, didn't trust it. Couldn't understand why this person I didn't even know was asking me all these stupid - I thought at the time - stupid, silly questions. I thought it was a complete waste of time, but slowly started to understand, when she started going deep back into my childhood, I thought, "Cool." 

I started putting the pieces together - why this, why that, why, why, why.  She went back into when I was a little kid and I loved it, I learned to love it. And now, with the book, there are some questions about relationships that I want to go deeper with.  I'm seeing a pattern with my father, even with my coach, some of the ex- boyfriends, and the control they had over me, where I didn't have the voice - but it started with my dad, who was a cop.

And they were not very vocal or emotional men, my father, my coach, the last relationship, very inward - and I wanted more.  I just wanted some reaction and I never could get it. And that's the struggle with the men in my life. And I want to go deeper. I know which therapist I'll go to to find out why I let it keep happening with the same kind of man --  non-verbal, and I'm the opposite.

 

CE:  What about your relationship with your skating partner Randy Gardner? How long have you been working together?

 

TB:  Forty-five years.

 

CE:  What makes it work?

 

TB:  It worked because we had a goal. From the beginning, we wanted to be great pair skaters, be a great pair team. But there's more to it. That relationship is interesting. I try not to analyze it, but now I want to analyze it, now I want to go there - how did we do that, with the parents who didn't speak, and the best coach in the world but just not verbal and emotional?  But it worked.

 

CE:  And it works today?

 

TB:  And it works today.  I just saw Randy this morning. I know he sees the difference, the change in me, the evolution. He sees it - I'm very vocal, I stand up for myself if something's not right.  I'm in it, I go at it in a positive way. 

 

CE:  How would you describe the relationship?

 

TB:  He's like a brother, an older brother-soulmate. I don't know if we're best friends, but there's a bond there. I'm trying to understand it now that we're closing a chapter. There's a part of me that really wants to figure it out, and there's a part of me that says, no - it's so special, there's a mystery to it that I love - it's complicated, we're very complicated . . .

Remember what happened in Lake Placid, when he got hurt, the injury - all that stuff, the drama and the press - it put us on the map in a weird way it made us even more popular than if we would have won, because people saw that we were human and they just embraced us and they still embrace us to this day.

But to this day, we have not talked about that, like you and I are talking now. I never asked him, "How did you feel? Was it painful?"  Any of it. We just sort of left it. 

 

CE:  How do you make sense of that going underground for all those years? Was there some kind of unspoken agreement that it won't be talked about?

 

TB:  We were able to mask it because after it, he got better - there was a question about would he be able to skate - yes, he was able to skate after - we went right back into it but now as pros and on the road, so we didn't have time, it's like, here we go again... so it was masked.  But I could only hold it together so long; I held it together for 8 years, not easy. A lot of drinking, masking it.  It's fascinating to me.

 

CE:  You mentioned before that your tendency is to look outwardly for positive reactions from others.

 

TB:  Yeah, and it can be frustrating.  As my therapist says, "Quit looking for the reaction. Stop. You're not going to get it."

 

CE:   I think we all want our experience to be mirrored back to us. Little kids need it. That's how an infant starts to develop a sense of self -- Mommy is like a mirror to the baby. We want that, we need that as a child to figure out who we are, and we continue to want our experience witnessed and mirrored as adults.

 

TB:  But is that needy?

 

CE:  I think it's a need. But is it needy? I don't know. I believe that we have "healthy dependency needs" and we have them all through life. And we still need to be mirrored, in the way that you're describing - we need it from our partners, we need it from colleagues, family ...

 

TB:  Right.

 

CE:  ...  and what you're describing to me is a very interesting series of experiences that you've had and that you are having about communication, mirroring.

 

TB:  Communication. That's all I want. I don't want you jumping up and down - it just seems so simple to me and it seems so difficult for that group of people, the most influential people around me, they're not able to. The therapist said, "You're not gonna get it because they didn't get it. That's all they know, maybe you've got to cut them some slack."

 

CE:  Yes, cut them some slack . . . but still get your needs met.

 

TB:  Right.  But how?  Get your needs met from them?

 

CE:  No, not necessarily; by recognizing that not every relationship is going to fill our every need, and that it's OK to have needs - that healthy dependency needs continue all through life -- that people have needs and we deserve to have them met.

 

TB: Yes!

 

CE:  Does it make us needy?  Yes. Does it make us human?  Yes.

 

TB:  Even with my sobriety, because I'm very open with it -, I've got support from friends and fans -- they're not angry, it's like I'm doing OK, they're not turned off by it. They're my cheerleaders. My son, out of everybody, is my biggest supporter. He gets it. He says, "Mom, I get it and I'm proud of you and I understand."

 

CE:  What's different about sobriety this time around for you?

 

TB:  So this time I had one more chance, and I knew that. I knew if I screwed up again it would hit the papers, hit the press, and I knew I was screwed. And that was also a fear in the (AA) meetings, not trusting - someone saying something and it getting out in the press. So that was also my motivation. You get one chance.

 

CE:   And the skating community supported and helped you?

 

TB:  This time around, yes, and the last time - with me coming out in '88 with the People magazine cover story about the suicide attempt and the alcoholism and whatever else - that article with the cover story, and the movie of the week, I didn't do it for anyone else but me. It was to clean my slate and start over.

But at the time I didn't take sobriety seriously, I didn't take meetings seriously. I thought I could handle a glass of wine which turned into a bottle of wine which turned into . . . well, I'm an alcoholic.  

But this time, I knew I wasn't going to get a second chance. And I have to work, that factors into it, I need to work. And I have a reputation. But this time they understand it was a problem; in the beginning, they didn't think it was a problem, they thought it was me acting out.

 

CE:  So where do you see yourself going in the next chapter of your life - this life with a voice, with wings?

 

TB:  I want to experience everything, personally and professionally. I'll try love again, I'm open to a serious relationship. I was jaded after what happened this last time. I hated men, went through all that. Professionally, I want to try everything, I'm open to everything.

 

CE:  You're a businesswoman and an athlete; what other roles do you apply to yourself?

 

TB:  I'm a mom first. Professionally, I don't know exactly where it's going to end: producing, writing more than one book, I'm experiencing everything right now and just going 150% with everything.  Everything to keep myself out there and current. I'm not going in the normal coaching direction, choreography - I want to be different.

 

CE   That's a great answer.

 

TB:  It's a journey. Like Alice in Wonderland.

 

CE:: Did she have wings and muscles and a voice?

 

TB:  She does now. 

 

 

 

 

In This Issue
-Introverts, Extroverts & Psychotherapy
-Finding Her Wings. Dialogue with Tai Babilonia
-New Books about Recovery

 

 

 

Loving Someone in Recovery
CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

 

 

Two important new books about recovery: 


Dr. Beverly Berg has written an essential resource for partners of people in recovery, "Loving Someone in Recovery." Another new book that informs professionals and lay persons alike about all aspects of substance abuse and recovery is Christopher Kennedy Lawford's "Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction" in which he interviews top experts in addiction. Dr. Emerson is referenced in the book along with many other Los Angeles-based clinicians with expertise in recovery.

 

 

450 N. Robertson Blvd., 2nd Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90048
 


 
This concludes the seventh issue of our quarterly newsletter, TRANSFORMATIONS.
Feel free to forward TRANSFORMATIONS to friends and colleagues, and take a moment to check out our archive of past issues at www.drchrisemerson.com. As always, we create our newsletter for YOU, our friends and colleagues, and we welcome feedback, comments, questions, or a simple "Hello". We look forward to our next encounter - Thank you for reading! 
  
Best, 
  
Chris, Katie, and Dylan
 

 

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Dr. Chris Emerson: 
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(310) 550-4560

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