“You really, really don’t want kids, do you?” Bert leaned forward in his seat, pointing his finger at his wife.
“You work 60 hours a week and in the evenings you always want to go out. You don’t have time for children!”
Betsy rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that I want kids. You know I’ve always wanted to be a mom, but no matter what I say or do, you just don’t hear me.”
As the conversation paused, the therapist asked Bert, “Do you really want to be a father?”
“It’s not about that,” he angrily spat out, “it’s about Betsy!”
After asking Bert the same question five different ways, it became apparent he could only talk about his wife.
Bert was projecting, disowning his own feelings and insisting they were Betsy’s. Sigmund Freud took projection, originally a religious concept, and refined it for psychology. He hypothesized that when people disown thoughts or feelings they instinctively and unknowingly place them on the people and world around them. Projection is sometimes a big factor in relationships that feel stuck.
Within the safe space of couples counseling sessions, Betsy was able to thoughtfully and transparently explore her feelings around having children. In doing so, she came to the conclusion that perhaps she actually was a bit apprehensive about juggling motherhood and her job.
Betsy’s ability to openly examine her own thoughts and feelings was just the encouragement Bert needed to begin to explore and articulate his own feelings. Eventually he was able to admit that he was terrified of being a father, and with this admission he no longer had a need to project his feelings onto Betsy.
In their newfound honesty, Betsy and Bert were able to get unstuck and begin to create a deeper, more truthful connection, opening all kinds of future possibilities for them as a couple.
The case studies on this website are fictionalized accounts based on real situations and people Peak to Peak therapists have been honored to work with over the years.