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Assessing an externalized problem

Video Type: In Practice

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Marc and Peter “Assessing an externalized problem” Scenario Background Peter is a 35 year old man who is currently unemployed. His partner is very busy with her career and Peter feels she barely notices that he is struggling. Normally very active physically, Peter has given up on exercising. He is saying "no" to social invitations and has also stopped engaging in one of his favorite hobbies: watching films. He describes a sort of numbness: he says he “doesn't think” about any of these things. While he can identify a degree of “anxiety,” he has difficulty articulating his emotional experience. Video Introduction Marc begins here by asking about the “lack of purpose and sadness” that Peter had referred to. When Peter introduces the word “heaviness,” Marc picks it up and occasionally refers to it in externalizing language as he seeks to get a picture of the problem in general. What emerges as some of the primary effects of the heaviness in Peter's life? How does the language for the problem evolve further in this brief exchange? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Video Analysis When people are struggling with challenges, they often feel that they are the problem. This is a discouraging place to be, and an unproductive starting point for a conversation intent on tapping into agency. Externalizing is a linguistic practice that separates persons and problems. By “opening space” in this manner, Marc helps Peter to take a step back from the problem and evaluate the way it is playing out in his life. At this stage in their exchange, the focus of Marc's inquiry is on the impact of the problem on Peter. Peter seems well entrenched in a mood that makes it difficult for him to evaluate his situation. Toward the close of this brief exchange, the word “wall” emerges in their dialogue as they continue to describe Peter's experience.

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