As part of my psychotherapist qualification, I recently worked with a client who struggled with severe anxiety. It was challenging, and it took several sessions for the client to open up about what was going on.
It was about a relationship. A working relationship.
Alice (name & background changed for confidentiality reasons) was leading a small team of consultants in a high-pressure corporate environment. Juggling the demanding requests of her clients and managing her team was tough. But her key struggle was the relationship she suffered through with a senior peer in a supporting function.
Alice described that person as an “aggressive dictator,” who was 10 years older and fighting “tooth and nail” over everything. This made it impossible for Alice to establish a collaborative relationship. She dreaded every encounter with the “dictator.” Several days before their next meeting, she could feel her stomach churn and she would endure sleepless nights.
The meetings were tense. Conversations were difficult… until at one point it came to a head. In front of the whole team, the smouldering conflict between the two leaders exploded. Both started throwing accusations. The “dictator” began to raise her voice and, with cutting, machine-gun like remarks, she systematically dismantled Alice. Feeling embarrassed, incapable, small and stupid, Alice shrank further and further to the point where she could not handle it. Close to tears, she dropped out of the video call. It was a disaster.