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Psychologcal Profile: Hera

So, for a class I had to write a case study of a client and write about the influences of their family emotional system. So I went Greek after a brief discussion with my prof (he didn’t like the idea, citing that he didn’t think it was real enough, but I did it anyway by making things more realistic.). I did have a genogram which showed the main Titan/Olympian family tree, but the format won’t post here. Sorry. I mostly went off Homer’s Theogeny and went with the main deities. So please to enjoy the psychological make up of Hera. Looking forward to your comments!

Abstract
A pre-service professional counselor utilizes Bowen Family Systems Theory to understand and treat a histrionic female client. The client’s family of origin and that of her spouse are analyzed using genograms. Based on the results of the genogram analysis and the complaints of the client, the counselor outlines a treatment strategy for this client.

Client Background Information
The client, whom we shall call Hera, is a 45 year old married woman with several children. She claims to be feeling vital and healthy and appears to be so. Hera does not claim any use of drugs or alcohol, but takes a daily herbal supplement designed to promote beauty and well-being. She identifies herself as very religious, believing it is her “duty” (her words) to attend services and see that they are done correctly. Hera has a strong sense of religious feeling which adds to her well-being. She is the assistant head in the family business which has existed for several generations. Her family is extremely wealthy and powerful and she is used to getting her own way. Hera is very well dressed, girdled in the finest clothes, and she has been known to be extremely vein about her appearance and her position. She comes from a large family that is very inclusive of some members and shuns other members. Position and rank are particularly important in the family. She is very aware of her family and cultural expectations.

She was referred to me after leaving her previous therapist because they could not agree on the focus of treatment, and there was a personality conflict. Hera had been passed along several therapists because she is not easy to deal with. He had diagnosed her with Histrionic Personality Disorder. HPD is a Cluster B, Axis II disorder characterized by overly emotional thinking and dramatic behavior. Specifics to HPD include:

  • Constantly seeking attention
  • Excessively emotional
  • Extreme sensitivity to others’ approval
  • Unstable mood
  • Excessive concern with physical appearance (Mayo)

Presenting Problem
Hera was referred to me with presenting emotional problems along the DSM-IV Axis I and II. I observed Hera become emotionally hysterical when she felt that she was not given enough respect. When our secretary asked for her insurance information, she insisted that she didn’t need any. Her voice became shrill, and her temper short. She avoided any eye-contact with my secretary after that incident. She seemed flustered about the event, and proceeded to list the different ways the woman slighted her. The client unknowingly demonstrated her way of coping with others. Hera blames others for offending her, and becomes angry when she does not get her way.

Hera believes that if her husband, Zeus, were not having so many affairs, their relationship would improve. She desires him to change for the sake of their relationship. But rather than confronting him directly—as he is a powerful man who is prone to anger—she instead focuses her anger on his children and lovers. This passive aggressiveness manifests by denying his children their birthright (a very important legal and social concept in their culture). She also shows favoritism to her children by helping them when they need it, and by creating obstacles for others who have offended her.

In our sessions, besides blaming her husband, she was distraught about the upcoming marriage of her daughter, Hebe, to Heracles who is a son of her husband and a woman whom Hera believes is beneath them in social stature and power. She is angry at Heracles for being born to begin with, and at her family who tricked her into thinking Heracles was her own son. Hebe is her constant companion and Hera does not want to lose her in marriage, although marrying a son of Zeus would keep Hebe in the household (brides traditionally left their mothers home upon marriage). While she does not see Heracles himself as a threat to her position, she sees him as a threat to her marital and family happiness. We agree on a session goal to support her through this transition to help her be less hysterical.

Client Family of Origin with Genogram
The client’s family of origin is extremely tight within the third generation of the family because of a shared family trauma, and a family feud resulting in cut-off from the other part of the family. The first generation of family is characterized by chaos and emotionality. Gaea and Uranus bore many children, most of which were deformed and ultimately killed in an unkind world. Uranus, fearing his children would be more powerful than him, forced Gaea to keep them imprisoned and away from him. The children were hidden and raised underground, and it was only with the wisdom of Cronus that they were able to be free of him. When their father came to visit them, Cronus severed Uranus’ genitals, emasculating his father. As a result, Uranus lost his aggressive nature, and the power balance in the family changed.

As is a custom in the family, Cronus married his sister Rhea, and as the firstborn male, he chose the firstborn female. This solidified his power over the rest of his family. Upon hearing from a fortune teller that one of his children would become more powerful than he, he sent his children away and imprisoned them in a cold, dark and wet place. Rhea, fearful for her youngest son, Zeus, tricked Cronus into imprisoning a swaddled rock instead. Zeus was raised by his grandmother Gaea in secret, who may have doted on him because she did not have a chance to nurture her own children. Gaea raised Zeus with the expectation that he would lead the family business in a positive direction. When he became a man, Zeus organized his uncles and their children, as well as the living deformed children of Gaea, to rise up against Cronus. Zeus initiated a family feud which divided up the family as they took sides. Zeus defeated Cronus by murdering his father and chopping his body to pieces.

Zeus freed Hera and his other siblings and took power in the family business. Breaking away with tradition, Zeus and his brothers Poseidon and Hades decided to draw lots to divide the family property, rather than giving it to Hades, who was the oldest son and had birthright. Zeus drew the lot which made the most money and had the most influence. To solidify his position, he desired to marry the first-born daughter, Hestia, but she refused, choosing to remain unmarried. Instead, Zeus married Hera, who seemed to match him in temperament, although they were virtually strangers.

Hera and Zeus lived happily for awhile, both dealing justice to the prisoners of war. But their relationship was marked by strife from the beginning. Zeus’ first child was with another woman, who tragically died before the child was very old, and Zeus raised Athena as his own and invited her into the family. Hera was jealous and angry and she aimed her rage at Zeus. She retaliated by having a child outside of wedlock, Hephaestus. But he was deformed and she threw him down a flight of stairs which only injured him more. Zeus was angry at her behavior, but in response, he stayed with Hera for awhile, having two children, Ares and Hebe. Both became favored children of Hera.

But Zeus continued to have dalliances and children with other women, and Hera’s emotional reactions have severe consequences for the women and their children, often putting them in mortal peril. In the case of the twins Artemis and Apollo, Hera uses her powerful connections to keep their mother, Leto, from giving birth to them within the city. Leto is forced to deliver her children in unsanitary conditions, which endangered the health of her children. Zeus invites all of his children to live in the home he shares with Hera. Soon the house was full of Zeus’ children by other mothers.

Analysis of Client Family History
Hera’s early childhood of paternal abandonment and abuse caused fusion with her siblings and a fearful attitude towards her father. Hera is avoidant of discussing her past. She was not favored by any of her parents, though her personality suggests that she feels some self-entitlement, which may be an overcompensation of the low self-esteem and abuse she experienced as a child. With so many powerful siblings, she may have had to act out to get some attention. She would naturally be attracted to the man who would make her look the most powerful and best, so she married the hero on the winning side. With so much history of violence in the family, Hera would not have had an example in either her parents or grandparents generation of good marital relationships, so it would seem to follow that her own relating is emotionally stunted and immature. Additionally, the family already had a history of distrusting their children, so Hera is unconsciously fulfilling her dutiful role to the family pattern.

The family itself has not had much opportunity to differentiate from each other. Loyalty to the family is important, and the system may subconsciously sabatoge and keep members from leaving or maturing and achieving individuation. Hera feels strong loyalty to the family and the business, despite the fact that her own father had been cruel to her, her mother absent, and elder members of the family attempting to harm her bodily–she recognizes that, without the family name, she would not be in the powerful position she is in. Maintaining the family traditions and honor means supporting herself. Hera has unresolved emotional attachment to her parents, even though her father is dead. The chronic levels of stress in the family system have brought a variety of personality and behavioral disorders into the forefront of the family.
Hera bases her self-esteem and image of herself in her relationship with Zeus. She has little autonomous identity besides being his wife. She believes them to be more intimate than they actually are, believing that the marriage contract should define emotional feelings between them. Her attempts to fuse with Zeus and seek intimacy causes him to stray. Hera is likely trying to replace her father’s affection (and lack thereof) with affection from her husband. She has learned from past behavior that the way to get his attention is to act out and over-react emotionally. But she passive-aggressively redirects her emotional anger at Zeus’ children rather than confronting him directly. Because she is constantly in distress over her husband’s distance, she creates allies among other family members through triangulation.

She is strongly triangulated with her daughter Hebe, in part because Hebe looks so much like Hera, feeding her own vanity, and is a kind female child from her marriage with Zeus. Hera projects herself onto Hebe, which is one reason she is angry about Hebe’s upcoming marriage. She wants the best for her daughter/herself and does not see that a marriage to Heracles is in their best interest. Her other child, Ares, has an anger management problem, which Hera manipulates through her histrionic attacks to enact her anger. She displaces her real insecurities by emotional reactivity. Ares gets in trouble for his angry physical attacks and no one suspects that it is actually Hera who is angry. In both cases she stunts the differentiation process for both of her children.

According to the previous diagnosis and my own analysis of Hera’s genogram and personality, I can confirm the diagnosis of Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Therapist Intervention Strategy
The goal of counseling Hera is to reduce her instances of Hystrionic behavior and improve her familial relationships, particularly her marital relations with her husband.

The first step to healing Hera is to identify Hera’s place in the family and emotional systems, and view her symptoms as the natural result of a destructive system. Hera will gather data and report it to the therapist about her family history and relationships in the system. We will work on reducing stress and anxiety in Hera and thus the rest of the family. We will work on Hera’s own differentiation, especially on her ability to separate emotion from events and objectify events. I do not advise group therapy until Hera can work through her family history. The therapist will behave as a rolemodel and approach the genogram with objectivity and help lessen the emotionality of the family story. We will work to build self-esteem without putting others down. Hera will learn and practice communication techniques which empower the speaker and using “I-Position” statements. She will have “homework” to try out the new behaviors and techniques, and report back to the therapist her cognitive process and the results of her behavior modification.

As a later step, Hera will invite key members of the family to the session to work through complex triangulations. We will work to address power inequality in relationships, define parameters for communicating and closeness, and talk about the shared family tragedy. When Hera is feeling more differentiated, she will invite Zeus in for marriage couple counseling with the goal of strengthening their marriage and connection.


Bibliography

Titelman, P. edt. “Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory”. Haworth Press. 1998.

Bowen Center. “Bowen Theory”. <http://www.thebowencenter.org/pages/theory.html> Accessed 7 December 2009.

Mayo Foundation for Education and Research. “Personality Disorder Symptoms”.

< http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/personality-disorders/DS00562/DSECTION=symptoms>.

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