Case in Theory: Bridget’s Life and Development
Bridget is a 63 year old nurse who works part time and lives with and cares for her elderly parents. In looking back to her heredity and environmental life development, it’s interesting to note that she was the first of eight daughters born to a German-American family. The entire family was orthodox Catholic, and Bridget was educated at Catholic schools until she decided to enter into a convent as a nun at age 17. After 6 years, at age 23, she left the convent, worked as a nurse and dated for several years, and married at age 27.
After having 3 daughters and working full time while married, she finally decided at age 43, after much unhappiness in her marriage, to divorce her husband. Bridget says that she never found the perfect romantic love in her life, however, she claims to love her children and enjoys caring for her parents. As her parents decline more and more each year, she finds she doesn’t have exactly the right amount of time for everything, and perhaps that was always a problem. Working, babysitting her grandchildren, and caring for her parents leaves her with little extra time and energy.
Bridget grew up in a cultural environment of the relative affluence of the upper middle class and strict Catholicism. Her parents were kind to her, although strict and emotionally distant. Part of her believes that her decision to become a nun was largely a part of her wanting to please her parents. Although she and her sisters were taught the good morals of being kind to others, living humbly, and being orderly, she always felt somewhat sheltered and lonely, and yearned for more intimacy and less rigidity in her life.
The heredity and cultural experience of being German American, with light hair and green eyes, was not very common in New Orleans, but neither was it very uncommon. Many different ethnic groups mixed in the city, composed primarily of French, African, and Latin Americans. Bridget’s Catholic cultural history blended well as the mainstream religion, and she lived an upper middle class suburban life as part of a family which owned a flourishing meat packaging business and danced on the edges of elite society.
Her parents always donated large amounts of money to charities, and sacrificed some luxuries to do so. Abandoning her pursuit as a nun, Bridget found herself enthralled by the hippie culture of the 60s and 70s. She met and fell in love with a Russian American man who was a wild, pushed the borders, got loaded, and loved nature. She had fun camping and exploring nature, drinking and partying with friends, and they married in 1974. She remembers being nervous on her wedding day, because her husband had spent the last night out with his friends and had come home drunk.
Her husband’s drinking would become a lifelong plague on their marriage, with Bridget taking part from time to time. Along with the emotional stresses of addiction and mental instability in her marriage, Bridget says that she spent so much time working that the care of her children must have been jeopardized. After divorcing her husband in 1989, Bridget set out aiming to be a self sufficient single working mother, caring for her daughters alone.
Little did she know how much time and energy children required, and her kids acted out in various ways, although not horribly, exhibiting some behavioral and social adjustment issues. Bridget claims to have neglected her children in some ways, perhaps not due to the rigid silence type of neglect of her own parents, but the busy working mother type of neglect, the mom trying to act like the father, leaving no one at home and tending to needy children. After her children moved out of the house, Bridget soon faced the task of moving in with her own parents.
Although she was able to move her working hours down to part time, Bridget often feels her energy waning. She loves her parents and wants to be their for them, and she accomplishes much in her days, but she does yearn for more rest. There is certainly satisfaction in working part time, babysitting her grandchild one day per week, and caring for her parents full time, but she is often whimsical for something else. The generativity of middle age is apparent in all that Bridget accomplishes, but she sometimes yearns for deeper intimacy with everyone around her.
Perhaps she has unfinished business about the possibility that she moved through young adulthood unsuccessfully in regard to attaining a successful, lifelong, romantic partnership, although she also claims to be satisfied with her single life (Goodman & Mukulincer, 385). Sometimes, Bridget feels destructive and doesn’t know what to do with her angry feelings, sometimes overeating, smoking, or drinking beer. Bridget is overweight, and although she is not a constant smoker or drinker, she does have a limited habit of engaging in theses self destructive activities, which may be a marker of self rejection (Finkel & Vohs, 247).
Theoretically, from two differing theories of personality, Bridget can be conceptualized from both a person centered model as well as a solution centered model. The best way for a person to honestly describe one’s life journey and the problems encountered along the way is for the person to speak from a centered point of self expression, to genuinely emote with an engaged listener about what it was like for oneself personally to have experienced these various life situations (Gjerde, 139).
Just as importantly, Bridget would benefit from being aided in looking for personal solutions to her life predicament. If any changes are in order, any steps needing to be taken on the path to more personally successful living, then solution focused thinking can help a person to move from problem areas into brighter solution areas (Palmer & Whybrow, 57). When a person is able to be honest from a place of person centered conceptualization of one’s own life, then one is better able to honestly self judge one’s own unique perceptions of achievement and behavior.