I had worked with her over a period of months, to help her deal with a very problematic and conflicted relationship with her manager. She had started out with a lot of resentment and anger towards him, and a lot of judgments about how he treated her and how he did his job.
Over a series of sessions, I validated how frustrating it all was, offering her a lot of support, and also gently asking her to look at what her own part in their interactions might be. This included her assumptions about him, things he did that triggered her because of her own past life experiences rather than what actually happened at work, and her attempts to control him and in effect to replace him as manager. After a number of sessions, their relationship really improved. She was able to appreciate his good qualities, accept him as he was, and communicate what she needed with him in a much better way.
And then, from one session to the next, she suddenly reverted to tons of resentment and rage towards him,and started talking about him exactly the way she had at our very first session. At first, I was very startled, and I was slightly tempted to blame her or doubt myself. Hadn’t I helped her? Had she really not learned anything?
But then I realized she’d simply had a resentment relapse! Learning for us humans doesn’t happen instantly and for all time. She had understood a new way of thinking and being and practiced it effectively with good results in this relationship. And, then, something set her off and she forgot and went back to her old behavior.
It doesn’t mean she didn’t really grow or that I didn’t help her. It just meant that she needed relapse treatment at this point. So I validated and supported her all over again, and begin to point out ways she had reverted to old thinking. And, because she had truly learned this before, she was quickly able to calm herself down, activate the new way of being once again, and see a better path forward.