Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ugh, Therapy!


I may have mentioned that I go to therapy every so often. Just within the last month my therapist and I have dialed it back from once a week to every other week. The idea is that I might be getting healthier. Sometimes that's obvious to me. Other times, it's difficult for me to believe. Whatever the case, I've been an advocate of therapy for years. Only writing, being married to a wondrous woman, and my two daughters do more for me than my therapy sessions. But every so often there is a session that just knocks the wind out of me. That's what happened today and I'm having trouble breathing still.

The thing about good therapy -- at least as much as I understand it -- is that it digs into things I would otherwise ignore. Reading over these posts from the last year or so, I could easily convince myself that I have revealed what I need to know about myself. There's a lot that I've talked about here, a lot that I have revealed not just to you but to myself. But then I have a day in therapy during which we figure out something new. Well, I figure out something new. I have this feeling that my therapist has me pretty well figured out and is just letting me get there in my own time.

Today I was talking about my youngest daughter who has trouble believing in herself. I'm her father, so you'll likely take this with a grain of salt, but she is one of the smartest people I have ever met. She's nine and it almost frightens me how quickly she understands things, how fast she reads, how elaborately she makes connections, and how probing her questions can be. She is the absolute youngest kid in her class and always will be since she was born on the cut-off date for school entry, and yet she flies in the academics.

With all of that she ought to be set, but here's the thing: she lacks confidence. When something doesn't work or she makes a mistake, she blames it on herself. She thinks that it is clear indication that she is stupid. She is sure that people don't really like her, that she is not lovable enough. When she goes through these emotional moments it makes my heart hurt that I can't show her enough love to break her loose of it.

Luckily, she is fiercely emotional and lets herself feel everything but doesn't dwell in those emotions too long. I'm jealous of her for that.

When describing all this to my therapist, she kept looking at me funny. "Really?" she said. "Is there someone else who feels these things?" she asked just to mock me a bit.

I raised my hand.

The next half hour was all about how I can know logically that I'm good and I'm smart and that people like and love me, but emotionally it's another story. Even with these essays I worry about how people will receive what I'm saying. There's a healthy element to that -- a writer should be concerned with his audience -- but the narcissistic side of it is not so healthy.

It turns out that in order to feel the love others have to offer I have to offer some love to myself. Go figure.

My best friend one time said that I was the smartest person he knew. Immediately I wanted to say that he should get out more. He was serious and I think I was serious too in my disbelief of what he was saying. It wasn't even that I was sure he knew smarter, better people, it was more that I had trouble accepting that kind of love.

In therapy, that's what we got to talking about mostly: being able to feel love and accept it. Turns out that I have enormous difficulties in accepting it and that makes it more difficult for me to feel it. That's no good especially since I want to remain married forever and I'm in the process of helping to raise two girls. By the time we were done with the hour I was wrung out and tired, trying to think of ways to fix myself. The larger process is to learn that I'm not broken and that instead of trying to fix I have to try and grow. For whatever reason, that scares the hell out of me and so did my therapy session today. Still, I've survived worse and I have shown myself capable of learning and growth.

Therapy can be a killer every so often, but I wouldn't give it up. Not when it has done me so much good. I'll keep going to our sessions just as much as you know I'm going to write on.