Editor’s note: this is part 16 of Marie’s story.
Today was therapy session day.
In the past 2-3 days, I have been going gangbusters on my “to do” list and I was not in the mood to stop being in action and sit in therapy and be emotional. That translated into a logic-driven, aggressive – almost resistant – mood in today’s session, which is not how I have shown up in my previous sessions with Carl . . .
Carl: Thank you for your email about the coffee mug. Would you like to talk about that?
Me: No, I’m actually okay with it now. It had been bugging me . . . I was lying awake at night worrying about it. It seemed like too small of a thing to be worrying about so much; nevertheless, I was worrying about it. So, I decided the easiest solution was to clean it up so I could stop worrying.
Carl: Is it resolved for you now?
Me: Yeah, I’m good with it.
Carl: By the way, I didn’t catch the discrepancy.
Me: I figured that was the case . . . I was just worried you would think I left the mug here on purpose as a way to stay emotionally connected with you in some weird way.
Carl: What would happen if I thought that?
Me: I’m afraid you would get freaked out I was getting too attached to you and then you would pull away – try to push me out of our therapeutic relationship. That has been my experience of people – of men – in my life. I show any interest, either platonic or romantic, and they turn and run – I guess they feel smothered. The only way I’m allowed to hang out with people is if I act as if I don’t care about them or the relationship.
Carl: Ouch! It must be lonely to not be able to express your genuine interest in people!
(Pause to let that sink in)
Carl: Just so you know . . . it would be absolutely fine with me if you had left the mug here as a way to maintain an emotional connection with me. I welcome an emotional connection with you and I would be honored to keep a symbol of our emotional connection in my office.
(That caught me off guard . . . I couldn’t come up with a response that felt safe, so I just nodded my head a bit to let him know I heard him. He didn’t say anything more; he just sat quietly and watched me for a few moments.)
Me: Okay, what do we do now?
Carl: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, it seems we have finished that topic and I’m ready to move on to the next.
Carl: So, you want to get on with getting things done?
Me: Yes. It seems silly to sit here wasting time, looking at each other, doing nothing!
Carl: You want to make sure we stay focused and busy, to make sure we are very efficient, to make sure we get as much done as quickly as possible without wasting one moment of time?!?
Me: Well, yeah . . . I don’t want to waste limited resources. My time and money are limited and I want to use them wisely. I don’t think sitting and doing nothing is a good use of resources! (Starting to get pissed . . . )
Carl: What happens if you just sit and do nothing for a while?
Me: It means I’m being irresponsible and wasteful.
Carl: (Pause for effect) Who taught you that?
Me: While I can’t tell you exactly what they did that caused me to develop that belief, I assume I learned it from my parents – more specifically, from my dad. (Cooling down my temper a bit because I was starting to catch his point)
Carl: Tell me about your relationship with your dad.
Me: My sister helped my mom with all the domestic stuff, which was fine with me because I didn’t like doing that stuff. I got to do the really cool stuff with my dad like farming and carpentry.
Carl: So, your value to your parents was based upon what you could do to ease their workload?
Me: Well, yeah . . . but, I did fun stuff, too, especially with my dad. He and I were quite close when I was younger.
Carl: Were the fun things you did together the stuff he liked to do or the stuff you liked to do?
Me: He liked them first and I learned to like them. But, I enjoyed it . . . I liked camping and fishing and photography trips . . . it is what he and I did together.
Carl: Did he have tea parties with you? Did he play dolls with you?
Me: Well, no.
(Thought I kept to myself: Given what I did to my dolls, I wouldn’t have wanted him to play dolls with me.)
Carl: Do you think your parents were interested in your opinions or preferences or feelings?
Carl: So, your value to your parents was about how you could meet their needs . . ??
Me: Yeah . . . I guess that is true.
That carries over into all of my relationships. When I was in the process of selecting a new therapist, I realized I tend to pick selfish, immature people because I don’t think I can do better.
Men either want me around as an employee because I work hard, or they want me around in “romantic” situations because they can get sex from me. I have a history of having sex because it is the only value I believe I have in social situations. If I give them sex, there is a better chance they will stick around. When I stop giving them what they want, they don’t want me around anymore.
If I stick around when I’m no longer useful to them, they get aggravated at me and want me around even less. Therefore, I try to be as useful as possible so they won’t wish I were gone.
I learned that men run if they smell desperation . . . so I learned early to not allow my desperate need for attention and affection to show. Which, by the way, is what was at the heart of the mug incident.
Anyway, it is my pattern to struggle to find a way to get them to pay attention to me without showing how desperately I want their attention.
Carl: Ouch . . . you wanted so desperately to be loved. It must have been very painful to not have that need met!
Me: And, I don’t have anything to offer more “evolved” – as in, less selfish – people, so I assume they don’t want me around. I don’t want to be a bother to them, so I just keep my distance.
Carl: Ouch! The best you can hope for in a relationship is to not be a burden.
(Pause to allow that to sink in)
Carl: Why do you think your parents squashed your natural child expression?
Me: Because they would look like bad parents if their children behaved in a non-disciplined manner. They gave us a strict script to follow so it would be clear to us what was expected of us.
Carl: So, in order to preserve their reputation as “good” parents, they had to discipline you harshly for expressing your natural self – because your non-compliance would indicate their failure as parents?
[Continued in the next post . . . ]
Other posts in Marie’s series:
- Part 1: My Therapist Stinks… I’m Searching for a New One
- Part 2: Choosing A Therapist… and Breathing Again
- Part 3: I Have Always Had to Keep the “Real Me” In Hiding…
- Part 4: My First Therapy Session with Carl
- Part 5: An Email I Sent to Carl After Our First Session
- Part 6: Dad Threatened to Kick Me Out, So I Planned Accordingly…
- Part 7: Do You Feel You Have Intrinsic Value as a Person?
- Part 8: I Am Learning Not to Fight the Tears
- Part 9: It’s About How I Have Violent Fantasies
- Part 10: He Is Providing That Validation That I So Desperately Needed
- Part 11: Relief, and Carl Assures Me He Does Know How to Help Me
- Part 12: I Feel Like I Can Relax Into His Leadership and Expertise
- Part 13: Remembering Child Abuse
- Part 14: Anger Feels Like a Deadly Emotion for Me Because, if I Was Angry, I Got Hit
- Part 15: Relief, Terror and Shame