On Repeat

(or the Stories We Tell)

Almost as soon as I hit the “Publish” button on my last post, I started to have writer’s remorse.  I feared that I had not actually said anything new and was merely restating that which I have said many times before on this very blog.  And maybe that’s partly true, and maybe I’m being unduly harsh on myself.  I nearly added an apology at the end of the last post, to say sorry for saying the same things over and over again.  But then I caught myself.  After all, this is a place for me to try to process and make sense of what is going on in my head.  So, yes, sometimes that same diatribe might need to come out in a few different ways before I am able to fully process the narrative.  Maybe I need to write it and say it several times in order to fully believe it and comprehend it and internalize it.  And I don’t think it’s exactly the same thing.  Maybe some of the facts are different, but my understanding and self-awareness shifts each time.  Maybe not by much, but I take baby steps just the same.

What happened with the ex-therapist was a monumental event in my life.  It was an incredibly intense few years with her, and a terrible, brutal ending.  It is going to take time to unpack it all.

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When the Shrink’s Away

(or 35 Days Down, 14 Days to Go…)

I find it hard to believe, but here we are, already at the end of August.  Yes, August, that glorious month of the year when shrinks everywhere go off and do something else.  What, I’m not sure.  When I asked my own therapist what she does during this mysterious August sabbatical, she replied “oh, it changes each year.”  Which is a typical shrinky-response but does not, actually, answer my question.  Who knows.  Perhaps she is off relaxing on a tropical island or attending an international conference or making lesson plans for the fall semester or catching up on sleep.  Maybe she just sits in her office and basks in the quietness and emptiness of it all.  I honestly have no idea and, as she is not giving any hints, I guess I must just let my imagination run wild.

After I asked her what she would be doing this August, and after she gave her non-response, she then inquired “do you have any feelings about that?”  I simply said “no.”  Firstly, I’m not going to spend any more time in therapy talking about any feelings that I have because of something that a therapist did or did not say or do.  For me, that shifts too much of the focus from me to them, and maybe I’m still squeamish at that prospect.  It’s much better to keep everything squarely focused on me less I get pulled into someone else’s shit.  And secondly, and more importantly, the feelings that I did have were actually ones of relief and anticipation.

So I said “no, I don’t have any feelings.”  And then “I think we all need a break, every now and again.”  And that’s the truth.  I need a break from her and therapy probably as much, if not more so, than she needs a break from me and her work.

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Anonymous

(or Who Are You?)

The other day I received this notification from WordPress: Your stats are booming! the unSecret Garden is getting lots of traffic.

stats

It wasn’t that a blog post had gone viral or that I was lucky enough to be featured on the WordPress Discover site.  It was just that someone had found my blog and was busy reading their way through nearly the whole thing – which at current count stands at 40 posts and 62,625 words.

I continue to be amazed and heartened that anyone even wants to read what I write.  It becomes more compelling when others find my experiences and reflections to be meaningful and helpful.  It makes some of the nonsense of this world seem less senseless.

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So an Analyst Walks into a Bar…

(or What’s Love Got to Do With It?)

My absolute favorite part of the New York Times is the Sunday Style section.  It’s where I get to read my favorite column “Modern Love” and an advice column called “Social Q’s” and usually some juicy celebrity gossip.  It’s the one section that I love to read in print and will avoid online, even if an article pops up in the “Most Popular” or “Editor’s Picks” sections.

So last week, as I quickly perused the headlines over breakfast, an article on the front page of the Style section immediately caught my eye.  It was titled “Still Talking After All These Years” and it was a recap of the American Psychoanalytic Association’s annual conference held at the New York Hilton Midtown.  If I had known, I would have seriously considered crashing the “new attendees’ cocktail party” just for a laugh.  Although the mere thought of 1,600 analysts hanging out together for a week is somehow deeply disturbing, even if the Times writer described the mood as “effervescent.”

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Cancellation

(or Is It Time to Quit Therapy?)

I did something over the holidays that would have been unthinkable this time a year ago.  I cancelled a therapy appointment simply because I had something better to do with my time.  I chose to spend a day in the city with my wife, taking in an art exhibit followed by lunch and uninterrupted conversation with each other.  If I had kept my appointment, we would not have been able to do both, or we would have done both but would have been rushed and it would not have been as enjoyable or pleasant.  So I cancelled and didn’t feel the least bit of regret or remorse or concern.  I was forthright in my decision and never questioned it or second-guessed it.  It was actually a really easy decision to make.

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Stitching

(or How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?)

Whenever I need to engage in some emotional self-flagellation, I know exactly where to go.  The ex-therapist still maintains a very active Twitter feed, and if I am stupid enough to look, I am bound to find something there that upsets me and makes me feel bad about myself.  I had stopped lurking altogether, for a time, but as the seasons started to shift and the cooler weather finally arrived, my psyche felt pulled back, still trying to reconcile the events of the past year.  A year ago she first told me she was sick.  In a few more weeks, it will be a year since our last session.  And in a few more weeks after that, it will be a year since she dumped me.  I can still feel it all deep in my bones: the fear, the disruption, the panic.

The ex-therapist has tweeted ad nauseam about how clients have “agency” and don’t have to read or follow any of her postings online.  I find this defense to be ignorant at best, and grandiosely self-justifying in reality.  She probably knows that she should be more careful with her tweets and words, knowing that there are clients and ex-clients out there, but she just can’t help herself.  So she constructs this elaborate justification for her actions, to make it all seem reasonable and okay.  The problem with this outlook is that the relationship between therapist and client can be intimate and intense in a way that is unlike any other relationship.  It’s also imbalanced, with the therapist usually knowing more about the client than vice versa.  So it is only natural that the client will seek out any information available to try to make sense of the person on the other side of the couch.  And the ex-therapist made that information so tantalizingly available, like leading a kid into a candy store.  It is irrational to then expect the kid to not indulge in the candy laid out before them.

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unFramed

(or 2,700 seconds)

The therapeutic frame.  That pillar of the therapeutic relationship draconically enforced by authoritarian therapists and equally loathed by clients everywhere.  Or so I thought.

Shrinky term:

frame (noun, frām) – the setting of boundaries or ground rules for the contractual aspects of therapy. [1]The therapeutic frame governs the rules and expectations of therapy: time, place, fee, confidentiality, contact.  It is a crucial element for the creation of safety, for both client and therapist.

I spent 4 years in therapy where the frame was decidedly gray.  I’ve spent much of the last 9 months having to re-learn how to be in a healthy, boundaried therapeutic relationship.  All that time, before, I thought I was fighting against boundaries.  Now I see that I was actually reacting to a distinct lack of boundaries.  Just as children do better with well-defined boundaries and expectations, so do therapy clients.

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