Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my therapist of two and half years. I didn’t know he was leaving until three weeks before his final week. He just dropped it on me during session: “So, I will be leaving. I will no longer be practicing in the state. Had I been simply leaving the practice I would ask you to follow me.”
Admittedly, I was somewhat stunned, but I thought it might be a good opportunity to take stock of the process. Should I continue therapy? Where exactly did I stand in terms of recovery? Am I recovered from the psychological warfare and domestic abuse that ultimately ended my marriage? Are the past issues like family of origin abuse, for example, that kept me blind to some of the abusive elements in my marriage appropriately processed? Did the EMDR address the maladaptively processed trauma that was lingering?
I liked to think so. But, was I in the clear? I didn’t want to run a great race and then fumble at the finish line because of self-judgment: “You sure do need a lot of therapy, MJ. Just how fucked up are you?” That judgmental accusation is probably not new to most of us. Stigma is often what keeps people out of therapy or keeps them from meeting their goals. Or fear.
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Rachel Maddow commented on therapy after describing herself as possibly bipolar:
“Have you had psychotherapy?”
“No.” (Maddow speaking)
“Are you afraid of changes to the psyche it might produce?”
“No. I’m just not interested. I’m happy to talk to you for this profile, because I’m interested in you and in this process. But, in general, talking about myself for an hour—it’s not something that I would pay for the privilege of. It just sounds like no fun.” (The New Yorker)
Well, no. Therapy is no fun. It’s not supposed to be fun. I do not enjoy therapy at all.
In my last session, my therapist introduced me to the only other PhD in the practice with neurocognitive training. His name is Jack. Jack is new to the practice. My therapist suggested that Jack and I meet. Should I want to continue or check in from time to time, he thought Jack would be a good person for me. I made a face.
While I am a huge advocate of psychological flexibility, I don’t seem to always want to practice it. Change is hard. On the inside, I was pouty and begrudgingly agreeable. On the outside, I was agreeable and happily shook Jack’s hand although I think he saw right through me.
And then, I hugged my therapist goodbye. And, that was it. I’ll never see him again.
I saw Jack yesterday for a trial run. When we chatted after my therapist introduced us, he had some words of wisdom that I couldn’t ignore. He suggested that I consider not abandoning my process yet. If I had come back to therapy to address an acute problem like abuse, then it is often much easier to do core work once the acute suffering has passed. He is correct, but I was just getting used to the idea of “being done”. I liked the idea of having my Tuesdays free. No more therapy! What should I do?
So, when I sat in his office yesterday, he asked me if I had any issues with “right brain” stuff? I rephrased it for him.
“If you’re asking me if I have dissonance between what I know to be true and what I feel to be true, then my answer is a resounding yes. You have just met the poster girl for cognitive dissonance. Let me shake your hand.”
His proposition? Let’s start focusing on that then. I know what is true, but my “distortion machine” often gets in my own way. He wants to address that so that both my right and left brain unite and function together rather than fight each other.
Well, shit! Yes, please! Let’s get on with it then.
He asked me what to look for in terms of how I might evade during session.
“Do you check out, intellectualize, use humor….that kind of thing?”
O sweet fancy Moses, where do I begin? If only I could do an entire therapy session in Anne Taintor postcards:
You know, this isn’t a bad idea. ::she says with hopeful sarcasm::
Painfully setting my snark aside, I’ll say that I don’t know another way to get better with efficiency than to find a well-matched therapist and get to work. There are ways to do work on your own, but it takes longer; and the process is often more painful and cumbersome.
As always, keep going.
All images are courtesy of Anne Taintor collection and annetaintor.com