I started by saying I was sorry for not being nice last week, and J said it was no problem, not even a blip on his radar screen, but he accepts the apology. He thought I was frustrated for a short time, but I said that I thought I put up a big wall and I was sorry. Then I noticed his lamp. I was watching Entourage Sunday night and I recognized the lamp in Ari’s office, but I couldn’t remember where I had seen it. And there it was on J’s desk! I asked him if he watched Entourage and he said he did, and I told him he has the same lamp as Ari, but Ari has the tall one, and J has the desktop version. That was a relief, it was kind of bugging me trying to remember where I had seen that lamp.
Then he brought out the box and asked if I felt more pressure to talk about things since they are in the box. I said that it was supposed to make things easier, but I didn’t understand why he didn’t choose something out of the box last week. He didn’t really explain, but I think it was because I had sent him an email and he wanted to continue the conversation. I think that, last week being what it was, I would have been unsatisfied with whatever we had talked about.
So he pulled a slip out of the box. It was “anxiety about jobs.” This was kind of good. Not a difficult topic to talk about and something that has been bothering me lately. This box thing is a good idea. I recommend it.
I told him what was going on with my boss, the college consultant, the one who has seemed frustrated with me lately, but probably because she, herself, has been stressed. We talked about how she and I are somewhat friendly and if I didn’t work for her anymore would we still be friends. And do I need this job? And how I promised her she was my first priority.
J said I need to have strong boundaries, when I took the new job I told her that I could still work for her, but only on Mondays. And I can work for her for as long as she needs me on Mondays, but not other days. In August I actually worked for her for 44 hours total, when in the months from March through July it was 11 to 25 hours per month. So if she thinks I can’t put in extra time due to “my other job” this shows that I can. I told J how she is always talking about “my other job” and he said this is something that I should just overlook, and not get into with her. Because there is no point.
And I should accept the fact that she might eventually decide that she wants someone with more flexibility, despite the fact that I can work the number of hours that she needs. He asked if I thought we would remain friends if I didn’t work for her anymore.
I said I probably wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t pursue the relationship. This led to a discussion of how I am isolating from my friends and I have no friends anymore. This is actually another piece of paper in the box, so maybe we killed two topics today. Or at least maimed.
J asked if my friends were still pursuing me. I said they are. He asked why they might be doing that. I came up with some lame reasons, and he suggested that maybe they like me? I had to admit that maybe they do, I have been friends with some of these people for many, many years. He asked what was holding me back from being with them. I said I was too sensitive right now and they do and say things that hurt me. He asked for examples.
I told him about what happened the other day at the pool, when my friend said I was so confident and could handle criticism easily. I told J that it was obvious that I am not like that, and how could my friend think that about me? How could he NOT know me so well?
I told him that I have known this particular friend for a long time, although we really only got close over the last couple of years, that my husband and I socialize alone and together with him and his wife, that he and I run together, that we have raced together. As a matter of fact we did a race together and it was overwhelming for me because it was crowded and I was holding onto him because I was kind of freaked out about the crowds and the noise and the anxiety about the race. So why does he think I am so confident?
J said that maybe he noticed I was anxious, but I persevered and I ran the race and that made me seem confident.
J then tried to convince me, or show me through examples, that I am confident. He gave my jobs as an example. I immediately said, “Anyone could do my jobs.” He commented on how immediately I dismissed myself. He said, “Sure, a monkey could do what you do.” Probably. He said I put myself into situations which cause anxiety, but I do them anyway. He spent some time on this, but, you know, I am having a hard time remembering. I wonder what that says about me.
One thing he said was that we all have parts. He said that he doesn’t dress like this at home; he doesn’t talk like this at home. We all have parts that are like petals of a flower and sometimes some of the petals are more prominent than others. It doesn’t mean we are fake, just that we show different parts of ourselves at different times.
I do agree with this, but I don’t think that is the gist of the issue for me. Of course we have work personas, home personas, social personas. That is normal. What is the issue for me is either not having anyone in my life to whom I can show all of my parts, my most vulnerable parts, or having those people but not being able to show them my parts, because of my own distrust or fear. That is when I feel a disconnect from people and friends and family.
I asked him if he remembered me telling him about the parrot t and how I told her that I had no self-esteem, and I’m never good enough, etc. And her response was, “When you walked in here my first thought was how put together you are and how confident you seem.” I asked J, “Where did she get that?” And he said, “That is how you are.” I said, “How can anyone think that? What is it about me?” I felt like asking him if it is because I am tall, and maybe tall people seem confident, but it seemed stupid. I still don’t understand how someone could think that about me just by me walking in the room, let alone after knowing me for a few years.
We talked about the writing workshop and he said he thought it is great that I am going to do this. I said it was impulsive, well not really, that I was thinking about it for a long time, but then I just signed up, and that part was impulsive. He said, “You mean, rather than typing in your first name, and then coming back in an hour and typing in your last name….” Yeah, kind of like that. I said that I hadn’t planned on doing the online registration on that day; that I was still kind of thinking about it, but then I just did it. Like pulling off a band-aid.
Then he gave a very bad analogy about someone having cancer for a few years, and then they just die, and it seems sudden, but it’s not really because they had cancer for a few years. I said, “Interesting analogy” and he said, “Yeah, it sounded kind of bad coming out of my mouth” and I said, “So I’m headed towards my death by signing up for this class?” and he said, “That’s not exactly what I meant”.
I told him that I wasn’t sure I could do the class, and he said he thinks I can. I’m leaving open the option of not going. It cost $228 dollars. That’s a motivating factor. But fear is an un-motivating factor.
We also discussed how sensitive I am. Previously J has disagreed with me when I said I was too sensitive. But today he said I need to become less sensitive. That when dealing with my boss I need to have a thicker skin. He said I know logically that she should not have gone to Hawaii during her busiest month, and she is stressed out, and I didn’t do anything wrong or different than what we agreed upon. I need to put the responsibility for anything going wrong on her, and not take this upon myself. I do know that logically, but I still get upset. How does one develop a thick skin, and is it even worth trying to change that about myself? I do want to keep this job. When I was there yesterday I realized how much I enjoy being in that environment, that I like my boss and her new partner, that when things are going well I feel important and useful and we have fun, intelligent conversations. And she pays me very well, which, when I work 44 hours like I did this month, is a good chunk of change.
I told J, “It pays for therapy.” He didn’t have a good response, just kind of caught him off guard.
So in the end, it was a fine session, I felt that I talked a lot, I felt that he felt useful, that this was here and now data which is what he likes to work with, there wasn’t a lot of “feelings” stuff which is uncomfortable for me.
I’m still a little unsure about the part where he tried to convince me I am confident and I have parts like everyone else. But I don’t want to go into self-defense mode immediately. I think this is something I have done too much in therapy, that I think he is minimizing me and not validating me, and instead this time I am going to think about what he said and how it could be positive and enlightening. And if I still have trouble with it we can talk about it more next week.