I started out by asking J if he could recommend someone that my husband, son and I could see together, like a family therapist. My son is taking four online classes at the community college and we believe he is failing all of them. Something needs to change. J asked me how I convinced my husband to go along with this, and it wasn’t hard since nothing he has done has worked. I expressed my concern that I would be the only one talking and he said if the therapist is good that will not be a problem. We’ll see.
Then we talked about Thanksgiving, and I told him it was very good, no complaints, everyone was polite and civil. I told him that I volunteered at the annual Turkey Chase 10K in the morning, usually I run it, but I can’t run that far yet. We talked about how that experience was.
Then I asked him if he wanted to know what I did all weekend, and I told him I read all of my therapy summaries from my blog. I said it was good because I got to see the big picture, and I know he doesn’t like the big picture, but it is helpful to me. He denied not liking the big picture.
So I told him what I thought the three main conflicts that we have had:
1. He believes that people have value for what they do, and I believe that have value for who they are.
2. He likes me to talk about the day to day events vs the larger issues.
3. J likes to talk about concrete, detailed things vs abstract, theoretical ideas.
I told him the story about the experience I had at the beginning of therapy when I didn’t know what to talk about, and he would always tell me that I could talk about anything. But 9 months after I started I happened to tell him about a dinner I went to with some friends, and at the end of the session he said, “That was the first regular session we have had.”
I also told him that I thought he was happy when my cousin od’d and I had my medical issue, not because he wanted us to be sick, but because it gave me some day to day stuff to discuss.
He asked me what I could do about these differences, and I said I could either trust him that talking about day to day things will lead to change in the bigger things, or I could leave.
He didn’t get at all defensive about any of these, and he said that there doesn’t necessarily have to be such a big difference between the way I think and the way he thinks. It’s not so black and white.
He somewhat changed his story about what gives people value – now he says that it isn’t what people do, it is how they do it.
He did say that all of his other clients come in and talk about their week, or their day, or something that happened that week. Ugh – could you imagine listening to that all day? Do you think that is really true?
J asked me how I have changed and I told him that I don’t have self destructive behaviors, I am reconnecting with friends and exposing my vulnerability to them and am somewhat able to talk to my husband. I said that I presume these improvements are a result of therapy, but how would a person know? Of course, there is still the problem of my life.
Then we got into the “purpose of life” discussion, which I have to give him credit for, he kept it pretty abstract. This led to talking about my life, and how I had a purpose for 20 years, and now I don’t. We came up with a list of things we think people might say if asked what their purpose in life is. I said that maybe having a purpose in life is too lofty a goal, and I should just fill my life with things that I enjoy doing. We spent a lot of time talking about my job, which I think is just a job, I don’t have a career and J said it may not be creative or challenging, but my employers value me and rely on me, I have a lot of flexibility and I don’t have to sit in a cubicle all day. He said I should think about my worth to my employers.
I told him that I have been thinking that I need to plan more activities on the weekends, because I don’t usually do anything except household things. When I spent the day with my friend’s husband last week it was really fun. J asked me what I would do and I told him I haven’t thought of many things yet, but the movies is one thing, and I also want to take a drive to a little mountain that is not far from here to hike and have a picnic lunch, take some hikes along the river or maybe take a cooking class. I asked him if he thought it was good idea that I do things on the weekends and he said yes. He told me to spend some time during the week checking the paper and the internet to see what things might be happening on the weekends.
He talked about the AARP brochures that always show an older couple doing fun things – golfing together, walking on the beach holding hands, etc. He said it is purely a marketing technique, but the idea is that now that the kids are grown and gone, or somewhat gone, it is time to do fun things for oneself. I think it would be better if I had someone I could do the stuff with, but I don’t mind doing it alone.
J said he observed that it doesn’t take much for me to feel like something is enjoyable and gives me a connected feeling. For example, going out to lunch with friends, or volunteering at the race. He doesn’t mean that I am a simpleton, but that I get very engaged in things. He said he doesn’t know anybody who has written out summaries of their therapy sessions (maybe no one has ever told him), and that is an example of how engaged I get in the process. So it’s not like I need to discover the cure for cancer in order to have a full life.
At the end he said, “See, we didn’t even have a fight.” Yep, it was a good session. I liked the way that talking about a big picture abstract thing led to a more practical thing, rather than the other way around.
For anyone who doesn’t think they are good enough, not worthy, don’t like themselves and think others don’t like them either, I have a book to recommend. It is by Brene Brown and is called “The Gifts of Imperfection.” It’s good, I have read it before but I don’t think I was ready to really hear what she was saying then. I may be in that place now though. If you would like to see Brene in action watch this. If you go to about the 11 minute mark she talks about her therapy in trying to become more vulnerable.
I’m thinking of printing out one of my therapy summaries and giving it to J so he can see what I write. I told him that I could tell him everything he has said for the last three years. I would print out a good session of course, but I bet if we both wrote a summary of the same session our stories would be totally different. Irvin Yalom wrote a book like that, both he and his clients wrote about their sessions.