The Final Therapy Session: My number one value and creating room for 'both' to be true
It will be my last "therapy" session on Thursday before I set sail to be [insert something dramatic and unknown here]. If you hadn't caught the reference yet, I have writer's block or I'm still on this week's struggle bus searching for motivation to do just about anything after 4pm. Maybe we can blame Mercury in Retrograde, it makes sense considering what has happened lately. Although, I didn't know it drains your energy too.
[Insert transition here], I have re-acquainted myself with my blog today to answer a prompt given by my counselor in training. [I am part of a program where I pay a very small fee in order to receive counseling from students finishing their master's]. She asked me to think back to the start of my sessions, which began in October of 2019, and to think about what you would say to yourself knowing what you know now.
Funny, I started this counseling program and ended in the same month, their program runs on a regular school year. Ended a chapter of my life in 2019 and I'm starting a new one tomorrow. Crazy.
Anyways...she also stated,
"You can also think about how you are feeling while you write."
Classic, just classic. This is a typical practice among the counseling community: having conversations with your past self in order to unveil your darkest secrets and forgive yourself. I'm sure there are many other reasons and it likely has some impact if it is a well known tactic. But it does make me feel slightly uncomfortable, not in the way that I'm going to discover some crazy secret about myself, rather it seems cheesy. Like buying a ticket to one of those self-healing conventions.
When she told me about the prompt, it also felt underwhelming. I wanted to do something more exciting and thought provoking. Yea, I'm sure it would be good to reflect and put it down on paper, but you get the idea. As I had told previous counselors in training, most of what I have learned is hard to articulate, it's just a feeling. I also feel pressured when I get asked to summarize what I have learned, it's like I have to let them know I am paying attention in class while also making them look/feel good about their progress (since it is likely what they have to do with all of their cases in order to finish the degree). At the same time, I feel cheated. This is my therapy, so why do we have to summarize, it symbolizes an ending and I'm not finished here lady!
Unfortunately this is where the law comes into play and you are not allowed to practice on patients who live outside of the state. Considering how much online therapy is going on, though, that seems ridiculous to me. I'm glad we have federal and state laws on some things, but I almost wish that this was more centralized, especially healthcare.
I digress, on to the prompt:
"What would you tell yourself knowing what you know now?"
Maybe there is room for both. Pt. I
This was what I believe the previous counselor in training was trying to help me understand, although her version was using "black, white, and gray" thinking. I like my current counselor's version better. To be honest, I'm not entirely comfortable with the phrase, because it just means people can exist in their lives 'willy nilly'. If there are no rules, aka black and white, how do we know right from wrong? You can twist the lever, sure, but if you want it to actually work, you have to push and pull the lever. Know what I mean?
I think this phrase works more for letting things exist as they are, as in there are always two sides to a story. In my Zen Buddhism class we learned about Yin and Yang--black and white--good and evil and how they only exist when both are present. Like two sides of a sheet of paper, one cannot exist without the other. I guess it's how you make peace with different opinions and feelings. If you want to coexist with those different opinions and feelings, then you're on your way to compromise and boundary setting. You ever see those illusions, the pictures that are made to look like two different things? Depending on who looks at it, it could be a woman or a horse riding into the sunset.
It's interesting because I like to play devil's advocate, I studied Cultural Anthropology and the concept of cultural relativism stood out to me. We frequently questioned whether we truly knew right from wrong. The idea of cannibalism came up quite a lot, generally those societies only ate the deceased, it was a ceremonial ritual to allow spirits to pass on into the 'other side' appropriately.
Maybe there is room for both. Pt II
Let's scale it back a little bit, thinking of our culture in the US and also just the concept of what it means to be a man and a woman. It is a very different day and age for gender roles to exist, you are the devil if you believe men and women were born to be a certain way in society. But coming from this scientific background, I do believe there is an inherent truth behind how men and women behave naturally based on biology. [And maybe this is where I exist and others don't, my head hurts >.<]
It all comes down to when we had conversations in therapy around how someone was treating me while we were dating. For example, the amount and quality of communication between men and women. I was consistently asked if I communicated my needs, I felt that I had. I really did, I don't know how much more communicative I could have been. If I tell you I like phone conversations, then I ask you to call more often, and then I call you myself over a 2 week period...? Even outside of counseling I felt a bit scrutinized, maybe because those people I confided in were just as perplexed as me, they would say the same things. "Are you sure you communicated it to them? Why don't you say it like this?" So in some ways, from my previous counselor, I felt like she didn't trust me. That led me to actually give people second chances--because I thought I was the problem--when they did not deserve them.
This "room for everything to be true based on perspective" treads a line where people can just do whatever they want. And you run the risk of someone putting up with behaviors that are very unhealthy. This leads me to believe there should be some black and white, aka guidelines.
I think my current counselor did a good job of guiding me better than my last. She encouraged me and let me know that there is a little piece that says I didn't have to stick around in those situations. If you want to change or you want to work through it with someone, there is that option, but if someone continuously crosses a boundary or ignore your needs, ere on the side of, they just aren't your person. There is room for them to still be a good person in general, but maybe just not for you.
It's still hard the amount of times I went through rejection, it seemed apparent that I was the issue. That my values and standards were wrong and that I was too much and was asking for too much. Worrying too much, etc. But the reality was, there was something wrong, but it was just that I was letting too many voices get in the way of mine. I sometimes didn't say exactly what I needed, I expected them to know --because I don't want to tell someone to show interest.
In one of my last sessions, I realized how high up this value was on my list. It came about in a conversation we had about honesty vs loyalty. The two are quite different. It's certainly better to just walk away with a small explanation rather than to let someone rot with worry about what is wrong with them. We could say it's there problem, but you also chose to involve yourself in that person's life. That person gave you something so precious, their time. Even the most self assured person would appreciate the act of compassion that is honesty. How many times have we seen cartoons, movies, and real life scenarios when lying gets you into big trouble. Or even how living in a lie eats away at your soul. How can you live in your truth?
There will be times that we lie, I do it too, when it is appropriate. It's not about telling everyone and anyone how you feel about them, but just living at peace.
There was a time where I questioned honesty, it seems that lying actually gets you much further. But what I learned was that you can be honest with yourself and not share it with others. Thinking more reflectively on work environments.
Also, when you aren't honest with someone, it's a huge insult. If you pretend you are happy when you aren't --you are basically saying you don't trust that person to work through something with you. Or that you don't even want to.
Some people in your past may have been uncomfortable around you because of the amount of heavy and personal stories you told them.
It's ok to seek advice and feel unsure of yourself, but not with everyone in your immediate social circle. Not everyone is as empathetic as you and you will be judged for it. You will appear weak, people will take advantage of you, and they will not take you seriously--just because you ask for so much help. Also, do not feel ashamed or less because you did share at one point, you were just being vulnerable and wanted to be comforted.
You are still going to struggle with self worth and value.
It comes in spurts where you see it and it feels great, but this is something that will take more time. I felt value today sharing what I learned in counseling with my dad and the fact that he was receptive. Most of the time, I feel that what I say isn't impactful to others. That's going to happen a lot but it doesn't mean you should feel less valuable. Everyone learns in their own way and not everyone will be impacted by you, the same goes for you. This may come from putting less value on the opinion of others and focusing more on what you value. You know what you have to offer.
You attach your success to your income and you also hate it.
I don't know that this will ever change, society makes it hard. Surviving without a certain amount of money is hard and creates certain problems for people that are unrelateable to those in different income brackets. I like certain people, but for the most part, I don't. I think that money will make it so that I no longer have to rely on others, I won't need to network or kiss anyone's ass. I can comfortably be the introvert I am and divide my time among those who I actually enjoy. I think I tend to do this now, regardless of my income, but it feels more difficult. I end up in situations I don't want to be because I am desperate and need to survive. So putting on a smile and putting my head down is where I am at.
Maybe that means I shouldn't be ashamed about wanting to have money. I want a reasonable amount to not deal with all of you nut cases! I don't want it to be cruel or selfish, I want it so I can find peace with myself. People demonize it so much, like money doesn't solve our problems. Yeah, at a certain point when you are filthy rich and don't know what to do with it. But if you've still got a bit of debt, you travel occasionally, and you can pay your bills comfortably, what is so evil about that? Just makes me think that it's all a scam to make people think if they chase after money, they've lost their soul. It depends on who you are talking to.
No amount of practicing trauma will prepare you for it. I have to give credit to my former counselor for this one. There was a phrase she used that used to play in my head any time I started predicting outcomes. Of course it could play out more positively than I thought, but my mind set was always playing out "worst case scenario". I wish I could remember what she said. She also introduced the idea of CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), I am very interested in this when I am able to pursue counseling again. In any event, my need to control every outcome is still very much there, but it's better.
Sometimes I wonder if my relationship is as healthier than I am used to because I started to work through this before I met him. Before I met him, I would always expect the worst out of my dating and financial situations. When I brought those thoughts up in counseling, we talked about more positive scenarios. It's like my brain thought it was nonsense to be positive about anything. If I stayed positive, I'd be blindsided for sure and the disappointment would be greater than if I was prepared for it. What a way to keep yourself disgruntled all the time. I think this is what they mean by self-sabotage.
I wondered recently if this habit of mine was learned through my mom. She would always say, "What's the worst possible scenario?" Usually when I was panicked by a relationship, we would say the worst thing is that a break up would happen. But that didn't help at all, I know it was well intentioned but it definitely did not register correctly in my mind. My mom has several other ways of lessening my anxiety, but that was not one of them. In addition, I think my mom went through a lot of hardship in life, but one that stuck with me--due to me being old enough to understand. They year I turned 16 was also 2008 and I think that is enough explanation. My mom knew a lot of things, but when you get older, you realize your parents can't possibly know everything. Nor can we predict every situation, especially as a single parent. You rely on yourself to make the best decisions. It still feels like we are recovering from that mess. But I remember when I was in college, every semester was a question of whether I'd be able to keep going. There was a constant worry around whether or not I'd have enough financial aid to cover tuition. It started to get repetitive and we were always fine, we always made it through, but up until we received the letter, it was like escaping insanity with the skin of our teeth.
I never want to miss a beat in life, I have to have all of my ducks in a row, especially as someone who has been making less than average income in an extremely expensive area, even with a degree. That just tells me, you have to be on your game. The best way to do that is to imagine the worst, expect to pay the most and receive the worst returns. In most cases, it helps, but the journey there is quite stressful.
One of my previous counselor's points in that was also that I over prepared, I agreed, but it felt like a luxury not to. But it is possible! You just spend one hour on researching credit card companies and then you take a break. You don't have to spend months researching something, the only way you learn is by doing. But lets be honest, wouldn't it just be more logical for companies to be transparent about their credit card policies, let you know where they pull their reports from. Or doctors post their prices on their website like a menu, what have you got to hide? It's just highway robbery. Again a luxury when you have money to not worry so much about where you are spending your money.
When people do 20mph over the speed limit, all I can think is, "Damn, that person must not be worried about paying for a wreckless driving ticket, court fees, or if their car is totaled. That means they live comfortably." Speeding is literally a luxury to me. Saying out loud sounds crazy, but can you argue with me? Some people are just crazy or don't care about anything, maybe money doesn't stress them out. I do envy them, but not to the point I'd want to be in their mind set.
Trust yourself a little more, you are starting to, but it's still a work in progress.
One good point of progress was the bit about not listening to those who tell you you are too picky or "bougie". I use bougie to describe myself, but it's also self-deprecating and minimizing/shaming my needs and desires. I like pretty people and I love healthy and tasty food, they both come with a price tag, but it makes me happy. Why do I have to suffer through bad food and relationships to feel accepted by on person, a blip in my entire existence? I'm happy you enjoy your ramen, egg, and spam diet but I'd rather save myself on weekly diarrhea and future medical bills.
Trauma doesn't mean you need to witness murder or be bludgeoned in the head.
It also doesn't always come from your childhood, even as it echoes as prime through the counseling community. As mentioned, those years from the Great Recession had a huge impact on you emotionally, from age 16-24. You had fun in college but the fun only served as a band-aid. You were dismissed often, or felt dismissed, for being upset quite often about it. They called it being bitter. Your college experience and the emptiness and insurmountable amount of debt it left you had nothing to do with you being dumb or not working hard. You did what you could with what you had and you also don't need to explain the whole story in detail to everyone to justify how you felt. You know anyone who listened would understand. It wasn't in therapy in particular, but a therapist that you follow online that posted something pretty liberating for you. "You may not ever get over something and that's OK." All that angst you held from being ashamed for feeling the way you did, for vocalizing your pain in the unfairness that is our education system. Thinking that I was victimizing myself and that I was just bitching about something that happened years ago and how I could've changed something. It's like telling someone who felt bad they were sold diet pills because you had a broken foot and didn't lose any weight. Then you are just told it's your fault for believing in something, which in reality is the same as saying that you were at fault for trusting yourself. You could've just gone to physical therapy or did more research on how to lose weight with an injury. Don't let people minimize your feelings, these things happened to you and affected you. Everyone has an opinion and they base them off of their own personal experiences. Another reason to keep your circle tight.
That's enough summation, I have plenty to discuss at today's final session. I re-wrote this in the morning because something happened and my last draft spazzed out from me pasting that picture prior to writing. Although I still tended to expand on my thoughts, I was able to reorganize and come up with cleaner thoughts for this one.