Will you come see me Thursdays and Saturdays? What have you got to lose?
I got home early Thursday. I left work at a little after three PM. I had an appointment here in Livermore at 5. I went to go see a therapist. It was a twenty minute consultation to see if we would be "a good fit," a phrase which is, I am coming to suspect, a term of the art. At any rate, I know that the therapist thinks we can work, and I certainly don't have any misgivings about her after the meeting. I find her very personable. She's about my age, married, with two adult children, so we are apt to have had similar life experiences. So...I'm doing this.
The appointment ran for a bit over twenty minutes and I did most of the talking. She asked a few questions here and there. From having spoken with other people who have experience in this, I have come to know that this is par for the course. While I was talking to her, I didn't exactly feel "at ease," but that was entirely expected. I was talking about things, my marriage, my family, my feelings, that I don't usually share with anyone easily, much less someone whom I have just met. So, I knew, while I was talking with her, that I was nervous. I noticed, while I was there, that I had trouble looking her in the eyes, and I tried pulling my focus back onto her face while I was speaking with her, but I kept shifting my gaze off to the sides, because that was more comfortable than meeting her eyes. Why was I aware to that extent, but somehow less aware that I was so tense? When I got home, I discovered that I was feeling the after-effects of an adrenaline dump, that jittery feeling coupled with the faint disquiet in the guts. I didn't notice that I was "that tense" at the time. It wasn't a very big hit, because the jangly went away in an hour or so, as opposed to longer, and the nausea sensation was very faint and it faded faster than the jitters, not too bad, and again, not unexpected.
What have I read/looked at?
When we spoke Thursday, I had mentioned that I had done some reading and that, having learned some things, I am faced with more questions and I am not entirely certain what I am doing to answer them. Not surprisingly, the therapist asked me what it was in particular that I had been reading. So, I did some digging around on my bookshelves, and in my memory, and came up with a list of the writings that touch on psychology which I have found particularly helpful or memorable.
- Psychology 100-level classes + additional reading, some of which is listed below
- Sociology 100-level classes + additional independent reading
- Anthropology 100-level classes + additional independent reading
- Philosophy 100-level classes + additional independent reading
- Objectivism, Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden
- Steven Covey The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First
- Eric Berne Games People Play
- Jung-Meyers-Briggs Personality Type theory — several different authors
- Michael Miller Focus On Existence
- Michael Miller The Leisure Theory of Value The source and measure of all value is the life of the individual.
- Gary Chapman The Five Love Languages + other assorted readings and essays
- Willard Harley via Marriage Builders (mostly toward the end of my marriage)
- Mark Manson's Blog Interesting, but I'm philosophically skeptical about him. He also has a condescension problem.
- Marsha Lucas — Mindfulness Meditation
- Alice Miller via Arthur Silber's 'The Sacred Moment' blog
- Stefan Molyneux at Freedomain Radio Universally Preferable Behavior, (ethics/self-awareness) Real-time Relationships
- Daniel Mackler Breaking From Your Parents Daniel is a pessimist, and discouraging, and too much an altruist, but he has interesting observations about familial relationships.
- Brené Brown , Daring Greatly, The Gift of Imperfection
- David Deida The Way of the Superior Man One must pick the relevant good bits out of the sexual/gender mysticism, but he's an interesting read.
- Pete Gerlach Internal Family System - Break the Cycle website Self-help.org This one has been bringing me really interesting insights.
- David Schnarch Passionate Marriage Reading this one was a real eye-opener as well. I'm still working my way through these ideas.
The writings of the last two individuals, and my conversations with Laurel, are really what have opened my eyes to some things these past months but the earlier readings have shaped quite a lot of my opinions and understanding of life. I've always been introspectively curious, but I'm not exactly always disciplined about it.
Friday morning, I found that the therapist had sent me an e-mail with a link to her web site where there are some forms for documents with questions for which she wanted me to provide answers. Four of these documents were pretty straight-forward and concerned the typical business record and disclosure information, consent, and other information pertinent to contracting with her. The fifth document is an intake questionnaire. Most of that is pretty straight-forward as well, consisting of yes/no and multiple-choice selections to answer the questions. Two of the questions were essay-type questions though, and I thought that I wanted some more time to compose answers to those, so I signed off. Unfortunately, when I did that, her website does not save the changes you've already made to the form, so I found that if not completed, the answers were not preserved if one signs out before submitting it for processing. When I tested my ability to log back into the site I found that the form had wiped out all of the easy-question answers. Ah well. Anyway, I figured that it was better to attack the questions here and then copy and paste the answers into the form.
What brings me to counseling at this time? Is there something specific, such as a particular event?
There are a number of things going on right now in my life about which I am confused. I suppose the catalyst was the progress of a romantic relationship that did not work. I've started to come to the conclusion that my relationships have not been all that good or functional and have not been all that successful either, in my opinion, and also apparently not in the opinion of some of the counterparties to some of these relationships. Among these are my relationships with parents, my daughters, my former wife, the woman I am/was "seeing" long distance...
I have very few close friends. I've been out of touch with some of them. Perhaps I'm mischaracterizing the relationships as "close." I don't know. I've lived alone and been pretty much a social hermit since my divorce finalized in 2004. My dating life before last year had been both sporadic and platonic. Of the two relationships during that time which had romantic potential, one never really got off the ground beyond dinners and movies, and the other, I have come to know, was pretty much outrageous fantasizing on my part. After actually getting romantically involved with someone last year, only to have that relationship collapse this year, I have been thinking that my prior mode of existence is not all that fulfilling, enriching, meaningful, etc. I have always suspected that i was packing around "baggage," but I hadn't become fully conscious of its effects in my life until I got into a relationship that did move and inspire me and I began exploring some things a bit more deeply than I had previously. I managed to get some insights into things which had previously confused me for years but these explorations have also left me confused or uncertain about quite a few new things. I suspect that I really don't have all that great a relationship with myself. I've got plenty of insecurities. How do I deal with this baggage, now that I'm starting to understand what it really is and what it does in my life? I've learned some things about my relationship with my parents that are making me really confused about what I feel about them and they was they do interact and have interacted with me. How do I get clarity on that? Why is it so hard to figure out what to make of my most recent relationship and breakup? What can I do to sort it out more systematically? I've got anger — some of it seems understandable, but why is it so intractable or seemingly unresolvable? Some of my anger seems displaced or misdirected. How do I sort that out?
What are my goals for counseling? What is my estimation of how long counseling will take to resolve the issue(s)?
It isn't easy to think in terms of goals for this process at this point. There are things bothering me that I'd like to see if I can figure out. I've got some baggage and effects that probably originated in stuff that happened when I was a child. I'm trying to fiigure out what to do about those. I'd like to figure out where some of the anger I have originates and how I might deal with it so that won't keep bedeviling me. The relationship with my parents has shifted in the last year and I am somewhat conflicted about what I feel about that and what to do about it. I'm trying to make sense of the last relationship I was in and that is painful. I'd like to get what Peter Gerlach calls the "True Self" better in charge of my life. After interacting with Laurel (the woman with whom I broke up this summer) I'm pretty sure that I would like to have a partner again, and after reading Schnarch, I'm intrigued by the idea of having the kind of fulfilling relationship which comes of being better differentiated, if that is possible for me. I like to think that I'm not any worse off or less capable than the people about whom he writes in his book.
If I were going to establish an estimate for how long it will take to resolve these issues (of whose precise number I'm not even certain) I would have to have some experience with counseling. I don't. I have only a few vague ideas of what it entails. I'm not sure what I'm doing. I'm only sure what I will get by doing nothing and that is not appealing to me.