Add to Technorati Favorites

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This sentence does not count as a title--notice the incorrect capitalization and the period at the end.

There are many conversations I have with Therapist which I do not post because they expose parts of me I do not like--at all. They showcase weaknesses or dependencies I wish were not mine. And the thought of putting those where they can be seen does not appeal to me in the least.

However, there is sometimes of sense of closure when I write about challenges which once troubled me but have now become background noise. Most of the time when I get around to posting them I no longer feel embarrassed or shamed by them. They're just things that happened or emotions I felt. What I am posting today however, still feels uncomfortable. The knowledge that I have tendencies which weaken me or are unhealthy frustrates me. I'm not talking about wanting to be perfect--I'm talking about wishing I was normal. While I understand the impetus behind those tendencies, the experiences and drives which cause me to feel things with abnormal intensity, such understanding does not negate the desire to have healthy relationships untainted by my past.

I talk a lot about relationships. Those entities are my Achilles heel. I want them, I work for them, I spend time analyzing, regrouping, making certain I'm feeling the things I should feel in order to keep my part of the relationship healthy and fulfilling and I definitely enjoy them. But if I am completely honest I have to admit that even my closest, most joyful relationships are fraught with stress and the fear that something obsessive or emotionally unhealthy will creep in, unnoticed by me, and undermine or destroy those relationships I've worked so hard to maintain. This is not about having faith in the participating parties. This is about understanding my own weaknesses and tendencies and knowing I don't always have the strength to manage them competently.

I suppose that's where my need to write about this comes from. If I hide it, it exists but even I avoid looking at it. If I expose it, I can look at it along with anyone else who happens to see. I can apologize and move forward instead of living in fear that someone else will discover and unkindly point it out. I don't know how much sense this makes but I understand--and as this is my blog...  :-)

Therapist: So--a breakthrough, sort of?
me: I don't know. I'm not happy about it, but I guess so.
Therapist: Sam, everyone has moments when they understand that the reality of a relationship is not what they had thought or hoped.
me: I know.
Therapist: So what bothers you?
me: I should have known before.
Therapist: What makes you think you didn't?
me: I'm not sure what you mean.
Therapist: You're pretty aware of what you're feeling in any situation. You monitor yourself closely and you work on directing your feelings if they seem inappropriate or unwelcome. You don't feel sorry for yourself when things don't work out exactly as you'd planned and you're good at allowing others to have autonomy in your relationships with them.
me: I'm not sure you know me well enough to say that.
Therapist: Really? How long have you been seeing me?
me: I mean, you only know what I tell you. I could be lying.
Therapist: Actually, Darrin has accompanied you to several of our sessions, and so has Tolkien Boy.
me: Twice. Tolkien Boy has only come twice.
Therapist: Really? I thought he'd been here more times than that.
me: Nope. And he doesn't say anything when he comes.
Therapist: True, he doesn't say a lot, but you talk to him, and talk about things that have happened that involve him, and he corroborates all you say. And I learn a lot about people by watching how they interact with friends and family.
me: Okay, I've been seeing you for a few years, and I drive hundreds of miles to do so, so obviously I have confidence in you as a therapist, but still--I don't know...
Therapist: What's on your mind, Sam?
me: What can you tell when you see Darrin and I together a couple of hours a month?
Therapist: All right, here's what I've seen: You and Darrin care deeply about each other, you have good communication skills (but I'm guessing you have your share of disagreements), you enjoy being together and are good at supporting one another. You converse well even after being together for many years (not something every couple can say). You make each other laugh. You hold hands and touch each other often. Sometimes you aggravate each other. You worry about one another. You're in love.
me: Okay, that's all true. What do you see when Tolkien Boy comes?
Therapist: That one's more difficult because when you're in therapy (and you've actually said this), it's all about you. You're very focused. You do talk to Tolkien Boy, and ask him questions, but it's clear that you have a purpose and you want to accomplish it. Tolkien Boy respects that and seems unoffended by your need to concentrate on therapy tasks even when he's present. There is a deep sense that the two of you know each other well and enjoy the friendship that you share. But you also have a connection many friends don't, that's deeper and more affectionate. Tolkien Boy watches you, takes cues from your body language, responds to you empathetically. You, on the other hand, rarely make eye contact with him, but you seem to have an awareness of where he is and what he's doing. I'm guessing this is the case with all your friends--little eye contact, but intense awareness of physical proximity. You have clear boundaries you don't wish to be trespassed and they know what those are. I'm guessing from the way you and Tolkien Boy understand each other, that you talk often and about many things. I also believe that some of the deep bonding the two of you feel stems from his accompanying you to have lunch with your cousin (an emotionally dangerous situation), and your allowing him to stay with you afterward when you were extremely vulnerable and in need of some care.
me: He didn't have a choice, you know. We took my car and I was in no condition to drive him home and then go back to my hotel.
Therapist: Well, there are other ways to get around. He could have called a family member to come get him, or taken a bus or cab, I'm guessing.
me: Maybe.
Therapist: You still haven't told me what bothers you about this latest revelation of yours.
me: I don't like the fact that I wasn't realistic about my friendships.
Therapist: How were you unrealistic?
me: I guess, simply put, I wanted more.
Therapist: "Wanted more"?
me: Yes. I'd like to say I was completely healthy and balanced and all my current friendships have evolved naturally and beautifully and, in spite of any difficulties, have been just really great relationships.
Therapist: You don't think they are?
me: Not if I'm honest, no.
Therapist: Okay, what's out of sync?
me: Me. I wanted more. I wasn't satisfied with the friendship "norm". I wasn't happy with being someone people thought about every once in awhile--someone convenient who just happens to be online all the time because that's where I work, or who is fun to visit once or twice a month, or who you go to when you feel lonely but no one else is around.
Therapist: Sam, I don't think that's how people perceive their friends.
me: No. I'm sure they don't. But it is what happens, even if no one thinks about it in that way. Friends are the people who are around when you need someone--but you don't usually seek them out just because. There's a need of some sort.
Therapist: I'm still not sure I agree with you, but tell me what "more" you wanted.
me: I wanted to be someone special.
Therapist: Everyone wants that, Sam.
me: I know. But I'm upset that I wanted it. It's not appropriate. I'm someone special to Darrin and my kids. I know that--and that is appropriate, but I wanted to be someone special to other people, too.
Therapist: Why isn't that appropriate?
me: Because it's friendship. And I'm not saying friends aren't special, but they're not like family, and everyone seems perfectly fine with that--they don't want to be family, they just want to be friends.
Therapist: Sam, I think this is old stuff coming back to haunt you.
me: Say more?
Therapist: Well, other people grew up in an atmosphere where they felt unconditional love from parents--which doesn't mean it was perfect or that they never felt rejected by their parents. But they had many moments when they felt accepted and loved--you didn't. I think you're trying to recreate that type of love and acceptance in the friendship venue.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And--you just agreed with me. Scary.
me: No. That's exactly it. That's why it's inappropriate--why it embarrasses me--why I'm ashamed of myself. That shouldn't happen. I was twisting something normal and healthy (or trying to) into something warped and misplaced. And the people involved in friendship with me deserve better.
Therapist: Are you sure this isn't another level of your feeling that you shouldn't be with people?
me: I'm sure. I actually want these relationships. I just feel badly that I can't seem to navigate them without allowing my past to creep in and make things complicated and wrong.
Therapist: Sam, have you discussed this with any of your friends? or with Darrin?
me: With Darrin, yes.
Therapist: What does he think?
me: As you said, he's in love with me. He thinks anyone who has the "privilege" of being my friend should be aware of my past, understand that I'm working through a lot of stuff right now, and just enjoy the fact that I love them and want to spend time with them. He's not impartial--and that's a huge understatement.
Therapist: Well, he's also correct. Those things are true.
me: I don't think so. I think people have the right to expect that their friendships can be simple and uncomplicated. I want to be able to offer that.
Therapist: I'm not sure you can do that without staying emotionally unattached. Human bonding is complicated for you. You're trying to learn, as an adult, what most children learn over the process of many years, and you're trying to learn about love and relationships with people who feel safe. Don't you think your friends are aware of that?
me: Yes. But that's the point--they shouldn't have to be.
Therapist: Sam, you can't really say, "This is how it should be. I'll make it happen."
me: I know. And I won't. But it's still an uncomfortable realization when you wake up one day and say, "Oh--how about that! That friend I've always been afraid of--the one that's needy or maladjusted--I'm her!"
Therapist: I don't think your friends see you as either of those things.
me: They probably don't. They are very forgiving. But here's the thing: I'm finally there. I'm finally to the point where I can accept what friendship is, what it has to offer, and be okay with it. I'm fine being the online friend who helps pleasantly pass the time, but isn't really more than that. It used to make me sad to know I was an interim person. It doesn't anymore.
Therapist: Interim person?
me: You know--the one you have lunch with and maybe talk about some of the things on your mind, but then you go home to the real relationships; your spouse and your kids, maybe your parents, too. And the friend people are just fine being friends and not trespassing that boundary. I'm okay being that.
Therapist: Ah--I think I finally understand.
me: Good, because I'm getting tired of trying to explain.
Therapist: You used to want to be more--to be the one the people you love went home to.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And you understood that was not the expectation nor the desire of your friends.
me: Yes.
Therapist: And  you were embarrassed because you didn't understand why you wanted those things, and you didn't know how or where to redirect those feelings.
me: Yes.
Therapist: Sam, for someone who has experienced the things you have, those feelings were not inappropriate or abnormal.
me: They were.
Therapist: No. They were completely understandable.
me: Still--misplaced and inappropriate.
Therapist: Did you ever talk to your friends about them.
me: Sort of. I tried to. I always ended up ranting about how much I hated friendship. I called it the F-word. I think, once or twice, I told people I hated friends or that we were something different from friends--something better. It was pathetic, I admit.
Therapist: How did they respond.
me: They're very sweet. They humored the crazy person.
Therapist: What do you suppose has happened to help you accept the friendship boundary, finally?
me: I grew up. I recognized the impossibility of getting what I wished--especially because I still don't know what that was. I have no idea what I expected, I just know I wanted something more.
Therapist: You know, this isn't the end.
me: What does that mean?
Therapist: You say you've accepted the friendship boundary. You've analyzed past feelings and labeled them as unacceptable. But the truth is, you still need those bonds with people that signal unconditional love, constant welcome, and a place in someone else's life. And you need more than just Darrin. People need more than one person, which is why we have parents and grandparents and sometimes really close sibling relationships--and very special people who are sometimes more than just friends.
me: I don't want to hear that last part. In fact, I'm ignoring it. I've worked very hard to get to the point where I wouldn't want more, but the yearning is still there. I don't want to engage it.
Therapist: Sam, maybe talking about this with people you're close to would be a good idea. Let them know what  you've been feeling. See what they say. I'm proud of you for trying to make sure you don't monopolize, or use emotional blackmail, or do anything possible to garner attention or bind people to you unhealthily--which is sometimes what happens when people have attachment issues. But I think it's always a good idea to see how other people are feeling in relationships instead of just determining that you're making all the mistakes and trying to fix everything. You might not be making any mistakes at all. There might be a friend who welcomes that closeness you crave and who can offer it to you in healthy ways--whether that means calling you fairly often, or putting an arm around you when you sit beside each other, or giving really great hugs, or waiting for you to come online because they just love talking with you. Sometimes closeness it not an intrusion--often it's not. But you can't know unless you talk about it.
me: I might.
Therapist: That means you will, right? when you're ready?
me: Probably.
Therapist: Sam, I'm going to give you an assignment.
me: I don't know that that's a good idea. I'm already a year behind on my assignments.
Therapist: Fortunately, there's not a deadline of any kind on my assignments.
me: Okay.
Therapist: I want you to try to view yourself as someone people want to have in their lives--someone they think of often and maybe even plan to spend time with. Someone who offers them a great deal of love, compassion, and joy--a person they can laugh with and someone who makes them glad to be whomever they are. Because I think you are a person who allows people to be completely themselves. You are someone to be sought after and valued.
me: That assignment is too long.
Therapist: Which means it seems overwhelming?
me: Yes.
Therapist: Spend some time thinking about it. Ask for help if you need it. Take your time.
me: Okay, I'll think about it.
Therapist: And Sam, you really don't need to feel embarrassed about wanting more. There is no shame in wishing for deep connections that are reinforced often and are enduring. And quite honestly, I don't believe you were out of line to look for those things in the friends you feel closest to.
me: I'll think about it. But I'm not backtracking.
Therapist: Agreed--no backtracking--but entertain the idea of tweaking things a bit?
me: I'll think about it.
Therapist: You're repeating yourself.
me: Yes.
Therapist: Okay, I'll let it go for now.
me: Thank you.


  1. I have to agree with Therapist. You do allow people to be themselves around you. And you don't get to decide that your issues are too much for your friends to deal with. You can't get rid of us that easily. : )

    p.s. I have seventeen new cookie recipes I'm dying to try, and I wish you were here to make them with me.

  2. Oh! I would love that! And I'd even try to get the cookies out of the oven without putting them all over your floor.