Thursday, December 1, 2011

Insights During and After My Latest Therapy Session

Yay for insights that make sense!

I've been to seven or eight sessions of therapy so far. We're still laying down groundwork because I'm still trying to share everything that makes me tick and tic. I'm a pretty complicated person.

So let's visit my first insight, the one I gained during my session. My previous session The Hubby was with me and we were talking about my internet "problem". No, not that, unless what you're thinking about is spending too much time on the computer, and then you're right on the money. I am on the internet Way Too Much. The last two weeks or so I finally figured out that a big reason why I visit InternetLand so much is because it's one way I sooth my anxiety. But during my session I discovered a deeper, if slightly more pathetic, reason why I'm here all the time.To sufficiently understand what I'm about to reveal I need to give a lengthy explanation.

I'm a weird person. I've never felt like I've really fit in anywhere. My personal opinions vary widely from liberal to conservative. But I can't hang out with liberals because I'm conservative on key points, and I can't jive with conservatives because I'm freakishly liberal on others. I'm not moderate because I'm not super lukewarm about anything.

The best way I found how to explain it to my therapist was through outward expression of myself: fashion. One day I'll want to dress completely punk with ripped fishnets and black nail polish, the next I might want to be ultra conservative with a pencil skirt, and blouse, and cardigan. Yet later in the week I might be decked out in my beloved country-western garb complete with heavy turquoise jewelry. I'm sure many people I associate with choose one of those personalities as my main identity and believe the others are costumes I wear to amuse myself. The truth is they are all aspects of me, they are all my true self. But if you focus on just one of them then you'll miss out on most of me.

We then talked about my love for the, um, "out there" stuff. I love crazy hair colors. I think tattoos and body piercings are pretty cool. I can find beauty in all types, I am not wedded to one standard. I told her that I really fit in with the Portland scene and she agrees. But we talked about how I've had to repress a lot of that because it doesn't fit in with my main culture, Mormonism.

Basically I fear making friends because I have been burned often for who I am. I have had some people be very cruel to me, especially women who belong to my religion. I have very few friends I am mostly honest with, perhaps five. Out of the five people that I'm pretty-sure-I-can-trust-but-not-100%-sure-because-they-don't-know-100%-of-me only three live nearby. And I have one person who is not family that knows all of me and accepts me and that is The Hubby.

So this really does all tie into why I'm on the internet all the time. I belong to a lot of different groups online. Some are about natural living, some are about attachment parenting, some have political affiliations, and some are religious based. Not one of them fulfills me entirely. But together, that's a different story. All together these different forums and communities feed every aspect of me. And they are all found on The Internet. And the exact thing I told my therapist was, "I am friends with The Internet. That is so lame."

So, there it is. I'm so socially awkward in real life I turn towards a non-human entity because, A) I don't have many friends in real life because people don't want to be my friend and B) I'm afraid to reach out to real people anymore because I've been hurt so much.

So, if that wasn't enough realization for one day (And it wasn't the only insight I had during that session, just the biggest. Really, therapy is exhausting.) I had another on the bus going home. And, I'm sorry, it also needs an enormous backstory to make any sense.

Like I mentioned earlier The Hubby attended my session previous to the last. I wanted him there because I was doing to start delving into my aversion to housework. A phrase that kept coming from me was, "I just want to be taken care of." This prompted my therapist to ask me to explain my fantasy life. So I started into it.

It began with me sleeping in and not having to take care of the kids in the morning, not making breakfast, not cleaning because all that would be done for me. I said I would like to spend time with my children on my own terms. I started faltering at this point and said, "Man, this is all so selfish." She countered with, "Of course it is, it's your fantasy. Tell me more." So I continued a bit in the same theme.

My therapist then asked, "Do you want to be treated like a child? Is that what you need?" I vehemently countered, "No, I wanted to be respected, I want to be treated like an adult. I want people to respect my intellect and insights and feel like I have something to offer." So she said, "You want to be a queen?" And I said, "Yes, wait, no! I don't want all that responsibility. Well, I do want to take on responsibilities, but I want to choose when I do." And then I cried a lot because everything I want in life is so contradictory and not anything even logical.

I kept carrying on about how selfish and pathetic it all was. After I calmed down a bit my therapist (okay, saying "my therapist" all the time is super clunky, she's going to be Dr. L now) explained that having me truly discover what my fantasy is will help me discover what my deepest hurt is. Basically I think my fantasy life will fix everything, so we can look at it like a prescription. By using that prescription we can find out what the ailment is. Dr. L asked me to think more about my fantasy and see if that leads me to my wound.

So I thought and thought and thought. One thing that stood out to me was the question, "Do you want to be treated like a child?" and my angry response that I wanted to be respected like an adult. But I couldn't ignore that I wanted to be physically taken care of.

Then my first insight came. I tried to remember when I have ever felt like a child. Not in body but soul and mind. And I can't. I have always thought the way I do now. I may not have had the life experience to make 100% adult decisions as a child, but my thought process and logic have always been adult. This is something I've thought a lot about over the years, and every person I have surveyed about it agrees with me. No one has ever thought like a child. We have all been adults our entire lives.

That's what clicked it for me. I DID want to be treated like a child, but I wanted to be treated like a child that was also a person. I wanted to be treated like a child by a person that understood that children don't think like children but you have to care for and guide them like children. I wanted a parent. But why did I want a parent? And now I know why. This is what I wrote down on my bus ride home:

"Growing up in a home and religion where many of my feelings and experiences were invalidated I am now an adult that does not know how to trust and interpret my feelings and experiences. I don't know if my reactions are justified. I don't know if my perceptions are correct. I don't know if my action are right.

By suppressing most of my emotions my parents neglected to teach me which reactive emotions of mine are valid or excessive.

I am confused most of the time. I fear I overreact. I fear I underreact. I sometimes fear both at the same time. I don't know if people treat me well or poorly because I cannot trust my emotional reactions to their actions.

I feel like I need to seek out a wise person to re-parent me. Someone needs to teach me how to categorize my feelings. I don't know how to do it myself."

Basically I cannot trust my own reality. My parents treated most of my emotions as overreatctions. I know deep down that this is a lie, but I know that there is such a thing as overreaction. I never had the guidance to show me what a real overreaction is. The other side of that coin is because I was told most of my emotions were overreactions I don't know what an appropriate emotional response is.

A lot of my internal monologue goes something like this: "How that person treated makes me angry. Well, I don't know, maybe I should be angry about this. Maybe it's not as bad as I'm making it out to be. But what if it is, I'm really angry! I'm probably right, I should be angry about this. Well, maybe I should be more angry. Maybe outrage is the proper response. I don't know, I don't know. I should just drop it because I don't want to offend that person. But if they really did do something to offend me I should set a boundary with them. What if it's the wrong boundary? I just don't know what to do."

And so here is the kicker for me. Since I do not understand my own emotions I HAVE NO REALITY. There is nothing concrete about me, which probably contributes to my chameleon personality, but maybe it doesn't, but how do I know, but but but I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT MYSELF. If I can't trust my emotions what I can I trust?

Welcome to the life of a victim of gaslighting. Have you heard of it? Well, here are three good essays explaining the gist of it. I had come across the term months ago and knew it applied to me, but not until two days ago did I realize the extent of the damage. Nor did I realize all of those who have knowingly or unknowingly perpetrated it on me. It is a sobering thought. I'm grateful I set my next session next week instead of two weeks away. With this last revelation I think I'm finally ready to get down to business.

If any part of this post has offended you I direct you towards my disclaimer.


  1. Holy crap that first article blew my mind. I read it to Tommy too. Thanks for helping me to come to a revelation of my own. Now we have much to discuss. Love you and I'm glad you are having some breakthrough's of your own.

  2. wow. I could have written this myself. I am surprised/not at all surprised by how much of this I completely related to. I have never, ever felt like I fit in anywhere. Most likely the closest I felt to feeling that way was in Rexburg, but the irony of that is...weren't we all misfits just hanging out? Anyway, thank you for introducing to me the concept of "gaslighting". Unfortunately, reading those essays were also something I related to all too well.

  3. Within the last decade a significant amount of research has come out about "emotional intelligence" and how important it is to cultivate in children to avoid dysfunctions as adults. One of my favorite parenting books is called "The Heart of Parenting: How to raise an emotionally intelligent child" by Dr. John Gottman and Joan DeClaire. I read it more to diagnose myself (aka what I lacked as a child), but it also gave me a lot of great insights into how to avoid making the same mistakes with my kiddos. I struggle with the same feeling of wanting to be parented and a complete aversion to housework. Thanks for sharing your therapy process :)

  4. Okay, I'm going to share a short story.

    I taught high school in upstate south carolina for five years. There was one sweet girl who had issues at home. Her parents owned a feed and seed store and they would make her sit in a chair for hours in the back of the store and not move, and they would bring her to school in the back of the pickup with inadequate clothing. It was - obviously to most of the teachers - an abusive situation.

    But here's the thing. When I was growing up, things were not right. So her situation didn't seem much different than mine, though the details were different. We had to poop in buckets and empty them in the septic tank under cover of darkness. We had to dig beets out of the garden with our bare hands in subfreezing temps, because using a shovel might damage them, and wearing gloves would damage the gloves. Apparently it is okay to damage your body, though. We stole water from the school in plastic bottles because for a bout six months we didn't have running water at home. We didn't have heat in our house in Pennsylvania (brutal winters, sometimes) and one year my mom punished us by not allowing space heaters.

    So my reaction to "abuse" for others is to try to help them endure it, because that is what I had to do. It never occurs to me that there might be a way out. Fortunately it occurred to the other teachers - several of us appeared in court and wrote statements about what this girl told us, and she was removed from the home. She came back to see me a couple of years later, beautiful and gorgeous, going to college, etc.

    So I guess all that is to say I understand about not having the proper reactions and not trusting the ones you do have.

    Hope you are doing better in general. I don't always enjoy my child either ... I wish I was one of those moms who loved getting down on the floor and doing whatever my kid wanted (wait, does that really exist?)

  5. I am so glad you have found the source of your problem. You are so strong. The work to correct this is long and hard I am sure, but you sound ready to fight the beast. I am trying...however I dunno if I am ready? Sometimes I feel as if I don't know who I am, because I was afraid to try for fear of failing. I still am. Only difference is I dunno how to identify with these feelings, cuz I have been putting them off for so long. You insights give me some insights. I love it! Sorry it took me soo long to read this. Part of it is cuz I am so hurt by how much you are devastated. And I can identify with some of your feelings which gets me all anxious about my past.

  6. Krista, just wanted to say that I miss you and I wish we lived closer to each other. I am glad you are making head way in your life. I love ya and I am praying for you! :)

  7. Oh dear Krista, we are kindred spirits, I believe. Thank you for sharing so much of your soul with us. I'm not any particular faith or political party, but I would totally love to hang with you and chat about everything under the sun. *big hug* oktobre.kerketta at gmail is where you can reach me privately.