Has 18 months of therapy done anything for me? Hard to tell really; if anything it’s certainly double-edged. I’ve woken up my emotional awareness circuits slightly, but not sure really how to deal with what I notice… I’m guessing my now individual ex-therapist would say they needed more time. It does seem to be the way with the Freudian school that slowly does it.
It’s hard to say why it wasn’t working – a number of factors no doubt. I do wonder if the therapist was missing some things I was mentioning, certainly it was rare for them to revisit issues I raised and seemed content to let me lead the subject and content of sessions. Some themes did re-occur naturally, but the lack of structure and resolution on some big ticket items seems rather disappointing looking back on it. May is more angry about this than I am, and inevitably I feel it’s partly my fault for not being more determined and knowing what I wanted out of it. Perhaps I should have taken May’s advice (natch) and learnt more about the therapeutic process, so I could keep better track of what was being covered and not resolved. But then again who was paying who to be the professional? There was a lot of exploring of my childhood, naturally, which was intellectually very interesting, but I’m not sure to what real purposeful end. For some time May has felt that it wasn’t helping me in the here and now (unlike her experience with her therapist, which made me slightly envious and more readily able to give up on mine). This pointless(?) flailing around in my parent’s relationship (which was always part speculation anyway) and the lack of dealing with my relationship was finally getting through to me. Then when my therapist stated they thought some of my issues may be pre-verbal (to do with my mother being very ill when I was born, with a bit of possible post-natal depression to boot), I must admit that I had a WTF moment – what on earth was I supposed to do about that?!?! – and threw a metaphorical towel in. Overall, going into couples counselling was a very convenient exit route without having to confront my therapist.
Has it really been for nought though? While I am by no means fixed, and very prone to frequent lapses into bad behaviour patterns, they say knowledge is power and there are definitely things I have learnt*:
- I still have a lot of grief wrapped up, undealt with and partly hidden from myself, within me. The fact this is nearer the surface may not be a totally bad thing. Yes, I am prone to tearing up more readily, especially in the last few weeks with the kids/Christmas thing. I am less likely to hide this from May, but not always good at talking about it if there are other issues in the air or I’m struggling with.
- Related to this there was (is) definitely a blockage around sex: – sex makes May pregnant, which ends in pain and misery (our IF issue not being a fertility problem as such, more a staying pregnant issue). May being in pain every month was also not helping, being a regular reminder of previous distresses (which I could then unfortunately use to re-enforce my inurement towards May’s suffering generally – ‘she suffers, she always suffers, it’s not my fault, there’s nothing I can do – I’ll be over here away from the pain’ denial cycle). Sex (and my lack of desire for it) was also one of the primary reasons for going to therapy stated right back at the very start. I brought up the subject of sex with my therapist quite a lot, I think, especially in the last few months when our sex life wasn’t improving, despite lack of pain and risk of pregnancy meaning these issues should no longer be factors. Constantly taking consideration of sex issues back to my childhood, however, did not really help me. I’m sure I have ‘mother issues’ (who doesn’t?) and my father also influenced some of my sexual attitudes in a ‘well I don’t want to be like that’ kind of way that possibly went too far (sorry to be vague, but privacy issues…).
- My parent’s relationship is not a good model for me to follow. Part of me thought ‘well they’re not divorced, so it must be OK’, but I can certainly see more issues that I wasn’t aware of previously. May would suggest and point out aspects of their behaviour before, but I’m not sure I was always convinced about the now obvious problems with the way my parents treat each other and those around them. However, that now makes me very sad and I feel powerless to intervene. Going down for just a couple of days before Christmas was really difficult, for the first time. In some ways it was like seeing how I have behaved played out before me, which was… awkward and definitely made me feel ashamed. I think I also blamed May a little, as the therapy was at ‘her bidding’ that has lead to this enlightenment. Once we’d returned home this lead inevitably to me being absorbed in self-pity and ignoring May and acting out some of those very behaviours as a consequence (a little knowledge a dangerous thing writ large – perfect illustration why therapy should equip the subject with tools to deal with it, which doesn’t seem to have happened).
- I have control issues. I’ve acknowledged that before, but I don’t think I had realised the extent to which I had wound my whole life, behaviours and attitudes around it. Expressed mainly as episodes of passive aggressive behaviour towards May. Being in control always seems like a good thing, I’ve been praised for my aptitude for being calm and in control. The darker side of this is when I don’t get my way or I’m upset by something completely unrelated and come home with a largely unconscious need to control what happens. This is obviously self-destructive, and has a nasty little sting in the tail too, as being aware of control issues leads to a self-loathing and then more passive-aggressiveness as I resent that feeling of awareness and the self-loathing it led to.
- Self deception, lies to myself and possibly even my therapist, won’t have helped. I have just read Allie Brosh’s book Hyperbole and a Half (from the blog of the same name). Some of her descriptions about self deception are scarily real to me (unfortunately I cannot find them on the blog). I have an image of myself being a nice guy, which I successfully perpetuate for most of my interactions. I seem to have taken May’s family and most of you in, but it’s an illusion I can only maintain for a limited time. May has committed (through marriage) to live with me, so gets to see me when I’m tired, stressed, fucked off, stressed, anxious, stressed and sad/depressed. Especially when I cannot handle these emotions or am not even aware of their existence (yes, I can be seriously stressed and not realise it – the power of my denial powers bewilders May), my energy is consumed by them and I turn into a rather selfish and uncaring person. This of course I don’t like, which makes me self-loath and angry and as May is there most of the time unfortunately she gets the brunt of it.
- Self punishment issues. Like May, I beat mentally beat myself up quite regularly. My mind has cunningly provided very inconsequential things from my childhood to do this about though, rather than the real issues around my current behaviour and attitudes. This seems to have sheltered me from having to face up to the not so savoury aspects of my character, such as selfishness, arrogance and my need to control. I now have more awareness of this, but again I don’t really know how to deal with it. This has a tendency to spiral me into self-pity/loathing, which makes me behave worse towards May.
I had my last individual session the day before we started with our couples counsellor. When we first met our couples counsellor I was relatively optimistic, for some reason, when he outlined his approach as psycho-analytical. I thought, well I’ve just been through this, so needn’t take too long going through it all again as I know what to highlight from my past and what to say. However, it was not to be (see May’s last post).
May’s counselling sessions have officially finished too, but there is the possibility of a couple of follow-ups and she (May’s therapist) even offered to see us as a couple and/or me individually too, which I find very interesting… other therapists have said it’s not a good idea to see us individually in case suspicions arise about conspiracy between the therapist and one of the individuals… perhaps that only applies if it’s a long-term thing or in the seemingly paranoid inducing psycho-analytical view of things. May certainly seem to get more out of her few sessions, although that may be because she took more to them?
Part of me feels I’ve had quite enough psycho-babble. However, as May said – we’re not happy at the moment. In some ways I have taken/handled the events of last summer badly, although I feel better than I would have had I not done a year of therapy. Nevertheless there is still a large chasm between us and where we each are in dealing with these things. My therapy has not given me an adequate toolkit to deal with/overcome my (lack of) communications issues and we need to find a way of handling 2014, which will have some really big decisions in it (the frozen embryo and probably moving house (buying?) just two of them). Can we find a way of dealing with these together?
*this is not to say that I didn’t have the opportunity to learn these from May in the previous years, but therapy did give me the space to think and talk through these issues with some psychological context and not in the midst of rows**.
** I still need to listen to May more, of course. Love you May