Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Head Shrinking

    You may have seen in our last Perrin update that Joey and I have begun some new and fairly intense therapy work. I wanted to share a little bit about that as it has been immensely eye opening and beneficial. It all started when Joey decided that maybe we should get divorced. Remember that post about how we talk pretty openly about that kind of thing? Something just wasn't feeling right for either of us, but we didn't know what it was. So we decided to do some couples and individual counseling and then reassess our family situation. Spoiler alert- we figured out that "we" weren't the problem. At least, the together "we". Our relationship in and of itself isn't really the issue. What is the issue is each of our relationships with ourselves. Let me explain-

     We found a fantastic therapist who we see individually and then together as a couple. What she is having us work on is digging down into who we are and why we are that way and what needs to change for us to live healthy functioning lives. We have done some therapy/counseling work in the past, but it mostly centered on tools to deal with our individual quirks and issues. The therapy we are doing now is getting down to the core of who we are. What are thoughts are and where those thoughts come from and how they affect our lives and interactions. This has been the most mind blowing part for me. You don't realize how much of you take for granted when it comes to who you are. You just assume "that's the way things are" or "that's just who I am", when in reality a lot of that is baggage that you have accumulated and learned through out your life. These lessons and experiences overtime shape our thoughts about things, and those thought trigger emotions, and then those emotions affect our behavior and actions. So what we think is a simple X occurs and I do Y, is actually much more layered and nuanced. Something may occur, and that "data" gets filtered through our complex systems of thoughts and emotions and when it is played out in our behavior may not look at all related to the original stimulus. Because a lot of the times it's not. 

    Here is an example- I had been wanting to get the garage door fixed for a while. It's been broken for about a year and it's a pain in the ass to drag our bikes and things through the house instead of just opening the garage door. At some point I asked Joey about getting it fixed and he kind of just didn't really say much. He didn't say yes. Well this came up in our couples therapy as Joey suggested spending money on something and I was upset because I would rather have spent the money getting the garage door fixed. Our counselor asked Joey why we couldn't fix the garage and his response was "I don't know; I guess I just never thought about it." So she asked me, had I told him that I wanted it fixed? I told her about the time I asked and that I never really got a response. So her question to me was, why didn't I ask or bring it up again? Maybe Joey just didn't realize it mattered since I only mentioned it the one time. This was a huge learning moment for me. My reaction- "But I asked and didn't get my answer, so it's over. That was the end of the conversation about the garage." See, I didn't realize until that conversation that I have some sort of "rule" in my head that you can only ask for things once. The answer you get is the answer you get and that is that. To ask again is rude and disrespectful and nagging and annoying.  So I was feeling bummed about the garage because Joey didn't understand that it was important to me (which "made" me feel unimportant) and I felt like I was powerless to do anything about it because I used up my one asking time and that was that. So I felt sad and frustrated and angry all because of this completely imaginary and arbitrary rule that I picked up from somewhere. But in reality (objective reality, not the reality in my head), Joey was perfectly fine getting the garage fixed once he understood that I cared a lot about it. We even decided to go ahead with the skylight I had been talking about, too. 

    The lessons get even more nuanced and layered than the above example, but you can see how these "rules" and thought and emotions we have cloud our relationships with others and ourselves. Another big part of it is esteem. Learning to have true self-esteem. That you are worthwhile and valuable simply because you exist. That was mind blowing for me as well. So I am working really hard on learning how to voice my thoughts and advocate for myself, and to stop censoring myself for the perceived comfort for others. That is the other big lesson for me so far- I am not responsible for other people's feelings. And other people are not responsible for mine. I don't have to "let" others "make" me feel bad. That is their own issues about their own thoughts and emotions and realities and doesn't have anything to do with me. And I don't have to worry about "making" other people feel bad. I am learning to have a healthy emotional boundary where my reality is protected from other people and is also free to be expressed. 

    Anyway, maybe all of this seems really obvious to you. But even really simple things- like asking for something more than once- never ever occurred to me. Because my reality was built where those things weren't options. So now I am learning to be more aware of my thoughts and emotions so that I can examine the validity of them and decide whether or not I should hold onto to those ideas or whether they are just baggage that I need to discard. If you are interested more in the things we are learning about, feel free to chat with me about it. We have been reading through a books and listening to workshops by Pia Mellody, who does a lot of work on codependence, which is essentially the issues that I talked about above as well as many other common problems. Basically it's learning to how to take of yourself as a functioning adult- recognizing your wants and needs and getting them met with the help of others. It's very interesting stuff and I'm amazed by how much I notice these mechanisms at work around me now. It's also been incredibly valuable for parenting purposes. It really helps you be aware of what "rules" you are instilling in your children. 


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