Therapy is not for sissies. Well, I guess you could go to a therapist and complete ignore your problem or the "hard truths" that come with self-examination, but it would be a waste of money and I would hazard that it would border on malpractice on the part of your psychologist.
In any event, I go to therapy and talk for a bit and then listen to a man tell me about myself. He tells me things about myself I already know and am happy about, things I already know and I'm not happy about, things I ought to know but don't, and things I hadn't a clue of. And yes, sometimes it's hard when someone tells you what your friends won't. I realize that we all have bad behaviors, but when isn't it hard to listen to someone tell you yours? But, I listen carefully when Bill talks because I know he isn't interested in embarassing me or shaming me into behaving differently--he simply wants to give me the tools I need to get what I want out of life.
Today he did a lot of talking.
Psychologist Bill is pretty good. He doesn't let me control the session. We don't waste time. I'm comfortable opening up about my life (at least this situation, anyway). I am confident he will not take advantage of my weaknesses. I feel pretty good about the rapport. He seems to have crafted a program designed to capitalize on my strengths. I like to do things. He gives me things to do. I feel like an active participant in my therapy.
Last week, my assignment was to describe the problem I was having with my advisor, to articulate why it was a problem for me, and to establish end goals by which I would consider the problem resolved. What was missing from this assignment was the hard part...the actual "how to" of resolving it. The act of remembering these interactions and crafting a narrative about them had two effects. Foremost, it made me angry to think about the interactions again (I realize that I detest being the object of injustice--I just get incensed), but it also made me anxious to think about the problem and STILL have no idea how to get from Point A (the unprovoked attacks on my character) to Point B (making the attacks stop). The thinking about it, dwelling on it, and having it still be unresolved caused me to become anxious. When I feel anxious, I engage in repetitive behaviors to calm myself. In this case, I rewrote and recrafted the written assignment in an 8-hour marathon in which I didn't move from the couch. It lasted until 5 am when I finally emailed the assignment to Bill to render further revisions pointless. The fact that my repetitive behaviors have absolutely no direct bearing to the problem doesn't seem to matter. As Bill told me when I sought some relief for a particularly acute attack of the OCs in the past (that's obsessive-compulsives for you newbies), "if you could make yourself stop by telling yourself the behavior was pointless, you would have stopped already." It's not that I don't recognize the OC behavior, it's that I can't seem to stop engaging in it. And when it is really bad, I have to make deals with myself that I won't let it interfere with major life activities. I'll tell myself that I can spend 4 hours writing a 2-paragraph email, but I have to quit at 2 and go to class. And if I didn't make these deals, sleep, work, friends, and dogs would all have to wait until my anxiety was fully pacified. I guess it's better than kicking the dog. I'm really not doing much more harm than wasting my time.
Bill seems intent on making my get in touch with my feelings. Sometimes I think I've never been properly introduced to my feelings. Bill claims I start every sentence with "I think...." =] In any event, today we had a discussion about identifying feelings. Bill says that anxiety iand anger are responses to fear. So that me, being both angry and anxious, must be experiencing fear. I maintain that anger and anxiety are a response to frustration. There is quite a bit of distance between fear and frustration I think. Either that or Bill and I have quite different ideas about fear. I am not afraid to tackle this problem. I am not prevented from acting by fear of my advisor or the consequences. I am angry because I am frustrated that I have to tackle this problem at all. Because in reality, I'm not the problem. And I think I am anxious because this is a tricky problem and it demands skills that aren't very well practiced in me: patience, calmness, and political awareness.
In other words, I'm not crippled by a fear of the interaction. I am anxious because there is another person in this who can respond to my approach by crying, becoming angry, becoming belligerent, and possibly making my life more of a living hell. I am anxious because I find myself having to tell a person lacking in self-esteem that they are behaving like a major league butthead. It wasn't obvious to me, but seems obvious to others that my advisor is somewhat intimidated by me. I mean seriously, I didn't see it. But if that is true, how much worse is it going to be to have the person who intimidates you force you to deal with your bad behavior?
But I will address it. And I think after today and talking with Bill, I might just be able to handle it well. I have to remain calm. I have to remain calm no matter how off topic she goes, no matter how she tries to poo-poo it, no matter how much she yells or tries to deflect this back on me. The thing that I'm actually afraid of here is that she won't change and I'll have to tolerate this behavior until I finish. Or that our relationship will be strained because of it. Or that it will escalate because I dared to call her on it. Because any of those scenarios would truly make my remaining time here unpleasant.