It seems I can hardly mention my counselor, Sharon, without wanting to fill in our history. It doesn't seem enough to say that I'm in counseling; I feel compelled to say that I began with her 25 years ago and saw her weekly for 7 years. We had a very unsatisfactory ending. I used to record our sessions, and I believe our last one is recorded too, but I've never been able to bring myself to listen to it. She was going through her own changes, the nature of which I will probably never know. It was impacting the way in which she did therapy, and the change was not something I could adapt to. Not long after we parted she stopped practicing as a counselor altogether.
Over time the hurt faded and I was able to remember the positive aspects of therapy, and the lasting good it was doing me.
Fourteen years passed. I had my two children, moved to St. Louis, and back, faced a deteriorating marriage, and turned 50. The deteriorating marriage was a catalyst for some intensive writing. I had time to do it when my youngest began kindergarten. I wanted to examine how, why, and where things would go wrong between my husband and me. Most of the things I read suggested that the onus was on me to change. Any given interaction could fall apart so quickly and I really wanted to get a handle on exactly what would happen. Was there really something about myself that needed to change--an attitude, a belief, a sensitivity? If his behavior was offensive to me, was it because I was offended, therefore I needed to change whatever part of me took offense?
I spent hours trying to deconstruct some of our arguments or communications-gone-south, mentally laying them out like an exploded diagram of some machine.
I was in the midst of such soul searching when I realized that I owed my ability to even do so to the seven years I'd spent with Sharon. I felt gratitude and decided to thank her. So I looked her up online and saw that she was leading a study group of an author I'd recently come across. I emailed her to see if I could join. She called me and asked that I come in for a session first. She was again practicing psychotherapy, to her own surprise, she said. When she'd left the field of counseling, she never expected to return. She didn't detail the path that took her through training to be an Archetypal Pattern Analyst. I was intrigued enough by her study group to agree to see her for a session. That was over 3 years ago. I never joined the group.
Indeed, in the course of my life I'd often been frustrated by what seemed to be the emergence of a pattern. The people and circumstances appeared to be different, but over time I'd realize there seemed to be an underlying template. There seemed to be a Pattern that was self-similar, and it usually manifested in disheartening ways. Its course was that I'd involve myself with people in relationships that seemed promising at first, but proved eventually to be unavailable. There were a few forms of this. In one men would present themselves as intensely interested, open up their hearts, yet get "scared" when mine opened in response. It used to seem that the kiss of death of a relationship would be my own interest, which seemed to confirm the old "play hard to get" gambit. I began to brace myself for the signs of a chill, and could usually sense immediately when the connection was broken--as soon as I began to want it. I was left bleeding, furious that it had happened yet again: an event like that propelled me into therapy with Sharon 25 years ago. I thought I had healed that dynamic when I met Gary, until I realized that unavailability has more subtle forms than physically staying, or not. Another form of Pattern I experienced was in the realm of accountability. Certain important people were very offended if I attempted to hold them responsible for some broken agreement. The implication was that there was some tacit agreement to let it pass unacknowledged--and I was trespassing. The spotlight wasn't on the lapse, but on my mentioning it. Their feelings were hurt because I named the act that had hurt my feelings. It was as if my hurt feelings hurt their feelings. Thus I spent a lot of time confused. Was I wanting too much? Was I too sensitive (a dreaded accusation)? Was I predisposed to take things the "wrong" way? Was what I wanted unreasonable? The benefit of the doubt did not belong to me. I was always afraid that I was in the wrong.
The dynamic was so much a part of who I was that I didn't really see it. It didn't stand out as something that was worthy of mention to Sharon when we resumed our therapy relationship with her as Pattern Analyst. It came up by chance in the course of a different conversation.
Even as I write the above I can hear echoes of the old doubts. I can hear voices accusing me of "feeling sorry for myself", blaming others for my troubles, whining, 'poor me' and soliciting sympathy. The driving force behind those thoughts strait-jacketed me and I could not penetrate it. Understanding eluded me. It was easier to assume I was just wrong, period. But then I felt miserable, and had a nagging feeling that that really wasn't It, yet I couldn't come up with what was. I'd just get more confused.
I was wound very tight. But with the help of Sharon's mentoring, I'm beginning to see the elements of the ties that bind.
Recent events reveal the bones of the pattern at its starkest. I see very clearly that love in my family was not unconditional. Love depended on allegiance to a certain unarticulated Code. And if Truth conflicted with the Code, then Truth was to be sacrificed for What Should Be, instead of What Is. Loyalty to What Should Be was a requirement for love. Lies were required, even while a superficial version of the "truth" was demanded. As Palemother commented, "truth" in my family was about control and obedience. What does one who has taken the expectation of Truth literally (and to heart) do when the demands of Truth cross the demands of Code? What does one who loves the Truth do when required to lie, on pain of losing love?
One doubts oneself. One poisons the well of her/his own feelings by doubting them. This solves the problem of lying, when one's heart is devoted to the Truth. Doubt, and confusion serve a protective function, even if that act of survival makes a person vulnerable in other areas. This is because such a person is denied access to the hunches and inner promptings that guide our choices. Such a person is prey to the demands of others because such a person believes the emotions meant to protect are motivated by selfishness. Such a person has to make a way blind in a world that's often pitiless. Of course, the Code was meant to replace the guidance of a responsive heart and sensitivity.
More later, perhaps.