The first part of my session was about my family, and the birthday tea I described a couple of posts back. At first, I start, then stop. I really don’t want to talk about it, I say. Why don’t you want to talk about it, Ron says, typical therapist. Saying you don’t want to talk about something to a therapist is like showing a dog a bone. They’re on it.
In a way, I do want to talk. I want to figure this out after all. So I start. How they stick to facts only. How I say stuff about my own life, that’s not deep, but is just stuff that happens that I think is funny and such. That they don’t think is funny. And Ron said similar things to some kind commenters – how it seems to me I’m weird, but really, the way I’m trying to connect to them is human and normal, and they are strange and unusual.
How for my family, academic achievement is all that matters. At least, it was like that for most of my life. Now, in their seventies / eighties, they’ve let up on that a bit. But achieving academically was their way out of the working class. My father actually had a traumatic past. His father died when he was a baby. He’d worked in a factory. His mother, left with four children, cleaned houses. They lived through WWII, through the bombing and devastation that happened. Then after the war, they more or less starved. There was no social assistance in those days. My father never speaks of it, but I picked up bits and pieces over the years. So for him to come through that, actually make it through university, and become a professor – it is in fact huge. It is amazing.
My mother grew up on a dairy farm, and hated it. The best time of her life was in university, where she met my dad.
So I can see, for them, academia was the shining star. That was their path out of misery. It means though, they had no perspective whatsoever. No one in their childhood had had any education. To them it was all new, all shiny, all wonderful. And they’ve kept that view, more or less. Academe is what matters.
So when I did not go very far, got an ordinary degree, and now have an ordinary job, they looked down on me – I was a disappointment. They made me feel bad about it for years. Anyway. Other families might value caring, or money, or social position, or religion, or having children, or family values, or any number of other things, but for my family, it was only intelligence leading to academic achievement. I took it for granted that this was right, as a child. Just as if you grow up in a particular church, you might take that for granted, for a while. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve realized, oh yeah, caring is a value, it can be important.
I didn’t say all this in my session. I started to, and then got off on something else.
Just at the end of this, Ron said, it’s almost as if you’re seeing your family as robots. Is it all really true? Do they really not care at all?
And I said, well, no, they do care in a way. Even my siblings kind of care. It’s just, the kind of people they are, it doesn’t do any good.
Then we talked a bit about my son. The social worker my sister wants us to see works with ‘families of the mentally ill’. It really bothered me when I read their website. That whole philosophy – mental illness is no one’s fault, it’s biology, take lots of meds, cure the symptom ASAP – bugs me. I don’t want my son getting shoed into the mental illness system. I’ve seen others who have, and they’ve never come out. Those drugs can be debilitating. People get onto a treadmill – meds, appointments, support groups – it all goes around. No one gets better or gets off the treadmill. The patients support the system. They get to live at subsistence level, the medical people get nice fat salaries…..I don’t trust it one tiny bit.
Ron agrees with me. He says it’s dangerous to get labelled with a mental illness. I know these are his beliefs already. I just don’t want that for my son. So, this upset me quite a bit.
Oh, now I remember the important part. While I’m telling Ron about my family, I feel awful. I look over at him. I tell him I feel like he agrees with my family – there’s something wrong with me.
He says he doesn’t feel that way. That if he felt afraid of people’s emotions, he would really be a masochist, doing this job. Which I can see. I agree, but say that’s just how I feel. I can think rationally he isn’t judging, but I feel as if he might be. But after we have this exchange, that feeling subsides, and I feel quite a lot better. I think usually, I wouldn’t say it. Because I know with my mind, what Ron is like, and he is not judging. But I am primed to feel as if I’m being seen in contempt. Especially when talking about my family. It was great to just say it.
I wonder if that strong feeling of being judged is coming from a part. Because it seems a bit other, like something I often try to ignore. It’s like I say to myself – I don’t really feel that, that doesn’t make sense, I’ll keep going as if I don’t feel that because really, I don’t.
I can see Ron is being completely honest when he says he isn’t afraid of people’s emotions. And I can see he’s not seeing me the way my family does. I feel more connected to him than usual, having got that off my chest. I distrust, but I can also trust. For a while.
The last part of the session is about how therapy is going. Ron surprised me. I’ll do another post on that part.