Monday, October 23, 2006

I Think I Chose Correctly

I had my first individual counseling session today, and I think I've got the right person to do the job.

We did the usual first session intake stuff, wherein I tried to go over as much of my past history and prior counseling experience as possible.

We also talked about goals. I talked about the three books that have provided inspiration:
  • Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert Glover
  • Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner Davis
briefly describing the lessons I took from them and the relevance to my life.

I said that I believed the core of my problems had to do with a lack of self knowledge and the ability to maintain a sense of self in the presence of others. I live a two-track existence.

The first track is the self I present to others, optimized to complement those with whom I interact. This includes my wife, my friends, my family, my coworkers, and my superiors. When I deal with these people, my mind is focused on making sure I keep them happy. Seldom is there energy spent on checking how all of this relates to what I might want.

The second track dominates when I am alone. You could call it my hidden track. It reflects on recent events and tries to make sense out of them. When you read my blog or forum postings, you're hearing this hidden track at work. The process of deriving meaning is very focused, sometimes overemphasizing what are probably insignificant events. When I am anxious, this process kicks into hyperdrive because I derive security from understanding.

The hidden track has a dark side. If the working narrative turns negative, it can yield resentment. The resentment is fertile soil for cultivating acting out behaviors. Because these behaviors either violate my integrity or result in shame, I have to compartmentalize them, usually by some form of obfuscation or deception. This is the kind of dishonesty that Glover really rips into when defining Nice Guy Syndrome.

Note that neither side is responsible for regulating my behavior in accordance with what I need and want. It is purely reactive and outward directed.

My therapist seemed to lock in well to these ideas. She said that a core requirement was that I had to be truthful about what was going on inside. I told her that I needed someone to challenge me and not let me slide into a comfort zone. This needed to be a process of learning and growth. She said that she would be glad to call me on bullshit. This is exactly the kind of therapy I need.

The big question she posed for me, saying that she didn't expect an answer next week, was this:
What are your non-negotiables?
That's a good starting point, because without knowing this, you couldn't set up meaningful boundaries or develop a sense of self that results in differentiation. She said that from what I had told her, it sounded like I didn't have a good grasp of where my core is.

My next session is on Monday at noon next week. We plan to meet weekly initially, with a falloff to every other week to make sure that my insurance session allocation doesn't get depleted too quickly.
blog comments powered by Disqus