I’ve always been fairly dubious about psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. It’s always conjured images of darkened rooms and couches and Freud smoking a cigar implying I have penis envy. I suppose my main objection to psychoanalysis is Freud himself and his relentless preoccupation with sexuality.
Aside from that I don’t particularly feel talking about oneself, complaining about problems and ultimately blaming misfortunes on others – usually our parent’s (because of course, it is always our parent’s fault) for years could be particularly helpful. I’ve always took a stand that if there is a problem, it is best to face it head on. To do something about it, rather than simply talk about it and how it makes you feel.
The psychoanalytic style also tends to link present problems to past traumas. I have been fortunate enough to escape any significant childhood traumas. I have a lovely family and friends. I have nothing in my life to complain about. So how is this going to work?
Still, upon leaving the hospital my psychiatrist was keen for me to try psychotherapy. And what was I to refuse? Over the last decade I’ve tried it all, group therapy, individual therapy, mindfulness, meditation, CBT, DBT, EMDR (and on one particularly frightening moment in hospital I was offered ECT). Why not add a bit of psychotherapy to the mix. Why not kick it Freud style? At the very worst I’ll have an hour to talk about myself each week!
As it happens, last week during my weekly appointment (where there were no couches or cigars) , I was considering the topic of homosexuality.
“I don’t think I could ever live with a woman…in that way.” I mused, settling back into my chair.
“Why’s that?” my psychologist queried.
“Well. Aside from the obvious benefits…” I said with a wink “men are just terribly useful for some things.”
“Fixing things? Carrying heavy stuff?” I paused, deep in thought. “Killing spiders?”
My psychologist burst out laughing, causing me to giggle as well. ”I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be laughing…do you feel that a woman wouldn’t be able to kill spiders?”
“well, it’s not that they aren’t able. It’s just probably that they wouldn’t want to, perhaps even less so than I.”
“What about a woman who fit into the classic ‘butch’ role? Would you concede her able to kill spiders?”
“Oh no.” I said decisively. “I’m not attracted to butch women. It just wouldn’t work out.”
My psychologist hid a smile. “You’ve obviously given this a lot of thought.”
“Of course. I think about everything. I’m sure Hubster thinks that a lot of the time I’m just laying around staring into space, but I’m actually thinking about all of these things.” I paused. Then suddenly it hit me.
“The thing is. I feel I am always the one who cares for other people. Even the work I have chosen – paid and volunteer – all revolves around looking after others. I’m the one who listens to peoples problems. I’m the one who tries to make it better. I’m the one who puts all the play equipment away because there is a snake living in the shed and the girls I work with are scared of it. It’s sexist, and against all I stand for in terms of woman’s empowerment. But when I come home at night I want someone to be protecting me. I want to be the one looked after. I’m not saying that a woman couldn’t do this, I’m not saying that I don’t look after my husband. But there is some deep part of me that needs to be protected and cared for. And I get that from a man. I get that from The Hubster.
And perhaps.” I continued. “perhaps that is why I feel such a great need to pursue my femininity. To wear pretty clothes. To cook and bake and provide my for my family within my traditional domesticated feminine role. It’s against all I stand for! I’m writing a thesis on sexism for God’s sake, and yet I’m conforming to my gender stereotype. But perhaps if I showcase my femininity to The Hubster, he will continue to provide that patriarchal protection I crave.
And then I rebel. I rebel against myself by pursuing academic goals, feeling resentful that he is the breadwinner and not I, and yes, killing my own spiders and fighting my own battles. Because I don’t want to be the damsel in distress. I want to be the one who saves myself, who provides for myself and my family. I am very proud, I don’t like help. But I’m only fighting against myself! Hubster has loved me through crazy and he’s loved me through sane. He loves me just the way I am. Whatever that is.”
And there it was. A revelation. A thought, a feeling that I never knew existed. I understood myself. I laughed because it was so silly. And yet so important.
Every week of psychotherapy that passes, I learn more about myself. Somehow I understand myself and allow myself to let go of the pain. It’s an incredible tool for personal growth, and I would recommend it to anyone. My prejudices towards psychoanalysis have lifted. Despite studying psychotherapy indepth with uni, I wasn’t able to understand it fully until I experienced it for myself. It’s a reminder to withhold judgments. Never judge a Freudian textbook by it’s cover 😉