Questions 5/6 - Therapy
Back to the questions after a bit of a hiatus!
Most of the questions revolved around therapy. That being said, therapy is going to be different for everyone. Therapists, themselves, are going to be different, so please don't take my experience as gospel.
What sort of things did the psychologist have you do?
Mostly communication exercises. John and I have very different ways of approaching a conversation. We also have very different ways of participating in those conversations. Thus, we needed help altering our communication styles so we could become more in-sync with each other's needs.
The most pain-staking exercise for me was something called a "10." Each night for a week, the two of us had to sit down and take turns sharing something - anything. The idea was to spend the first five minutes expressing an emotion ("I was so elated that the sun was shining today. Feeling the warm sunshine made me want to run through a park and eat ice cream. I had a smile on my face the whole day because I could look out the window and see that sun... it was wonderful!"). The next five minutes, the listener had to paraphrase the previous five minutes.
So it's like two students learning Spanish. The first student says a few lines in Spanish and the second one has to translate.
That's exactly what a "10" was. John would speak in his language for a few minutes and then I'd have to translate what he just said. John would give feedback on what I got right or didn't get right (or vice versa), and that made up our 10 each day.
I HATED those stupid tens. At the same time, however, I looked forward to them because it was 10 minutes we were forced to talk to one another. We were forced to be together and focus solely on each other, and I admit that was nice. Even John enjoyed the tens for that reason.
But yes, I hated them because, quite frankly, talking about emotions is about as comfortable as boiling lava. Even now, just thinking about it, I have an intense disdain for the idea of it. One time I stormed out of the room ranting, "You wanna talk about emotions and touchy-feely crap? Find me when you grow a set, because this is disgusting. I hate it, it's stupid, and I don't need some shrink trying to get me in touch with my emotions when I do well enough on my own without them."
Terrible, right? And I'm about 99% sure my language was more colorful than that. I have such a visceral disgust for discussing emotions that I really did need to be trained into doing it. I have a tendency to discuss things clinically. It's less messy that way. It's safer that way. I detach from emotions quickly and that detachment is what helped me survive years of emotional abuse. So trying to unlearn the habit that sustained me from my earliest days was a really ugly process.
Unfortunately, it had to be done because emotion is where John flourished. He hated how clinical I was with everything. Whenever an argument would arise, he'd complain I'd handle things like a lawyer. I'd argue facts and bring up evidence to support my case, but never once did I validate his feelings on the matter. Never once did I consent to allow his feelings to play any role in the flow of an argument. Quite frankly, any time he'd bring up his feelings I'd tear into him cruelly because feelings, in my mind, had no place in an argument. Feelings were pointless little things because they weren't rational. They weren't reasoned. You could "feel" whatever and have no basis for it. So "feelings," to me, were excuses. Whiny, disgusting little excuses.
And yet they do belong in arguments, and that was something I struggled with in therapy. I still struggle, but it's something I've gotten a bit better at confronting, especially since the touchy-feely stuff is the language John gets.
As for John, I think he was expecting the psychologist to take his side (being a man and all). He was surprised when the psychologist defended my position on family and friends when John complained that I no longer hung out with his group. He complained openly that I was no longer fun because all I did was stay home with Vince. He complained that I didn't see a need for a sitter until Vince was a year old, and that I'd grown apart from mutual friends because of my reclusive nature.
The psychologist noted that I wasn't reclusive, my priorities had just shifted. Since most of John's friends - at that point - were still unmarried, single and childless, their priorities were on an entirely separate track than mine. John, being torn between the two, hadn't yet figured that out and needed to realize he was putting undue pressure on the marriage by having expectations of that didn't match circumstance. He wanted to continue living the life his single, childless friends were living, but at the same time he wanted to be a responsible father and husband. He saw me being doing the latter and the psychologist noted that my responsibility and priority shift highlighted John's need to match up. The inadequacy John felt as a result of not matching my priorities caused the rift, and instead of taking responsibility for his own mismatched priorities, he blamed me.
Thus, I think for John he got a lesson in reality checks. Being a very clinical and rational person, I understood his dilemma but had no way of expressing it other than being exasperated that he couldn't figure it out for himself. Thus, John had to take a long, hard look at his priorities and begin shifting them in a way that made him feel as though things were in their proper order. Having stretched himself too thin trying to do everything, readjusting his wants with his responsibilities was probably his biggest hurdle.
But that's what psychologists are there for. They don't necessarily jump the hurdles for you, but they do point them out and give you pointers on how to get over them yourself.
So that's what ours did. He'd listen to us (sometimes we were arguing, sometimes we were joking), and he'd interject when he felt the discussion was getting off-topic, he'd make sure we'd hear one another out, and he'd model proper communication for us before giving us similar "homework" via communication exercises.
And like I said, we only ended up going to him a handful of times because sometimes, that's all you need... someone to point out the hurdles and give you some advice so you're able to jump them together. :)
Question 6: As for formatting / cost, it varied.
He was $180 per hour, so I'm glad it only took us a handful of times! That was a financial sacrifice, but he was well worth it. Other psychologists we looked at ranged from $125 all the way through $250 per hour.
Formatting was pretty basic. First session was mostly questions directed at each of us individually so he could get an idea of our background and family histories. After that, it was us explaining one or two issues and then attempting to talk it out in a way that was beneficial. We'd model our current communication and he'd give pointers to help us get our ideas on the same page. He'd sometimes offer insight that would help one of us better understand the other's point of view, but he mostly stayed neutral and was there only to aid communication. No lounge chairs, no notepads full of hangmen doodles, and no waxing philosophical on the nature of love and romance. Our psychologist was strictly working to get us to communicate better with one another, and that's exactly what we needed.
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