The Beginning of Something Else

On June 1, 2007 I found out my husband and partner of almost two decades had been unfaithful to me since before our marriage, and had been having intercourse with prostitutes for 3 1/2 years. This is what happened next.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Progress in individual therapy

I went to my therapist thinking I was going to tell her I wanted to go on an "as needed basis."

Husband is doing contract work now, and doesn't have health insurance so we can't cover all our therapy anymore (not that our insurance companies were covering it all before anyway...but that's a different topic.)

But as we talked, I realized how much work I can still do and how valuable it is to have someone to do it with.

One of the things I distinguished today is that I still find it pretty unbearable when I think anybody is mad or upset with me. I know this ties into the fact that I look outward for my definition of self, but I didn't realize how pervasive that is in my life, or what a firm grip it has on me until today.

My life has been all about avoiding and managing perceived disapproval or disappointment by being nice, accommodating, understanding, reasonable, etc. That realization opens the door to more growth in that area.

Another thing I distinguished is a subtlety about acceptance.

From the reading I've been doing I've learned about a kind of acceptance that has to do with accepting others because I understand both others and myself as different expressions of the same thing (God, Spirit, the Universe, energy, or something along those lines.) Non-duality.

But how I usually approach acceptance is accepting "the other." And I do this because I'm a "good person" and I'm being understanding, kind, generous and reasonable. So in this kind of acceptance there is me, and there is the recipient of my understanding, kindness, generosity and reason: the Other. In other words, duality.

This kind of acceptance allows me to remain in my world of absolutism, where I am a "good person" (martyr) doing what good people do (accept Others) rather than acknowledging the potential for what I see in that Other in myself as well.

The result is that I end up limiting what I allow myself to feel and express, constraining myself only to what I think "good people" do. I don't allow "good" and "bad" to co-exist in myself and have difficulty accepting it in others. For example, how can Husband both love me and hurt me if "good people" don't do things that hurt people they love.

Of course none of this is to say that I don't do things that are mean, unreasonable, unkind, selfish, etc. I just don't think they are when I'm doing them (otherwise I wouldn't do them because I'm a "good person.") And when others do things I think are "bad people" things, I assume that (unlike me) they are consciously making the choice to be selfish, unreasonable, etc.

So clearly, I still need therapy.

My therapist also pointed out something she noticed when we were talking about the Spitzer family. When talking about it, I said almost nothing about how Silda Spitzer might feel, or about how other women feel about the issue. I went right to thinking about the causes (sex addiction) and to helping others (I went onto different sites that were blogging about the Spitzers and posted sex addiction resources.)

It never crossed my mind that I had glossed over thinking about or talking about any feelings of anger that I or others may have as a result of learning that Spitzer had been unfaithful to his wife.

On the positive side, my therapist said that she's seen me grow my ability to stay with discomfort (things that are frightening or cause anxiety) and express my anxiety and fear; and that's halfway down the path to being able to have and express healthy anger.

Once again, progress, not perfection.

The Big Question on my mind was, how does one learn to express anger when one is in such deep denial one sometimes doesn't feel anger when it would be appropriate? My therapist suggested watching how others express their anger (even watching anger scenes in movies and on TV); staying with others who are expressing their anger instead of avoiding or fixing; role play responding the way a "bad person" would (be unreasonable, mean, demanding, messy, selfish, etc.)

1 comment:

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I had to settle down and focus after your health insurance comment, because failure of insurance to cover (fully or adequately) both talk/marriage therapy for my husband and/or me and occupational therapy for my son is one of my huge pet peeves!

I've been thinking about the Spitzers too -- and I have to admit I tend to intellectualize the situation as well. I'm still not convinced that this is a bad thing for me -- at least, I haven't hit my intellectualizing bottom yet. ;) It's worked for me for a long time and I'm not ready or willing to change.