Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I broke up with my therapist

It was a banner day for joy seeking. The more traditional thing for me to write about would be the stellar production of Good Person of Szechwan at the Foundry Theater, starring one of my closest people, Taylor Mac along with a bunch of other phenomenal performers, including Lisa Kron. And not just seeing it, but running into a whole coterie of theater friends there, reminding me that 1) I have lived in NYC for a while, and 2) some very very very Good People (as in Good People of Szechwan) work in NYC theater. (If I could tag people in a blog post, I would tag David Herskovitz, Lynn Nottage, Sturgis Warner, and Alicia Svigals under Good People.)

But before all that I did something that I want to write about. This blog hasn't been very personal this year, like it was 2 years ago, but every now and then I like to dip into that territory. I have been seeing a therapist for 2 years. She's very good, but it hasn't been right. I went to her to achieve two specific things, and two years in, we have not. We did not. We achieved other things, and they were probably quite useful and significant (although I think she thinks they are more useful and significant than I do.) As time went on, I would refocus us. I'd remind her what my goals were. She'd say that what we were doing was actually the path to those goals. Even though we weren't coming close to them. She'd say that the work is slow and subtle. That there were things I needed to get to and through before we'd be able to get to the things I wanted to get to. That it was like we were working at a DNA level, and that the other things would come along.

I am very very susceptible to this kind of talk. Just wait, it will get better. Just wait, I am trying very hard. Just wait, you'll see. I tend to be far too good at waiting for things that aren't what I actually want. Sometime in December I started to think it was time to make a clean break. I wasn't 100% sure; it seemed like waiting for a sort of bad romantic relationship to get better. What if I leave right now, just as she's about to CHANGE? And then all the work I've put into it will be for naught. And what if I leave just before it's actually finally going to happen? blah blah blah. (And by blah blah blah, I don't mean to disrespect people who are in this cycle, including myself, who very easily gets into this cycle. I just mean to say, we know the cycle, and I don't need to go into it any further.)

Then things came up. I went to New England for Christmas. I had a program at work on a Tuesday night. I had my MLK program to run. Josh's brother died. I was in rehearsal. And before I knew it, 6 weeks had passed without a session. And I was feeling great. I loved having the space away from therapy. I loved having a free Tuesday evening. I started to notice that the most transformative decisions I made this year (seek selfish joy every day, and develop and stick to some bottom lines) have not, in fact, grown out of therapy, but out of my Mussar practice and also from reading a self-help book. And that's when I knew it was time to break up. (I also now understand why people have trial separations, which is something I have never done.)

And so I went in and I told her, with great clarity, that I made my decision. Over the next hour she was extremely caring and supportive, but there wasn't much there there beyond that. I asked for her big picture wrap up, what had been most significant over our years together, but she threw it back to me. I bit. I talked. I summated.  Then I asked her again, but she pretty much just echoed what I had said. To fill the space I told her about some significant things that had happened over the course of the six weeks. She was incredibly warm and caring and kept saying she was so glad. But no big framework. And maybe she was actually doing this on purpose, so that we wouldn't be opening doors in this hour, but only closing them. And maybe she was focusing on warmth and caring because it was genuine and probably the most important thing I could take away from a relationship with her. Whatever it was, I left after an hour (and she very graciously did not charge me for this last session) and felt great. I had set a bottom line and stuck to it. I wanted one thing, and I wasn't getting it. I could appreciate the stuff I was getting, but also knew it was not what I actually wanted or needed. I left. On good terms. With warmth and caring.

So that's what that feels like.


  1. So...what were the two things you wanted to accomplish?

  2. Dang - I was nosy too! Always interesting to hear of other people's developmental dilemmas.

    Always enjoy these posts, Jenny. Don't say so often enough!