Some Things I’ve Learned from a Couch.

May 9, 2012 at 8:17 am | Posted in Choosing Happiness., Crazy Talk (aka: Therapy), Cult of Personality | 7 Comments

As I marvel at how different I feel about the prospect of doing another cycle, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering exactly how things have changed. And I realized that I’ve learned a few things in the past year by sitting on my therapist’s couch and just talking.

I figured I’d share.

1. Avoiding or talking myself out of a feeling does absolutely no good. Seems simple, right? But always, I’ve spent a huge amount of energy trying to talk myself out of feeling something.

Not even kidding, at my cousin’s wake? I looked over at my cousins and aunt and uncle and reminded myself that I didn’t have it so bad, it wasn’t like I lost my sister or daughter. And I really thought, you know, that would make me feel BETTER.


What I do now, whenever I start to sense that a feeling’s creeping in? I acknowledge it, I breathe through it, and I let it pass.

Some days it passes quickly, like yesterday morning when I considered a cycle and how many people I know who are pregnant, and the longing for another baby nearly choked me. I said, out loud, Yes, I want a baby really, really badly. It’ll be okay. And breathed through it for a good few minutes.

And sure enough, I felt a little BETTER when I was done.

2. I try to control things when I feel scared or insecure. And there are many things in my life in which I have NO control. Our previous cycles are a perfect example of this; the obsessive googling of protocols, asking about baby aspirin, making sure I knew exactly what and where and how, preparing myself for every possible outcome – it was all to regain some measure of control over the process.

The thing is: I have no real control over the OUTCOME of a cycle. I can take the medication, baby aspirin, stop drinking, do acupuncture, whatever. But it won’t guarantee that I will get pregnant on a given cycle. It’s not within my control.

So I could spend my energy worrying, endlessly ruminating, trying to find new things to DO which might help our chances…

… Or I could cede that to my clinic and the universe and trust that I’m doing everything I can.

Man, it frees me up to focus on other things. Like my kid. And my marriage.

3. I am an awful listener. It’s interesting that I discovered this through talking through my sessions with my therapist. But it’s true.

My whole life I’ve been focused on talking so that people listen to ME. I’ve thought about how I word things, honed my speaking skills so that I can sum up a feeling in 5 words or less, I’ve talked around an issue for hours.

But I spent so much of my childhood trying NOT to listen to the things my parents had to say about me (aka: remember, I was the Bad Child. My mother was a Saint for putting up with me, my dad was just disappointed that I had “so much potential” that I was wasting!) that I never really learned how to LISTEN to someone when they had something to say.

Which definitely affects my marriage. It was a couple of weeks ago where I realized how abysmal I was at it. No wonder why Charlie doesn’t want to share how he feels very often – because when he says something I pick it apart and totally make him feel like he’s wrong to feel that way.

And no wonder he sometimes questions my love for him. I never seem interested in him as a PERSON, what he has to say or how he thinks.

As I work on it, I am realizing how often I do it to my friends and family, too. And I am working on getting rid of my Agenda for conversations, letting them go the way they go without, well, trying to control it. 🙂

4. Anger is my defense mechanism. When I get angry, it’s time for reflection.

Always before now, I’ve gotten angry and easily come up with a litany of reasons WHY I’m angry. And more often than not, it’s been criticism of the OTHER person. I’m mad because they did this and this and this and haven’t we talked about this, and s/he’s NOT LISTENING TO ME!

Thing is, I’m starting to see that people react primarily related to their own baggage. Which means that whenever I get angry, there’s something below the surface that’s bothering ME. And it’s not the fact that someone made me angry. It’s that the situation made me feel bad.

Example? Here’s my thought process about something I got mad at Charlie for recently.

I’m SO angry. Why can’t he turn off the freaking light when he leaves a room? Seriously, it’s like he doesn’t even care that I’ve asked him to do it.

Okay. Angry. Why exactly do I care if Charlie doesn’t turn off the lights when he leaves the room, even though we’ve talked about it before?

Well, it’s because I hate wasting money. Why? Well, because I feel like we’ve been spending a lot, and I really want to save money where we can. And I wish that Charlie felt the same way I did. And does he think that way? No. Is that okay? Right now, no, I’m feeling insecure about our finances.

Maybe it’s time to put more money in our savings account and scale back the purchases I was thinking of making.

Ah. Better.

Seriously, this was my thought process. Didn’t happen THAT quickly, but I got there. But see? It was so easy for me to get angry at Charlie for being an asshole, but really, underneath it all, I was worried about MONEY. Really had nothing to do with Charlie and everything to do with security. I wasn’t feeling very secure at that point in time.

5. I deserve to feel good about myself. This one is sort of crazy. I have spent so much time complaining about how unhappy I am, how much I WANT to be happy, that I sort of just assumed that, yeah, if happiness found me, I’d be over the moon.

Except I’ve been making it so that I CAN’T be happy. Because any time I feel good about myself, I wonder: When is the other shoe going to drop?

I realized recently that when my cousin died, I thought it was my fault for being happy and selfish. And I punished myself for the next 17 years by forcing myself to do stuff I wasn’t good at. Penance for focusing on what I loved to do for the year in college I did, I suppose.

That’s why I’m an accountant now, even though, truly I am NOT math OR detail-oriented. It’s why I am good at writing SEC documents, but not so much at really complicated calculations where you need to understand every little tiny input and how it fits into the whole thing.

It’s why I look for the things I did wrong in every experience, why I try and get better, why I expect myself to work hard all the time.

And when I did something, like finish a half marathon for the first time? I don’t focus on that accomplishment. I focus on the fact that I had to walk in the last 3 miles. I tell myself I can’t be happy until I finish a half marathon STRONG.

Keep doing this, and I’ll never actually allow myself to be happy.


Patterns like these are so hard to break, you know. I have days where I’m angry, and I want to yell, “I’M JUST ANGRY, DAMMIT! THERE’S NO OTHER REASON!”

And sometimes breathing through a feeling doesn’t really help, because it’s a lot of sad all heaped on top of itself.

And sometimes Charlie will say or do something with Lucky that makes me really want to control their relationship because I’m feeling super protective of my son’s emotional health.

But really, it’s recognizing when it happens, and sitting with it and letting it play out.

Like Puck. There’s a hole in my heart which he filled, and I swear every day and night I LOOK for him to come into the room. My heart constricts a little when I walk into the kitchen and see the empty space where his litter and food used to be. I listen for him at night, waiting for him to come lay down on my legs and sleep with us.

It’s real sadness, and it hurts, and I’m grieving. But I know that there’s nothing I can DO about it, I just have to allow myself to feel it. And talk about it. And breathe through it.

Like cycling. I am relying on New RE to set up a protocol which gives us a good chance of getting pregnant. I really want it to work. There are moments of absolute longing which take my breath away. But I know, too, that we have a really good life in the here and now.

Happiness with my life in the here and now can actually coexist with sadness that we didn’t have more.

That thought, simple as it is?

Has changed EVERYTHING for me.



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  1. As I was reading this post, I realized that now I can put off going to therapy forever, because you figured it all out for me. Thanks! (just kidding, sort of) It’s hard to stop feeling angry. It feels so good sometimes to just really be mad, I am kind of afraid to give it up. But I think maybe the answer is acknowledging the feeling, but no longer blaming the other person, like you did in your example.

    My new trick, which I think I learned in some training on communicating with clients (I don’t remember), is to use “and” sentences. Instead of, “I’m happy with my life but I really wish I had…” I am trying to say “I’m happy with my life AND I wish I had…” so both things can still be true at once. It’s not one or the other. A little cheesy, but it works.

  2. awesome revelations! Several years back I fought the good fight to become a better listener, less self obsessed, less compulsive, and release control. I saw what that does to people and I wanted to choose happiness instead. I began actively doing the opposite of what my gut told me to do (like trying to control people’s actions and relationships, even something as simple as compulsively lining up cans I resisted) and worked to stop obsessing over things from the past–even BIG terrible things. I looked to people who seemed open and accepting and easy, and I copied their behavior. It was hard work but I stuck with it…and I am so glad I did. I am happy and was recently complimented by a mommy friend for my ability to let things go and be honest. That actually blew me away but it was true, so I accepted it.

    You will be so glad too. Behavioral repetition is the only way to change our patterns. And it always feels awkward at first, but eventually if you stick with it, it will become just a natural feeling as the controlling obsessive impulses. It took me about 2 years of actively making different choices until it stopped being active work and just became me. I still do fight some fights (like lining up cans) but have found that I have actually swung in the opposite direction a bit much and become a little too laid back with some stuff. People can change, but you gotta want it and work for it.

    Keep with the work and the journey, you will be grateful for your effort.

  3. This… all of this… is just amazing. I am in awe of what you have accomplished through therapy.

  4. I had to read this line several times and just breathe and take it in… “Happiness with my life in the here and now can actually coexist with sadness that we didn’t have more.” Because it is so true for me, now, too.

  5. GREAT post — you can tell you’re really in tune with yourself, now more than ever. Progress…I love it!

  6. I think we are twins separated at birth. holy cow I could have written this post. and I wrote something really similar specifically just on your first point literally just this week. But I do ALL of this. All of it.

  7. I adore this post. There is so much in here that I wish would sink in for someone I love immensely.

    Your last lesson is my favorite part: “Happiness with my life in the here and now can actually coexist with sadness that we didn’t have more.”

    Yes, both. Human emotions don’t always follow the rules of single file.

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