a familiar voice

My therapy session on Tuesday went a little better than usual. Usually when things get hard–that is, when we start going deeper–I shut down. On Tuesday I stayed with my t as much as I could. I feel good about myself (for once) for actually having stuck it out even though it was incredibly difficult. I’m giving myself credit where credit is due; it’s a strange feeling, to say the least.

Well, now that I am analyzing, and writing about, it, there were times I felt very frustrated and maybe did quit a bit.

We’ve been talking a lot about the cycles I go through. Anticipatory anxiety, social event, depression–and how each one is setup by my own negative beliefs about myself. My t is interested in my beliefs, because that’s where change will occur. I’m not sure I believe that. It’s hard for my beliefs to change if they’re constantly being reinforced by my actions. But in a therapeutic session we can only work on what’s inside me, not the outside world and what goes on around me. So, we talk constantly about my beliefs, which is frustrating.

There is a genuine part of me that does want change, that does want my deep, rigid beliefs to be exposed for what they are–lies. I want to be able to engage socially without that voice in the back of my head saying, You are no good. People notice you are anxious, and, consequently, they don’t like you. You will never be anything other than what you are right now. Logically, I know I have an innate worth, and I know sometimes I do appear anxious (but it’s not as bad as I make it out to be), and even if people do notice I am a bit anxious, they probably aren’t judging me or coming to conclusions that I am a bad person. But logic doesn’t always help. It’s what’s deeper that matters. And sometimes I do want those beliefs to change–or at least be challenged.

Which is what happens in therapy. Which is why I shut down sometimes. Why would I want those beliefs to change? They are me. Without them, I won’t know who I am. So, most of the time, I don’t want those beliefs to change. I just want to be able to live my life, while still thinking I am a piece of shit, which has been difficult thus far, obviously.

What’s more, sometimes it feels great to fail because it reinforces those negative, irrational beliefs about myself.

“It feels so good sometimes,” I told my t, “coming in here and telling you what a shitty weekend I had, because now I have something to point to. Now I have something to show you, and say, ‘See. I am messed up. There is something wrong with me.’ It’s fuel for the fire.”

“That voice is what I’m interested in,” he said. “That’s the voice that doesn’t want change, the voice that says you’re not good enough and never will be, the voice that says you should die. It’s a familiar voice. It’s something we need to shine light on. But when we look at it something happens in this room, something changes. You get flooded and leave.”

Anyway, during the session, I tried to open up about the voice, explaining when it comes out in social situations and how it’s, seemingly, out of my control during periods of anticipatory anxiety. I stayed with it as long as I could, but, inevitably, I shut down, relinquishing control. But I did stay with it longer than I have in the past, which is a step in the right direction. I just feel frustrated that I wasn’t able to open up more. I couldn’t find the words.

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6 responses to “a familiar voice

  1. My t would probably ask “What benefit are you getting from having these negative thoughts?” I would probably say, “If I fail I can say – see, I’m a loser, I’ve said so all along!” But if I consider myself in a positive confident way, and then I fail, it is much worse. How do you think you developed these inaccurate beliefs about yourself? Maybe you need to start there. I think that is what I have to do. I can’t just change the way I think or feel about myself through logic or listening to what my t thinks.

    • Hey Harriet- The more I like at my past, the more I find that my beliefs were shaped by others. Getting made fun of, having people point things out, being told I’m a failure etc. Understanding my past has brought a lot of clarity to the present, because I understand how I create meaning in the present. But even knowing this, I am stuck–because now what do I do with it. I’ve found the roots to a lot of my beliefs, and yet I still am the way I am. Awareness, in this sense, doesn’t bring change. I guess I’m looking more now to, yes, use therapy to find out the root causes, but use CBT to bring about change. I think if my thoughts change, eventually some of that will seep down into my deeper beliefs. It hasn’t worked yet. We’ll see, though.

  2. Hey Mike,

    Sounds like you’re in the process of facing who you are with your therapist, which is something I’m about to enter next week. Whenever I try to apply some techniques of CBT to myself and tell myself to get rid of all the negative and irrational beliefs about myself, I find myself struggle and refuse to let them go. No matter how negative or counterproductive my beliefs may be, I guess some part of me has to resist any personality change that may occur as a result of challenging myself. I think beliefs are like the pillars of a house – It requires tremendous work and time to change them into different ones.

    I think it only natural for you to feel the way you’re feeling. It is never easy to face your lifelong beliefs about yourself, let alone challenge them! It always helps me to read about other people who try to live their lives as honestly and sincerely as they can. You are one of those brave people, Mike. I look forward to having some counseling sessions with my therapist next week, but at the same time, it feels a little scary as well because I’m not so used to self-expression in Japanese.

    I’m sure you will be content with your identity as long as you keep doing what you can do at your own pace. Each change happening inside you may be negligible, but I think something is happening inside you in this process of facing yourself with the help of your therapist. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, you can always express yourself on your blog and share with us what happens inside and outside you. I always enjoy reading about your life journey. Please keep us posted as something new happens. As a fellow depressive, I’m rooting for you from Japan, my friend! 🙂 Hope all is cool with you.

    • Hey Takashi. I like your metaphors and agree with you that change takes time. What I was trying to convey in this post–and I’m not sure if this came across–but change is hard when I have two separate voices going on inside my head. The first wanting change, and the other wanting things to remain the same. There is a payoff when things stay the same, because it reaffirms who I am, while there’s a lot of uncertainty in the positive voice–and I really do not like uncertainty.

      I appreciate your comments as always, and I look forward to hearing about your time in therapy. Things are going better for me, and I am more upbeat. I hope things are good for you.

  3. Hi Mike,
    I had a very similar conversation with my t last session. We were talking about my self deprecatory behavior and once he started examining it and talking about letting go of it, I shut down and couldn’t look at him. After a what seemed like an eternity of me looking at the floor. He said, “You’re probably not ready to let it go.” I realized that he was right and I muttered something about it being a way to cope. So I totally understand where you’re coming form. There is definitely a comfort that comes from sticking to what you know no matter how dysfunctional or harmful it is because it is familiar. And when there is so much instability in my mood and emotions it feels right to go with what is familiar and recognizable. How do we separate these thoughts from our identities? How do we change who we are and have been for so many years? This is tough but probably doable, I expect.

    • Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m just hanging on the edge of a cliff. I know if I let go, I’ll be able to release some of my irrational beliefs, but I don’t know what lies below, so I just continue to hold on even though I know it’s not good for me.

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