Three posts in as many days! I don’t know what’s come over me. 🙂
So, since my therapist is out of town this week we arranged to have our regular session over the phone yesterday. I was dreading the session most of the day, even more than usual actually because I don’t like talking on phones. I don’t like checking voice mail. I don’t like seeing/hearing others talk on their phones. I don’t like hearing them ring (or vibrate, in my case). I cringe when I hear other people’s phones ring. I’d get rid of mine, but that probably wouldn’t be smart for someone with social anxiety.
It must have something to do with the fact that there are no distractions over the phone. It’s me and the other caller–that’s it. There is no one else to take the spotlight off me. There are no external distractions either, like television or eating or music or a movie, etc. But there are no distractions like that in therapy anyway, so I don’t know what I was so afraid of.
Anyhow, about thirty minutes before the session started, tension, nervousness, and anxiety hit. I just wanted to get it started (or over with). My stomach hurt, and I began sweating a little under my arms. I felt like I was getting ready to go to a large social gathering or something. I think it must have been the combination of the phone and pre-therapy jitters.
I’m probably freaking out about nothing, I told myself. So I’m going to stop indulging in my negative thoughts. Once I became aware of what was happening and told myself to stop, I felt better.
The session started like all our other sessions. We talked a little about how this–therapy over the phone–is new territory for us and what not. I wish we would have explored my phone-phobia a little more. I brought it up, but we quickly turned to other things.
I told him about how I was feeling anxious about Christmas, about how I’d be seeing my relatives. I told him how anxious I felt as soon as I found that out. We spoke about this for a while (mostly about how I’m afraid of interacting with my cousins’ children) before he said–
“You can push back if you want but what I think it all comes back to is self-acceptance. It’s okay to be introverted and reserved. It’s okay to be soft-spoken. But these things are not okay for you.”
He went on and on, and yet I was still stuck on his words push back. It had a negative connotation to it. To me, the words said–
Now you can push back, but if you do, you will be wrong because I am the therapist and I am right.
After he got done talking about self-acceptance, we were both silent.
“Where are you?” he asked, finally breaking the silence.
I told him the truth. I told him how I didn’t hear much of what he said because I was still stuck on him saying push back. I told him how I’m uber sensitive to his wording sometimes and how I’m afraid to stop him because I’m afraid he’ll say I’m just avoiding things (like he’s done in the past). We had a good discussion about that, and I feel a little better about it, actually. I think he understands better that when I do stop him, sometimes it’s not that I’m avoiding–it’s just that I want to say something and that should be okay. I don’t think there has to be a hidden/deeper meaning in everything.
One thing interesting that he did mention is that therapy is the one place where I can–and should–feel comfortable pushing back. A lot of times in life, I want to do that, but I just don’t have the self-esteem.
We then went on and talked more about the letter (part 1, part 2) I sent to my parents and how I can use that to start more discussions. I’m scared to talk more about it, yet I do want a closer relationship with my parents. I know my relationship with them hasn’t changed because of one letter. I have to keep moving forward, and I feel a lot of pressure to do that.
Finally, at the end of the session, I started getting flooded with anxiety, as I always do, and I checked out by browsing Facebook. When we finally said goodbye, I found myself looking at pictures of someone from high school who used to pick on me. Whenever I get on Facebook I’m unconsciously brought to the people who did me harm. I should probably bring that up in a future session, among other things. I’ll add it to the list.
I’m impressed you had a phone session. Very brave. I definitely could not have done it. Do you think you would do it again?
BTW, I think it’s okay to be introverted/soft spoken/shy too. If we were all gregariously loud screaming people, it’d be hard to have a conversation. The world needs people like us to even out the score 😉
I wouldn’t want to do another phone session. It was strange. I mean it was a lot easier, but I didn’t get as much out of it. I definitely wouldn’t want to do phone therapy long-term. It’s much less intimate, and I think it would be hard to build trust that way.
Logically I know it’s okay to be introverted, as it creates balance, but, deeper down, my beliefs tell me otherwise. They say I should be more outgoing because that’s what people prefer. I am slowly changing, though.
One day I hope to have therapy sessions. But for now, I will just enjoy reading your blogs and grow from reading them in addition to our friendship!
I’ve recently stopped to think about accepting my introverted nature. I never really thought about it, but this is the way I am and it won’t change. I can’t become someone I’m not. I think your t is right when he says it’s okay to be this way. The sooner we can accept who we are, the faster our anxieties will let up, making us and others more at ease in our social interactions. It’s just a matter of being comfortable with who we are.
I’ve had a few short phone sessions with my therapist and it was definitely weird. He was different, I was quieter. It made me realize that I tend to rely a lot on his expressions and demeanor during therapy and of course he does with me as well. Definitely not as good as face to face.
Anyway, happy holidays and enjoy your trip home!
Hey. I guess as of late I’ve been able to accept myself a little easier because I’m starting to understand that I am fine the way I am. I’ve always thought the cards were stacked heavily against me. I’m realizing that I am fine just the way I am. Now, I don’t always feel like that, but I am feeling like that more and more.
Hey Mike! I really like this post and it definitely shows that you are learning to trust and speak for yourself. Fear can definitely be an overwhelming emotion that I myself have a hard time dealing with, but I am starting to believe that if I just push through it–things are never as bad (often enjoyable) as my own mind made them out to be. I wish you luck and success on your trip home over the holidays!
I totally agree- When I can push through my anticipatory anxiety and go through a social situation I greatly fear, I usually find that things are not really that bad. It’s all in my head.
It’s kinda strange to me, but it seems like the more I accept myself as a quite, introverted person the more I actually open up to people. I think it has to do with realizing, “hey, I am who I am and it doesn’t matter what you think.” Anyway, I love reading about your experiences. Keep it up.
Thanks for the comment, and I can relate- The more I understand that I don’t have to be the life of the party, the more I open up. Quite a paradox.
And there is your internal representations in action. You had a particular meaning and interpretation associated with the words “push back”. I’m not sure you are unconciously drawn to the people who “did you harm” when you go on facebook but, if you are, that could well be because you haven’t processed what went on with those people and those representations you have of what went on with those people who did you harm are still informing things and causing you issues.
Speaking as a therapist, remember: we work with you not on you. We are not right all the time. We need your feedback so give it. We work to the beat of your drum. We’re the guides. Your personal ecology knows where it wants to go. It knows how to heal just as your body knows h0w to heal a cut. Congratulations on your acheivement and merry Xmas.
Thanks! The bullies from my past are still right here with me, guiding me. I haven’t been able to find a way to let them go. I also find it hard sometimes when my therapist makes mistakes. I hold myself up to ridiculously high standards, but I hold him to even higher standards. I forget that he is human.
Phone sessions are so hard – I only had one, and my t did most of the talking. I can’t talk to anyone on the phone really. As for being introverted, apparently 50% of the world is, so how could it be bad? I think I have finally accepted my introversion, and it doesn’t mean I never go out or never talk to anyone. It’s ok with me now. Luckily my husband and son are introverted too, so there is no pressure to attend lots of parties or functions. My daughter has a ton of friends and is always going out, but I know she needs to be by herself at times to regroup too.
It’s great that you told your t that you are sensitive to his words and the way he says things. That can only be helpful to him. Good for you!
I think you’re right about the world being 50% introverted as a whole, but I think that number is misleading because the Western world is much more extroverted. China probably evens everything out, as they are largely introverted. For me, it’s helped to re-frame what the word introvert means. It’s always had a negative connotation–but there is nothing wrong with it. You can be outgoing and still be an introvert. Introverts simply create meaning internally, while extroverts create meaning externally.
Hi…want to tell you your blog is great.
Thinking of you and hoping your holidays are going smoothly!
Hi Mike! You haven’t written a post in a while, but I know you are out there because you are responding to comments. I hope everything went well with the family and Christmas, and that you are just taking a few days to recover.
I wouldn’t get too bogged down with labels like introvert and extrovert. They are labels not people. Each of us is a fluid person who makes meaning internally and externally on an alternating basis. Trouble with labels is, when we decide we are such and such and give ourselves a label we act as if it defines us and is always true in our reality. We even give ourselves limits about what is possible based on these labels.
“Thanks! The bullies from my past are still right here with me, guiding me. I haven’t been able to find a way to let them go. I also find it hard sometimes when my therapist makes mistakes. I hold myself up to ridiculously high standards, but I hold him to even higher standards. I forget that he is human.”
Well now…how are they with you? How are they guiding you? I’m guessing they aren’t actually following you around all day? I know what it can be like. I was bullied a lot and I often think that I shouldn’t believe in myself because they will just laugh at me. Which is ridiculous because they aren’t actually here anymore. But the representation of them and what happened during the bullying is. The beliefs about myself were there too until recently.
You might want to look at the NLP stuff with memory. We can’t remove the memories of you being hurt but your reaction to the representation of those memories and what they teach you can be changed to be more positive and purposeful with respect to your personal ecology.