I had a moment in my last therapy session that, in retrospect, probably seemed particularly awkward to my therapist. I was, as is traditional, talking as much to myself as to her, and in doing so, realized that the thing I was talking about that had happened a few days earlier was, in fact, connected to my emotional state at that very moment, as was something else that I’d assumed was unconnected but had been talking about earlier in the session. It was the emotional equivalent of someone explaining how the killer did it at the end of a murder mystery, or seeing the instruction booklet for some complicated device; that same feeling of, “Oh, that’s how it works!”
I realized that, and laughed, and said something along the lines of,”Now I get it! Finally, I got an actual answer about something from therapy!”
It was a joke, of course, and I’m pretty sure my therapist understood that, but now, thinking back, I have this overwhelming guilt that, maybe she didn’t and maybe I accidentally offended her and her entire profession.
The truth is, I was suspicious of therapy for years for the same reason that my sisters are suspicious of therapy; it just wasn’t done in my family, or, for that matter, anyone in the culture we grew up in at all. It was saved for people who had suffered breakdowns or were far more screwed up than we were allowed to think we were. Even when I first went into therapy, I did so with a deep suspicion that it could ever be of any use to me, because I wasn’t that messed up.
The joke was on me, as much as anything that followed could be considered a joke; therapy proved to be entirely revolutionary for me, in terms of my understanding of myself and also what I was capable of, and what I deserved. It’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life, and perhaps not even one to say that it saved my life.
That’s not to say any of it came easily, or even in a straightforward manner, which is what my self-conscious joke was all about. I don’t “get answers” from therapy in the sense of suddenly having an epiphany and everything falls into place immediately. (I don’t even think it’s supposed to work like that, as much as there’s even a way it’s supposed to work. At least, not for me.) The flash of realization this time around was a new experience, which is what provoked the laughter, and the joke, and then the guilt that followed.
That there was any guilt that followed just underscores the reasons why I see a therapist, of course.