True to you or true to me?

I’m socially phobic. This is not just some random label I’ve taken on myself. My therapist and probably even my professors can testify to it. So obviously, this is a problem in a woman who is studying to become a therapist. I’ve come a long way but I am still not comfortable enough to really effectively work with people. This may change even more before I graduate but still it is not a strength I have. My strengths come from research, reading, writing, analyzing, putting together new information and associations, and passion, oh yes, I have boat loads of passion for learning new things, psychology, Art Therapy, and the human condition. And I have such empathy for people; I want to help them.  Over the past few days, since my last appointment with my therapist, I have been struggling with what we had discussed. She said that I can’t work with people in the same ways that my classmates can. I can’t work with people in the same way that she, my therapist, can. My therapist is a people person.  I, she said, am not.  I am an idea person.  She equated me to someone like “Abby Sciuto” (Did I spell that right?) in the t.v. show NCIS. Brilliant but out in the field??? She said, Steve Jobs knew he needed people around him that were better than he was at relating to other people.  Steve Jobs was the idea man.  Anyway. I have been quite distressed about this. Why can’t I ever do what everyone else is doing?! Why am I never like anyone else? Why can’t I just fit in? Why can’t things ever be easy for me? Why can’t I do what is expected of me?  I don’t care about having the knowledge half so much as being able to relate to people easily and comfortably.  I so want that connection.

My heart has ached and continues to ache because I am unable to do what the women I have idolized have done.

Then this morning, as I was getting dressed, I spied the poster I’ve had hanging on my bedroom wall for quite a while. It is a poster I made for…I think it was my Issues in Art Therapy class. We were instructed to create our ideal therapeutic space based on the ethical guidelines laid out by the AATA (American Art Therapy Association). My classmates came in with some really spectacular drawings all more or less standard drawing paper size. Me? I came in with a poster collaged with images of a window fronted A framed building surrounded by other images of zen pools, long outdoor dining tables, wide open spaces, terrariums, drawing tables, books, terra-cotta tiles, intimate sitting areas and flashy bar chairs pulled up next to marble or granite counter tops… It was beyond the four walls and art supplies drawings of many of my classmates. I was kind of embarrassed to hang mine up next to everyone else’s. Then when it came time to discuss mine one of my classmates put her hand up and said, “Yes. To all of that.”

This morning I looked at this poster and thought, “I could do that.” I could put together this retreat based on the principles of Art Therapy, trauma-therapy, healing, hope, being one with nature and ourselves…I could host so many skilled and talented therapists and artists who can get in there and do the hard work in ways that I want to but can’t right now. I can create the ideal space in which to do this hard but oh so necessary work. And since the profession is struggling for its place and legitimacy right now I can include research space. The research space would help to develop the strength the profession needs and deserves. It would be a place of education, insight, and hope for practitioners or anyone else interested in the human condition. Most of all, this place of mine would be one of healing, retreat, and living soulfully.

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Certain Allowances

This morning I had a phone meeting with one of my school advisors. I’ve been having some difficulty in finding an internship site and the place we thought would work fell through. So we/ I have to find a new site and that’s what the phone call was about this morning. I was nervous. I was afraid of being unprepared. I was afraid of not having done enough. But most of all I was afraid of what my advisor would tell me. I was full of an unrealistic fear that I would be rejected, that I would be without support. I’ve come this far. There is no dispute I know what I am talking about and I honestly want to go, do, and help. And I know from talking with a classmate that I am not the only one still looking for a site for the Fall.

I have this enthusiasm to go and do but I am also afraid of being overwhelmed. This is something my therapist and I have been working on lately. I have been trying to learn how to trust myself, trust myself that I can handle most situations I am in, trust that if I do not know or am not comfortable, I can ask for help. In the past feelings of being overwhelmed lead to feelings of needing to escape, confusion, hurt, fear, and paralyzation. I couldn’t easily ask for help out of fear of the other person’s response. What would they think of me? What would they do? What does it mean if I can’t do _________ by myself? And, while I am or think I am in a better place, I am not entirely sure I am past that place if pressed or stressed.

I’m still not entirely comfortable about asking for help especially when it comes to school and professional arenas. I have this feeling that if I ask for _______________ then they’ll think I can’t handle _____________ and I am not worthy for __________. I can ask for help but there is only so far that help will be extended. It’s like I’m trying so hard to catch up before time runs out. Certain allowances will be made for only so long and only so far.

Boundaries

I’m getting better about knowing myself, what I stand for, and almost being able to stand up for it and myself. I am resisting a little more when people impose their shoulds and judgements on me. I felt much stronger as a person during my latest visit to Mom’s. But I still need to work on meeting my own needs.

My therapist and I talked about this week how I’ve sought outside affection and support from people, women especially, in authority who naturally have boundaries, like teachers. I try over and over again to get what I need from these figures, women I admire, but can’t because of these boundaries. I need to get my needs met from within myself but how? I can’t eat my feelings, nor can I buy and accumulate stuff unreasonably. It won’t fill the hole and will only make me feel worse. I keep recreating these relationships over and over and over with inaccessible women, Mommy figures.

What would be different if I had chosen my therapist as a friend rather than a therapist? At the time I knew I needed a therapist and felt that “K” would be good in this role. I felt we could work together well. But part of me also felt that this would be the only way I’d get to see her. This was an “in.” I wouldn’t have known how to approach her otherwise. Better to have some kind of interaction than none at all.

I realize this morning that maybe I seek out these types of relationships intentionally with men (I’m thinking of a past boyfriend who was much older) and women. As much as they hurt, the natural and correct boundaries prevent me from becoming too emotionally invested. I keep beating my head against this wall because it is too scary to even think of a relationship without these boundaries. Instead, I pine away for something I can’t have.

The image that keeps coming to mind is of a little girl who wants to be picked up and held, just like the way my one year old niece seeks comfort from her mother, my sister.