What my psychologist says

I saw my psychologist a few days ago and I am still thinking about our conversation. I guess the money would have been badly spent otherwise. She doesn’t hesitate to tell me when she thinks that I am doing something completely wrong and is really quite opinionated. Especially for someone with her particular line of work.

According to her, my problems have little to do with alcohol but a lot to do with the way that I think about myself. It is probably quite Freudian but she argues that I am still dealing with some major events that happened when I was 3-4 years old.

Children first feel shame when they are roughly 3 years old. And when they are around 4 years old, they first revolt against their parents. My stuttering started when I was 3 years old. And it was also around that time that my parents got divorced. I don’t remember anything about a revolt but she argues that my basic need for challenging all truisms in my life was formed during that period.

Again, according to my opinionated psychologist, that distinction also parallels my relationship to my parents. Whereas my father never hesitated to voice his disappointment with my life choices, my mother supported all my decisions as long as they resulted in something out of the ordinary. I was playing music when I was in my late teenage years and, over time, I became quite good at it. At that point, my father started supporting the project as well.

So, from early on, my psychologist says, I learned that, in order to get my parents’ attention, I had to figure out what they wanted from me and act accordingly. I became really good at deciphering the expectations that others might have and successfully live up to them. Or revolt against them. Either way, it was the others' expectations – my parents – that came to orient my sense of myself. As my psychologist has told me several times, I learned how to compose myself as a project for others to use.

This is pretty much her understanding of my situation. Depending on the particular events or problem that we are talking about, it might be framed differently, but we almost always return to the problematic relationship to my parents.

I really do think a lot about what she says and I believe that she is probably right about most of it. The first thing that happened during our conversations was that she got me to reconsider my relationship with my mother. I have always imagined my emotional instability as a result of my problematic relationship with my father, whose alcoholism and lack of acceptance of my life choices has been the easy go-to explanation. But it is probably not as simple as that. At least according to my psychologist. 

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Meet my psychologist