“All children should be taught to unconditionally accept, approve, admire, appreciate, forgive, trust, and ultimately, love their own person.”
― Asa Don Brown
I’ve been seeing shrinks since I was in middle school. I was a “difficult child,” my grades had dropped, and I didn’t get along with my mother – so it was decided that I needed therapy. I wonder now, as I look back on my life, if the therapy I had when I was younger just reinforced the idea that something was inherently wrong with me – that I was imperfect and broken in some way. That I needed to be “fixed” so that I could be loved. All issues I still struggle with today.
So, a suitable therapist was found to deal with my issues and an appointment was made. My mother came along to a few sessions, but most of the time, from what I remember, it was just me and Dr. Fox.
I didn’t particularly like Dr. Fox and I got the feeling he didn’t really like me. He would sit in his large, comfy chair while I fidgeted on the rather hard couch and he would impassively stare at me while he asked me questions I didn’t understand or would rather not answer. But even though I didn’t connect with Dr. Fox, I was an extremely chatty person – I mean, I often talked to myself if there was no one else around to converse with – so I often ended up telling him about my day, what happened in school, and who was mean to me. And he would often rest his head on the back of his chair and close his eyes, occasionally nodding or responding, “Uh-huh” or “What did you think about that?”
One day, as I was rambling on and Dr. Fox was resting his eyes, I noticed his responses to me became fewer and fewer, and finally stopped altogether. I continued with my story for a few minutes, but when there was still no response, I finally asked him what he thought I should do about the situation. I paused, but there was no reply and Dr. Fox’s eyes remained closed. I was silent for a few moments as I pondered the situation. Did he want me to come up with my OWN solution? He often responded to my questions with answers like, “What do YOU think about that?” “How did THAT make you feel?” or “What could YOU have done differently?” So, I thought a moment and came up with my own theory about the situation and posed it to him.
Well, damn. I was silent again as I assessed the doctor and then my eyes widened. Was he DEAD? Did he die right in front of me and I didn’t even NOTICE? Was mine the last voice he heard before the heavenly choir of angels or the roaring fires of hell? (I didn’t know Dr. Fox well enough to be sure which direction he was headed). Oh, jeez – if he was dead, I was REALLY going to need therapy! I grimaced as I stood and tiptoed over to him. Should I poke him or was that disrespectful to the dead? Should I go and try to find the receptionist and let an adult handle this?
As I bent over Dr. Fox, his chest suddenly moved and I let out a little squeak – I hadn’t realized I was even holding my breath. Wait a minute – unless the doctor was a zombie in the process of reanimating, then he was just….ASLEEP! I straightened up in shock and young teen outrage! He had fallen ASLEEP while I was talking? What the hell was up with that? Was I really THAT boring? Did he not care about my life or problems at ALL? For God’s sake, my parents were paying good money to have him do…whatever it was that they expected him to do…and I was pretty sure he wasn’t doing it NOW!
I returned to the couch and perched there with my hands clasped as I observed the lazy bum good doctor for several minutes and contemplated my next move. I could just leave – but I was all the way downtown and anyway, my mother was due to pick me up after my session. I could break out a book and catch up on the latest adventures of Nancy Drew…tempting, very tempting. I could rummage through the doctor’s files and see what he had written about me and my mother – no, too risky and maybe illegal. In the end, I started talking to myself, spinning a tall tale of teenage angst and woe, peppering it with shocking and sensational fictional details I had picked up from television shows and while gossiping with friends. It included scandalous tidbits about drinking, drug use, teenage sex and pregnancy, even the odd murder plot and kidnapping. As I made up my story, I watched Dr. Fox – wondering if he was unconsciously processing any of the tale and how it might influence his dreams – or any of our future therapy sessions.
In the end, the man kept right on sleeping – right up until the time the little timer he had in his office rang to let him know that our session was at an end. He snorted a little, blinked his eyes a few times, and finally focused in on me, nodding. “Well, we’ll have to discuss that more next time.” “Absolutely!” I agreed, “It’s crazy, right?”
Dr. Fox looked momentarily panicked – I knew he was thinking, “What the hell did I miss?” But he quickly composed himself and nodded again, “We’ll discuss how you feel about that when you come back.” Smooth bastard!
What are your thoughts about shrinks and therapy? What is the strangest experience you’ve ever had with a health care provider? Do you ever have conversations with yourself?