I thought I was pretty damn smart. Smart about myself, I mean. For over 40 years I’ve been working as a psychologist and that means thousands of people. Thousands of people with rich family dynamics to explore. Together we dug around, examined, looked at things from every conceivable angle, lifted every rock. And when you’re doing that with someone else, it’s inevitable that you subject yourself to the same scrutiny. Truth is, I believe that most of us who get into this field to begin with are motivated, at least in part, by a deep need to understand ourselves and our family dynamics. Along with time spent with clients, I’ve had years of work with my own therapists, and endless hours mulling it all over with my sister, with my friends. I had ruthlessly interviewed myself. Scrutinized every wacky family interaction. I had most definitely led an examined life. What I mean is this: after all that time, all that work, I truly believed I had come to a place where — and I know how this is going to sound — I had no more work to do as far as my parents were concerned. Ah, hubris! Never mind the things I’ve repeated to clients too many times to count, things I wholeheartedly believe: There is no finish line where we spike the ball and do the victory dance. We are all a work in progress. There’s always something to learn about yourself.Read More
I’ve been a practicing psychologist for more than 40 years and an experience I had recently with a client gave me some insight about memoirs, maybe not about why I chose to write one, but about the value of that kind of project. A kind of retrospective view.
My client had somehow come across my book, read it, and had some questions and thoughts. His first statement to me was, “I thought you were evolved.” I know it can be tempting to see one’s therapist as a person who has arrived, spiked the ball, and done the victory dance. The structure of the relationship kind of supports that falsehood. So I was very happy to disabuse my client of that misimpression, telling him that I believe we are all flawed, all mucking around, doing the best we can; that there is no “evolved,” but that I hoped to be evolving. (Sidebar: A good book to read on this topic is the oldie but goodie When You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.)Read More
The woman—me, I am the woman— maneuvers the stroller out the front door. It’s red and very expensive, the price of a decent used car. She—I—didn’t have the energy to argue; yes, we will buy the red and very expensive stroller. The white heat of the day is a surprise. Is it summer? How long has it been summer while she’s been in this bedroom, in her bed, all endless day in her bed?
There’s a park several blocks from here, not a place she’d usually go. It’s full of the racket of pre-school kids, playground equipment, sand from the sandboxes everywhere, even on the benches. But here she is.
Someone says, “Your baby. It’s crying.” And now she hears it, the baby, who is not an it, but a she. It is a she. It doesn’t seem like it would take too much strength or too much energy to pick up a baby, what is she? Ten pounds? Ten at the most. But the woman’s arms hang there, weighted unweighted. The baby cries, cries and cries, and the others at the park look at her, the woman, the woman who is me. Do something, she knows they are saying, be a mother and do something. It might be the hardest thing she’s done all day, reaching in to that expensive red stroller, reminding herself to take care of its head, her head. At home the father does most of this, the figuring out what it needs, the baby. Is it wet? Hungry? Tired? Bored? The father seems able to tell the difference between these cries, what each one means. How? It’s all just crying—ear-splitting, unbearable noise.
We lie to ourselves every day, and these lies can lead to significant unhappiness in our lives. In Lies, authors Bridget Harwell and Elizabeth Scott present a collection of more than forty essays based on their daily interactions with clients who have suffered the pain of digging deeply and unearthing the self-deceptions that have limited their lives.Read More