I saw Karen today. I was a mess. I spent the usual 25 minutes on the usual catching up: yep the shoulder is doing better (as my arm is stuck to my side in a sling), and how awful the holidays are. My dying little bitch and how awful it is to look at her searching for symptoms to put her down. And so on. Then she popped the question. The question I know is coming, that I dread, that I never seem to get over: “So what do you want to work on today?” She then added, “or what do you not want to work on?” That is just as bad I think.
Well, anyway I knew what I wanted to work on. I told her I knew what I wanted to work on, but I think it may be a mistake, and it still took me a few minutes to spit it out: “Do you like me?”
“Have you been thinking about this?” — I was ready for an evasive answer, but that was not the one so I thought about it and said, “I asked first.” She countered with, “It doesn’t work that way.” Errrrrgh!!!!!
So I admitted, yes, I have been thinking about this. I told her that Cathy had told me on Thursday when she suggested finding more friends, that I have a lot to offer. Karen agreed, but I don’t see it and said so. I said that I don’t think I am helpful or generous or fun to be around. I told her that folks seem to like me, but I need to work on liking myself. And I figure that she has known me about a year, and knows the yucky stuff about me, and I said I wasn’t going to say that if she likes me I am likeable and if she doesn’t I am not, but it would help.
She asked me if I know why she won’t answer. I said she doesn’t want to foster dependence on the therapeutic relationship.
I told her about after group on Thursday, going to lunch at the Indian place and a table of three guys had one having a reaction, and another took that one out of there and the third guy and I both got seconds from the buffet at the same time. He mentioned the Browns because of my T-shirt, and he is from Baltimore, and the big game is tomorrow, so we started talking, and as we went back to our tables, I offered that he share my table, as I was eating alone, and now he was. So he did. I asked him what he did and we had a good conversation about work and travel, and I made him late for an appointment. He mentioned his wife, so that stopped all speculation along that line, no need for more than first names. (I don’t think it is a good idea for a married man to have single women for friends. I think it can be a recipe for disaster unless the married couple are both VERY healthy and secure in their marriage.)
Karen asked me if I had ever done anything like that before? Asking the guy to sit at my table? No. Not ever. She asked me how that felt, and I said good. It felt ok. She said a few things about progress.
I told her that I want so badly to be liked. She asked me who is telling me I am not likeable? It’s me. She says we have to change that inner voice.
I tried to explain. I told her how when I first started working on the sexual abuse, I had gone to this weekend thing, where we don’t talk at all in the beginning, to reflect, and the next day around noon they pass out this stuff, little gifts and notes of encouragement and love, and the small gifts and notes continue through Saturday and on Sunday the women of the community walk through to wake us up by singing this song and it’s a powerful weekend. The next day, I needed to talk to my pastor, who was a member of this ecumenical community, and explain to him why they got it wrong and I am not/should not be given anything like that. I told him about the incest.
She asked me when this happened, and I told her when I was 22 — a hundred years ago.
Some of this is jumbled out of order because it was a kind of emotional session — I used up her Kleenexes an we made some jokes about that. I told her she wouldn’t tease me if she didn’t like me, or else she is a bully. So she said, “ok, I’m a bully.” So I said, “you don’t like me.” She said she isn’t playing that game. That it isn’t healthy. I told her I feel so sorry that I am like this. And she said, “like what?” I suppose she maybe thought I was talking about the wet, snotty, messy tears. But I said the need to be liked. She talked about that a little, and said she is not so sure that I am so different than others in this.
She said at some point that unless there is something I am not telling, like, a bunch of murdered babies or something, that I am likeable. She said that it is very normal for people to struggle with liking themselves. She had asked me if we talked about this in group. I said we talked about radical acceptance, but that could be anything, like radically accepting that your brother is an asshole. She asked if I asked about what makes me likeable in group. I told her it took every ounce of everything I had to ask her if she liked me.
She said that it is not healthy for me to have her telling me she likes me, but she doesn’t think it was a mistake for me to ask. She scheduled me out for two months, and let me know that someone tried to get my 2 o’clock on the one day, but she will reschedule that.
She told me to dry my eyes, I can’t go out there like that, it’s bad for business. I repeated, “bad for business.” And she said, she was not serious, that this is an okay place to express emotions. She said I need to focus on me, on the things that make me likeable.
Driving homeward, I realized that I was experiencing pain, that was why I was crying. That may seem obvious, but it just struck me like a ton of bricks.
Currently, I am drained, and sad, and shaky, relieved that I talked about what I wanted to talk about, that I got it out. Or, I feel drained, sad, shaky, off-kilter, and relieved.
Thank you for reading.