In some ways the most authentic version of me is the one who is in his role as a therapist. It is there that I can love wholly and without fear. I do not worry about being abandoned or disliked by clients. I am very rarely triggered by them. It is the one place in the world where my nerves aren’t exposed; where my skin is intact. I can take in the appreciation I get from clients while at the same time not letting it go to my head. Though I am experienced, I don’t see myself as a very polished therapist. My strength is my presence. Without my fears controlling me I don’t rely on my primitive coping mechanisms and, therefore, my real self shines through.
It’s funny, when I imagine myself in that role I think of myself as lovable. Hell, I even think I’m handsome. I am more confident and joyful. And even when I’m shit…I beat myself up far less about having a shitty session than I do about having a shitty date or hangout.
Of course it makes sense–I was bred to be a caretaker. The boundaries inherent to the work create the safety, not only for the clients, but for me. This protection lets me be more….me. I can love and let go. I can love and not risk anything. I don’t have to ask for anything (other than payment) and whatever I self-disclose is more related to how they impact me rather than about my own pain and suffering and loneliness. Since I don’t have to ask for anything I never feel afraid. I never have to worry that I’m “too much” or wonder if I’m a burden. I don’t have to watch the helplessness in anyone’s eyes as they watch me sink into an abyss.
And yet this role…it wears me out. It can’t directly meet my needs (it would be problematic if it did). But I get a taste…a taste of what a confident and less fearful me looks like. Of what it feels like to be generally okay with myself. Maybe that’s why I return to the work even though I am tired of it. Maybe it’s the place where I suffer the least (while I’m in it) even if I suffer quite a bit because of it.
I was once in a therapy group that was led by this older man who had quite a commanding presence (a little too commanding for my taste but that is another story). He was fairly renowned in town and charged an arm and a leg. In his chair he looked larger than life. One day, I ran across him on the street. He was so small and fragile. Tiny. And when we talked to one another I realized that he almost seemed shy and childlike. That describes how I feel. When I’m in the chair I feel okay with myself. When I’m in my day-to-day life it hurts just to breath and I’m so fucking afraid of so fucking much.
I tell myself that I work a lot to survive financially, and it’s not untrue. It’s a logistical and mathematical fact. But I realize now that in addition to this, at some unconscious level, I need this work in order to get a break from the suffering version of myself. And there is the paradox of it: the very thing that can drain me so badly is also the thing that so often relieves my suffering.
Bah. I’m tired. I’m crying. I don’t want to edit. Fuck it.