Posted by: Marie | October 16, 2012

(729) Expanding circles of support – Part 4 of 4

Post #729
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Me: I forgot to look at the clock when we came in . . . how are we doing for time?

Edward: We have about 15 minutes left.

Me: Okay . . . I think that’s enough time to get into the topic of how my progress in therapy will be affected if I’m never able to stand up to my parents and if I’m never able to date . . .

Edward: I agree that we have time for that . . .

What are your thoughts?

Me: Well . . . here’s an analogy:

If I have a student who refuses to practice, I can compensate for a time – I can come up with educational material to fill the lesson time – but only for a certain number of lessons. After awhile, that stops working. If the student continues to not practice, our work together cannot be successful and I must, at some point, end the relationship.

Photo by Martin Chen

I’m wondering if my inability to stand up to my parents and to be willing and ready to date is putting you in the same situation . . . are we getting to the point where our work together cannot be successful because I can’t do what I need to do?

Edward: Let me answer this way . . . I’ll use your analogy.

The reason your student isn’t practicing is because he or she is unwilling to expend the time and energy to do the work. With you, in the context of therapy, it’s not a matter of unwillingness – it is a matter of inability.

I think a more applicable analogy would be a student who believes he will never be able to play Mozart for whatever reason . . .

Me: Like because he has severe arthritis in his hands . . . ??

Edward: Well, that’s not the scenario I would use . . .

Me: What scenario would you use?

Edward: I would use a scenario like . . . well, like he had several bad experiences with playing Mozart in the past and now he is so afraid the bad experiences will be repeated that he doesn’t feel able to even attempt playing Mozart – he feels too paralyzed by fear to do so.

Me: Okay . . . I see what you are saying . . .

Edward: That doesn’t mean he can’t progress . . . there are many other in-roads. At some point, that student may or may not feel confident enough to play Mozart.

But you, as the teacher, probably aren’t attached to whether he plays Mozart or not. You just want him to play the piano in a way that brings him fulfillment . . . whatever that might look like. That student might not make it to “the summit” of playing the piano – he might never play the most difficult piece ever written, but he can progress to a level that is fulfilling and joyful.

That’s how I see your situation . . . you may never date, you may never stand up to your parents – to either parent, but especially to your dad – and that is fine. There are so many other ways we can approach this process and it is my job to find those other ways.

As your therapist, I’m not attached to you being able to stand up to your parents or to date. What I want most for you is to find a way to live life that is fulfilling and joyful for you – whatever that might look like.

And, at some point, you may have a different belief concerning your ability to do those things. That is my hope for you. But, I’m not attached to that being the case.

Me: Okay . . . so my not being able to do those things doesn’t keep you from being able to do your job successfully?

Edward: No, not at all.

Me: Okay . . . I’d say that I’m not able to date right now due to fear . . . and I can see how that might change one day.

However, the “not standing up to my parents” thing seems to be more of an actual lack of ability . . . I’ve asked you many times to explain the purpose of it, to tell me what it might look like . . . you’ve done that for me, many times.

But, the part of my brain – or maybe the part of my emotional maturity – that should comprehend those concepts isn’t there . . . or maybe it is dead or maybe it never developed . . . and I believe that damage is permanent and irreversible.

Maybe that is not accurate . . . I’m not sure . . . I’m just confused about all of it.

Edward: Instead of focusing on accuracy, can we focus on the fact that it feels accurate to you right now? Accuracy is not nearly as important as your belief about what is accurate.

Me: Okay, that works for me.


And that brought us to the end of our time together. I packed up my stuff and we said good-bye . . .


  1. Learning can change our brains. A very extreme example is in the book The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But for most of us we change our brain in tiny ways all the time. Whether you stand up to your parents or not; like Edward I think the point is you living a joyful life, not how you get there.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I agree with you about our ability to change our own brain . . . a book that I’ve been perusing describes the science behind that (The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge).

      And, I agree about the joyful life . . . a simple goal, but fairly elusive.

      – Marie

  2. A fulfilling and joyful life. Those are great goals.

    • Amen, OBD!

  3. It amazes me how much content you cover in each therapy session. I usually go in with a small list of things I want to tackle, but I never make it past number one or two. Your progress is striking to me!

    • Hey, Jo –

      I wonder if you and your therapist are going into more depth on each topic . . . ?? Sometimes we focus deeply on just one thing. Maybe you and I have different ways of processing . . . ??

      I guess whatever works!

      – Marie

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