Thursday, January 18, 2007


It cushions us from hurt, protects us from the consequences of our own foolishness. Fear keeps us from climbing down those rickety basement stairs in the dark. It is fear that keeps us ordinary folk from jumping off cliffs or throwing ourselves out of airplanes.

But the same comfortable swaddling that cradles us can also suffocate us. Where is the line between guardianship and imprisonment?

Therapy today held a couple of revelations for me. The biggest revelation was how, despite my best efforts, I’ve held on to the fears my mother instilled in me. And in fact, how I’d rationalized the irrational.

My whole childhood, I was surrounded by my mother’s paranoia. I couldn’t go outside at night. I couldn’t be alone with a boy or a man without my mother’s supervision. I couldn’t wear pajamas or a nightgown outside my room without a robe, even in my own home.

Men were evil, abusers by their very nature. My fellow teens were alcoholics, budding druggies, promiscuous Adams & Eves luring me from the straight and narrow.

As an adult, intellectually, I’ve known that my mother’s fears were a manifestation of her illness, and not a guide to live my own life. But it seems that instead of letting those fears go, I instead began to rationalize them.

Talking to a guy in a bar? No, never, because it’s not safe for a woman.

Running by myself at night? Not wise in my neighborhood - I could get hit by a car.

My mother’s fear of sexual intimacy became my fear of pregnancy, my fear of disease, my fear that “others” might perceive me as “loose”.

And by adopting my mother’s fears, I’ve allowed healthy fear to grow into something overwhelming; walls that loom around me, no matter where I step. A fortress of solitude, indeed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." Remember that truth. I think the behavioral psyschologists have forgotten it.

Thanks to the advent of managed care, behavioral psychology and medicine management have gotten a big boost. Medicine is cheaper for an insurance company than paying for an undefined number of office psychotherapy visits. Since no one likes the idea of an entire populace doped up on Prozac indefinitely, behavioral psychology won acceptance.

In a gross simplification, it works something like this:

Your preferred physician puts you on medication to alleviate the symptoms of depression and refers you to the behavioral shrink down the hall. The behavioral shrink will then meet with you and discuss your recent history ("Why do you think you're depressed?") The behavioralist will have you chart your symptoms so that the two of you can spot triggers. You then work on those triggers.

Depressed because you have no friends? The behavioralist will tell you to get out more - join a club or visit church.

Depressed because you just got divorced? Get back on the dating scene.

Schizophrenic? The behavioralist will make sure your meds are managed appropriately and train you to recognize your symptoms and your triggers.

The behavioralist believes you can be cured by changing your life patterns. We live in the present; your past doesn't matter.

But while this approach works for SOME people, it doesn't work for others.

Why? Because while we all strive to live "in the moment", we live in moments formed by our past. The ex-wife got a divorce because she was unable to trust that a husband wouldn't abuse her as her father had done. The shut-in is trapped by her lack of self-worth and a family that reinforced that belief through constant criticism.

Sending the shut-in to church to meet people won't cure her. It will only enforce her isolation by reminding her that she lacks the ability to connect with people. Lonely in a room full of people.

Psychoanalysts believe that our past has power. That in some people, the experiences of their past can envelope them in a hell of their own design. They see that the shut-in can't form connections with other people because her past taught her time and again that those same connections will fail her.

I've come to realize that there is something powerful in acknowledging my past. For me, the behavioral approach doesn't work because it dismisses the past. But my past is me - it forms who I am today, and why I am neurotic: I am afraid of becoming my mother. I am afraid of spending my whole life wrapped in psychosis; convinced that every man I meet is an abuser, every kid a drug addict, every neighbor a thief.

The behaviorist hears this and says, "Well, don't isolate yourself as your mother has done. Get out, meet people, form more friendships, make connections, and date men." All of which dismisses the impact my mother has had on me.

I can't make connections, I can't let go - I'm a control freak. Why? Because my experiences with my mother have taught me to fear chaos. And what is the nature of love? The ability to let go. Chaos incarnate.

The psychoanalyst hears, "I'm afraid of becoming my mother" and says, "Why do you fear becoming your mother? What did she do that makes you afraid?" And you begin a guided journey into your past.

Through that journey into your history, you begin to recognize the "Whys". Why you have to always obey the rules. Why you can't let men into your life. Why you have difficulty forming attachments.

Our past has power. Those who disregard their past are doomed to repeat it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Just left my therapy session. Today's Topic? Human Sexuality. Specific Human? Me. (Just lucky I guess.)

We discussed my sexuality as influenced by my mother's psychotic delusions and her belief that sex was shameful and dirty.

My sexuality as a source of contradiction, courtesy of my faith. I grew up Catholic -therefore, sex is for procreative purposes only. Anything outside of that is a sin. However, I belonged to a "progressive" church (if only my mother and the Pope had known), and they taught that God made sex pleasurable as a gift.

We reviewed my sexuality through interaction during my teenage years. (That was a short conversation.)

And I made an admission. One I never expected to speak aloud. (Big oops. But I said it. I suppose it's a good thing.)

Now, I'm ready for a big old piece of chocolate and a spicy romance novel. (Sublimation? Nah....?)