Secretly, I Hoped She Would Fix Me
Accepting the True Goal of Therapy (After a Million Sessions)
The first time I went to see a counselor, I was 26, married with a toddler and a husband who thought Jack Daniels was a fine bedtime drink. Of course, sometimes bedtime was passing out on the floor, not the bed. Still clinging to the notion that I could fix what was wrong, and desperately afraid his parents would judge me if I didn’t, I poured out my heart to a friend who at last said, “Elizabeth, you need to get professional help.”
And so I did.
I divorced that man and got remarried again, and was living abroad while working for a Spanish speaking organization. One day standing in my office, I realized I was triggered emotionally in a way that felt very familiar.
It was my first awareness of a pattern that had played itself out many times in my life. Only this time I realized that my reaction was out of proportion to my reality, and I felt out of control of that reaction — something I didn’t like. I sought out a Canadian psychiatrist who combined elegant theory with real-world practicality.
For that first appointment, I sat nervously in her waiting room, hoping no one I knew would come in. I didn’t want anyone else to know how broken I felt. Secretly, I hoped she would “fix” me — make me perfect. I never wanted to feel those uncomfortable feelings again. I wanted her to give me good judgment. If you aren’t laughing along with me at my naivete, you should be!
In spite of my unrealistic expectations, Dr. Vega agreed to take me as a patient. Just like in the movies, I lay on the couch while she sat at my head, out of my line of sight.
To say my time with her changed my life is an understatement. I discovered beliefs and assumptions about myself and the world that I never imagined were there. It was as if I were a marionette and a hidden puppeteer were pulling my strings. With Dr. Vega’s help, I wrested control of many of those strings.
I used to tell her that she was helping me clean out the drawers in the dresser of my unconscious. Drawers that I didn’t even know were there! When we both agreed that I was at a good stopping place, I asked her if there were any more drawers. Wise woman that she was, she never gave me an answer!
After a dozen years overseas and a move back to the States some thirty years ago, there have been many other times I’ve found it useful to work in a therapeutic relationship. With each experience and modality, I collected more and more of myself.
I have struggled with self-compassion and wanting to believe that if I’m “good” then only good will follow. I have been angry and fearful when my world was out of my control. I have lived through grief that shook me to my roots, and yet I have, on more days than not, found a greater acceptance not just of self, but of others.
I’m not perfect or “fixed” — but that is not the goal.
The goal is to be more fully ourselves and, thanks to many skilled therapists, I live a richer life than I would have without them.
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