Thursday, July 26, 2018

She Doesn't Know That Therapy Ruined Her Life

The woman wants to find some light in the midst of her agony. Unfortunately, she is a casualty of therapy and has chosen to write to New York magazine’s advice columnist Ask Polly. She calls herself Scrambled, because her life feels like scrambled eggs, but she is clearly in serious distress. You will see throughout her letter that she is consulting with therapists. When she does not consult with therapists she does whatever else she can to feel good. But ends up feeling awful.

Anything but addressing her problems directly and consequentially. Polly, being something of a recovering therapy junkie herself, whines on about how this woman should feel her feelings. And she says, with all the authority she can muster, that the woman should not just be dealing with her abandonment issues… she should be rewriting her entire life story.

Leave it to Polly to hand out the worst advice. Leave it to Polly to show us how and why therapy has become the problem not the solution. While Scrambled was dealing with her abandonment issues in therapy, her husband was taking everything she had, half of the custody of her child and the entirety of her business.

As you read her story, keep this in mind: this woman does not need a therapist. She needs a good lawyer. She needs to fight the good fight against this man. Forget about the life story. Forget about the abandonment issues. Forget about feeling her feelings. All of it sends her into her mind and detracts from the most important point: she has been taken for a ride, with the collusion of her therapist.

Talk all you want about strong, empowered women. Talk all you want about therapists helping women to be strong and empowered. This woman oozes weakness. Her therapist’s approach compounds the weakness and has made it impossible for her to function in the world.

With this in mind, here are a few excerpts from her letter, with commentary:

My husband left me 17 months ago after 11 years together. I knew things weren’t perfect (we’d been in therapy for a few months together because he wouldn’t have sex very often and only under duress, and it was making me so sad), but he left so rapidly that even the therapist was shocked by the departure. I’ve been told since then that his personality type often does that — cool as a cucumber and then, with no warning at all, they are gone.

So, she dragged her husband into couples therapy because she was not getting enough sex. Perhaps if she had not been so assertive about her sexual needs, her husband would have found her more attractive. Surely, he could not have reacted well when therapy was accusing him of being an inadequate lover.

Moreover, if we may extrapolate from other experiences, if said man one day runs into a new woman who turns him on, who has a better developed feminine mystique, he is going to drop his wife, the mother of his child, without thinking. Which is what happened.

To write this off as a personality type is to miss the point entirely. And the first point is, couples counseling failed this couple. If the therapist was shocked at how quickly the husband left, the therapist was oblivious to the real issues in this marriage.

Needless to say, Scrambled has nothing bad to say about the therapist… which is a good part of her problem.

And then, her husband took her business from her:

I had my own business, and my ex was out of work for about 18 months before he joined the business, where he worked for six months. Four days before he departed, he got me to sign all these documents making the business fifty-fifty (instead of sole trader), and he fought to take it over completely in the split. In the end, I gave up the fight, and he paid me a nominal amount for it. I spent a few months working in a terrible job, which I got fired from, then took a lot of last year to try to recover: going to the beach, meditating, doing a gratitude practice, acupuncture, therapy, seeing friends, and every tool I could possibly think of.

Doesn’t it strike you that this woman needs only one thing in life right now: a good lawyer. Polly doesn’t mention it, but it’s so obvious that it cries out for attention. How did she get to the point where she allowed her husband to bully her into signing over half her company? Was she represented by counsel? And how did the husband get to take over the entire company? If she did not have counsel she should speak to a good lawyer, right now, to see whether she can do anything to fight back. 

Polly believes that Scrambled should be outraged. Of course, this is true. But the issue is: what to do about it. You must be able to do more than marinate in your outrage. Taking a consequential action is a good start.

Scrambled’s therapist wants her to examine her abandonment issues. Her husband left and her father died. Even Polly knows that the two losses are not commensurate. How does a therapist get away with thinking that they are?

In therapy, we’ve explored whether the death of my dad 18 years ago is related to the intensity of my grief (as the therapist said after we’d passed the one-year mark: “There’s still a LOT of energy behind this”); it’s the second time that the most significant man in my life has left.

The therapist is perfectly useless and hopeless. Her father died eighteen years ago… please! The therapist wants this women to continue to waste away in therapy. It’s sad and pathetic. As I have been wont to say, she has surely had enough therapy.

Don’t believe me? Examine the way Scrambled describes her life, a life that therapy has given her:

So here I am. Almost a year and a half beyond my breakup and feeling no closer to recovery or finding a way to move on with my life. I am actively job-hunting, as I need to get some income coming in, but I’m also terrified of how I will work full-time, be a single parent, have a life, get enough sleep. I’m exhausted. I am trying to do the things that make me feel better, even if briefly — swimming in the ocean, going to the gym, seeing friends, etc. I’m dating but not meeting anyone remotely interesting, and in fact I just turned all the apps off to have a break. And I’m sad. I still think about my ex all the time and wonder how I can possibly get him to change his mind (even knowing that I can’t). Sometimes I think maybe I should try to be friends with him, but I know it’s actually about getting back together, and it will be too devastating when he inevitably meets someone else (again) and moves on. Sometimes I feel venomous hatred toward him, but I also really think that’s covering this deep sadness. I’m binge-eating, though trying all the time not to.

I’ve also been sitting in it — the pain, the sadness, the anger. Trying to surrender to it, since I do know that when I resist and wish for things to be different, it all feels worse. I’m walking into the fire day after day after day, but to be honest, I don’t know if I believe I will ever recover from this heartbreak.

There she is, after a year of therapy, after a failed couples therapy, sitting in pain. Someone needs to tell her to take charge of the situation, preferably by hiring a good lawyer and firing her therapist.


jabrwok said...

I'd be interested in reading the ex-husband's perspective on the whole situation. This woman sounds...unreliable.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

“Surrender” sounds like a way of life for this woman.

Portlandmermaid said...

Reading this, I'm struck at how often I've heard that meditating and practicing mindfulness will solve my problems. To an extent, I agree that employing methods to calm myself is useful, but it doesn't replace my having to deal with whatever is worrying me.

This woman needs to get practical and find a good lawyer instead of, as you say, marinating in her outrage. Her therapy seems to reinforce her weakness by focusing on past hurts instead of encouraging her to face the present and take control.