Thursday, November 15, 2018

She's Had Too Much Therapy

She calls herself “Directionless and Floundering.” She is in such serious trouble that she writes to precisely the wrong person, New York Magazine’s Ask Polly.

You see, she is a casualty of therapy. She has been therapied and therapied and therapied. To the point where she has no direction and no purpose. She has a job but does not much like it. She has different graduate degrees but she wants more. She is 33 and her love life is filled with hookups. And she says that she is addicted to social media.

She has nothing but her emotions. And her instincts. She follows them wherever they lead. She meanders because she has no center, no grounding, no core. She is all feeling, all the time. She does not reflect. She does not decide. She does not take responsibility for anything. She should pick up a copy of an old book called The Rules. Since she does not understand rules, it would be good place to start.

She had family and friends. People do like her. They tell her how much they like her. And yet, therapy has taught her not to like herself. It’s a sad case. The only sadder point in her trainwreck of a life, trainwreck produced largely by her long term experience of therapy, is that she writes to Polly who tells her to do more therapy… and to feel her feelings.

The world would be a better place if Polly would stop offering such dreadful advice. And yet, she offers the same advice to everyone who writes to her. One thing is clear, if you are offering the same advice to everyone you are not paying attention to the specific issues at hand.

It should be obvious to everyone-- but not to Polly-- that one thing is missing in this woman’s heartfelt account. She is 33. Does she want to marry? Does she want to have a family? The questions do not arise. She cannot hold on to a relationship long enough for them to arise. Polly says nothing about them at all. Considering that this woman has no focus, might she not begin to focus on the dire task of finding a potential husband… and stop following her feelings and the call of her loins.

So, she’s a trainwreck. She has done too much therapy. She explains:

No, I’m an emotional wreck. I was in therapy for nearly a decade to deal with daddy issues. It hasn’t seemed to get me anywhere. I still can’t get past the three-month mark in any romantic relationship. Until now, I just threw myself into the arms of literally any guy who was really nice to me, because my father never was. My father has borderline personality disorder and has disowned me and raised a hand to me too many times for me to feel stable or secure. I grew up desperate for his love, affection, and approval. I see myself being desperate and pathetic in relationships, and it makes me sick. It’s impossible to cut ties with my father because he’s mentally ill and doesn’t understand “Don’t contact me again.” I love him but I can’t stand him. I feel guilty because his health is very fragile and he’s in his 70s.

I don’t know what my problem is. I have mood swings. Attachment issues. Depression. But I’m functional. None of my therapists thought I had a mental-health issue that needed checking, either. I wonder if I manipulated them into thinking that. No one has ever accused me of being manipulative, but I know I can be.

She has defined her relationships in the terms her therapists have taught her. How is that working out?

As for her sex life, it has gone off the rails. Take a gander at this:

In recent months, I’ve slept with two close friends who are both in long-term, monogamous, committed relationships. One of the girlfriends is becoming a dear friend of mine. Of course I will never tell her, because I believe the guilt is mine to carry, not hers. I also had a moment of complete self-destruction on vacation this summer after a Tinder date who I had a great time with didn’t follow up, leaving me to have a total meltdown. I felt so rejected that the next day, I let a total stranger, a sleazeball from the first moment, pick me up in broad daylight off the street and I fucked him and gave him a blowjob in his car (and I will spare you all the lies and grossness that went with it, it was seriously grim and could have been very dangerous, and there may or may not be a video of me circulating on the internet now). I thought this kind of behavior was behind me, but apparently not.

What does Polly respond to a woman who is a casualty of therapy? As I said, Polly recommends more therapy:

Here is how you escape: Commit to seeing a therapist weekly and learn to feel your feelings. Accept how broken you are. Embrace your vulnerability. Live inside a giant question mark. Tell your most trusted friends that you are lost and afraid. Dig for the whole truth. When your mind circles, don’t listen. Stop trying to solve your problems intellectually. Make it your job to listen to your heart, to follow your heart, to trust your instincts.

It’s striking that in one short paragraph Polly has identified the problem and has called it the solution. Yikes.


whitney said...

I've always enjoyed your takedown of these newspaper therapists but that's the first time I ever thought they should be called criminals.

Sam L. said...

It would seem that the best thing in an Ask Polly column would be a sentence at the end saying, "This advice column is only for amusement purposes and is not to be acted upon."

Portlandmermaid said...

Her description of random sex with a total and in her words, sleazy stranger, was truly awful. She sounds like she's seriously circling the drain.

She needs to quit exhuming the past and stop focusing on things she can't fix. She can start new habits that really will make her feel better like drinking less, eating well, getting enough sleep, and enjoying the outdoors. And she absolutely should take a long break from hooking up.