Thursday, February 4, 2021

A Rousing Therapy Success

The letter comes to us from Great Britain. A woman who obviously has much too much time on her hands writes to New York Magazine columnist Ask Polly, to tell us how much therapy helped her. As has become my habit, I will not share Polly’s usual inanities, out of respect for your sensibility.

The value of the letter lies in the picture it offers of therapy, what it does, what it doesn’t do. It comes to us from someone who is touting the benefits of therapy, so it is not coming from a chronic detractor. You will see that among the advantages she gained from therapy was that she broke up with her live-in boyfriend. Precisely why that should count as a benefit we do not know. Apparently, he was not sufficiently womanly for her taste. He was insufficiently emotional, insufficiently in touch with his feelings, insufficiently vulnerable.

For some reason the letter writer now wants to marry someone who is just like her. Some would call this narcissism. But she insists that she wants to marry someone who has also done therapy. Whatever does she mean by this?

I would hypothesize that she feels now that she has joined a cult, a quasi religious cult, and that she can only relate to people who live within the same echo chamber that she does. For those who would like to read an excellent book about the proliferation of such cults-- it is not limited to therapy-- I recommend Tara Isabella Burton’s book, Strange Rites.

So, the woman is obviously a bit of a flake. She has retreated from the world to move into her soul. She honors her absurd feelings, regardless. She is obsessed with her childhood. She does not want to have children because of-- you guessed it-- climate change. Whether this contributed to her lost relationship, we do not know. 

I recently went through a mental health crisis triggered by burnout, then a breakup, both right before lockdown. I feel good now, and I know a big part of what got me here is having consistently done the work to honor my inconvenient feelings over the past half-decade. I have worked with a therapist to unpack how my childhood fuels my perfectionism, I work every day to cultivate self-compassion for my deeply flawed self and others. I’m 30, and though I love solitude and I’m too pessimistic about climate change to procreate, I also believe that being in deep, sustained relation with another person is one of the big wonders and joys of being alive. I know at some point I’ll start dating again. That’s where I falter.

Anyway, when she began her therapeutic journey she was living with a man. They were on the verge of marriage, but they were also very woke. She uses words like “heteronormative” which identifies her as a cultist. In truth, she learned from therapy that a relationship should involve wallowing in emotions. It is an especial waste of time, and her insistent zealotry, which involved her refusal to deal with a human being who was not constituted as she was, killed the relationship. For that she thanks her therapist. It shows you the level at which she has been brainwashed:

My relationship was the serious, cohabiting type. People were probably expecting some kind of schmaltzy Instagram engagement announcement from us any day. Neither of us cared about these heteronormative milestones, but we had different expectations of what it takes to make a long-term relationship work. I may not have been set on marriage, but I did want a partner that actively showed up to connect with me on an emotional level, with each of us mining the depths of our own bullshit to learn how to better relate to one another and build a productive and joyful life together. My ex, on the other hand, was confused about why I always wanted to make things more complicated than they needed to be. He wanted to coast through life, never feeling the depths of despair but never quite reaching the height of joy either.

She continues to explain that she and her girlfriends are emotionally evolved while the men they meet are emotionally avoidant. In truth, if that is what she wants and if she does not want to procreate, she ought to hook up with a woman. That would solve her problems instantly. One suspects that her therapist was seducing her into learning to love a woman. Trying to make a man into a woman is a losing bet. It's better to go with the real thing than a cheap imitation.

Obviously, a woman who thinks that emotion is all that matters is seriously disconnected from the real world. If that helps her out, so be it. It makes her sound like a blithering, bloody fool:

I live in the U.K., and I’m struck by the fact that a significant number of women I know are in some form of this exact relationship dynamic: emotionally avoidant men who are disinclined (both culturally and personally) to see any reason to fix that, partnered with emotionally evolved (if anxious) high-functioning women who are secretly harboring hope that their partner one day decides to Do the Work to make the relationship better. I hoped my ex would Do the Work for so long. We started going to couples therapy in the last few months of our relationship, but by then it was too late. As someone who thinks doing your own shadow work is the most fascinating and urgent part of being alive, it was hard to find myself dating someone who more or less saw the whole thing as a frivolous lark. My feelings sent him into fight or flight mode every single time we had conflict.

It never crossed her minds to keep a few feelings to herself. It never crossed her therapist’s mind to tell her that there is more to life than feelings. And that there is more to life than therapy. They seem to have taken the opposite tack-- believing that she will never date a man who does not belong to her own therapy cult.

As the dust settles, I’m wondering: Is it okay for me to categorically state that I will never again bind my life to someone who hasn’t been through therapy? I know therapy may not be for everyone on earth, but I’ve yet to see an alternative that is rigorous and practical. If I do move forward with that belief, I have to acknowledge that my dating pool will be almost comically small.

Friends say I just need to get over this one; we all fall in love again. And sure, maybe one day I’ll fall so madly in love with someone that I’m able to overlook the warning signs of their emotional avoidance. But I’m not sure I actually want that to happen. Nothing feels more important to me than being able to honor the full spectrum of my big, inconvenient, and complex feelings for the rest of my life, without any shame or suppression — even if that means I have to do that while steering my own ship.

Am I the Avoidant One?

Say what? Nothing feels more important than honoring her all of her feelings. She feels her feelings. She has detached from the real world. She is hardly ready to engage with any real human beings, no less any real male human beings.

If she or anyone else considers this a success-- except as cult recruitment-- they should all get a refund from their therapists.


jmod46 said...

This makes me want to get down on my knees and thank G-d I married a woman who is normal.

whitney said...

My guess is she is above average attractive and at 30 still think she has some pretty good options so my hope is that any man she meets sees the warning signs and run

Janszoon said...

It’ll be a cinch for her to find a new companion. If, like me, she’s in the U.K., I can gladly give her directions to Battersea Cats and Dogs home.

Anonymous said...

A woman marries a man and then hopes to change him.
A man marries a woman and hopes she won't change
Couples therapy is because the woman can't quite seem to change the ma to what she wants and needs help.

Sam L. said...

"I live in the U.K., and I’m struck by the fact that a significant number of women I know are in some form of this exact relationship dynamic: emotionally avoidant men..." Welllll, these men are English! Stiff upper lips are de rigueur.

DocVinny said...

Well said.