The most terrifying thing my therapist asked me to do

[I feel like this entry might need a Content Note or two, but I’m not sure exactly what for.  If anyone wants to offer any suggestions, I’d be quite grateful.]

I figured that since I’m in a writing mood, I’d schedule a blog post or two to go up while I’m at the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  This is another personal reflection/tell you a bit about me post.  The events I describe happened a little over two years ago.

I was sitting in my first therapy session and it was almost over.  Felicia and I had discussed a few different things.  Mostly she had asked me probing questions and I answered them, somewhat briefly.  Then she sprung the trap on me.

“We’re just about out of time for tonight, so here’s what I’d like to do.  For the next five minutes, I’m not going to say anything.  I want you to talk about whatever you want to talk about.”

That was it.  She was done talking.  I had five minutes I had to fill with whatever I wanted to fill it with.  Whatever was on my mind that I felt like sharing.

I hated it.  I filled with panic (and it had already been an emotional and exhausting session prior to this point).  I wondered how she could ask that of me.  I mean, didn’t we already establish that I didn’t know what to talk about, that I wasn’t sure what people would find interesting about me, or even if there was anything about me that people would find interesting?  Plus, I didn’t know what to say to her.  I mean, I was coming to her to sort out my problems —  which I felt we had already established and discussed.  What more was I supposed to say?  What was she looking for?  Why couldn’t she just give me some script to follow.  Or at least a general premise I could ad lib from.  I needed a role to play!

I’m not sure when — whether it was days or months — that my need to be given a role to play was exactly the issue she was trying to get me to face (at least I think that was her intent).  Much of my problem was that I tended to think of my life and even my worth in terms of “roles” to be played — often roles assigned by other people.  I think asking me to go “off script” for even just five minutes and choose my own words and my own topic to speak of was her way of getting me to choose my own “role” for the first time in a long time.

It’s something I still struggle with from time to time.  I’m still more comfortable in some situations — especially in situations where I’m around people I don’t know very well — having a script or at least a pre-planned topic of conversation.  But I’m also more likely to have a few possible topics or scripts picked out that I can try to introduce.  I’m also more likely to change the subject or steer a conversation where I’m not enjoying am not interested in the current topic.

And with people I’m closer to, I’m more likely to take initiative in steering the conversation.  Or torture them with talk about the progress on my novel or even excerpts from my most recent writing spree.  I’m more likely to put my interests out there and see if there is any mutual interest rather than automatically assuming there won’t be any.

It’s still a work in progress for me, but I don’t feel the need for a role — and certainly not the need for a role someone else assigns to me — to function or feel included to the degree I used to.  I think Felicia would be pleased.  I know I am.  And of course, I know Felicia would say that’s ultimately what counts.

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