Therapists are humans, too, and sometimes they can be real jerks. Even the awesome ones. I have been with my current shrink for over two years now, and she has helped me through challenges I could not have tackled alone. She can also be tactless, on occasion. Did I mention that I can be annoyingly, stubbornly contrary?
We actually found ourselves in a debate round once over a very prejudiced mindset of mine, and I knew I sounded like an ignorant bigot but once she started arguing back I could not let go of that bone. Jaws clamped shut and we went back and forth until I cried in frustration. I do not cry easily, and I do not cry when frustrated, but that day I cried. It was never about the surface argument, anyway, and I wanted to know why she could not see that. We both apologized, but it was a stiff parting, at best. For the next several days I went back and forth between fear that she would abandon me and resentment over the words “martyr”, “irrational”, and “codependent” she had thrown my way.
The problem is that I am prone to cutting people out of my life when there is conflict – we do not go to therapy for no reason, right? I felt that instinctual self-protective inclination repeatedly as I brooded over the session, and it gave me the chance to ask myself a few key questions: was I willing to lose this connection over this particular disagreement? Could I have been wrong? Where was I responsible for the conflict? Could we have misunderstood each other? Was I willing to face my discomfort in trying to make things right? Could I turn this problem into a chance to be more honest and admit my fears of losing this therapist? Could I return the grace she has given me so consistently?
They are good questions to ask in the event of any interpersonal conflict. As Dr. William E. Morgan asked, “Is this the hill that you want to die on?” So I am going to go back, and I am going to be honest. My default, hard-wired coping mechanism is humor and a dishonest shoulder shrug, but I cannot afford to waste time. None of us really can. I asked myself whether I would leave the situation the way it is if I were given a day to live, and that has provided a good plumb line for my priorities.