Yep. Today was another session with my therapist Kent. I had a long list of things I wanted to talk to him about. There was a big issue that took most of our time. (Fortunately, I saved it for last.)
I have been attending this marriage class/small group study about marriage for the past several weeks. One of our assignments was to discover our own strengths and weaknesses and to discuss them. Then we were to ask each other to work on one of our weaknesses (which happens to be the other’s strength). I asked Tom to be more vocal; tell me what he’s thinking, more than just a few words when he answers questions, etc. He asked me to be calmer when dealing with the kids and not fly off the handle. Fair enough.
My question for Kent was “How can I get him to comment on my progress? I feel like I am handling things with the kids better, but I am not getting that response from Tom.” Kent then asked me why it was important to me that Tom thinks I’m doing a good job. And I said it keeps me trying. I said everyone likes an “atta boy!” He nodded, but prodded deeper, until we got down to I felt as though I needed Tom’s approval to make me feel good about what I was doing. As you can guess, this is not a good thing.
As usual, Kent made a comparison to food. 🙂 “If you make some potatoes and Tom thinks they aren’t salty enough, does that make you a bad person?” Well, no. But it does make me feel bad. Again, wrong answer. “Michelle, you are who you are. Those potatoes are a separate entity. They are not a part of you.” Okay. So? “Now, the next time you make potatoes, you may add extra salt. If Tom doesn’t say, ‘Hey! These are the best potatoes I’ve ever tasted!’ does that really matter?” Well, yeah, it does. I always ask “Do you like this recipe? How does that taste?”
Kent starts to grin, realizing this is going to take awhile.
“Okay, let’s start out with the fact that MOST people take ownership of this kind of thing; MY potatoes, MY pumpkin pie. So, when someone says, ‘That is a beautiful pie,’ that makes most people stand up straighter and all happy. But, think about it. They didn’t say YOU were beautiful; they said the PIE was beautiful.” I laughed and said they might be thinking (yeah, you are UGLY, but that is one beautiful pie.) “Exactly!” he said. “That pie is just a separate entity and is not a part of you. You are who you are. You are a whole person and that pie does not complete you nor does it take away a part of you. You don’t really need anyone to tell you that you are more than you think you are. That would be like someone telling you ‘Hey, Michelle, you have ten fingers! You thought you only had eight, but you have ten!’ Now that’s a completely different story. That IS a part of you. The pie is not. If they say, ‘You made a terrific pie!’ is that going to give you another arm or something?”
Now, I’m finally catching on. (Sometimes I am a little slow…) But, I am also getting a little teary. I’ve spent my life trying to work for approval of someone, be it my parents, friends, or husband. I do feel like their approval is a part of me. When I don’t have it, I feel as though there is this hole in me, that only they can fill.
Kent said, “We’ll work on this the next few times.” Obviously, he thinks this may take some time.
I will write more about this tomorrow since I’m just writing this from memory without even looking at my notes. I know what you’re thinking, “How could there possibly be more? This whole thing took me an hour and half to read! Her session is only an hour, for cryin’ out loud!” Yeah yeah. Whatever. No one is holding a gun to your head and asking you to read this…
Maybe I just need Jerry McGuire to say, “You complete me.” Then, I’m good.