When I’m at the deli counter, I usually have a list in hand. In days past, I’d glance at a crumbled piece of paper in which I’d been adding names of delectables throughout the week. Even though wrinkled and scribbled upon, it held the inventory of my needs and wants. Nowadays, those goods of desire live inside my smart phone in one of those ubiquitous shopping apps.
I’m not one to command or bark at another. I just softly but firmly point to that which I require – a pound of potato salad, ½ pound of sharp cheddar cheese, a dozen dolmas. I suppose if I were wracked with hunger, my order might be expressed with more urgency and with maybe a tremulous voice.
My first visit to my T felt like going to the deli when hungry. I intended to express my needs in the same manner of clarity & urgency as when requesting deli items. In both situations I intend to hide from the other any detection of my hunger. I suspect I failed in that quest with my therapist since she’s trained in the art of detection. No matter.
A difference emerges- the therapy list’s purpose served also as a barrier between me and T. A flimsy piece of paper has never been put to such good use. I could keep my eyes on the words while reading and thereby avoiding eye contact. And I could hold the paper in a defensive posture (we’ve all heard the stories of therapists attacking their clients, right? just kidding, just kidding)
Lists have always served me well. They help me organize my thoughts and clarify my actions. Lists even morph into outlines if I’m not careful with them. And outlines occasionally scurry into diagrams. They’ve even been known to get out of control and become synopses or blueprints or thumbnail sketches. Lists exude safety – false security, I know, but still they do help me. I did learn later on that lists can also serve as a crutch but that’s a topic for another time.
So, you must already know, I had no idea what my therapist was selling. Did she even stock the goods I wanted to purchase? I didn’t know who she was and what she’d be like. So, fear (of what? I don’t know) along with desperate need accompanied me into her office- all to acquire a certain commodity.
Should I self-disclose? Right now I feel anxious about over-sharing. But I will let you take a peek at some of what I had meticulously painfully concentratedly inscribed in my therapist shopping list.
I read to her the entire page but for you now just the first 2 sentences.
Here goes: “What I want – I want to talk, unburden, confess, bare my soul in comfort and without fear- with the freedom to tell the truth as far as I understand it. And I want a listener who can offer insights and guidance.”
Dang – what demands I brought into that office. That 1st paragraph presents the introduction.
How many items are listed so far? –
1.Talk. 2. Unburden. 3. Confess. 4. Bare my soul. 5. Freedom. 6. Need Listener. 6…and more to come
To my therapist’s credit she did not graciously escort me out of her office right then. It must have been clear to her that I had high needs and expectations.
I did enjoy a saving grace that day, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I thought I was simply there to ‘interview’ her and then to decide if I would ‘employ’ her. I didn’t know then that she also was making an assessment of me and would be deciding if she’d take me on. I’m sure I would have fumbled the first meeting even worse than I did if I had have known I was being ‘interviewed’ also. What happened next? We made another appointment for the following week and my months of self-study had seriously begun.