Chapter 19 – On The Road

Oh, where were we? Oh yeah, my therapist, Anne, has agreed to allow me to call her as often as needed. I’m feeling soothed and secure and ready to get on the road.

But, on my first day of driving, I’m saying to myself – “What kind of wuss are you anyway? You can’t keep relying on Anne and not put into practice the coping techniques she has given you. You have to learn to stand on your own two feet. You must apply with vigor those methods to ‘self-soothe that you’ve been taught.

” “Hey, this is your Quest”, I say to myself. “You can’t wimp out right from the beginning. Think of this journey as a rite of passage. If you can’t motivate yourself at such an auspicious moment, how will you accomplish your goal of self-knowledge? This is your time. You can do it.”

Having received the pep talk from my coach (me) was inspiring. I tend to have that effect on people. If you ever need uplifting and edifying words to help you through a rough patch, give me a call. (just kidding)

Boy, was I feeling enthusiastic after hearing myself give myself a rallying cry. I was ready. You should have seen my driving down the interstate. Yeah – I was going to do it. Think Rocky. He pumped himself up and so did I. I was charging forth with the taste of victory on my lips.

I would hang tough and not let go. I could do it and I WOULD do it. I was determined not to call Anne once during my entire trip.

Eight hours of pedal to the metal, bags dumped on the bed at the hotel, and then a flash of ‘genius’ aroused my tired and sleepy mind and body.

Yeah, right, I would not call Anne because I am strong and self-sufficient now but what I WILL undertake is to write her a letter.

Yeah, big smile on my face. Am I happy. Writing a letter to her provides no indication that I’m needy. In fact, it proves my independence. It proves that I can deny myself instant gratification. Oh boy, am I ever proud of myself.

Laptop, yes. Printer, no. O.k – I do have paper in my notebook. And I have a pen. Yes, I can still write by hand. I have no problem using the tools of the cave man. So, settle down I do and write pages to Anne. Hey, that felt good.

But, now I need to mail the letter. No envelopes, no stamps, strange city; where’s the post office? -and gotta get on the road early next morning.

All I can think of is that I NEED TO MAIL THIS LETTER. All other concerns are out of my mind. It’s obvious that I’m feeling detached from Anne, isn’t it? (note sarcasm here).

You must understand that at the time I believed I was acting very independently – even when I bounded downstairs to the front desk and begged them for an envelope. They graciously offered me one of their official business envelopes with weird size, weird shape, and a return address embossed in a state 1600 miles from home. That’s o.k – it was an envelope. I took it.

My mission was not complete. I needed a stamp. “Would you have stamps I can purchase?”, I asked the front desk person. No.

Dang – where and how will I acquire a stamp? A hero stepped forward – just a guy in the lobby who recognized my not well-hidden distress and pulls a couple stamps from his wallet. He’s my savior and I’m delivered from agony.

To be in the throes of an unfinished mission creates focus like nothing else. Next obstacle to conquer is to find a mailbox. Where is a mailbox? What city am I in, anyway? So much for focus, huh? Front desk clerk offers to put my letter with the hotel’s to be picked up by trusty U.S. Mailperson.

What? Pass my treasured writings to a stranger and worry whether she will lose it or read it or pass it off to another? Oh, man, no way can I risk such a potential tragedy, forgetting that entrusting envelopes to the U.S. Postal Service invites such risk automatically. I

thank her, but decline. I must find a mailbox on my own. And I did. Focus arrived with a vengeance and no mailbox could be hidden for long.

Mission accomplished and I was able to get my engines roaring again and head off into the wild blue yonder.

Still proud of myself, I was. I had not called Anne. I had everything under control.

Or so I thought. Wait until you learn what happened next.

Chapter 18 – The Quest

I promised you  dazzling and swashbuckling tales of the epic battles between good and evil. You anticipate stories of valor and bravura. You breathlessly await accounts of perseverance that combat seemingly insurmountable blockades to success.

Yep, that’s all in store for you. Follow my narration of events that have become the legend and the lore of heroes. You’ll be able to view a first hand account of blazing glory. You’ll never regret that you walked this path with me.

The latest adventure began when it was ME who was going on vacation. Whoopee! I’m gonna get outta town for a while. What a nice change. Instead of my therapist, Anne, leaving me, I was leaving her. (Hmmm… did I subconsciously wish she’d be in agony with MY absence?)

I get to disappear and forget all of my troubles. I told Anne that I just wanted to drive until I arrived at the end of the Earth. It was going to be so great! Total freedom. No responsibilities. Hundreds of miles on the road. Slow and easy and an opportunity to finally ‘find myself’.

I decided then to appoint a name to my journey. It would be titled ‘A Quest’. My imagination elevated its purpose as being similar to those who sought the Holy Grail. I felt a mystical companionship with King Arthur and his knights. But, whereas Lancelot and Galahad enjoyed the alliance of other brave knights, I was alone in my quest.

Uh, quest for what? Uh…uh… well, uh… complete and total self- knowledge? Uh-final victory over my deficiencies and deficits? Uh…and how would I do that? Uh… make it a ‘boot camp’ for the mind? Uh…do what exactly? Uh… well, obviously not well thought out so, of course, I fumbled and tripped and fell and regrouped and… (I’ll share the gory details in the next chapter).

Needless to say, and as anyone who has a brain in their noggin, “wherever you go, there you are.” Silly me – I thought if I drove 1000 miles, I would leave my old self behind and my new improved self would just hop in the car without even needing an invitation.

Hey, I told you already that I’m not the brightest bulb in the box. I know that many of you are beginning to feel sorry for Anne. I also feel sorry that she has such a dimwit to work with. I suppose I should pay her extra for the terrible challenge she faces when I enter her office.

Now is when you get a preview of the next chapter. I will tell you that Anne agreed that I could call her as often as needed and that I could leave voicemails or we could have telephone sessions. Not bad, huh?

Fear = cowardice.

In this situation, I was a true coward. It’s strange, though, because I don’t lack bravery in other parts of my life. I can travel alone to the far corners of the Earth and feel no fear. I can traipse alone in foreign lands and thrive where I understand not a word being spoken. I can make a fool of myself in front of an audience and happily laugh at myself.

I can challenge the hierarchy of a large organization and stand my ground for what I think is right. I can act silly and stupid and childish and carefree and not have a worry about what anyone thinks of me.

I can enroll in a class that teaches Quantum Physics and not be embarrassed that I understand almost nothing but still enjoy being surrounded by all those smart people. Oh, not credit courses, you know – I’m not that crazy.

You know the advice of ‘dance as if no one is watching’. I do that.

But, if you take my therapist away from my me, I dissolve into a puddle of fear. Who can figure?

Oops – just realized that the swashbuckling tale doesn’t arrive until the next chapter. Sorry.

Chapter 17 – I Hate You


Okay, you got the idea from the previous chapter, “Tahiti”, that it was very difficult, putting it mildly, when my therapist, Anne left on vacation. Before she left for that 3rd time since I’d been seeing her, I had to pour out my emotions in a poem which I read to her before I was left behind without access to her.

I Hate You

I hate you, I do, I do, I do.

How will I ever be able to manage?

I hope, I pray I forget you

To avoid that threat of real damage.


28 days I must learn to cope.

Time will drag on and on.

I wonder if I can hang on to any hope.

Tell me, how can you leave for so long?


It’s such a mystery to me

Why these feelings are so intense.

I wonder and wonder how I will be

Because none of this makes any sense.


I met you only last December

Why is there such an attachment?

I really really can’t remember

How to put between us a fresh detachment.


Could my life from long ago

Where I learned to be aloof

Brought me to this place of woe

Though I have no proof?


Did years and years of defenses

Mold the person of whom I became?

And just now coming to my senses

Bringing a hurt that feels the same?


But how can it be known

That these feelings come from the past?

Will it ever be clearly shown

That THEN my life’s role had been cast?


And now, how can I understand this pain?

How can I heal this space inside?

What can I do to make some gain

So I no longer feel I need to hide?


You’ve brought me now so far

To a place of somewhat peace

Like the distant beautiful star

Where all troubles seem to cease.


But now that you’re leaving on vacation

Those old, old fears have come to life

Though much different I still get the sensation

Of a much familiar internal strife.


I’ve tried so hard to keep those fears contained.

It’s been my lifelong pattern I realize

With you they can no longer be restrained

A new way of being I am forced to actualize


Though I hate you, hate you, hate you

We both know that’s not true

It’s just that these feelings are all so new

And letting feelings be felt makes me feel so blue.


Feelings are ok, you tell me so often

They should not be hiding away in shame

By bringing them forth they begin to soften

And then we can meet them and call them by name.


So, now I will introduce my companion named ‘fear’

I will let her be seen and be known

It is only by bringing emotions up close and near

That maybe I’ll stop feeling and being so alone.


Trying my whole life to be what I’m not

Keeping emotions tightly and closely contained.

But now that I’m learning what you have taught

I’ll try to no longer be so so restrained.


What can I learn from your long absence?

Will I be able to succeed in this quest

To dig deep and extract my core essence

And not run away from this important test?


I will try; I will work; I will focus; I will vow

To bring the mind to rest in each magical moment

To be conscious and attentive to the here and now

And show you that I was and will be triumph

Chapter 16 -Tahiti

The destination probably was not Tahiti. I’ll never know because my therapist, Anne, does not self disclose much. (We’ll talk about that wall behind which a therapist sits in a later chapter.)

All I know is that she goes on vacation, Tahiti, Paris, or Alaska, it doesn’t matter where. That’s a horrible thing for a therapist to do, right? Unfortunately, (or fortunately) how we react to a break from seeing our therapist because they’re on vacation is a clear (or maybe just as clear as mud) signpost of our feelings of dependency on them.

If you’re one of those who have to fight back panic with the knowledge that your therapist will be leaving soon or in agony waiting for her to return, then you’ll understand my difficulties when Anne left me. And that’s how my mind perceived her vacation – she abandoned me.

Now, my rational brain knew she had NOT abandoned me, yet my emotions screamed that she had.

The first time Anne went on vacation, it truly was no big deal. I had only been seeing her for a month or so. But still, even then, there was a whisper of uneasiness. I didn’t pay it much attention and just chalked it up to the fact it was the holiday season.

The second time Anne left, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not liking it. At that time I still didn’t understand the depth of attachment to her that had developed within me. I told her that I had decided to leave town at the same time that she would be gone so it wouldn’t feel like a disruption in my routine that had been established by seeing her weekly. She agreed that that was a good idea on my part.

Before Anne left for the third time, she asked me how I would manage. I said I’d do fine because I had learned a lot about myself from her previous absence and I now was able to apply coping techniques and that there would be no problem.


I barely got home after that session when a wave of heart-stopping panic flowed over me. It was a full body experience. What the hey??? I can’t believe this.

Man, I thought I was in control. I thought I was not going to have problems in this particular arena anymore. I thought I had conquered that that pesky little irritant just like when we swat mosquito out of our face.

Anne has told me so many times that if emotions aren’t brought out into the light, THEY will be in control. It was happening again. I was defeated. I was vanquished. I was overcome with overwhelming dread.

For what? Was I losing my cool over anything important or meaningful? No. Was I losing my home? No. Was I having terrible conflict with my neighbor? No. Was I just diagnosed with a painful health condition? No. ( I have since learned that all emotions ARE important, no matter what their cause. We’ll discuss that topic later.)

It is humiliating to admit that my panic was generated by the impending absence of Anne for 14 days. How laughable is that? Can I confess this to anyone who has not experienced it for himself or herself? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t want to see the incredulous look on their faces.

So, I left a voicemail for Anne shortly after my session and told her that I had lied. It wasn’t a deliberate lie. I thought I was being truthful when I had told her I’d be fine. On the phone, I confessed to her that I was beginning to be consumed by fear of her leaving.

I spent a few days trying to understand this feeling. (See previous chapter, Earthquake Safety, for explanation about attachment). I thought it was so weird. I thought it made no sense. To me, it was not logical; it was beyond understanding, and it was something I had never experienced in my life before.

What I concluded after focused introspection is that the emotional part of my brain believed that loss of contact with Anne would be a risk for my survival. I saw her as my protector and if she’s gone, I WILL DIE!

Anne and I spent time in the next few sessions to find ways for me to ‘survive’ her “desertion”. Luckily, she informs her clients in plenty of time of any planned departures.

Although deeply embarrassing to affirm to her my dependence on her, it was necessary for me to divulge this fact in order to get the help I needed at that time.

It wasn’t the first nor was it the last occasion where my attachment to Anne would rear its ‘nasty’ head. Next chapter I’ll share another adventure on this theme.

Chapter 15 – Earthquake Safety

So, boys and girls – those of you who are still reading about my adventures in psychotherapy, we’re going to discuss one of the fears that many clients have experienced. I would like a raise of hands from all of those who fear attachment to, dependency on, and neediness for their therapists.

Yep, just as I had expected – most of you raised your hands. Well, I’d also like a show of hands of those who feel they would rather die than feel dependent on their therapists.

Oh yeah, there we go – almost all of you raised your hands. Isn’t that interesting that many of us fall into a similar avoidance response on this issue?


If you ask the general population what their favorite dirty words are, I would guess they would not choose these three. But, for those of us in therapy, they are among our top dirty words.

Well, I have 3 words for you – GET. OVER. IT.

Yeah, you heard me correctly – just get over it. You see, attachment is critical to the process of healing in psychotherapy. I’ve studied the book, “Attachment in Psychotherapy” by David Wallin. He lays out very specifically why and how the attachment is necessary. For those of you who need concrete rational-brain understanding of why this is so, I highly recommend that you read this book.

So, am I attached to my therapist? You betcha. Am I dependent on her? Dang so. Do I feel needy towards her? Well, let’s imagine our need for oxygen – does that tell you something?

Do I like this feeling? Heck no. Am I comfortable with it? Uh, what do you think? Do I resist it anymore? Yeah, a little but not as much. I am allowing myself to ‘be’ with it and not fight it so much.

I’d felt a lot of anger towards Anne, my therapist about this dependency that I felt towards her. This is what I said to her:

“Anne, I am feeling dependent on you and I HATE that feeling. I blame you for this. You should have known that I might come to this state of mind and you should have prevented it from happening. How could you have allowed me to get into this state?

“You know about my weaknesses and you have exploited them. You should have watched out for me and protected me and steered me in another direction when you first detected the slightest inkling that I might be becoming needy for you.

“Why, why, why did you let me get to this emotional place? You must know how embarrassing and humiliating it feels. This is not right.

“You have to take responsibility for it. It is your fault. What do you have to say for yourself?” I was pretty devastated about this feeling of neediness and that’s why I was able to speak so forcefully. I was feeling distraught.

Anne took my outburst well. She responded in her usual very nice and comforting voice. She explained that attachment is not an ‘evil’ thing. She said that we overemphasize independence in our modern society. We have somehow learned that no one should ever need help from another – that it is a sign of deficiency of moral character if we admit we have needs.

She further explained that we are all dependent on each other in one way or another. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And, in therapy, we are leaning on a guide to help us weave ourselves through the labyrinth of emotions.

And, just like during an earthquake, we reach out to hold on to something stable until the ground stops moving, likewise in therapy, when our emotional ground is unsteady, we hang on to safety with our therapists.

When the dust begins to settle, we can loosen our grip of the support and eventually let go.

I’m happy to report that leaning on Anne helped bring balance to my own unsteadiness and I no longer need her in the same way as when my emotions had been let loose by the initial stages of my deep self-exploration.

More tales appear in the next chapter that will describe some of my continuing adventures in neediness, attachment, and dependency.