I lied to my therapist
and also to you
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote about how I broke up with my therapist, and how writing this newsletter has helped me process the events of my life and the feelings around them.
Here’s an excerpt:
It’s fascinating how only thinking about your issues can oftentimes make them worse, whereas plucking them out of your brain and delivering them onto the page can make them better. It’s magic.
I still believe this to be true. Writing has a magical ability to get you past your surface-level stuff. Most anyone who’s done even just a five-minute free writing exercise can attest to the wild things that can come out of the depths of your psyche.
Okay, that sounds great and all. Writing = solving all your problems. Got it.
But, of course, there’s a catch.
Most anyone who has bared their soul onto the page can attest to how emotionally taxing it can be, especially if you do it for an extended period of time. It can feel like there’s a mini-Beetlejuice character residing in your head and writing is like calling his name three times to get his help exorcising your demons, but he also kinda sucks at it sometimes and can be annoying to work with.
That’s why I went back to my therapist in July of last year—and then proceeded to not tell you about it. Because it felt like doing so would’ve called into question what I wrote before, and I felt some shame around that. To be clear, I don’t feel shame about going to therapy. I understand the value of it and I’m an advocate for it. I know it doesn’t mean I’m broken and need to be fixed. Asking for help isn’t a weakness. Instead, I felt shame about how I wrote one thing, which might’ve left an impression in your mind about me, and then did another thing, which meant I was a fraud. But I know that’s ridiculous. None of you will care about it as much as I do. And more people would benefit from me writing about my experience—like I am right now—than would judge me for needing to go back to therapy.
Okay, that sounds great and all. Lyle went back to his therapist = all his problems have been solved. Got it.
But, of course, there’s more to it.
You see, I’ve been lying to my therapist.
Well, maybe not a full-on lie. More like withholding some information. But it feels like I’ve been lying to him.
I even noticed that I sort of hinted at it in that same piece from two years ago. Here’s another excerpt:
Therapists can’t live in our heads and they only get a small glimpse of what’s really going on in there. We live with the voice in our heads constantly, whereas they only get access to it typically for an hour per week, and what they get is often filtered by our assumptions and tendencies.
That bolded part—the filter—is where the lies live. They build up layer upon layer of bullshit and false narratives that reinforce themselves and manifest as bad habits (e.g. not bringing up deeper issues that feel more vulnerable) and unhealthy coping mechanisms (e.g. making an offhand joke to disarm my therapist instead of directly talking about an issue).
At first, I thought this might be happening because I’m a people pleaser. The idea was that I would say whatever he might want to hear so he didn’t judge me or worry about me too much. But the more I’ve sat with that thought, the less it feels right. I don’t really care what he thinks about me (in a healthy way). I don’t want to make his job easier. I don’t feel like I hold back when it comes to sharing most of the things going on in my life. And yet, I’ve still been too reserved in our sessions.
No, I’m not a people pleaser.
I’m a conflict-avoider.
I lied to my therapist because then I wouldn’t be unveiling my whole messy truth, and I wouldn’t be at risk of dealing with the conflict that would come up within myself. I wouldn’t have to do as much work on myself. It’s the same reason I’ve been avoiding writing about emotionally challenging topics and reposting old essays recently instead. And it’s also why this draft has taken me much longer to write than usual.
For all of those reasons, I’ve stuck with the status quo in my therapy sessions—despite literally paying thousands of dollars to get myself out of the status quo. (It’s kinda maddening to write that down.) I’d join a session wanting to dive deep and get to the root of things with him, yet also being totally freaked out about what he might find. Having a therapy session on my calendar allows me to mentally prepare for it, which typically means I hop on Zoom in a more intellectual state of mind—an “I feel like” mindset instead of an “I feel” mindset. It’s difficult for me to tap into my deeper emotions and felt experiences unless I’m in the right set and setting—and usually, Zoom ain’t it.
My most recent therapy session was last Tuesday. That morning, I had run a writing workshop with my friendfor Foster. It went really, really well. But it ran over time. I was recording it at my mom’s house because I have my fancy microphone set up there. The problem was, I needed to be back at my house across town (for a reason I don’t need to get into the specifics on), which is about a 10-12 minute drive away, but I had a 1:1 coaching client call in 15 minutes. So I quickly said goodbye to my mom, literally ran to my car, and tried not to speed too egregiously on the drive home. The other problem was, I had my therapy session immediately after my coaching call. And, not to mention, I needed to eat lunch at some point.
I burst through the door at home, and while I was running to my desk to set up my laptop, I asked my stepdaughter Sara if she could make me a quesadilla before my 1 pm therapy appointment.
When I joined my therapy session (a few minutes late, unsurprisingly), I was scarfing down my lunch and told him I needed a minute. I was hungry, yes. But I was also flustered and frazzled by my frenetic day. And, because of that, I was most definitely not in an intellectual, reflective mindset. So I decided to not hold back anything.
He was clearly taken aback by it. He said he had never seen that side of me before. The side that’s feeling more intense anxiety lately. The side that’s stressed out. The side that’s frustrated with how forgetful I’ve been. The side that knows there are lots of things to be happy about in my life right now, yet still feels unsatisfied. The side that isn’t so chill.
I’ve often thought that I wish I could have a therapy session immediately after some internal crisis or an argument with my wife or whatever. It seems like those would be the best times for a session because then he could see me at my lowest points. But you can’t schedule emotional breakdowns.
I felt grateful for the crazy day that allowed me to let my guard down and get into the stuff underneath the veneer. I’m still processing it all and there’s plenty more work to be done. But I’m glad it happened. And starting to write about it more often is a step in the right direction too.
I know I just wrote about how my schedule is a bit nutty. Despite that, I’m looking to fill more spots on my calendar with coaching clients.
Here are two people who generously shared their experiences on Substack Notes recently:
You can book a “pay-what-you-want” coaching call with me at lyle.coach
Okay—*deep breath*—that’s all for today.
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