I had my first appointment with the new therapist yesterday. It well. So far I feel like we’re going to jive.
One thing we talked about at length was the work it took to shake off my family’s expectations and the conditioning that I grew up with. Because at the end of the day, that’s what it was – conditioning. Being taught that family is above everything, including yourself, and that you always do what’s best for the family.
Sounds like the damn mafia when you put it that way, but the description isn’t far off. There’s something about traditional Italian Catholic families that lends itself to this idea. I guess it’s how everyone was raised for generations. Family first.
We also talked a lot about intrusive thoughts and how to work with them rather than against them. We talked about how I get obsessive thoughts replaying events from 30 years ago, often how I was guilted into doing things that I didn’t want to do. Case in point – out of the blue this morning I thought of an event from when I was 8 years old. I had been sick for over a month and missed a number of rehearsals for a church play, but was still forced to participate by my family. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, and it’s really the first time I can remember having anxiety. And then after all was said and done, I was told that I embarrassed them. Which compounded the anxiety. I was very much a people pleaser, not so much anymore but back then absolutely, and I resolved that days that I would never embarrass them again. And I tried my damnedest to make that happen. I studied my ass off, I worked my ass off, I tried to do things that would make them proud of me, but I don’t really know if they ever were past the bragging rights of what I accomplished. I never really felt the pride, just that I knew I had to work harder.
It took 30-some odd years, and a lot of therapy to learn to shake off those expectations, and I still sometimes struggle with them. But I feel like I’m starting to live authentically. I still struggle with the thought of being a disappointment, but I’ve found that as time goes on, I seem to care less and less. I feel like it took me too long to realize that I can live life the way I want to instead of the way I’m expected to. It’s been a hard lesson to learn and an even harder road to walk.