Reading the comments here at Chump Lady, it sounds like chumps’ shrink experiences are a mixed bag. Some awesome super helpful shrinks, and some dreadful “what did you do to make them cheat” sorts of shrinks.
So today I thought I’d ask for the Best Advice you got from your shrink — or if you had a bad shrink, the Worst Advice you got. Then we can compare and contrast.
If it’s good — hey, think of how exponentially helpful that $150/hour you spent will be for the chump collective. If it’s bad? Well, there’s snark.
I had both kinds of shrinks. The first marriage counselor we went to actually looked like this cartoon above, right down to the sweater vest and patchy facial hair. (Note to my enemies — do not ever piss me off. You may wind up a cartoon.)
Let’s just call him Dr. Hug, a Leo Buscaglia-wannabe sort. We sought him out for marriage counseling. (Because he was on the plan and a short walk from Mr. Cheaterpants’ office. Nothing too taxing.) He listened to my horror story — and I mentioned how he threatened to kill me, “hunt me down and burn down my house” if I told anyone about his cheating. And how he wished his ex-wife dead for speaking with me, and said he would piss on her baby’s grave.
Now, I don’t have a Ph.D., but I think if someone walked into my office and said that, I might stir from my Zen torpor. “Hmm,” I’d think, scratching my patchy facial hair, “We have a larger class of freak today.”
But no. Dr. Hug stared at us wanly. And said to continue. So I added, “And I want him to take an STD test, but he won’t.” And Dr. Hug said to the cheater “And how does that make you feel?” And the cheater answered, “Like I’m being punished.”
Which of course infuriated me. I looked to Dr. Hug for any signs that this might have infuriated him also, or at least caused a twitch across the Zen placidity of his face. Nope. If they taught you not to judge in shrink school, this guy was GOOD. Like maybe he spent his residency in Tibet in a Buddhist monastery Zen. Or had a laudanum habit, I dunno.
As we got up to leave, he gave us his one and only nugget of wisdom: “You two need to learn to dialogue.”
Really? Because I didn’t really think my cheater had a communication problem. He didn’t mumble. He enunciated pretty clearly “PISS ON HER DEAD BABY’S GRAVE.”
I know he meant dialogue as in to speak honestly and openly with one another about our inner selves. Well of course that would be nice. But that’s like taking your car to the shop after the engine threw a rod and the mechanic saying, “What you really need here is a car that runs.” Apparently there’s a small industry for stating the obvious.
Anyway, as I’ve recounted before, my disgust with Dr. Hug resulted in me calling the practice and asking for a verbal steamroller who could stand up to my ex. And they gave us Janet — a tiny, fiery woman with a potty mouth. She called the cheater on his shit. And she called me on mine.
A good shrink, IMO, should make you squirm and examine yourself. Problem with infidelity though is, that’s a double edged sword. We chumps are so good at blaming ourselves, that the wrong shrinks who encourage that “I drove them to it” mentality can be so harmful. No, I mean examining yourself as in “What am I doing here? Why am I taking this shit? Is this acceptable to me?”
The wisest thing Janet said to me in those sessions was “ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS? THIS IS WHO HE IS!” So when the cheater said patently stupid shit like “I like being a narcissist!” she told me to tune into that. It wasn’t a joke. It was his character. He was revealing himself. He had been all along, but I was being such a codependent chump I wasn’t listening to his actions.
And hey, a shout out to Janet. If you find yourself in central Pennsylvania in need of a good therapist, call her. If you want to do the same for your shrink on your comment, why the hell not? Advertise the good ones, and maybe the bad ones will dissolve into their sweater vests. Or stop getting columns on HuffPo anyway. (We can hope…)
So lay it on me, worst advice, best advice.