I am not trained in psychology or the techniques of therapy. These things are interesting to me and I have done a significant amount of reading on the topics, but I can not claim true expertise. And yet I play the part of therapist on an almost daily basis. I talk Kiki through a resarch paper, not only the work itself, but also the behaviors and feelings she exhibits as she tries to deflect and avoid. Kiki is champion at fomenting arguments between us when she has work she does not want to do. Yet at 15 she is able to see herself doing it and often stops herself. This self awareness is a skill she has developed over years of self-analytic conversations with both Howard and me.
I nudge and prod Link into awareness about the social consequences of choices he makes. We talk about friends and frustrations. I watch Gleek run fast and frantic, quick to anger. Then I find a quiet time when we can talk through the buried fears and sadnesses which drive her forward. Gleek likes talking about feelings, she’ll stay up for hours rehashing the same things over and over. Then I need to disengage and let her sleep. (It is almost always at bedtime.) Some of the emotions will still be there in the morning, most will not.
And then there is Patch. In the past couple of years he has gotten less focused attention from me because most of his emotional needs fit so smoothly into our standard operating procedures. It was easy to know when he needed time to talk, he’d start crawling into bed with us at night. He’s older now and things are different. He doesn’t react in the same ways that he used to do. He’s started feeling sick at school and calling to come home, except he’s not sick. I believe that he is being honest in his description of symptoms, but there is no infection involved. The truth is that he has buried feelings which need to be sorted. Having an upset stomach at school may be the new form of crawl into bed with mom and dad. I need to find a quiet time when we can dig into his thoughts to figure out what is unsettling him. I’ve already got a laundry list of probable causes. His best friend is moving. He’s going to switch schools next year. The school work is boring and he’s figured out how to skate by on it. The culture at the school is not ideal for him. And he’s just turned 8 which coincides with certain brain developments. All of my 8 year old kids ended up sitting in my lap and talking through fear of growing up/death. A good therapist knows where to dig.
Then of course there are Howard and I. Between us we have a boat load of fun anxieties and neruoses which can provide hours of fun self analysis. I spend a significant amount of time watching my own brain processes and trying to figure out what is going on in there.
I once had a friend pose the question “If you didn’t have the job you do now, what do you think you would be?” Therapist is on my list of possible answers.