It’s been a good couple of days, and things seem to be going pretty steady at the moment. I attended a couple of good meetings last night, the ones that I usually go to with C on Thursdays. Both of them are ‘mainstream’ (i.e. not gay) and I feel quite comfortable with them now. I’ve shared in the first one a few times now, but not the second one, as it’s technically an old-timers’ group, meaning I’ll probably wait til I have a year’s sobriety or thereabouts before I speak. I won’t put it off any longer than that.
There was a little emotional turmoil beforehand, when C wanted to meet up with a newcomer and bring him to the meeting. The newcomer, A, was very nice, but unfortunately very good looking, which instantly caused me discomfort. Ever since I came into recovery I can’t seem to be around sexually attractive men without feeling hugely inferior. I know what that’s all about. Every time I meet someone who I find very attractive, it makes me feel like that helpless little child, because I want the man so badly, and I can’t have him. This has happened with nearly every physically attractive man I’ve ever met. It’s why the men who I’ve gone for in relationships have tended not to be men who I really fancy. They were all safe options.
Everyone feels threatened by good looking people, it’s a part of the human condition. But with me it gets so bad that, for a short time initially, I can hardly function. Poor A must have thought he’d done something to offend me last night. As soon as I realised what he might be thinking, the old instinct to resent him kicked in, and for a few minutes I had to fight the urge to walk away and punish him. I keep wanting to punish people, for the way they make me feel. But I know I can’t do that any more, so I stuck around last night, and eventually A and I ended up having a reasonable conversation with each other. At certain points I found myself slipping into fantasy land, imagining a utopian future where A and I settle down and live happily ever after. It’s another old behaviour that I’ve always engaged in to protect myself. All these things that I do out of instinct, they’re just defence mechanisms, ways that I learnt to protect myself from reality.
I haven’t really learnt that I do this from AA; it’s thanks to the counselling module that I’m taking at the moment in University that I’m discovering so much about the psyche so quickly. I’m throwing myself into this module because I’m more sure than ever that it’s the career path I want my life to follow, and also because it’s teaching me so many useful things about me and other people. I didn’t know before that I used so many defence mechanisms. I didn’t know that I have a tendency to slouch and look at the ground because I’m scared to look up and engage with the world. We were told about people doing that in today’s lecture. I’ve always been vaguely aware of it, but I was never 100% clear why I really did it.
It’s been a week of unbelievable clarity. Not that the past seven months haven’t been full of clarity, but I can feel stuff coming together really quickly this week, old and new stuff. When I talk to people now I make a conscious effort to keep my body language open and confident; when I walk down the street I put energy into keeping my head held high. The old, sick part of me constantly questions why I’m bothering to put all this effort in. What’s wrong with spending the rest of my life with my eyes focused on the ground? it asks. It’s hard to keep reminding myself to look up and ahead all the time, because looking down is such a natural state of being for me, but I’m persisting with this new behaviour, because I know my life isn’t going to change any other way. Sometimes I may forget to maintain the behaviour, but that’s all right because I can still keep trying, and at the end of the day, just having this new awareness of it is going to help. Being AWARE of things is the first step to changing them, after all!
Today’s lecture was fascinating for more than one reason. The topic was Person-Centred therapy today, another form of counselling that I’ve been lucky enough to receive in the past. This course has really showed me how lucky I am – over the years I’ve seen about five or six counsellors, all of whom I now know were practising these different types of therapy. I had psychodynamic counselling when I was a teenager; then when I was at University the first time I received person-centred therapy for a couple of years; then about three years ago I received cognitive behaviour therapy. I always realised that these counsellors were each very different, but I didn’t know I was getting first hand experience of the various methods that I would end up studying in-depth years later in 2008.
After being taught about the theory behind person-centred counselling we had a brief role-play session, which turned into the most fun I’ve ever had on this degree course. We were asked to split into groups of ten, with two people sat in the centre and the rest of us sat around observing. The two in the centre had to act as client and therapist. At first, our group’s two role players seemed nervous and unsure about how to play it, but they soon settled into their roles and it was a great insight into what they might be like in the real situation, should they choose to go into this line of work. Hence, it was an insight into the personalities of those two people, an insight that you wouldn’t normally get in the slightly anonymous atmosphere of the lecture hall.
Again, by the end of the lecture I was nearly pinching myself, to check that I wasn’t dreaming. This is exactly why I wanted to study Psychology in the first place, to learn about the psychological nuances and intricacies of every day life. It seems to me that therapy gets underneath the surface unlike any other profession, and I love it for that, already. I’m so lucky to have already had that experience of therapy in the past, to know all that I already know about it. This is where I feel everything coming together in my life, this module, which has conveniently come right at the end of my degree, just as I’m about the enter the real world for the first time in my life. I don’t know how or when I’m going to be able to afford to pay the extortionate fees for the professional training, which I’d have to go through before I can become a proper therapist. That is my main goal in life, starting now. They say that healthy, sane individuals have goals; at least I can take comfort in the fact that I have one now. I just need to find out how to go about achieving it.