Conflict of Interest

So, I dumped my counselor. But it wasn’t easy. I had second thoughts and guilt. I’m still hanging on to my people pleasing crap I guess. I was more worried about hurting her feelings than me getting the best help.

So after all my anxiety, I called to ask if I could switch to my husband’s counselor. I’ve been seeing him too for our marriage issues but it’s always together. But I think technically, he’s my husband’s counselor not mine.

So when I called the receptionist said it might be a conflict of interest. It didn’t really cross my mind, but apparently seeing me might be a problem. That really sucks because I clicked with this counselor and I never do that. Mostly because I usually see women counselors and they tend to irritate me. They make suggestions of positive thinking and it just annoys me. Don’t they think I might have already tried that?

But this counselor is male. OK, saying that out loud sounds weird but I just get along better with guys than I do women. And that’s not to say I hate women. My doctor is female. My best friend is female. But sometimes I feel more like I click with guys. And sometimes I don’t. But in this case, his advice has helped me a lot. I figured if he could work on a few of my personal issues (anxiety, my anger, my hurt) then that would actually help my marriage too.

So I’m bummed it might be a conflict of interest. They are going to call me back and let me know for sure.

Truthfully, if he can’t do it, I don’t want to find a different counselor. I have trust issues. It took me alot to open up to him and to my last counselor so starting with someone else feels emotionally exhausting. And he knows all the shit going on in my family so I don’t feel like explaining that all over again. It makes me want to cry because I find someone who seems to get it and also offers realistic, non-cheesy advice and I see improvement from his wisdom yet I can’t go there. Ugh. How unfair.

My husband and I don’t keep things from each other and so if by chance the counselor couldn’t keep our stories separated, I’d see that as a potential issue, except for me I wouldn’t care. And neither would my husband. We are in this together.

But I guess rules are rules. They have them for a reason. But I’ll be bummed out if I’m not able to seek therapy from him. I know there are other really good counselors that I could try. It’s just hard to build up trust and it takes a long time.

Counselors are a bit like hair stylists. If you find a good one, it’s hard to go anywhere else. If you do, you might end up with a crappy hair cut and regrets.

Here’s to hoping the rules can be broken.

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I Feel Pretty, Witty, and Bright

Being a woman has always felt a bit complicated to me. There are certain rules and expectations to be met. I feel like if I’m not happy, cheerful, or positive, I’m somehow not woman enough. And this pressure to conform often comes from other females.

I feel like the vast majority of people don’t mesh with me. Maybe I’m a giant jerk. I don’t know. But seems to me, I often find myself on the defensive or I feel hurt by their insensitivity.

According to most online quizzes that probably means I’m a crazy maker, narcissist, or worse. The thing is I have tons of empathy for people and I care, but sometimes I care too much. That’s where I tend to feel defensive.

I’ve been seeing a counselor for 6 months or so. She’s been nice and listens but we don’t mesh well. It’s not that I hate her or find her offensive. Sometimes she has good things to say. I just still feel like she misunderstands me. She interprets my cynicism towards certain things as “I need to correct this”. And when she does try to correct my out loud negative thinking, it’s off putting.

Today I was trying to tell her about my anxiety. I’ve had a lot lately and most of it is because of my family, or rather how I cope with them. When discussing how my daughter wants more friends, I jokingly stated that she thinks life is like a Disney show where you have your best friend from high school all the way into adulthood. The therapist chimed in to inform me I shouldn’t take away her hope and that some people do have childhood friends. I felt like I hit a nerve with her because then she said “I still have my friends from high school and so do my kids.” OK, so don’t tell my kids the reality that most people I know don’t?

So in our last few sessions, I’ve felt worse walking out of therapy than going in. And I feel like she overlooks the main point: my anxiety and stress. Instead, she addresses my parenting or communication issues. Is that the point? I didn’t come there for parenting advice. And I hate trying to explain to her that I’m cynical and although I tell her how I think, that’s not what I say to my daughter. I just feel defensive because I’m not Mrs. Positivity like she is.

On one other occasion while expressing my anxiety, she told me to look for things to be thankful for. Oiy. First off, I already know that and secondly, positive thinking is horse shit. It doesn’t do me any good to focus on positivity when I have a panic attack. Let’s ignore the tornado and pretend it’s sunny. Stupid.

So that leaves me with two options: stop going to therapy or find a new counselor. Part of me just wants to quit because it’s exhausting having to start over and bring up all my problems again and then what if that fails too?

On the other hand, the therapist we use for our marriage is like a breath of fresh air. I’m considering seeing him by myself if that isn’t too weird because with him, I state how I feel and he seems to get it. I walk out feeling validated. I don’t have to over explain my sense of humor or be told I should be doing this or that with no relation to my therapy goals. He doesn’t tell me to vibe positivity. He doesn’t coddle me either but offers advice that actually helps.

Part of me wonders if I’m just not a person who does well around most women. I seem to defy the female norm sometimes. I hate bridal & baby showers. I try to talk about other things besides motherhood (I’m more than a mom and wife). You won’t find me knitting. I do garden and I am artsy, however my gardening skills are amateur and you won’t catch me painting florals or girly crap. I am cynical and sarcastic and sometimes inappropriate which makes most guys laugh at me because they don’t expect it, but makes me unlikable by some women. I do have girlfriends but they tend to be like me. My best friend bakes and knits, but she also cusses and can spar males in karate and drop them to the ground. When we get together, we laugh at each other’s inappropriate stories that would make some women cringe.

Oh, I can be feminine and girly when needed (that’s how I attracted my husband lol) but I’m not a pushover. I don’t sugar coat things or prefer politeness over honesty. I’m not into thinking I have to be cute and sweet and never express negativity. I’m definitely not a stepford wife and I don’t feel the need to apologize for being realistic and honest. I wish someone would’ve been honest about life when I was growing up instead of going into adulthood thinking marriage was like a fairytale. Nope, I will not feel bad for stating what I know to be true. That’s not squashing hope. That’s offering a dose of reality.

My main point is that I don’t seem to mesh well with other women. Not the phony, overly positive types anyway. I’d honestly rather be friends with guys. And maybe finding a guy therapist would better suit me too. I like honest, real people not ones that tell me to blow positivity up my ass and everyone else’s.

I guess I’m just too old to have to waste energy explaining things like sarcasm to some people. When I told the male therapist one of my cynical thoughts, he laughed and agreed with me.

I guess I should’ve been born a dude.

Say NO to Nouthetic Counselors

Some people don’t know how dangerous they are. They sit behind their podiums, blasting their well-thought out theology, and never know how much damage they are inflicting. If they do start to wonder, they push those feelings aside and say, “It’s God’s Word. My feelings don’t matter.” And so goes the sad case of abuses all across the world in evangelical circles.

My husband and I have been going to counseling. At first, I wanted nothing to do with it because the guy is a Christian counselor. I thought,” What a bunch of crap!” So at first, I wasn’t game.

But our marriage was falling apart. I was convinced my husband was emotionally abusive because he neglected me, ignored me, and invalidated most things I said. I was about to leave him.

Some people told me counseling was worthless. Since I thought he was abusive, the thought was that he was good at convincing a therapist too. And I would just be further abused. And in all honesty, he showed all the signs of emotional abuse except it never seemed personal. He seemed to just be ignorant of the fact that how he acted hurt me a lot.

So I struggled with what to do.

Two years before this point, I had sat in a counseling office at church. The dangerous theology was spewed and believed by everyone but me. The pastor / counselor told me I was subject to my husband. He told my husband to love me like Christ loved the church. This never quite sat well with me just like “spare not the rod” never sat well with me in parenting. How can loving someone consist of a power trip, control, and one being over the other? How could God love me but then tell me I’m less than my husband because I am female?

It never made sense. And besides that, issues were never discussed. Bible verses were used to cover over “sins” but we never discussed those in any detail. I was sent home and told to submit. All my husband had to do was be a leader, whatever the hell that means.

When we left the church, I just was so angry at so many things. The teachings that I was less than. The idea that I didn’t matter without my husband. The constant invalidation not only from my husband but from men at church that I trusted.

I remember statements about other women too where the pastor said the husband needed to get his wife under control. But then there was always that love part thrown in. Like that means anything? Being willing to lay down your life in every way except control or leading the family or having to work. How very “Stepford Wife” of you. The hypocrisy was blinding.

So after that experience which dragged on for many months, I was just unwilling to go. I couldn’t take more invalidation or being told I didn’t matter. I couldn’t handle another blow to my already fragile heart.

I told myself I’d go one time. If during that meeting, I even once felt invalidated or not heard, I would be done. The meeting came and I felt completely like crawling out of my skin. Most of the emphasis was on my husbands fragility and self-worth. He talked previously with the counselor about his childhood. I listened with little empathy. Everyone has had a shitty childhood. Get over it. I thought to myself. But I kept listening. I didn’t feel invalidated but I still didn’t feel as if the root issue was being addressed.

I walked out rather pissed. Was I just supposed to feel sorry for him? All this talk of childhoods and maltreatment but little concern for how I feel. I decided I’d go one more time but I’d be more verbal.

Two weeks later I was back again. I expected this to be my last. But I shared many things and to my surprise, the counselor knew exactly what to say and how to address it and even told my husband that he was invalidating my feelings. He threw out some ideas to help us. I honestly didn’t feel like connecting with my husband or trying to work at our marriage but I decided to hang in there.

We’ve gone several times now and most times I’m not the one putting in the effort. Instead, I see him trying to change. This is huge because in the past, I was the one with the problems and I needed to change. So after seeing that for a few months… that he was serious, things have begun to turn around. I now trust that my efforts are worth something.

I often criticize Christians on this blog, but I can’t say anything negative about our experience with a Christian counselor. He has truly shown Christ in his dealings with my husband and I. It’s a breath of fresh air after our last experience. It causes me to wonder if there is a world of Christians that are actually sincere. I wish I knew more of them. It’s so drastically different than my dealings with those male pastors who believed in a man centered society where women just went along quietly. Psh.

I later learned the differences between these counselors. While both claimed Christianity, only one man was qualified to help me. The first counselor was trained in nouthetic counseling (NANC). Do a search and you will find horror stories of these so-called counselors.

One website describes it this way:

To become a Nouthetic counselor, one needs only to be very familiar with scripture and the Bible. There are no educational requirements—in fact, the idea of Nouthetic counseling is that it is done by friends, family, and fellow members of the church in an informal method, not as a type of therapy or formal counseling.

According to the Certified Biblical Counselors website (where my former pastor was certified), they offer training through videos and online courses and an exam. They also have you record counseling sessions and then review the session, critiquing your approach. Otherwise, anyone can basically counsel if they are willing to pay the fee and undergo limited training. The only way they won’t is if you are a sex offender. Oh joy.

The thing that really pisses me off is they feel they are able to handle any issue with a Bible verse. This quote was on their website regarding abuse:

In 2018, the ACBC annual conference will focus on the problem of abuse and show how the resources of Scripture equip Christians to counsel abused persons and those who have harmed them.

It’s ridiculous! A monkey with a piece of paper and literally no training should not be counseling abuse victims.

In contrast, our trained counselor studied at a reputable college and has an MA in marriage and family therapy where he underwent hours of supervised sessions and was trained on how to use scientifically backed therapies. Other counselors have been trained in DBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EDMR for abuse and trauma. They aren’t just given a degree. They put in hours of study and build up their practice and continue in their learning.

Of course there are counselors who suck, but overall I’ve seen a huge difference in my family because of therapy.

In my opinion, nouthetic counseling is abusive and causes more problems. It adds shame to trauma and abuse victims and is dangerous for those who should be seeking real help in the form of therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

If I had stayed in that church, I know by now I would’ve been divorced and my husband would still be listening to their chauvinistic BS. I’ve met people in other churches that push for trained counseling instead of nouthetic because they know how dangerous it is. I’m thankful they know where to draw the line. For these churches to counsel people with hardly any training is a sad, abusive practice. Its taken our marriage years to bounce back after their corrupt teachings. I credit the educated therapists who undergo extensive training and know how to listen and apply that knowledge in a healthy way. Without them, my family would be no more.

When Marriage is a Mirage

My marriage is in the crapper these days. It’s been there for awhile but I tolerated it much better when my stress level wasn’t through the roof. Once upon a time, I had a lot of grace. These days, I need it more than most.

There’s really three roads you can take when this happens.

1) Take advice from men hating divorcees who claim you’d be better off alone

2) Take advice from conservative Christians, doormats, and conflict avoiders who convince you the problem is all you

Orrrrrr

3) Get professional help.

I’ve tried door number 2 first and hated myself. I listened to door number 1, but decided that door was not for me. They advised me against door number 3 stating that my husband would just manipulate the therapist.

I entered door number 3 well aware of the fact that it might end in disaster. I was the one who dragged my heels into counseling when he asked me to go. I didn’t want to meet with another male who could possibly blame me for everything again and I didn’t want my husband, who is the better conversationalist, to make me into the bad guy.

But I went. It was my last try, I told myself.

The first meeting I walked out mad but wasn’t sure why. Maybe because I felt like the advice he gave was too simplistic: go home and take turns discussing our feelings. I thought that was stupid considering the entire problem was that my husband refused to actually communicate with me, shutting down every time I had a negative emotion. I felt as if I wasn’t allowed to feel. He felt as if my feelings were too out there for him.

But we tried. We attempted to communicate. And things got a little better. But in the midst of the weeks between our next session, more stress happened. And when I tried to express my feelings, he said I was abusive (later apologizing for using that word) and shut me down again.

So I dragged my heels into counseling again. I didn’t expect much really. But the counselor got to the root of things, surprising even me. He talked about how I’m more reactive and how my husband is more logical. He said I’m logical too but emotions usually win. And it was my husband’s job to make me cry. Not by insulting me but by getting to the heart of what hurts. And instead of running away, he needs to embrace my feelings and validate them. He also talked about how my husband personalizes how I feel when he shouldn’t. My feelings aren’t judgments against him, but my own feelings. I own those, not him.

My husband, confused as to how talking and validating would help, asked the counselor what the point was if he couldn’t fix it. The counselor said because then I’d feel less crazy and less angry (i.e. abusive) and would feel understood. So we were to use “I feel” statement. It was my husband’s job to “pick a fight” or draw out the emotion. I was supposed to not say “I feel like” because “like” masked the true emotion. “I feel like crap” instead would be “I feel angry” or “I feel depressed”.

I will admit this is awkward. For years, I’ve not been able to truly say how I feel for fear of him calling me overly sensitive or telling me I’m wrong. So it is foreign to say how I feel out loud to someone I don’t trust emotionally. And I still feel hurt by the things he has said.

But working it out with expert help is better than the alternative. Granted both of us are trying. If you have one who gives up and won’t try, then door number 1 or 2 might be better.

I’m still not sure where all of this will lead in the end but at least it’s progress. It’s slow but it’s moving forward.