Today, I am starting a new category on my blog called, Therapy Stories. They are fictitious and any resemblance to real people and events is purely coincidental. I have created these stories from my mulitiple experiences in working with people, couples, families, organizations, and communities.
Growing up means being alone
“It sucks to be you”, I said with a lilt in my voice and a slight smile.
She took it the right way and shook her head up and down and laughed lightly but still had somewhat of a frown on her face.
“My life is just ehhhhh”, she said. She looked a little depressed. She described the problems in her life at college, at home, with her boyfriend, with her job, and then said, “I’m OK though.”
I have been a psychotherapist for over 35 years. I could be her father and almost her grandfather, and I wonder to myself what it is like to be a young woman starting out in life, having graduated from high school and off to the first year of college with high hopes but disappointed somewhat with how life is starting out.
I wondered further what she had been told about life, about what kind of life she could have, what kind of life she should have. She told me that everybody was telling her what she should do about this, that, and everything and she was torn. Her mother wanted her to do this, her father that, her older sister had advice as well.
She is conscientious and earnest and bright and sensitive, maybe too sensitive. What does she need to hear from me? What could we talk about that would help?
I finally said, “Lisa, this isn’t about them, it is about you. What do you want?”
She nodded and looked a bit skeptical.
“I want them to stop fighting and like my boyfriend.”
“Never going to happen”, I said softly, “and you can’t control them. Supposing they keep on fighting and continue to not like your boyfriend, then what?”
“Yeah, I know”, she said, now seemingly more depressed than before.
“Listen”, I said, “I make a distinction between privacy and secrecy. People have a right to their privacy. They have a right to their own life. They don’t have an obligation to share with everybody, information about everything in their life. It’s kind of like being in the military where people get information on a ‘need to know’ basis.”
“Secrecy”, I said, “is when another person has a right to know something and you are holding out on them. That can be unfair because the information may have an impact on them and they have a stake in it. Where do you draw the line, the line between privacy and secrecy? I can’t tell you that. You are the expert on your life not me, but I can tell you that there is a line there somewhere.”
“I like that”, she said with a pensive look.
I thought to myself how growing up means having a life of one’s own, developing a mind of one’s own, standing up for what you believe in, becoming captain of your own ship and master or mistress of your own fate. You are no longer a member of the herd. You have staked out your own life, your own stands, your own positions on things. You have become aware and chosen your own values, opinions, beliefs, and practices, and no longer do things just because “that’s the way I was raised”.
Coming into one’s own is liberating but it also is scary because it can be lonely. No wonder Peter Pan never wanted to grow up but to remain a child forever.