Being heard is very therapeutic


In addition to a migraine, no doubt due in part to the miserable weather which enveloped Toronto today, I’m experiencing a bit of a hangover from a therapy session I had on Thursday. It’s not a bad hangover, just a feeling that I need to unpack some of the stuff which was discussed.

This was only my second session with this guy, who is practicing cognitive therapy, based on the book Mind Over Mood which has a corresponding website. Actually he is a resident social worker at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Clinic for HIV-related Concerns but is under the supervision of a psychiatrist I’ve known for quite awhile from the clinic’s narrative writing program.

On Thursday we discussed what I thought was an old belief that I had discarded, “If anyone deserves AIDS, I do.” I took it apart, almost word by word, satisfying myself that I no longer believed what, to my listener, was quite a powerful and shocking statement.

He suggested, quite properly, that I had dismantled the belief or, more to the point, the thought beneath the original statement but then – still reeling, it seemed, from what had become such a worn sock of a belief to me – he challenged me, as many a therapist has suggested, to get out of my head and asked how and where I felt the impact of my words. Not surprisingly I held my hand over my stomach where I could feel my deepest breaths.

“I feel sad,” I said, “not self-pitying, but sorry that I could have held such a belief.”

And, quel surprise, I began to cry.

We then reviewed what he knew of me from just two sessions. A family friend, who was my elementary school’s head teacher, bullied me like no kid ever could get away with. I was sexually abused, by a stranger, beginning at about 12 years of age. I “acted out” sexually as a young man, fearing intimacy while exploring my sexuality. My faith journey included a phase in a fundamentalist Christian congregation in my effort to be rid of my homosexuality. To put it mildly, the core belief had had plenty of time to germinate.

“No wonder I don’t give a crap about looking after my diet,” I said. (I’ve been diagnosed as diabetic in the past year or so, an adjustment which has proven quite difficult as I am not one enamored with cooking – let alone foods that are all good for me.)

My assignment for this week, which I came up with all by myself and may regret by next Thursday, is to prepare a healthy meal – just one – from scratch. In true manic fashion I left the hospital and bought two cookbooks (as if there were none gathering dust under my microwave table!)

Suggestions for a meal?

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