( I wrote this for those who have little to no experience with therapy to give you a glimpse. This is a true, but abridged account of one of my sessions. )
I walked into therapy and sat down on one of the two small couches in the room. In the center sat a small table with one yellow and one green sheet of construction paper, with a box of markers next to it.
“Last week,” she said, “we talked about how there’s two sides to you. The one side that you keep out in front, and the other side that you keep close to you and don’t let anyone see because you’re afraid if they did, they would reject you.”
“Right.” I said, nodding in agreement.
“When I asked you what it would look like to integrate those two sides of yourself, you told me that you had no idea what that would look like. So today, we’re going to focus on understanding what these two sides represent to you.”
I immediately understood what she was going to ask me to do.
“On the yellow sheet, I want you to write down what you think the side that you put out for everyone to see looks like. On the green I want you to write what that part of yourself looks like that you don’t want others to see.”
I grabbed the yellow sheet first and wrote…
On the green sheet I wrote…
Doesn’t back down
She put a finger on the yellow sheet. “Tell me about these.”
I leaned forward and pointed to each word. “Well, I guess this is who I want to be. It’s how I want others to see me.” I stared at the words I had written and realized this list was almost exactly like a list we had made a month earlier regarding ways I didn’t feel my family supported me growing up. “These are all attributes that people want to be around. It’s what I wanted to be around.”
She put a finger on the green sheet. “What about these.”
“This guy ruins everything. No one wants to be around him. They don’t trust him.” I looked up from the paper and into her eyes, “This is chaos. It’s like letting the hulk out. He could help, or he could go on a rampage.”
She pointed at the list, down at the word “Sarcastic”.
“Is this necessarily a bad trait?” she asked.
“No. I mean, there are time’s where it’s appropriate. You know, to lighten the mood.” I immediately started to look over the other words. I realized that most of the attributes I had listed, were sometimes appropriate.
She looked up from the sheet of paper. “Because when I see these words, I see a human. We all get angry and that’s not always bad. Backing down isn’t always a bad thing.”
“Manipulation helped me keep conversations on track with customers when I did sales. Sometimes I had to talk people out of what they wanted, to sell them what they didn’t know they needed, so that they would be happier.” I said. I could feel the wheels in my mind turning.
“Is the part of you that you put out for everyone to see, happy?”
“No.” I said softly
“Is the part of you that you fear showing people happy?”
I looked up from the sheet of paper once more. “No.” I said firmly, “I think, as long as these two sides don’t learn to co-exist, neither one will ever be happy.”
She reached down to the two sheets and held them up. “Is this a complete person?” she asked as she shook one sheet. “Is this a complete person?” she shook the other sheet.
“No.” I said to both.
Then, she placed the two sheets of construction paper together and held them up as one.
“That’s a complete person.” I said smiling, feeling confident in my understanding.
She nodded in agreement and smiled. “Next week we’re going to start exploring what that means.”