Why are therapists so obsessed with the past?
I don’t want to talk about my childhood in therapy. Perhaps I will one day; perhaps then it will be helpful for me. But right now, no.
There are reasons for this.
Firstly, the reason I’m in therapy is because I want – no, need to change the way I feel and think about myself. Now, I know that we are all built from our past, our experiences, our memories, the people we’ve known… it all goes into our individual melting pot and shapes us. But I’m concerned here with changing my present and my future. For me, right now, the past is done with. Some of it was good, some of it was fine; lots of it I hated. And yes, it, together with my genes, has made me what I am today. But I want to think about me. Me, now. What that is and how I can change it for the better. If doing this without delving into the stinking bog of my childhood proves impossible, then so be it. But I want to try it the other way first, and I think my therapist ought to respect that.
Second, I really really hate talking about my childhood. Recalling an event or two here and there; yes, I can cope with that. But I don’t want to start swilling around the nitty gritty. It makes me feel even more anxious and depressed and self-hating than I already do, and frankly, that’s no fun.
Third, my memories of my childhood are all overlaid with screams of LIES and BETRAYAL. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I finally realised that my father was a self-obsessed abuser – and yes, that’s a whole other subject. But the upshot is that even if I think of memories of my childhood that were happy back when they happened, my memory isn’t happy. It screams at me. It is covered in a vile poison that is him. Sorting all of that out would take a long, long time and a huge amount of misery and depression and anxiety and horror for me. If I can change my feelings about myself without doing that – well, changing my self-perception is my priority right now and to be honest, I want to do it in the least painful way I can.
Fourth, I’m already well aware that the fact that I hate myself and live by incredibly restrictive rules for myself almost certainly stems from my father’s treatment of me and my family. I don’t feel the need to know about that in any more detail right now.
And that’s why I was pretty annoyed when I walked into my therapy session to find that my therapist wanted to spend the next hour making a timeline of my life. I’d already told her at least twice – I think more – that I didn’t want to discuss my childhood. Despite this, I had given her an overview. And now, she wanted… No. I was annoyed and I told her so. Fortunately, she gave up her timeline plans for this session.
But she’d bloody better remember.