Your Dirty Secrets

I was discussing sex with a colleague. I know, that sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Punctuation is important. Put your mind on pause, we were speaking in an entirely clinical-ish manner.

I have been a therapist for some time now. Without exaggerating, people in my field, with the requisite amount of full-time experience, have literally counseled thousands of strangers… and usually most of their friends. People know what I do for a living and sometimes, because my family and friends are all cheap bastards, they make me give them advice for free. Some of my buds, and you know who you are, casually refer to me as “Dr. Death” because I have a habit of showing up every time someone gets in an accident or a close relative passes away. If you are a counselor or a physiotherapist, a social worker or a kinesiologist or a medical professional, you totally know what I am talking about. Therapy is expensive and Scott is free to friends and relatives. Yay.

So back to the sex. I know I said that wrong.

People have secrets. There are stories from our past, and ofttimes our present, that we don’t talk about while watching hockey. Habits we have struggled to break, decisions made and regretted, dirty little secrets of which we are ashamed. If I have learned one thing in all my years as a counselor, it’s that quite a few people have things tucked away in the closet they would choose to forget. I get that.

I remember many days, many confessions. The point is, I have forgotten many more. Life goes on and at some point the only person carrying that baggage is probably you. As the comedian said, “You know who cares as much about your problems as you do? No one.”

Counseling, for reasons I understand and several I do not, actually works for many people. Even stripping away all the psychology and philosophy and relationship-building, there is something powerful, something cathartic, about telling someone else the truth, without worrying judgment or your partner finding out. Counselees regularly report feeling better, though I am often dumbfounded as to what I have actually done for that person. There is a power in the process, not just the result.

This is the obvious reason why change happens slowly, over extended periods of time. You cannot really change your attitude, much less your philosophy of life, in 8 sessions; the idea is usually ludicrous. It took you decades to get this way, and I’m not a televangelist or a medium. The process itself, that long and arduous journey of infinitesimal change, you can’t fake that. Wisdom takes time.

But I digress, as usual.

You have a dirty little secret, perhaps more than two. It may not be perverted or gross or abuse, but most of us carry a regret, or ten; something that has scarred us, a wound which has never completely healed.

People tell me stuff. Any illusions you may have about counselors knowing a whack of gossip is unequivocally correct. Unfortunately, the sheer volume and weight of thousands of horror stories bleeds any of the guilty pleasure out of knowing someone’s secrets. At some point in the journey, it became clinical. Therapists who can’t take the misery get a different job.

So when you told me that dirty little secret, chances are I didn’t flinch. As you have surmised by now, this isn’t bragging, it’s just math.

Where is this headed? Shame is a powerful thing. People carry embarrassment and that dirt, and we all have that story where we came clean with someone and they hurt us. It may sound pedantic but there is often that old voice in our head reminding us we are such a loser that no one could really accept or love us if they knew how messed up we really were. If they knew the things we’ve done or the places we’ve been…

I’m not a catholic but I get why people go to confession. People in my profession often surrogate as a secular priest for clients, that cathartic thing again. My friends who have done a 12-Step Program remember Step 5 – I’ve heard a few myself. Step 5 is my day job.

One more thing. I have heard stories that involve really sick crap that would blow most minds, and perhaps your masturbation problem or weird fantasy, or history of abuse, or… whatever, could benefit from an outside, possibly more objective, perspective. And that’s why I get paid the money. This is, in no way, an attempt to belittle issues you have struggled with for years; I hope you can see my heart in this. Many words with one singular purpose – maybe it’s time to demystify your dirty little secret and get a clean perspective from someone who won’t judge you or make light of your journey. Catharsis can be a powerful tool for healing.

It will only sting a little, I promise.

6 thoughts on “Your Dirty Secrets

  1. A reply to Candace: From my 40 years as an on/off again client, I have found that when I am tried of therapy or resistant to going, I usually need to go the most. It seems those are the times when an important point in my life is about to change, drastically. I just need to hang in there and reap the benefits from that inner burn of fear that is telling me to back-off therapy for a while. So, I think, I’ll do just one more visit to talk about taking a break and what I have usually gotten is a break through instead.

    I am a woman of 68 years just now ruminating over whether I should keep my own therapist appointment tomorrow. It is a long drive into town. And, I have a sinus infection for which I just began taking medication yesterday. It is a bit much since I am in the process of a diagnosis for a neurological condition which zaps my energy, etc. I don’t really want to put effort into therapy work. It has been 3 weeks since our last meeting, and I am trying to figure out how to deal with my feelings over this mysterious condition and family members who seem to have vanished into the woodworks now that I can’t get out of the house to go do things for them these days. So, I guess I will go. I wouldn’t wan t to disappoint my therapist.

    1. Hi Sally

      Thanks so much for the kind response. You are probably right about this time in therapy being the time when I really need to go. I don’t know. I’ve been keeping my appointments and trying to sort through my depression and anxiety but there are times when I don’t feel so positive about my life and I wonder if maybe I”m pushing myself harder than I should to succeed and become better right now. I haven’t gone through what you have either darie73. You MUST find it hard to know whether to trust your therapist or not. I think I’m scared about therapy too though. I have past history and trusting my therapists to be there when I need them to is really difficult for me. You haven’t offended me in any way. As Scott says, your honesty is very brave – and very important. I hope you can hang in there and benefit from your therapy.
      Sally, I don’t know what your illness is but I’m trying to work through fibro, ME, -and several other comorbid issues. If my
      councellor weren’t close, I wouldn’t be able to attend sessions as much as he has kindly made room for me. You are brave to go in even on a day like you’re having. That’s so inspirational to me, and I”m sorry for all the family and friends who can’t or won’t support you. You deserve better. Also, it’s kind of you to not want to disappoint your therapist, but isn’t it more important not to disappoint yourself? I hear you and I think we’re not all so different in the end. Just confused and hurt and looking for answers, or for me maybe just a break, when things get tough. You said you don’t feel like putting the work into therapy right now and I completely relate to that – I would just love to be better without all the damn effort! It really is hard sometimes to know what’s best for me and I can see you wondering that too. I hope we are both able to find our answers to that question and thank you again for enlightening me

  2. I appreciate your approach on this subject matter. As you may or may not know, I’m not a fan of Therapy. I’ve tried many Therapists since the age of 17. I wasn’t diagnosed as Bipolar until I turned 36 and Conversion Disorder shortly after. The things I do remember and have told therapists and family members were hurtful both physically and mentally. My mind will replay those times often on “bad” days. It’s what I DON’T remember that scares the hell out of me and causes me to stutter and my hands to tremor. Now when I try Therapy I sit there and it’s like I can’t understand what anyone is saying. I don’t remember it after. Is it me? My medications? The ECT? Sometimes I don’t want to know anymore.

      1. Thank you. I worry for days sometimes wondering if I’ve offended anyone. I just want to know I’m not the only one and have other people feel the same.

  3. I really appreciate your perspective on life Scott but wow, saying that personal growth only stings a little is the understatement of the year to me. I read something today that really said it for me though that went , “‘Isn’t giving up allowed sometimes? Isn’t it okay to say, ‘This really hurts, so I’m going to stop trying.'” That may sound defeatist, but it actually makes me feel really relieved. I’ve been trying so hard to find enlightenment. It’s my Type A personality (I found out on Facebook!). But aren’t there times when it’s OK not to want to spill my life out onto the broadloom to pick through with a fine tooth comb? Is it possible to need a break from therapy? Or am I just making excuses, only to be back in a couple of weeks like a lost puppy? I’m all for self discovery but pushing myself through it because I want desperately to grow and move on, like NOW! – well, I just really don’t know about that. Like you said,enlightenment and catharsis take time. Maybe I just have to let it?

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