Friday, February 24, 2006


I need therapy. I say it in jest, but there is generally truth in jest. But then I think, “Who doesn’t need therapy?” Show me one person who does not have issues. We are human and we live in this crazy, messed up, unforgiving world, so it is inevitable that we will have life scars, baggage and the weight of the world resting on our shoulders. So maybe therapy should be routine like going to the gym. Pick up the dry cleaning, check. Forty-five minutes on the elliptical, check. Therapy, check. But my cynical side thinks that there isn’t much a therapist can really help me with and chances are they are just going to make me believe I have more issues than I really do. Their sole purpose for being is due to the existence of people’s issues. So why not create some more to ensure more therapy? Hopefully, that isn’t a common occurrence, and hopefully they do more good than harm. But as I jokingly committed myself to therapy for the thousandth time the other day, my mom for the first time concurred. I guess she doesn’t think it’s normal to have anxiety attacks over seemingly small and relatively insignificant things. Maybe she’s right, so I thought about the root of why I am the way I am, and here is my conclusion.

I have read the books, and I have listened to educated sources support the theory that children of divorce are deeply affected by that event in their life regardless of how pleasant or horrendous the divorce was. I have always considered myself pretty mentally healthy and never thought that my parents’ divorce had much affect on me as a person. I’m not self-destructive. I am not generally distrusting. I thought I turned out pretty well. And then I looked back at my personal life and the patterns that seemed to emerge. It wasn’t pretty. I realized I had been a little destructive in my relationships to the point that I had a lack of them. I had this incredible talent of sabotaging any potential relationship before it even had the chance to gas up and get off the ground. I didn’t really need therapy to figure out there was something amiss, but I have spent the past five years being acutely aware of my habits and tendencies trying to keep them under control. It takes a lot of conscious effort. I could just as easily blame my dysfunctions on my parents and the divorce, which is what a lot of people do, but I do not believe they are at fault.

There is this little thing called agency. We all have it. It is the gift of being able to make choices and live with the consequences. We have that right as human beings. Although our choices affect other people just as other people’s choices affect us, we cannot make choices for others. We can only do what is under our control, and since we only have agency over ourselves, we can only control what is in our immediate grasp. I can control how I react and how I feel. I can control how I respond and what I let affect my life. I cannot control how other people feel, what they do or how they respond. That can be a source of frustration, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. I am certain that there might be deep underlying issues as a result of undergoing the experience of divorce, but I do not have to let those things dictate how I have relationships. My parents are not responsible for my fears and dysfunctions. That would be like saying they are responsible for me not getting the job I want. Ridiculous.

There is no guarantee in this life. Just because five of six siblings turn out stellar doesn’t mean the sixth is guaranteed to as well. That sixth has just as much agency as the other five, for good or ill. Certainly we are all affected and molded by upbringing and environment, but that does not mean that we are unable to take control of that affect. I am the way I am because I have developed certain habits throughout my life. I have decided either consciously or subconsciously what affects me. And just as I have chosen what I allow to affect me, I can choose to change it.

Do I need therapy? Maybe, but I tend to think that therapy is designed to help people recognize their issues and sometimes learn to deal with them, and I think I am already past that point. I am not incapable of overcoming my seemingly debilitating fears and issues. If it appears that I remain unchanged, it is only because I lack the personal motivation to change. Change only occurs when you have the desire to see it through. Without that, it’s just a nice idea. No one tells me how to be. No one determines my fears. No one creates my issues. I get to do all of that on my own. I take responsibility.

Choice is something that I love to have when it is convenient or to my advantage. When I am confronted with a difficult decision, I am quick to give it away wishing that someone else could make it for me. As a child, I remember loving that first taste of agency when I could choose my own outfit however horrendous it might have been. My mother allowed me to make that decision on my own, and I cherished it because it was something I could take ownership in. These days, I often wish I had a personal stylist who could pick out my clothes for me because it’s often the last thing I want to do in the morning. I suppose I have come full circle. But even in those moments when I am faced with a decision I don’t know how to make and inside half-heartedly wish someone else would make for me, I know I would not be happy if someone else made it. I would feel cheated. And what if I didn’t like what they chose? There might not be a way to change it, and I wouldn’t feel justified or validated in facing the consequences. If I make the decision, then I have no one to blame but myself for the outcome and I can accept that.

It’s the same principle with issues. Agency still applies. I don’t feel justified in blaming my parents for my idiosyncrasies or anxieties. If I did, then it would give me little motivation to change anything because I could just keep on pawning off my weirdness on others. I would actually like to take a little bit of ownership of my weirdness. In doing so, I can accept the results and consequences for good or bad and find the personal motivation to change it if I should so desire. The beauty of it is knowing that it is all me… that the outcome is mine… that I am the author of my own story. I decide what the next adventure will be and how I will choose to write it. That’s the gift of agency.

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