Published on March 29th, 2007 | by DanNation0
Solutions to problems
Cognitive Therapy (CT) is a type of psychotherapy developed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. Becoming disillusioned with long-term psychodynamic approaches based on gaining insight into unconscious emotions and drives, Beck came to the conclusion that the way in which his clients perceived and interpreted and attributed meaning – a process known scientifically as cognition – in their daily lives was a key to therapy. Albert Ellis was working on similar ideas from a different perspective, in developing his Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Beck initially focused on depression and developed a list of “errors” in thinking that he proposed could cause or maintain depression, including arbitrary inference, selective abstraction, over-generalization, and magnification (of negatives) and minimization (of positives). Cognitive therapy seeks to identify and change “distorted” or “unrealistic” ways of thinking, and therefore to influence emotion and behavior.
So, this is my current psychological treatment. Always a fan of psychotherapy, I first started one-on-one counseling in 1998. At the time, I was at the apex of my dot.com career — working 15-hour days sandwiched between 2 hour commutes each way. I was in the closet but kicking the closet door a bit. I was burned out and tired of a charade that I was living. With thoughts of suicide and self-diagnosed depression, I entered my first round of therapy. I went on an anti-depressant known as Effexor and it did wonders for me. Between that first round of therapy and the drugs, I changed as a human being.
With several months of one-on-one behind me, my therapist at the time encouraged me to enter group therapy. I remember sitting in a circle and listening to others in the group parade their problems: stress at work from an overweight woman in the next cube who relentlessly tapped her overlong fingernails on her desk, driving the victim in my group to a slow tirade; another man who could not face intimacy with a woman; a woman who was in a deadbeat relationship but continuously flirted with a good-looking guy in our group — who was there for something that now escapes my memory. After almost a year of both approaches, I announced I was leaving the group to travel in Europe for a number of months. I remember feelings of betrayal being expressed by my peers as they faced the future of their own therapy. The woman in the deadbeat relationship called me out on something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on in my last group session — that she felt I was hiding something. That I wasn’t being truly honest about something in my life that was still deep inside. She was right, except that I didn’t want to say that I was gay (not yet, anyways).
The next year, I came out. And I thought all my deep-down problems with self-esteem, identity, intimacy, honesty, and lack of courage would go away. I went off the drugs. I revered my new gay life and thought that I had solved all my problems.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. I went through two more therapists in the next five years hoping to find solutions to problems. Answers that I knew were there somewhere.
It is always someone in a relationship who knows you really well and calls you out on shit. My ex did it relentlessly — yet, his delivery was often impaired with his own issues and did not meet acceptance by me. My current partner is similar to me, and sees issues with me that reflect those in himself. Yet, his support and delivery of concerns has been much more constructive to my moving forward.
The choice of my current therapist was more a result of the list on my medical insurance site than a referral or search for a cognitive therapist. It was only last week when a friend commented on one of my earlier blog posts that I was in cognitive therapy. I dug deep with questions last week in my session and realize that I am now at a point that I am putting constructive solutions to work to change ever-present behavior. Maybe my anger and other problems aren’t going anywhere soon but a better solution is to learn to modify my response to emotions rather than spew them forth. I’ve learned that my gay identity doesn’t necessarily solve problems; in fact, it may create new ones. To move forward I need to manage my response to common and okay emotions. Anti-depressants (in my opinion) just hide those emotions without practical management. Maybe this is the way to go.
We will see. I’m learning in my 40s that the past is what it is and shouldn’t drive behavior today. That’s a realization that has taken me 41 years and 10 years of therapy and self-examination to reach. And, it ain’t so bad. Let’s see how this new approach to my self works. I’ll keep you posted.