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​​Aw Crap: I Thought I Said Something Normal but My Therapist Responded “Let’s Unpack That”

I’ve been seeing my therapist, Terry, for a few months now, and overall it’s fine. I go to his office and get to complain about my job. It’s a great way to blow off steam, and not saddle my girlfriend with all my work drama. But recently he’s been asking about my parents. All I said was “Every family screams at each other.” But Terry sat there for a second, cocked his head, and said “hmmm… let’s unpack that.” And now it’s a whole thing.

Look, I’m a modern man. I understand I don’t have it all figured out. But if I’m being honest therapy sometimes just feels like a whine-fest. I had a great childhood. But as soon as I say something like “if I smell alcohol on a man’s breath, I immediately think of my dad” Terry just responds with some overthinky, pschobabble like “It sounds like you never felt safe as a kid.” Which is pretty ridiculous. Because NOBODY feels safe as a kid, right? That’s part of being a kid. You know at any point you’ll do something wrong, and it’ll set your parents off. That’s just part of growing up.

My parents didn’t hit me, and that means they were good parents. That’s the metric everyone uses. But Terry will say something like, “A lack of physical violence doesn’t mean a surplus of love” because he clearly doesn’t understand my parents. They grew up at a different time. Things were hard for them. So encouraging their children in their pursuits isn’t something they had time for. All I ever needed from my parents was an occasional “good job,” a pat on the back, or an extra scoop of ice cream. And sure, I never got those things, but how else was I gonna learn that I was neither special nor important?

I appreciate that Terry is trying to help me, but he acts like my parents were abusive when I say something like “My dad has never said he loves me” or “My mom has clearly tried to sabotage every romantic relationship I’ve ever had.” I mean, he refers to my folks as “emotionally withholding”, and it’s like, did Terry just not have parents? Because that’s what parents do: they withhold emotions so that you do whatever they say in the hopes that they will express even the smallest bit of love or approval, so… oh fuck. Yeah, never mind, Terry’s right.