I became a psychotherapist to get better control over my impulses. Isn’t that why most people come to being a therapist? Isn’t it because they have certain psychological issues and that is what draws them to the work? For those who are mentally messed up, becoming a psychotherapist is a kind of illusory redemption. The world sees you as being more psychologically competent. You work hard at maintaining this ‘I got my shit together” image automatically ordained on a person with a psych degree, but when you go home you are just as messed up as everyone else. If not more.
Such is the reality of most forms of professional life. It is a façade. A costume. An image that is not real. “I am doing great thank you. How are you?” This is the fake party line of the cult of professionalism.
I am trying to fit in. I am trying to do my job responsibly and professionally. I know this is what people want. We are all guilty because we want to pay for the illusion. We have all voted for the cult of professionalism with our hard-earned cash. We all want to know that the professional person we are dealing with has it “all figured out” and so we pay good money to enable this illusion. In a universe that is chaotic and out of control, we crave certainty.
This is why it is not good that I have been getting up in the middle of my therapy sessions and dancing around. This is why it is not good that I have been using the fuck word more in my therapy sessions. This is why it is not good that I pick my finger nails, nose or hair while I am listening to my clients speak. I think I am starting to freak them out, as entertained as they sometimes pretend to be.
Impulse control is a very serious thing. I have suffered from it since I was a kid. In first and second grade the school bus would drop me off in front of my house and once off the bus I would pull down my pants and expose my butt or turn to face the bus and pull on my developing penis. The students on the bus loved it but the professionals did not think it was funny. I was put into impulse control therapy for the vast chunk of my developmental years. It did no good.
As a young man my lack of impulse control ruined my life. I would walk downtown in the nude. I would spend all my money on things I did not need. I would scream at people whom I felt were acting like assholes in public. I would steal things from stores. I ate way past the point of being full. I would take prostitutes out for lunch. I would take money from the register at whatever service job I was working at. I would have sexual interactions with strangers when in serious relationships. I would spend my entire days in dark strip clubs. I would eat red meat even as a vegan. I would masturbate when on an afternoon jog. I had no ability to control my life.
There comes a point in every person’s life where they must get their impulses under control or else they will end up dead, bald, fat or in jail. I worked hard taming the beast within. I went on month long meditation retreats. I studied with the renowned mindfulness teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn. I became sober (even though that never lasted long). I was in weekly psychotherapy with a highly regarded Gestalt psychotherapist who eventually ended up jumping off a bridge. I studied Greek at UC Berkeley hoping that the knowledge of this ancient language would bestow some wisdom upon me. I went to weekly AA meetings. Years passed by and even though I was able to get some of my more destructive impulses under control, new impulses developed.
Now I deal with the impulse to say outlandish things during serious conversation. I also deal with several other impulses that I am yet unable to control: massaging my penis when walking down a busy street, standing on my head at fine dining restaurants, picking my nose when talking with other professionals, making terrible decisions for the healthy development of my life, using the fuck word and dancing around during serious psychotherapy sessions, leaving status updates on Facebook that provide too much information about the less positive aspects of myself. The list goes on and on.
As a forty-five year old, married man I feel that I have gotten the more self-destructive impulses under control. I no longer cheat on my partner. I no longer pick up prostitutes in dangerous neighborhoods and take them out to lunch. I no longer pull down my pants in public. I no longer spend my days in strip clubs. I no longer drink or do drugs excessively. I no longer steal. I no longer walk out into public in the nude. But I still over eat. I still scream at people who are acting like idiots when in public places (especially when people are talking on their phones around me). I still struggle with impulse control and now that I am a professional who owns a home and has a reputation to protect, this concerns me. Will my inability to control my darker impulses end up destroying my life and reputation? Will I lose everything because I can’t stop swearing and dancing around during my psychotherapy sessions? Am I saying too much on Facebook? I have been meditating a lot more recently. I have a lot more to lose now than when I was young, but these fucking impulses still feel way out of my professional control.