My Impulse Control Disorder

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.

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The PSYCHOtherapist. Conversation #44.

I feel psycho. Literally, like a madman.

Why?

I don’t know. I fell pissed off. I think some of it has to do with having everyone else’s crap dumped into me like some kind of recycling receptacle.

What are you recycling?

Other people’s misery, unhappiness, suffering, self-absorption. It is coming up in me now. This is a hazard of being a psychotherapist. It can turn a person into a PSYCHOtherapist.

So you think you are upset because everything that everyone paid a lot of money to dump into you all week is now coming out in you.

Yes! How could it not? To hell with this psychology profession. I am sorry. It is ultimately one big scam. It helps in the short rem but ultimately life is suffering and there is no getting out of that unless you want to destroy your ego and become a lobotomized Buddhist.

Lobotomized Buddhists are a lot happier than you.

Maybe. I don’t think so. I think they are just better at numbing themselves into some kind of satisfied submission. They just erase themselves in order to become happier. I’m not willing to do that. I want to fight the fight. I want to feel it all. I want to be human. Makes for a more interesting and well-rounded human being.

You really think you are interesting and well-rounded right now? Come on man. You are just a miserable bastard at the moment.

Maybe so. My job is making me psycho. Hour after hour. Day after day. Listening and engaging with others about their misery. Their problems. Their struggles. It is toxic just like bad air. They don’t teach you this in grad school. Being a psychotherapist exposes you to constant toxicity just like any other worker who is regularly exposed to toxic chemicals. A psychotherapist is just exposed to toxic negative energy. I am sick of it.

So why don’t you quit.

Because at this point I would probably be miserable no matter what I did.

Maybe. But it sounds like being a psychotherapist is really taking a toll on you.

It is. But just like a well paid whore, it is tough to get out of the business! I am my own boss. I make good money. I am able to buy myself things that I like to compensate for my misery. The American way! It would be hard to escape this business without a major lifestyle change.

Maybe you should try. This does not sound god for you.

I resent all these people who come to me with their problems. I resent that people even feel they need to see a therapist. These people who come to therapists are the ones who keep the profession going. Just like people who go to hookers keep the profession of prostitution going. It is these people who are willing to pay for services to deal with their messed up issues that enable the torment and suffering of therapists and hookers. And most therapists and hookers pretend like everything is fine because they want to get paid! Why can’t people figure out their own issues. Why can’t people just get it together. Everyone is so fucked up. I am going nuts. I feel like I am going PSYCHO. What shall I do? Maybe I will just pet my dogs. Talk to my dogs. I need to find a way out of this. Other people are sick and fucked up. They poison me with their sickness. I want out of this. This is a bad trip. But the money is so good and everyone respects me. Everyone looks to me for answers. Everyone sees me as such a wise human being. But what a price I pay. I am miserable. This is messed up. I feel poisoned. I need this negative energy out of me. I want to forget about ever being a psychotherapist. I need to just return to myself. Just let go. Just…..

Breathe man. Just breathe. Come on don’t lose it on me. Just calm down. I realize that you are in a tough situation but you took the day off. Just let that part of you go. That is what you have to do to earn a living but you don’t have to do it today. Just let it go for now. Come back to yourself. Do the things you like to do. Come back to you.

(Taking deep breaths. Many deep breaths). Yes ok. I feel crazy. I need to snap out of this. I’m going to draw for a while. The maid is here to clean my house. I need to go offer her some water or something. Thank her for cleaning my house and then pay her with the money that I have to sell my health and well being and peace of mind to be able…..

Hey. Hey. Hey. Come on man. Calm down. Knock it off. Everything is fine. Take a deep breath. Good. You are ok. Just coming down from a long and difficult week at work. Just let it go. Go for a walk. Listen to music. Meditate. Just chill out. You have the day off. Forget about being a psychotherapist for today.

Ok.

(To Be Continued)>

 

On Being Bored and Dissatisfied. Conversation #23.

You just killed another fly?

I know. I don’t feel good about it but I don’t like flies in my space. Besides it seems to be the only exciting thing in my life right now.

I see.

Sometimes I just don’t care. I can’t help myself. I know its not a good thing.

You in a bad mood?

I can’t help it.

What’s wrong?

Just feel incredibly dissatisfied. Frustrated.

How could that be possible? You just had an expensive dinner at a really nice restaurant. Two gin and tonics. A delicious salmon dish. How could you possibly be dissatisfied?

Maybe I am dissatisfied that I am dissatisfied. I really don’t know. I worked a long day. I am burnt out on listening to other people. I don’t know. Maybe I am just bored. Unfulfilled.

How? You helped many people at work today. You had a nice dinner with your wife and her parents. It was a beautiful summer night. How could you feel unfulfilled?

I don’t know! Jesus! Am I supposed to have all the answers? I was looking forward to dinner all day. It was a nice meal but for some reason now I am in a bad mood.

I think it is the lack of engagement from your wife.

That is probably part of it. She does not really engage with me. Even though if I told her this she would tell me I was wrong. She brought our small dog to dinner and seemed to engage more with it. She looks into her iPhone continually. Yes, I did not feel engaged with her at all. But I didn’t really make any efforts either.

I see. Do you think you are bored with the conversations?

Terribly. The conversations are very boring. I tried to make interesting conversation but no one seemed interested. I am glad to be with a loving family. It’s nice. But yes….I was and am bored.

I think this is a continual theme in your life. I think you are bored with most people in your life.

I am. Especially now that I am no longer watching porn.

Still no porn?

Nope.

Good.

But I am bored.

Maybe you are bored with yourself?

I am. It’s all dull. No real interesting engagement with anyone.

How about with you therapy clients?

At times, but not much. It is me engaging with the clients. I am working hard like a prostitute trying to get their client off. I guess when not working I want someone to get me off. But no one does and I get bored.

Your wife does not engage you at all?

Very little. It is mostly dull. I try and make the best of it but I have seen my wife dulled down by her iPhone. She continually checks it. Not much I can do about it. If I call her on it she becomes angry. I am seeing almost everyone become dulled down by their smart phones.

Even you?

Yes, even me I suppose. When in Rome.

Well, so here you are in a bad mood again. Bored, unfulfilled, dissatisfied and angry. I am sure a part of it is from just having to interact with so many people. You are probably worn out. The hazards of being a therapist. That is why they call it psychotherapist. Having to engage with so many people makes a person psycho. Another part of it is probably just from not feeling engaged by anyone. You are bored. The closest people to you in your life bore you. What are you gonna do?

What can I do? I have to accept it. Make peace with it and have these conversations with you.

I see.

Not even three gin and tonics and a delicious salmon dinner can take away the pain of feeling bored and dissatisfied. Maybe I should of stuffed myself more.

You always over eat. That is not an answer. Short term gain for long term pain. You know that all eating disorders are a result of feeling bored and dissatisfied.

Yes. Well, not sure what else to do.

I suppose like you said, you have to just accept the way things are. Make peace with it. You are bored and unfulfilled. Could be worse. Maybe tomorrow you will feel differently.

Maybe so. Will wait and see.

Yes.

I think I am just going to go to bed now. Tired and don’t feel so great.

Ok. Go get a good night’s rest and we can talk more tomorrow.

Goodnight.

Goodnight.