As is the case with many of us therapists, I came to being a psychotherapist by way of a shitty childhood.
Both of my parents were good people (I’m not sure there are ultimately any other kind) whose own lives had been ravished by addiction, and by the aftereffects of their own even shittier childhoods. I agonizingly and desperately watched them create misery for themselves (and everyone close to them), until I was well-trained enough to go out and do it for myself without their supervision.
Over-riding my mother’s decision [sic] that I should become an architect, I instead (at the last minute, and at least somewhat defiantly) packed up my bags and moved twenty minutes away from home to begin my study of psychology at Rutgers University – in the fervent (and somewhat desperate) hope that I would find some genuine remedies for my own intense inner suffering.
About halfway through my graduate training as a therapist, as one of my supervisors put it, “my childhood caught up with me.” As a therapist in training, I had passed the point where I could get by on intelligence and charm and hard work. Painfully at first, it began to dawn on me that if I was actually going to be any good at being a therapist, I was actually going to have to face the pain and shame and fear that still haunted me from my own disastrous family of origin. In other words, I was going to have to re-establish a much deeper and more authentic connection with myself – and with others – than my childhood had prepared me for.
I was a difficult client. In the aftermath of the betrayals of my upbringing, I was far too afraid to trust anyone – including myself, of course – and so I put a tremendous amount of energy into “protecting myself” from open (i.e., vulnerable) connection with other human beings, including therapists (some people aptly refer to this as “resistance” in psychotherapy). This ability to maintain a disconnection between myself and my therapists came quite naturally to me (habitually, really), as all I had to do was continue to utilize the very well rehearsed strategies I had developed as a kid in an attempt to “protect” myself from further emotional harm in the circumstances of my childhood.
So, after many false starts with therapists with whom I just couldn’t seem to feel safe enough to reveal myself authentically, I finally chanced upon a therapist who simply accepted me as I was – and remained enthusiastically curious about who I was becoming.
Other Personal (But Potentially Relevant) Details:
I am married to a woman (her name is Deva Joy), whom I respect and admire deeply, and who also happens to be a fellow psychotherapist (you will likely see her occasionally at her desk adjacent to our waiting room).
I’m a big time dog-lover -- which reminds me to tell you that you will likely encounter our (sometimes obnoxious, but ultimately very friendly) four-legged companions when you arrive at our office as well.
As a reader, I spend far more time now with books of a “spiritual” or “philosophical” nature than with any other kinds of books (including books of a purely “psychological” nature!).
Speaking of “spiritual,” you should know that I am (by my own definition) an intensely “spiritual” person – and an equally non-religious one. (if this sounds like a contradiction to you, we’ll have to have a talk about what each of us means when using the words “spiritual” and “religious”…)
Let’s See, What Else?
Oh. I am, myself, by no means “completely cured” (whatever that might be), or otherwise “enlightened” (though I sometimes catch myself trying -- or even worse, pretending -- to be).
Currently (and for quite some time now) my most passionate aim as a human being is to continue learning how to live in this world as it is with as open a heart as possible.
Currently (and for quite some time now) my greatest inner impediment to fulfilling this aim is a compulsive tendency (an addiction, actually) to be in a rush toward some imagined future circumstance my conditioned mind tells me is more desirable and important than this present moment. This tendency, whenever I slip into it, reliably creates contraction, disconnection and anxiety for me, and greatly diminishes my capacity for enjoying anything, or of being much use to anyone.
It bears mentioning that another major inner impediment to my enjoyment of life is that old stand-by, my habitual human tendency to compulsively import the fear and angst of the past into what are otherwise the mostly benevolent (and perhaps even downright enjoyable) situations and relationships of my present life.
One more thing I’d like you to know about me. I do consistently (though imperfectly) aim to “practice what I preach”, both as a therapist and as a person (it’s not that I’m so holy; I just can’t tolerate myself when I don’t “walk the talk”!).
Said another way, I am (of course) always “teaching what I need to learn” (whether or not I realize it at the moment...).