…I have been seeing a therapist for a few months now. Not because I’m crazy or depressed, but because ever since I moved to London I have generally been unhappy and confused. Mostly it’s about my work, but it’s also about my environment: the people around me and the city in general.

My last session with my therapist we started to talk about my work. I hate talking about my work. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m embarrassed that I don’t L-O-V-E it, or even really like it, mostly because of all the time I’ve put into it.

Therapist: Why don’t you like it?
Me: Because I’m not doing what I thought I would for my PhD project.
Therapist: Why?
Me: Because I didn’t have the guts or the knowledge to tell my supervisor I wanted to do something else when I started. And when I finally did have both the guts and the knowledge, I was 3 years into my project and didn’t want to start all over again.

After further discussion, she tells me I fall into the subjugation life trap. It’s true. She gave me a book about common life traps, one chapter being on subjugation, and it fits me perfectly. I basically do what others want so that I “please” them – so they’ll like me. If I do something that I want to do, I feel guilty and I think everyone thinks I’m being a bitch.

Now that I know how to recognize it, I see myself doing it everywhere in my life: I do more outreach stuff than I should, I let other people choose the restaurant we go to, I do favors for people that are just using me, I let my DH choose the excursion in Alaska even though I really wanted to do something else. Was I always like this?

Since that session I’ve been aware of what decisions I’m making and trying my best to do what I want. After all, I’m the one that has to live with my decisions, right? This is how I decided to change my name to DH’s – because that’s what I wanted, and the opinion of others (or what I thought their opinions were) just didn’t matter anymore.

So, I had another session with my therapist yesterday, and we start talking about my subjugation and in what situations it comes up. I immediately think of work. She starts talking about careers and what I can do to figure out what directions I should take, and I’m just sitting there thinking “I don’t care about any of this”. She’s quite intuitive:

Therapist: Why do you look so sad when we start talking about careers?
Me: Because I don’t care!

And then I continue to blubber on for about 5 minutes about how I don’t want to think about careers, how none of it matters to me right now, and how I feel like I should do this or that. After some silence:

Therapist: What do you see your life like after you finish your PhD?
Me: (after some thought) You know, when I’m driving to work or something and I see women walking with their babies in a stroller and the family dog, I think to myself “that’s what I want the next stage in my life to be”.
Therapist: That’s the first time today you used the words “I want” instead of “I should”.

Bingo.

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Comments on: "I Have a Confession… (Part 1)" (6)

  1. Wow. We’re quite alike I must say. Thanks for writing this entry. Very enlightening. Particularly the first part, on how you don’t realise what you want until after 3 years of study. Which makes me wonder: Does any PhD student do what they want, or are they just really lucky (if they do) or do they somehow LEARN to like what they do? That’s what I’ve been trying to trick myself into… Jeff likens the most boring parts of it to “going out with the garbage”, something that has to be done. It has helped a little… But sometimes everything feels like that. Not my favourite time.

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  2. Intriguing post, I went through similar subjugations during my time at Western. I didn’t have the guts to tell my supervisor how I really felt about everything and got really depressed as a result. I went to therapy to help deal with it, probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I gained the confidence to deal with my issues and it has done nothing but positives for my approach to life and my current degree in Calary. I love what I’m currently doing for my project and everything has been going exceptionally great thus far. However, the uncertainty still exists if I want to continue to be here. Not cause I hate it, but because I have a odd need for change. I also have no desire to have a career in academia. I’m thinking of taking some time off to move to Montreal and live life outside the academic bubble. Sounds crazy, but I just feel it at the moment

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  3. Congratulations! 🙂 Figuring out what we want to do in life is one of the hardest things about it, in my opinion. I’m sure you’ll make a great mom, and I promise to knit you all sorts of baby clothes 🙂 Now if I could just get inspired and figure out what I want, sigh….

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  4. Anonymous said:

    It’s wonderful that you are starting to think about what you actually want as opposed to the rest. It will make you so much happier. Hugs! Chan

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  5. I'm new to your blog and have been reading some old posts to entertain me in lab this afternoon. Anyway, it always amazes me when people are able to articulate exactly how I feel…I'm not thrilled with my project, but like you I lacked the confidence to tell my advisor. I don't LOVE what I do, and that scares me to death that maybe I've just wasted these past 3 years of my life on something that isn't my passion in life.
    Anyway, that was a long rant to say I like your blog 🙂

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  6. Hi Mrs. Chemist! Welcome to the blog – I'm glad you're enjoying it!

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