Living in line with your values

I’ve already seen more benefit from just two sessions with the new therapist compared to five or six (?) with the previous one.

An example: I talked to both therapists about the fact that I have biases against wealthy people and that I want to work through them. The first therapist told me to realize that rich people have problems too and I shouldn’t envy them because they’re scared of losing what they have.

When I told my husband about this, he thought the first therapist sounded defensive. I’m not sure if I agree, but I will say that her response was not at all helpful to me in resolving that issue.

By contrast, when I told my new therapist about it, she asked me what my values and goals are and how much my life was in line with them. My stated values of what I want from life are:

  • Having the freedom to set my own schedule
  • Being able to be home with my kids
  • Having lots of time to see my husband
  • Getting to go to concerts
  • Having a house that I’m not embarrassed about and two reliable cars
  • Being able to put money in savings

By all those standards, I realize that I am living according to my own values. That doesn’t mean that everything in my life is perfect. For example, from a big-picture perspective, I have the freedom to set my own schedule. What I have to do to get that freedom (freelance writing) is not something I enjoy anymore and I’m burned out on it.

I’m not able to put as much money into savings as I want or see every concert I want. But I can still put a check mark by each saying that yes, I am more or less living according to what I value.

More importantly, it’s useless to compare myself to people with more money because I’m not willing to do what it takes to get it. I don’t like freelancing enough to try to make a lot of money at it. And a few years ago, I had a full-time job earning the most I ever have. But I had a 3-hour daily commute to downtown Dallas and back every day and quite literally thought I was going to die because of the way it affected my MS. During that time, my husband and I bickered more and I felt like I never saw the kids. I had more money but every other aspect of my life sucked.

What stands in the way of me earning more money is what I’m willing to give up to get it (other than the fact that I’m now legally disabled.) And I’m just plain not willing to do what it takes to have a more affluent lifestyle. I’m not willing to have a full-time career with a long commute.

I’m also not willing to be married to a man like my sister’s husband, who makes at least double what my husband does but is otherwise not much of a friend or equal partner to her. Simple kindness is lacking in their marriage from what I can see, but it all looks good from the outside because they have an affluent lifestyle and conventionally “successful” kids who are not given many choices in whom to become.

Another big one of my values is having time to spend with my husband because he’s my favorite person. I’m grateful that he doesn’t have a super long commute and has time to spend with me.

As an aside, I just feel like this therapist is both more skilled in talking me through the process of understanding my own cognitive distortions and she’s also more down to earth. I complimented her on her shoes and she said, “Thanks! I got them at Ross (a local discount chain) because I could never afford this brand otherwise.”

I was also talking a bit about feeling like I was behind in terms of all the adult-type planning for future financial issues. Rather than shaming me for not having already done it like my first therapist did, she helped me think of concrete steps I could take now. We have a pretty decent life insurance policy through my husband’s employer and a growing savings account, so I just have to make sure the kids are secondary beneficiaries if something also happens to me.

I’ve long struggled with the issue of who could be the kids’ legal guardian if something happened to both of us…so I just didn’t make a will because I couldn’t think of whom I’d want. Now we’ve almost aged out of that issue; there’s only a little over a year until my youngest turns 18. But I asked the therapist if she knew if I could make my oldest kid the legal guardian for my youngest because I know Amy would be responsible enough and would fight hard to allow Dylan to remain where he is. The therapist said her uncle is a lawyer who helps people with wills and indeed I can. So I came home and talked to both kids about the idea and they both readily agreed to the arrangement.

Interestingly, my therapist also said that she’s the guardian for her little brother instead of her parents, so that’s part of how she knew it would be okay. She didn’t go into details about the why but I’m guessing there’s some shit with her family of origin. That just makes her all the more down-to-earth and relatable.

I came away from my appointment feeling so empowered, like I can manage the things that make me feel insecure. Many of them are just rooted in cognitive distortions that I couldn’t see–or if I could see them, I couldn’t figure out what to do about them. I come away from my sessions feeling like I’ve got this and I’ve got actionable, doable steps I can take to make me feel better about myself. Now this is what I expected from therapy.

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