Spoiler alert. I’ll go ahead and start this chapter by breaking the news to you all that I did not become Chuck Norris. Le Sigh. Maybe the worst or best parenting decision my parents ever made stopped that from ever becoming a reality early on.
Basically, due to my rambunctious and somewhat violent behavior in elementary school, I was put in in-school counseling around the first or second grade. Something along the lines of anger management for little people.
It wasn’t something I remember a lot about other than it was during school hours, the psychiatrist or counselor was female, and I practiced anger management techniques like counting to ten, etc. whenever an impulse would hit me (i.e. whenever I wanted to punch someone in the face).
If I’m honest, I still have those impulses all the time. I think the people around me have just learned to deal with receiving the occasional punch, tackle, or submission hold from me form time to time. I think.
Anyways, in order to highlight the differing outcomes of this decision/treatment in my life, I will first speak to why that may have been a good decision and then expand more on the bad. For starters, it was obviously a good thing because my behavior had become such in elementary school that I was imposing on the well being of others through my actions. Something that no one should be allowed to do, and something that I fully support them in dealing with and stopping. Had my behavior been allowed to continue on it’s path undeterred who knows what the consequences may have been. I would like to think maybe world domination or world class athlete, but at the very least surely high ranking government official and asshole. That’s sarcasm for those of you not fluent in the language.
Anywho, none of those things actually happened, perhaps or perhaps not because I went to counseling. So all I can report to you on is how that counseling fucked me up and crushed my action hero dreams forever (again joking…sort of).
And now, my unsolicited negative opinions on my counseling.
In regards to my counseling, I’m going to start by making some broader strokes first and then continue on by making a few finer ones to paint it all out for you. What I’ll start by saying of my counseling, and my perceived negative outcomes of it; is that, I think we as society love our quick fixes and take pride in our ability to problem solve a bit too much. That we have a large need to always solve problems now and to make them go away now and to understand them now; or that, we have this incessant desire to always be in control of everything and of all the outcomes of everything. What I dislike about this approach to problems and problem solving; is that, problems are never so easily solved or so simple as one solution, and by being driven by such a need to solve problems now – to force a solution on everything – we often create many more problems in the long run as a result. We simply don’t have the patience (maybe ever) to get to the roots of our problems, because we are so concerned with eliminating them. We even create a vast array of tools just to exterminate them, because it’s too costly and time consuming for us to rehabilitate anything.
To me, it seems that getting to the root of the problem for most of us means having to have more patience than we are comfortable with giving; that we find it unbearable to just let something be instead, to nurture it and watch it grow; or far more to our disliking to just plant something new, water it, give it light, and let it grow into something. It’s so much easier to just chop things down or uproot something all together in order to have a resolution. But the problem with doing things this way I believe is that our problems can then have no meaning; that they are then not a part of the solution; and that as a result they will always be just problems. Everything should have meaning though. Besides, it’s often our biggest failures and hardest challenges in life that teach us the most.
In other words, in relation to my experience, I think having a kid under the age of ten sit down with a shrink who does exercises to alter the way they think and the way they react to things in order to get them to stop doing something may not be the best idea when our brains are at such a critical age of development, and the outcome of said exercises in the long run isn’t so clear. At least in my case, if you think about it, it was probably done so under the guise of a brief time out from school with probably some generic rubber stamp tactics that I’m sure were just given by an under paid and over worked school psychiatrist or counselor. So I highly doubt the treatment was but so specific to the patient’s (my) needs. I mean at that age (first or second grade) anyways I couldn’t really explain what was going on in my head or in my life (I can barely do it now), and I don’t think anyone else can either, so I think by psychologically treating someone (me) at that age you are only altering things based upon assumptions and generalizations and not more concrete evidence.
Here’s why that was bad for me if you didn’t think it was already.
The first thing you have to understand in this circumstance; is that, the problem with putting young boys like myself in therapy is that we have been hard wired by society at that age to be ultracompetitive, and that ultracompetitiveness (at least in my case) makes everything’s impact on us that much more than what it was probably intended to be. I say that as a fact, because when I was in these therapy sessions, I went to the extreme in therapy just like I would have with anything else in that point of my life. I wasn’t thinking about what I might psych myself into or out of, or if I would do any lasting damage, or if I would change who I was, or if I would prevent myself from being able to do anything in the future; I was just attacking this as I would anything else in my life – balls to the wall. I practiced whatever exercises the counselor gave me so hard that I not only suppressed my anger, which was obviously intended, but I suppressed everything. I didn’t know, or couldn’t comprehend how, to separate one feeling from another at that point in my life.
Like with most things I did then and now, if it’s something I’m determined to do, I’m going to do it until it’s done. There will be no questions asked, no possibility of failure, no can’t, no nothing. If I want to do it, I will. And, as I mentioned before, kids of all shapes and sizes at that age really want to people please so you often go along with things adults say without thinking about the consequences, because; well, you’re fucking in the single digits and you never really think about the consequences of any of your actions now do you? And I wanted to prove that I was a good kid and could be a good kid, so I absorbed every little bit of emotional suppression techniques they taught me and changed the way I reacted to and did things to the point where I literally rewired myself completely. I basically became the perfect little badass patient.
Here’s the thing though, at this point in my life I didn’t understand any of this. As far as I knew, I had just become a new me – a more palpable, kid friendly me. It would take a long time before I did develop enough to know otherwise.
But that was it. In a nut shell (no pun intended), that was that for me emotionally in my life. Before I had even begun to become an emotional being really, at least one beyond the chest pounding testosterone fueled spectrum of emotions, I had 100% completely mentally fucked myself out of ever being one. I can’t really describe much else for you after that because I was disconnected from my true self for so long after that. But basically, from sometime before the end of my third grade year until the rest of my life practically, I just shut off all natural reactions and impulses to anything and supplanted them with calculated reactions to things based on what I thought society would want me to do. I unknowingly became a shell of myself. A shell that only reflected the world around me and had hardly any authenticity to speak of. I had essentially turned my auto correct off, and my real personality and feelings just couldn’t shine through to regulate all the input I was receiving from the outside world because they had been so deeply suppressed.
So, as a result, I became America growing up.
Whatever the decade, culture, or click I was to be found in, that’s who I was. I was a poser skater when Nirvana was cool, a little bit thug when hip hop was big, and a lot a bit ignorant southern football player when all else failed. I used to think to myself that having all these personas was a good thing at the time, that I could take a bit from each and put my own spin on them and make them original. Saying to myself in theory, that I was original because I was my own version of each. Had I been truly original though I wouldn’t have needed to be a version of anything other than myself. Sadly, I had mentally blocked myself from ever being able to discover that – myself.
And I know what you’re thinking, a lot of kids go through phases, it’s normal. But here’s the thing, I never grew out of them. I never found my phase.
And that was the main side effect of my therapy, in that; when you suppress a feeling, you suppress a bit of yourself. And because I suppressed all my feelings, I had practically suppressed all of myself in the process. As I look back now, I am actually completely unattached to the person in those memories, because he wasn’t me. He was no one.
This also may have been the first time in my life I was ever labeled. Which may be why I’ve always tried to avoid labeling myself in any way possible since, or maybe that’s just because I’ve always been cognizant enough to realize that labels are incredibly short sighted and limiting. Anywho, I remember that as part of this counseling I was also diagnosed (a.k.a.labeled) with ADHD (a.k.a. being a fucking kid), and they wanted me to be put on medication. Thankfully, my mom didn’t go along with this recommendation, but then again she could have been sneaking Ridlin in my Cheerios my whole childhood for all I know. She’s kinda like that sometimes. Anywho, I digress.
Before I start the next chapter though, I unfortunately feel like I need to input another disclaimer here. Being honest about things has a tendency to make people feel uncomfortable sometimes, or make them want to discredit your honesty by changing what you intended the meaning of it to be. Therefore, I would like to say that I am not at all advocating for mental health to be erased from society, or that the psychological treatment of kids altogether should be banned. If anything we need much, much more metal health support. I’m just saying maybe my parents should have been there in those meetings with me to mediate; or maybe we should just try talking to kids about why what they did is wrong and ways they can avoid that action in the future before we go prescribing rubber stamp treatments; or maybe we should just provide them all with better of examples of men and women to follow; or maybe we just shouldn’t try so hard to identify (label) problems, and instead constantly look for improvements to how can we go about things; or maybe we should foster a better, more well rounded environment for kids to be raised in; hell, maybe we could even let kids decide what they could do to be a better person instead of just trying to alter them into the persons we want them to be. God forbid we ever take any power away from an adult though. (mumbled cussing)