Shawn and I go deep once a week, usu­ally with a decent amount of psy­cho­analy­sis mixed in with our Magic matches. I real­ized I still need ther­apy, but in a dif­fer­ent form from what my ther­a­pist could offer1. I need to work with some­one who isn’t restricted by time lim­its when I’m in the mid­dle of extremely time-sensitive events, and it’s vital that I work at my own pace, since it’s easy to rush things (that should be dealt with very care­fully) when it costs $180/hour. He also stretches me out in all the right ways, and I’m learn­ing that phys­i­cal com­fort is often just as impor­tant as emo­tional validation.

Shawn admits it’s all pop-psychology since he has no for­mal edu­ca­tion, but he’s spe­cial­ized in peo­ple and rela­tion­ships for so long that it’s no less effec­tive. Sometimes, it’s scary to work with some­one who func­tions at such a higher level of under­stand­ing of the world. I recently heard Jon Kabat-Zinn say, “Buddha was not a Buddhist”, which I started repeat­ing to Shawn when try­ing to relate mind­ful­ness with mod­ern reli­gion. He fin­ished my thought by say­ing, “and Jesus was not a Christian”, an idea I’d only come to after a lot more research and reflec­tion. He was able to reach the same con­clu­sion by exam­in­ing pat­terns in his exist­ing knowl­edge; an extremely pro­found and impact­ful con­cept to me, which I was still try­ing to fully grasp, was applied com­mon sense to him.

That means I’m occa­sion­ally con­fronted with how narrow-minded I can be in com­par­i­son. It’s mess­ing with things I take for granted, like my ideas of right or wrong, parts of my world-view I’ve held for so long and with­out ques­tion. Sometimes, I real­ize the per­son I was until that very moment would have done things I’d now con­sider embar­rass­ing (being judgmental/intolerant/hateful), based on igno­rance, parochial­ism, or naïveté. Thankfully, I’m also get­ting bet­ter at accept­ing my past self(ves) by under­stand­ing all the influ­ences that have led me to think a cer­tain way. It also helps know­ing that the truly impor­tant thing is that I have the power to change now, and that it’ll affect me pos­i­tively for the rest of my life.

Shawn used to say I was a wiz­ard stuck on level 7, always on the cusp of lev­el­ling up. I had enough wis­dom and intel­li­gence and other attrib­utes to be a much more pow­er­ful char­ac­ter, but was still a mage who couldn’t start his main quest, due to a very low stat in his rela­tion­ship score. This was hold­ing me back because rela­tion­ships are a huge part of my needs; ironic that I’m also so bad at them.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months though, through a new aware­ness of deeper parts of myself, and a view of the world that’s get­ting more objec­tive. I’m apply­ing these things by pur­su­ing healthy inter­ests, which cur­rently means build­ing my rela­tion­ships and prac­tic­ing uni­lat­eral virtue. While the lat­ter has been both empow­er­ing and hum­bling, it’s also dras­ti­cally shaken my under­stand­ing of my rela­tion­ships, my needs, and my past. I can tell I’m only begin­ning to fig­ure out the dynam­ics of peo­ple and how they func­tion, but Shawn says just com­ing to that under­stand­ing means I’ve finally reached level 8, and with that foun­da­tion, I can begin the next part of my journey.

Then he gave me a high-five. My ther­a­pist never did that.

  1. Not that he was bad in any way. It’s just that the nature of open­ness tends to get more com­pli­cated when money is involved. You know some­one truly cares when they lis­ten with­out hav­ing to get paid, and it’s eas­ier to be com­fort­able with that. []