The power of talking it out in therapy

Posted: March 30, 2012

While I'm away, readers give the advice.

On telling difficult truths in therapy:

A big benefit of both therapy and groups like Al-Anon, I've found, is that when you hear what you've been thinking and feeling coming out of your mouth, in front of another human being, it changes your perspective right there. Saying it out loud is enormously powerful.

For some reason, (kvetching) to your best friend or sister does not have this power.

On profanity and what it says about people who use it:

When my children were young, I told them that what would pass at home or among their friends would get them in trouble with teachers or could offend other families, so they needed to be fluent in two "languages," just as if it were English and Spanish. They got the message, became "bilingual," and were never in trouble.

On marrying a smoker:

My own dear, great-guy husband had a heart attack at 41, but smokes. He won't smoke in front of the kids, which is great, but instead his solution is to find a million and one reasons to leave the house so he can smoke: the car needs gas, going to go see if there are any good movies at the Redbox, going to take the pool water to be tested, need a bag of mulch, etc. Of course, these trips are never consolidated into one, they're always spaced out. Every time he does this he is choosing the smoking over his family, by (1) leaving us to go smoke, and (2) hastening his demise. (See: "heart attack at 41.")

I'm at the end of my patience with it all and wish I could talk to my twentysomething self. I'm pretty sure when the kids are gone I won't be far behind.

E-mail Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

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