Peggy: One of the things Olivia has always been very good at—and it's sometimes very hard for people—is a necessary component of therapy: feeling that you can talk about anything with the therapist. That includes anything about the therapist and the therapy relationship. The whole idea of transference—where patients unconsciously project onto the therapist their ideas and feelings about significant people in their lives—is an important part of what we discuss. In Olivia's case, transference has been especially helpful in dealing with her mother issues. She could see me in something of a maternal role that was very different from what she's used to. And experiencing acceptance from me has allowed her to accept herself more, thereby reducing her depression, which I believe was fueled by a pervasive drive to succeed at all costs.
Olivia: I used to think it was the therapist's job to give you answers. But what Peggy does is help me come to my own answers. She asks me what I think. And at first, it was almost like: What does it matter what I think? What does my mom think? What does my boss think? What does my husband think? Therapy has focused on how I need to live my life based on what I think is important. Because otherwise I'm just going to be chasing my tail trying to please others—which I may or may not be able to accomplish. I don't want that anymore. I want to try to feel happy with my efforts and not be such a perfectionist. I still struggle with that, but Peggy says, "Olivia, you're too hard on yourself. … Olivia, why isn't that enough?" And when I don't have a good answer, I realize that I've got to let it go.
Peggy: Without awareness, no behavior change is going to happen. Awareness—being able to think about and struggle with your behavior—is just essential.
Olivia: I wonder if women sometimes start therapy because of problems in a relationship with someone else, only to find that the therapy turns into something so much more. For me, it became a relationship with myself, a chance to get to know myself better and figure out what's important to me. As a woman, you're always making sure that the needs of others are being met. You have all these demands placed on you. But in therapy there are no demands other than trying to get to know yourself better.
Peggy: Olivia has had a growing realization that while her competitiveness has served her well in many areas, it has also prevented her from enjoying a lot about her life. If you're so focused on winning or doing things perfectly, you miss a lot. Now she has less of a drive to do things perfectly, and more of a deep satisfaction at juggling the roles of mother, wife, and career person.
Olivia: More than anything, I think I was struggling with the question, Is this all there is to life? And I think what I've found out through therapy is, yes, and that's okay. That's kind of my mantra from Peggy: "That's okay." It's wonderful to be happy with life. And to finally feel like that's enough.
We Hear You!