This is a timely article by a Joyce Marter, a relationship expert. Spoiler Alert: I am the “friend/ colleague” Thanks Joyce for the unsolicited analysis. Beware, I might return the favor:)
Having therapists as friends can really suck. As a psychotherapist, I suppose it’s an industry hazard… Yes, we are great when you need empathy and support—but brutally and annoyingly insightful when your head may need a little shrinking…
Such was the case when I was discussing my Halloween-costume history with a friend/colleague. I was explaining that Wonder Woman is my all-time favorite costume (not the slutty version) and that my Judge Judy was a second runner up (LOVE her.) I mentioned that I would probably be a vampiress for the costume party my husband and I will be attending this Friday. My colleague said, “Have fun being your alter-ego!” Nice. (By the way, he thinks I am a wee bit bossy and controlling…)
Damn-it. He was right. Those are my alter egos! How was I not conscious of this? It’s so painfully obvious…
I dressed as Wonder Woman during a particularly empowered and successful (okay, grandiose) time of my career. I was Judge Judy during a sexually-dormant and judgmental phase during early parenthood. The vampiress costume comes at a time when I am feeling aggressive, selfishly motivated and perhaps a little hostile. (All embarrassing, yet admittedly true.)
I’m probably being defensive by mentioning this, but my colleague confessed he has always been too self-conscious to dress in costume. I feel this is equally diagnostic. Expressive play can be one of the most cathartic experiences as well as giving us the freedom to discover hidden aspects of self that may contain valuable resources we are repressing. A refusal or inability to do so reveals difficulty with self-acceptance and perhaps a preoccupation with the opinions of others.
Through my work as a therapist, I have come to believe the shadow side is not necessarily dormant characteristics that are negative—they often contain positive aspects of self which we have not been free to embody. Once we honor and integrate them, they can become powerful strengths.
For example, I have a client who is an extremely successful MBA, divorced mother-of-three who dresses from head-to-toe in Talbots, accessorized by Tiffany. She handles virtually everything in her life perfectly and appropriately. I used to fantasize that she would run off with a sweaty, muscly, tattooed man on a motorcycle (which I told her!) Frankly, I think that would be great for her (but she has yet to allow herself to embrace her inner Harley girl, who I know is being repressed.)
What could your costume be saying about you?
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