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by Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT
November 29th 2020

Hi Friends, I'm Lisa Anderson Shaffer - coach, consultant, psychotherapist, and resident psych enthusiast. And I LOVE psychology! It's the study of human behavior after all and isn't... More

Hi friends and welcome to Joy is Now the podcast where we take a psychologically minded look at life. I'm your host, Lisa Anderson Shaffer coach, consultant, and resident psych enthusiast. Joy is Now is sponsored by listeners like you visit Lisa Anderson Shaffer dot com to join the community and become a one time or recurring patron of the podcast. Before we start an exciting announcement, I have openings for coaching in 2021. Start your next big idea with me as a coach. I help clients grow their business and position themselves as unique experts in their field through the creation of personal brand and professional projects. Want to turn your ideas into a living breathing project, a book, an online class, A better way to connect with your audience? I am your unicorn. Email me at Lisa Anderson Shaffer at gmail dot com to learn more. Spots fill up fast, so get on it.
Why we all need Conan O'brien Psychology and the unicorn.

I have a lot of topics lined up to discuss on these theory segments, but sometimes they get pushed and pulled by things going on in my life or by what's living in my head that I just can't stop thinking about. That's true for this week. Turns out I'm obsessed with a certain tall and lanky freckled face redhead. While, I had planned on discussing something a lot more linear. I just can't shake the news that my best late night bud is leaving. Today, I'm going to talk about Conan O'brien and unicorns. Turns out they are not that different. I get asked a lot about psychotherapy. What is it? How does it work? How do I find a good therapist? But what I almost never get asked is actually the most important question of all. And it's this, why is psychotherapy important? And I'll preface this episode with saying that my answer is outside of the usual professional answer. But then again, I myself exist somewhere outside of the usual professional answer. If you are an avid listener to the podcast, you must be used to that by now. So, I'm going to begin our discussion of why psychotherapy is important with none other than the man, the Legend, the Unicorn of Late night comedy, Conan O'Brien.

It was announced recently that after 28 years of late night television, Conan O'Brien is leaving the role of late night host for a weekly show on HBO Max. For those of You keeping score, late night television refers to shows that air five nights a week and usually revolve around four or five full days of work, beginning in the early morning and ending with a recording in the early evening. I get why someone would want to leave. It's a lot of work and I understand why after so many years it would be time to move on. More power to you, Conan. Although I'll really miss seeing you every night. Late night host is a grueling job and one cannot even attempt it without an inexhaustible drive to make people feel good before they go to bed. It's an honorable role, metabolizing the events of the day and presenting them to us as humor, A major reframe, especially the last four years and a really lovely gift to unwrap each night before bed. It's kind of like saying no matter how bad all that felt, there's still a reason to laugh, go to bed and start all over again tomorrow.

Conan doesn't make it easier, but he definitely has made it better for 28 years and that's big. Those of us who spend the night with Conan, we all owe him a debt of gratitude and probably a hug. In my own life, Conan O'brien has filled a sustained roll over time that no one else really could. When I was a struggling teen in high school, Conan was there. He was new on the scene not as a friend, not as a parent, but an outside voice. When I went on to college he was there helping me meet new people, laughing together. Living abroad, he was there, you know, of course you can watch Conan in Ireland. When I moved to California without knowing a single soul, Conan helped me feel like I had a friend. And when my daughter was born, he stayed up with me when I was scared shitless trying to learn how to be a mom, to this vulnerable little being, I suddenly loved more than anything in the world. He was with me when I needed to be alone, even when needing to be alone, felt really, really lonely.

The real important thing to grasp here about my relationship with Conan and yeah, I'm calling it a relationship I'm good with that. Is that his being with me consistently without me having to be there for him. Let me repeat that for a sec, because this is important. Conan being there for me without me having to be there for him. It's a relationship that no one else can really provide. It's a one sided equation and that's a really big deal. So, here's where psychology enters into this equation, it's about the relationship and this is why psychotherapy is so important. The relationship between psychotherapist, psychologist, psychiatrist and patient is one that cannot be replicated anywhere else. It just can't. And the most important thing about this unicorn of a relationship is that we really need it. The individual parts of this equation breakdown real easily for me when I think of parenthood. Here's how: we do not choose our kids most of the time. But nearly all of the time, even if we choose our children, our children do not choose us and as hard as we may try as parents, we are not always the parent our children need not in the moment, and sometimes not in a larger sense, and that's okay.

We work with what we've got and we've got each other and that's a lot and I'm just going to finish up the Bon Jovi song lyrics, for love. Let's give it a shot. Oh we're halfway there, living on a prayer, etcetera and so forth. You know how it goes. Even if we start out being the exact parent our children need, we simply cannot be that person 100% of the time, 24 hours a day. It's not sustainable. And if there was never a better time to recognize this, it's now am I right? Oof, we parents have our own stuff, our own lives, work, partners, pets. Our own parents, family that inspire us, impact us, impinge upon us and also contribute to our own emotional trash. And let's face it sometimes, maybe a lot of the time we are terrible at taking out the trash. The same goes for partners. It is simply unfair to expect a unicorn of a relationship from a partner. We parents, children,, partners go through life together as a team. And while that team includes support and cheerleading, listening and attention, it is not always available in the size, shape and form that we need.

And that's okay. Let's stop expecting ourselves to be the unicorn and stop expecting others to be the unicorn for us. A unicorn is a magical fucking animal. It doesn't really exist. At least not 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So here's where the importance of psychotherapy comes in. Again for one hour once a week give or take a few, we can have a unicorn. We can have that person who is attentive to just our needs, listening only to us, providing feedback only to us, responding only to us, cheerleading, only to us. Helping us check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. And here's the kick ass part. It exists without us needing to give anything back to this person, except to pay and show up on time. Please do that. Now, that's not to say psychotherapy doesn't require work. It does. It's a lot of work taking out the trash. It's messy, heavy. It can smell like shit, but no matter, put on some gloves, breathe through your nose, do the heavy lifting and be glad there is a unicorn there who will help you empty your pail.

But the cool thing about this work is that it doesn't require reciprocity. You do not need to care about your therapist's emotional life. In fact, it's best not to. You are not responsible for helping your therapist take out their trash ever. You care about the lives of people enough. Your decisions directly impact plenty of people on your team. What makes this relationship so fucking magical is that your therapist can be who you need them to be. Nearly every single time. And that consistency is what helps us feel safe, grow, change, repair and keep emptying our emotional trash. That's why psychotherapy is critically important and that's why it works. Because it is a relationship that is one sided and only takes place for a short enough period of time where this kind of relationship is sustainable and possible. Hallelujah. Often when I present the idea of this unicorn relationship, there is a rub a threat. You mean I'm not everything to my kid?

I'm not everything to my partner. Um, No. Hell no. And you shouldn't try to be. Especially not 24/7. In fact, most conflict within relationships, whether it is parental or partner stems from disappointment and not getting what we need. And yeah, totally. The moment we are born, we are rushed into a world where our needs are no longer being automatically met. Out of the womb. Cut the cord. Harsh. Right? And we start from here, ouch. And not only is it hard to give what is needed all the time, but it's also really hard to ask for what's needed. Better yet, oftentimes we do not even really know what we need, how to communicate what we need or how to even give what is needed. It's a miracle we can get through the day with each other. This is complex, right? The unicorn is not in competition. I repeat. There's no competition. The unicorn is a teammate, a relationship that helps repair the missus and directs us in better understanding the nature of our needs, how to better meet them ourselves and gain more clarity to our own limitations and capacity in ourselves and others. These expectations

we hold ourselves to, our partners, our children, have them Yes. But understand that a perfect meetings of needs cannot be met alongside the complexities of modern life. The key is to love each other enough to appreciate when a need cannot be met. Completely. Apologize with love when we are not meeting our kids and partners where they need us to, agree to try harder next time and be forgiving of each other when we cannot exactly read this complex code of expectations. But sometimes we cannot even understand and communicate clearly to ourselves. It is a code and one that takes a clear mind empty of emotional trash to get it right. So back to Conan O'brien, unicorns and what they have in common with psychotherapists. Conan is the first one to admit that he loves what he does. In fact, I've heard him say that being in front of an audience is kind of like breathing. He needs it. It serves him him. Serving us, serves him to and that's incredible. Those late nights, learning how to be a mom, scared, excited, tired, awake - as much as I relied on him to meet me there, same time, same channel,

he wanted me there too on the other side of the screen, taking without giving being one side of the equation, not crossing the line. It worked for both of us. When it comes to psychotherapy, I've said before on this podcast that there are people who choose to do this work. Love this work and do it really, really well. They want to put the gloves on, get messy, lend a hand in helping us take out our trash. Serving us, serves them. It's a pleasure, I promise. And that being their job helping us is exactly why it works. They can concentrate an hour a week to us, our thoughts, our desires, our emotional states. And that gives them the perspective needed to provide us with this unicorn of a thing. It's a job, it's a service and it's a pleasure because psychotherapy is a magical unicorn and we all deserve to ride the rainbow. This has been Joy is Now with me Lisa Anderson Shaffer, LMFT.

You can find me for hire at Lisa Anderson along with patron support for this podcast and The These Three Things project. You can also follow along with my musings at Lisa to Anderson Shaffer on Instagram. See you next time.

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