I recently entered a graduate program in Professional Psychology with the goal of getting my therapy license (roughly four years and one million dollars from now…graduate school is expensive, cheesh!).
The program is infinitely fascinating, the classes small and personal, and the professors’ anecdotes from their respective therapy practices instructive, insightful, and—at times—very entertaining. I’m enjoying it so far, not only because I’m on my way to what I think will be an interesting and rewarding career (oh my god, I sound like those ads that come on during Judge Judy commercial breaks: you TOO can embark on an exciting career in insurance claims estimating!), but because it’s so different from my undergrad experience. The students are dedicated and mature, and the reading is always, always significant (there will be no selling back of books at the ends of quarters in this program).
Some things, however, are humdrummingly familiar. Take, for example, the obligatory introductions professors make students offer up at the outset of class. What’s your name? Tell us a little bit about your background. What brought you here, now? What’s something interesting about you? That last one is always the most difficult.
Some professors try to shake this whole song and dance up a little by suggesting we do it “a little differently this time.” This time, see, we’re going to interview the person sitting next to us, then share what we learned with the class. This is even worse…now it’s up to somebody else to decide what is interesting about us!
Well, the first day of my Clinical Skills Training A: Self and Group class, we did the interviewing thing. What is different about this class is that it pretty much follows the format of a group therapy session—we are going through the process of group therapy in the anticipation that we, ourselves, will be leading such sessions one day. So after we went around and introduced ourselves, we went around again and talked about what the process was like for us, how it felt to have another person introduce us.
The experience was pretty good, and I shared that with the class. I told them that these exercises always make me nervous because sometimes the information gets distorted, and I feel myself being represented in a way that’s somewhat inaccurate. I’m always afraid the other person will somehow turn me into a monster between the interview and the retelling.
The woman who interviewed me in this class was a very good listener; I was comfortable with the way she introduced me to the class and what she said about my motives for being there. So far so good.
I had another class right after that (Basic Addictions, where we learn about all the different drugs and addictions and how to treat them in therapy). In this class, the professor also thought she’d “do it a little differently” by having us introduce each other rather than introduce ourselves. Here we went again.
When the woman interviewing me learned my name, she asked what it meant, to which I responded that it means “kitten” in Russian.
“Oh,” she said. “Do you like cats?”
“No,” I said, “I don’t actually.”
“Kittens?” she asked, after a marked lowering of her spirits following my anti-cat comment.
“I mean, I guess kittens are all right, but no, I don’t like cats.”
After that we moved on to other details. Let me note here that we had about 2 minutes to interview each other, followed by introductions to the class that lasted about 20 seconds each.
And this, in what I’m guessing was her well-intentioned quest to present things in the most positive of ways, is what she chose to say about me:
“Ok,” she started, “this is Kisa. She loves kittens…”
I didn’t even really hear what she said after that because I became paralyzed with this idea that I love kittens (!). I mean, loving kittens is not a bad thing I suppose, but the point is that I don’t love kittens. I never think about kittens. I’ve never had a desire to own one, and I don’t imagine I ever will.
I think I might have made a face when she said it, I’m not sure.
Here’s the thing: Even if I could get past the idea that everyone in class would think I love kittens when I don’t, I continued to have a hard time with the idea that, given 2 minutes to talk about myself and my life, I would chose to take up however much of that 2 minutes I would need to convey something as cheesy as the fact that I love kittens. Who besides a veterinarian holds kittens (not her specific kitten, but kittens in general) that close to her heart?
I wondered if I should speak up. Nobody else was making verbal amendments to their introductions. How strange would I be to interrupt my partner to tell the class, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to say that, I know she told you guys I love kittens, but I don’t actually. I don’t love kittens.”? I imagine I’d antagonize at least half the class by making such a declaration, and to what end? So that others wouldn’t be mistaken in their information regarding my affections toward certain species of mammals? Is it worse to have them believe something untrue or to speak up just to make such a seemingly shallow correction? Help me!
Well, I didn’t have my say then, but I’m saying it here just to set the record straight. I don't love kittens!
Now monkeys, that’s a different story. But then, you all knew that by now.