Hi everyone, this is a long post about what happened last night following my feelings last Thursday/Friday about T and the emails that followed that. I have split it into two parts so it is easier to read. This is Part 1.
I was feeling really nervous about last night’s session and that feeling seemed to get worse the closer to the end of the day it got. I pulled up outside with only a couple of minutes to spare, normally I have 15-20 minutes but I think this was probably a good thing on this occasion. As I turned off the engine and prepared myself for what was to come, I exhaled very deeply as though I had been holding my breath and then my heart started thumping sooo fast! I could feel it without even putting my hand to my chest. I then got jelly legs as I stepped out of the car!!
I knocked on the door and T opened the door with her usual smiley face and greeted me the same as every other time. Nothing had changed at all – thank god. I sat down and put my cardigan over my legs as I always do and hoped she didn’t comment about this tonight because I needed the comfort of it. She didn’t thankfully.
T asked how I was doing and I said “scared”. She didn’t seem surprised. I told her about my nervousness and my heart beat in the car. She asked me what it was specifically that I was feeling scared of. I said I was scared of it all. She asked if I was scared of the fact I had emailed her? I said no, more that we now have to talk about it all face to face and I find that hard. I said I felt very vulnerable and I was scared of the feelings I might uncover and scared of how upset I might get in session.
T questioned whether I was scared of the imagined repercussions of reaching out to her. I said I didn’t think so, I knew she wouldn’t tell me off or anything. T said that the adult part of me might, but what about the child?
She said that she had noticed in my email I had tried to cover all grounds – i.e. I had said I know we can’t “do” therapy over email, that she had told me before that emails can be dangerous, that it put her in an impossible situation etc – she asked me what it would mean for me to let her worry about those things? …..
I thought about this for a moment and read that part of my email back to myself. I said I think that perhaps I said all of that so that she didn’t. I said that this way it was like I was saying them before she did because it would hurt less. She said something about boundaries and that she felt things that she has said before about boundaries have become stuck very rigidly in my head. I agreed. I said I would hate to overstep the boundaries. She asked me why, what would that mean to me and I said “well, I guess I worry about the… well, punishment is probably the wrong word but the….” She interrupted me and said “No, I think punishment IS exactly the right word”. She said again that she thinks I am scared of being “punished”. I agreed, perhaps I was. She said she thought this would be because when I was little I would have been punished when upset or angry etc – this is true and something we have spoken about before.
We spoke about the actual event again. She said that she thought I had really got in touch with some painful stuff on Thursday just before I left and she could see how much pain I was in. I nodded and got a bit teary. I said that when I had got to the door, she had said something nice and that it had set me off. She said that sometimes people caring can be painful. I agreed. I said as soon as she said what she had said (something about keeping both of my feet firmly on the ground) I had to try so hard not to cry before I got to the car.
She then said that in future if I leave in that state I must not drive home straight away. She was quite strict about this. She said the last thing she wanted was for me to have a car crash. She said if I feel too vulnerable crying in the car outside then I could drive into another road or to a park close by, but that I needed to find a way to ground myself before driving. She suggested playing a game on my phone or writing it out. I told her that I knew what she meant but that I had actually found the drive with the loud music and windows open quite helpful. I said I actually went a longer way home than I needed to in order to keep that feeling a little.
I told T that I felt rather disconnected emotionally from actually directing any anger or blame onto my mother and said I felt like I had taken a huge step backwards. She said that she completely disagreed and said I haven’t done that, but that I was transferring the feelings onto her which is exactly what I was meant to do. She told me how I had to do a lot of the things I didn’t get to do as a child with her – because I can’t and couldn’t do them with my mother. I nodded.
She asked me if I would like to read out loud the email I had sent her. I jokingly said “oh yes, that would be lovely, I would love that!” because she knows how much I hate doing this. She makes me do this because it really gets me back in touch with the feelings – it works every time. I knew it would last night because I was already able to access those feelings pretty easily.
I read the email out loud and we stopped at lots of bits of it for her to offer some comfort or explanation. She said that she really saw how I couldn’t possibly believe that she would have been thinking of me after I had left – that to me, she really couldn’t “care less” or “give a shit” and that I was just forgotten about in my head. I said yes. That I knew that sounded horrible, but it is how I felt at the time. She looked quite sad for me and said “I have been very pre-occupied with you since then and have thought about you a lot hoping you were okay”. They were such lovely words to hear. I can’t ever look at her when she says things like this. It feels impossible, too good to be true maybe. But they have given me something lovely to hold on to today. Actually writing that makes me feel a bit emotional again.
She told me that she understood my fantasy of her texting me to see if I were okay but that there are various reasons she doesn’t do this. One being that although I might be upset in session, I am an adult out in the world and she doesn’t want to disempower me. (At this stage I wanted to tell her that she could feel free to “disempower” me because I am never “powered” but I didn’t). She said that sometimes she might get it wrong – she might text thinking I am dreadfully upset and in fact I am not.. all sorts of reasons. She then said to me, “please don’t think I don’t have my own fantasies about contacting you, because I do”. That was lovely to hear. Although I do admit that I did automatically try to decide whether this was her just being nice (I know, I know…). I thought to myself I was surprised that she told me that, but that I loved that she had. I liked that.
She said that she isn’t saying that she absolutely cannot and will not ever reach out to me first, but that it is important that I learn that just because I have to reach out first doesn’t mean that her response is any less real or valid. I said I guessed so, but it didn’t quite feel the same. She told me she understood that. She said that I was hoping and wishing she could just know. That she would be completely attuned to me because that is what I’ve never had. She said my mother should have been completely attuned to me and been able to just know when I was in pain and soothe me – but that obviously she didn’t. This made me teary again and I nodded. I felt like saying “this isn’t fair!!!” but I didn’t. She said she wasn’t trying to be cruel in saying that, she just wanted to demonstrate that she understood.
(Part 2 coming up)