Safe enough to “act out”

I’ve been thinking of my phone session with T ever since we got off the phone yesterday. I’m pretty sure I was processing it overnight and it was the second thing on my mind when I woke up this morning (second only to the fact we have to find a new house to live in!).

One of the things that I remembered since writing last night was T saying that it was actually a sign of feeling safe that I was able to cancel my session the other week.

Don’t get me wrong, she very quickly tried to encourage me to always go to my sessions no matter how hard it was or how angry or upset I was feeling, in fact she said “even if you have to get here crawling on your hands and knees!!” So I just want to make it clear that she wasn’t rewarding me for it so to speak.

She said that I must have felt some sense of safety that I could be angry and cancel a session knowing it could, possibly, hopefully be repaired and made to feel better again… eventually.

She asked me whether I was scared she would retaliate or attack back or punish me for my anger and I told her that actually, I had been able to hold on to the fact that in the past she has never done that and that I did know she would allow me to have and tell her my feelings without embarrassing me. I did manage to hold that fact (this is progress, right?).

I’ve thought about this a few times since and it may sound a bit weird but I think it does show a sense of safety doesn’t it?

I used to always strive to be TWBTC (the worlds best therapy client) and obviously perfect therapy clients do not cancel sessions and do not experience any anger towards their T’s do they? Yet alone TELL them about it! So yes, I do think it shows some kind of ability to hold on that all will not be lost, all will not be ruined and destroyed forever.

This made me think about what would happen with my birth mother (note the negative tone). I genuinely don’t remember a single time that I’ve sat my mother down, told her that she has upset me or annoyed me somehow and had her say she understands how I feel and apologise OR say she understands how I feel even if she has her reasons. Isn’t that saying something? I have NEVER had that experience with her. Not once.

What I have had is her belittle me, tell me I am pathetic and childish or need to grow up or attack me back with things I have done that upset or hurt her somehow. She had often told me how ungrateful I am and remind me of “all the things she’s done for me” but the difference in the two experiences is huge.

T reminded me yesterday that my mother’s inability to show me love and affection and the fact I didn’t FEEL loved, was about her and not me. She said quite strongly that I AM loveable, that it was her issue and not mine. She also said that mothers who absolutely smother their babies and are draped all over them is about their needs (the mother’s) and not the baby’s. She said it’s similar in therapy, the baby shows it’s mother what it needs and so does the client. There is no need for a mother or for a therapist to smother. It doesn’t allow the baby/client to breathe and think for itself.

Anyway, the point of this blog was meant to be that although not advisable or encouraged, it may well be progress that I’ve been able to get angry and “act out” probably safe in the knowledge somewhere deep down that she will still be there.

6 thoughts on “Safe enough to “act out”

  1. Just wondering as I also don’t remember having such an experience with mom. Do you reckon other people have this experience of telling their mom they are angry with mom, and having their mom apologise and understand their emotions?
    I always struggle to come to terms with this in therapy. I end up telling my therapist “hmm. Not all parents are therapists.” I might have had a bad experience myself, not sure. But like how do u know? What if therapists just show us the perfect extreme. I don’t mean to challenge you or tell you that what you are mentioning is not valid. It is in every aspect. I am just asking for me to understand xx

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    1. Good question! So what you are asking is, was our experience bad if just not “therapist perfect?”.

      My initial thought on this without thinking about it for very long is in the way we handle our feelings. I think perhaps the fact that my instant reaction to the perceived rejection and abandonment was to run away – to quit therapy and never go back, I wonder if other people firstly wouldn’t have got so triggered at feeling unloved and unimportant in the first place AND if they did, perhaps they would have been much more able to say, hey that hurt me because of x….

      Not sure? What do you think? X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay. Makes sense.
        Hmm, I personally would have reacted the same way as you did. Felt a rejection, wanted to run away, and probably would feel like hiding away from her for eternity because I would feel ashamed to not be loved as much. I come from a narcissist mother as well so probably explains the same reaction and feelings.
        I think just got your point. I never tell anyone that they have hurt me or bothered me, even if it is a flatmate, cause I have this idea of them getting “mad”at me if I do. Ah never quite connected the dots this way. Thanks, TT! X
        Honestly, it is crazy to think of how much we missed out on! 😔

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  2. Agreed… this is such progress! And I think she is onto something with feeling safe enough to try something “extreme” like cancelling a session… Deep down you knew she would take that seriously and help find a way through it. Instead of take it personally, never ever call you again and quit all your sessions, or hold it against you.

    I like the idea that you are testing the boundaries in this relationship and finding your voice without any form of retaliation 💛💛

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  3. I think what Jay said was good. Your therapist actually sounds so loving towards you in this interaction. I hope you could feel that.
    One thing though, I know a few therapist friends and they’ve always said that their favourite types of clients are the messy ones, the complicated ones, the ones willing to get in the trenches and fight it out, not the ” good client” who never causes any problems or issues. In fact those ones the find a bit harder to deal with because they can’t get to the inner child where the work is. Hope that reassures you.

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  4. Good/average parents really do understand their child’s anger and apologise when they’ve done something wrong or hurtful. Maybe they don’t get it right all the time, and maybe not always in the heat of the moment especially when something about the situation triggers them or they are exhausted and stressed themselves, but they sort it out afterwards and they do it “enough” that their child knows that they can be angry and it will be sorted out eventually and they are still loved. The thing about it for those parents (and for me when I’ve managed it with my daughter, which I didn’t do nearly enough when she was little but have gradually got better at) is that it doesn’t feel like a big deal to apologise, it doesn’t feel like giving in, because they have no emotional stake in “being right” or being more powerful.

    So you are making big progress to be able to get angry and act out in therapy and feel secure that you therapist won’t retaliate. It’s also pretty normal to regress and be afraid and mistrustful of your therapist again some time down the track if you are in a particularly stressful period or digging around in some of the more painful things about earlier life, so don’t feel as if you’ve lost everything you’ve gained if that happens at some point.

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