Neediness, Lack of Warmth, Fear of Annihilation & Re-experiencing pain

I got to last night’s session not really sure of how it would go, feeling a bit nervous about the fact that the last communication T had from me was me saying I was crying and experiencing a really odd mixture of pain and pleasure at the connection I had felt with her.

I sat down and she smiled at me but didn’t say anything. I smiled back.. anxiously waiting for her to start talking but she didn’t, she just looked at me and I felt really uncomfortable. Why do they do that sometimes? I can’t help but feel its done on purpose to make us feel awkward as fuck!

I told T that I had done a lot of thinking, reading and writing over the weekend and that I felt like I had some realisations. I said that although they were not necessarily new realisations, I felt them differently. T said it was like peeling an onion and said that we have to revisit certain things over and over again, each time we understand or feel a little deeper and that this can only be done as and when we are ready.

I didn’t really know where to start so I started with asking her if she was familiar with Brene Brown’s theory of foreboding joy. She said she wasn’t and so I explained to her in very vague terms that I had learnt it was what happens to some of us when we feel a real sense of joy and vulnerability and explained Brene’s theory that we then dress-rehearse tragedy, waiting for it all to go wrong. T nodded and said she understood what I meant. I told T that I had sat down to write a blog on Sunday evening about this, and had found myself writing something that hit me as I typed the words out and kinda took my breath away. I told her what I had written on Sunday about the link I had made of the feelings of happiness/sadness leaving her office on Sunday and the feelings growing up of having those very random, short-lived moments of connection with my mother and how painful it was when those moments abruptly ended.  Saying those words made me cry again, I found myself suddenly gasping for breath. It felt very deep. I suppose it was the enormity of what I had just said? I don’t know.

T looked at me with empathy and seemed to understand what I had said. I told her that the feelings I had last week were horrible. I told her that I felt physical pain in my chest and said it hurt so much. This made me teary again.  T said it feels like life and death and that when you are in touch with that pain, it is absolutely excruciating. I agreed.  I told her that it is the same pain I felt a few years ago when I had planned to leave therapy and then found myself on the bathroom floor sobbing for hours with this god-awful pain of not being able to survive. Of loss and grief and all manner of other horrible things.

I told T that it confused me that getting what I have always wanted caused me such a lot of pain (and joy, admittedly) and T explained that having deep, childhood, unmet needs – met was VERY painful.  She said getting what you’ve always wanted can cause awful sadness and pain.  I didn’t understand that.  T said that this was one of the reasons that therapists had to be so careful not to “overdo it”.  She said that them overdoing it could cause us more pain! T said “this is why although I understand you want more reassurance and warmth in my emails, it is important that I am very careful”…

(I haven’t written about this yet so this is a good time – I told T last week that I sometimes find her email replies to be “lacking in warmth”. As I said it, she repeated it back to me and I agreed.  Yes. I told her that I knew that the content was fine and that if someone else read them, they wouldn’t see the issue, but for me, they sometimes felt “therapisty” (yeah, I know) and “cold”.  I’ve thought about this many times since saying it and I can very clearly see that the lacking in warmth thing is probably a bit of transference – it probably sums up how I feel about my communications/relationship with my mother – or more specifically, about my mother herself. Lacking in warmth.)

T said that the sadness when I left of not having had enough was completely understandable and expected. I told her, it isn’t quite that I haven’t “had enough” like I had written about once before, because that makes it sound like I didn’t get enough warmth or enough connection or attunement which I DID. She said, she thinks “not having had enough” was less about my session and more about my childhood. That I didn’t get enough.  That went in at a deep level and I agreed with her. I understand that therapy is starting to trigger some things in me which I perhaps didn’t understand or feel consciously before.

I told her that actually FEELING that pain when I left last week was just awful. I just closed my eyes as I typed that because honestly my words do not do that feeling justice. T once again reminded me that a lot of my pain was pre-verbal and may not have words.

I said that FEELING that pain really drove it home to me how very sad that was and I said that whilst I immediately think about my mother when I write these things, the same applied to my Dad of course because well, where the fuck was he? He didn’t try either and although my Dad is a “nicer person”, he hurt me too. T said that just because he is a “nice guy” doesn’t mean he didn’t cause me pain. I agreed.  I said that I had been thinking recently that I would see my Dad every now and again, we would have a nice time and then he would take me home and I wouldn’t know if I would see him again in a week, two weeks or months.  I told T that I still sometimes cry when I leave him as an adult now (only since my therapy got me in touch though!).  I told T that I also used to cry when my Nan and Grandad dropped me home on a Sunday night after having stayed at their house, which I did every weekend. I now understand this – I was crying because I knew that connection was over. I was crying because I knew I wouldn’t have that connection at home with my mother and crying because I never knew how long it would be until I felt that again.

T said that it is as if it felt better for me to feel nothing at all than to feel the mixture of the good against the bad. I agreed whole-heartedly.

I said to T that when I learnt about this foreboding joy thing, I had sat down and thought about how this played out in other aspects of my life. I told her what I had written about my relationships, with job interviews and many other things. T nodded and said how hard I had been working. I agreed that I had. I said I was worried that people seemed to think the amount I thought about these things was a bad thing but said that understanding why I am feeling a certain way actually helped me to have some compassion for myself. T said perhaps it took the guilt, shame and blame away from me.  She then said (not for the first time) “You were capable of feeling that loving connection the whole of your life. It really wasn’t you – it wasn’t any fault of yours that you didn’t get that. It was your mum and dad’s”.  She said how it was only natural that as a child experiencing that lack of connection (ha, of warmth) I would understandably blame myself. It is how I survived because I had to keep them good.  I said that I understood this now and that understanding that was bittersweet. I am glad it wasn’t me, of course. But understanding, truly, how incapable they both were of emotional connection and closeness, of that parental bond is so tragically sad to me.

I then spoke to T about my blog yesterday about neediness. I told her that I had wanted to send my blog from Sunday and told her what I wrote yesterday about the conversations that played out in my head. T said “did you think you would be too much?” and I said yes. I told her how I had these visions of smothering her, suffocating her and – killing her. T told me this was the “Fear of Annihilation”. I heard her say that but had no real idea what she was talking about. I’ve since Googled this and it is very interesting. I attach a link for anyone that is interested. Once I have digested this a bit more, I will write about this as I think it will be very helpful to me, and possibly others. https://healthysenseofself.com/meet-us/terminology-for-a-healthy-sense-of-self/fear-of-annihilation/

Following this “fear of annihilation” conversation I told T that it confuses me that when I am in those moments, I NEED to contact her and only her. I said nobody else would help and that felt uncomfortable for me. T said something along the lines of:

“Of course. Like a child only wants its mummy”.

And with those simple words, it suddenly made sense to me. T said that I am using T as I need to, which is as a mother figure and so when I need containing and attunement or whatever I need, of course it is only her that I want to turn to. She told me that is why I shouldn’t really go against myself when I feel that way, that I need to let myself be steadied by her and that it was okay to do that. T said this fear of annihilation meant that I was convinced either I was going to kill her off with my needs or that she would kill me off. She said that I can’t trust that she could handle her own feelings/needs.

I told T that sometimes just pressing send on an email to her was enough. I said I never understood that either. T said:

Yes, because sending the email into my inbox is like putting something (the feelings) into mum to deal with”.

She spoke about how as a baby or a child, the mum would try to figure out what it was the baby or child needed. She would speak softly to the baby and try and see was the baby hungry? Tired? Did the baby need a nappy change etc – she said that the child was steadied just by knowing the mother was there and trying her hardest to help.  She said that me sending the email to her had the same effect.  I said but I don’t know if you are even reading it for hours yet and she said no, but you know that it is no longer just you trying to deal with it all on your own. You know that I will, at least, try to help you with it and that knowledge helps you to settle.

Isn’t that interesting? I know I haven’t expressed that very well, but hopefully the general gist is there.

 

Advertisements

Foreboding Joy & Self-Reflections

Warning – this is deep for a Sunday night post ha!

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have realised recently that when I feel something deeply joyful, when I feel a real connection or deep happiness, I seem to withdraw from that joyful feeling somehow and lessen the happiness somehow. That feeling of something being too good to be true. Waiting for it to go wrong, predicting it ending badly somehow.  Freaking out even.  It turns out, Brene’ Brown has written about this and refers to it as “foreboding joy”.

“Our actual experiences of joy—those intense feelings of deep spiritual connection and pleasure—seize us in a very vulnerable way,”

“When something good happens, our immediate thought is that we’d better not let ourselves truly feel it, because if we really love something we could lose it. So we shut down our ability to completely enjoy so that we can also shut down our capacity for feeling loss.”

The words Brown writes sum my experience up exactly. My main thought as I read and write about this today being the feelings I was left with after my last session with T.  On Thursday I felt so deeply heard and understood by T, I felt such a wonderful connection with her. The connection warmed my heart somehow, it felt as if I had been hugged tightly – emotionally speaking.  When I got home, I could feel this strange sadness setting in. It became more than just a sadness, it became a deep longing.

At first I thought I was missing T but something about that didn’t feel quite right because I hadn’t left her long ago.  I later realised thanks to one of my very intelligent and insightful fellow bloggers Blue Sky, that she had also experienced what I was writing about and wrote her blog “When Love Equals Loss” which is where I found this reference to “foreboding joy”.  Since then, I have read lots about it and it has helped me so much (Thank you again Blue Sky!).

Brown says

“Joy is the most vulnerable emotion we experience.  If you cannot tolerate joy, what you do is start dress rehearsing tragedy”.

She also says:

“We’ve learned that giving into joy is, at best, setting ourselves up for disappointment and, at worst, inviting disaster”

and

“We’re afraid that the feeling of joy won’t last, or that there won’t be enough, or that the transition to disappointment (or whatever is in store next) will be too difficult.”

There are so many other brilliant snippets I am tempted to insert here, but I won’t keep on. If you are interested I am sure you can google it yourself or buy one of her books.  The point is, this has really spoken to me. Her words have resonated so deeply and I have been reflecting on this all weekend.

I think this is what happened after that session Thursday.  I felt a wonderfully deep connection with my T. A connection that I have craved for my whole life from my mother. Clearly T isn’t m mother, but in my psychotherapy process right now, I guess due to transference and all my unconscious desires, T is the new fantasy mother figure and so in a way, I finally got something I’ve always really, really wanted. Needed.

What followed that was panic. Panic it wouldn’t last. Grief because logic told me she isn’t my mum and won’t ever be my mum. Grief and longing that I should have had that from my actual mother, but never did and never would….. and I now think, dress rehearsing tragedy as Brown writes about.

Thinking about the fact that T could leave. Stop seeing me. Give up her practice, decide she no longer wants to treat me etc etc…. Perhaps not logical but that doesn’t make any difference to the unconscious fears.  It is interesting because at the time I thought perhaps I was crying about the loss of my second session a week (my decision, my choice etc but still a loss for me) and that may well be in there somewhere but I think its deeper than that.  The loss of the second session is a harsh reminder that I can’t have it all can I? I can’t have my new job AND continue to see T as much as I would like to, because, she isn’t my mum, she isn’t my family and unfortunately, I can only see her at times when she has appointments available that also fit in with my work commitments.  The “loss of T” then, triggers my abandonment fears and all sorts of other things and the joy I felt from the connection we had, is suffocated and replaced with sadness and panic.

When in my past was I left distraught from joy and vulnerability ending badly? My childhood of course. Connecting, even for a second or a minute once in a blue moon with my mother would have been a dream. It would have felt just incredible.  Connecting with my emotionally unavailable and distant mother would have given me the hope that things were finally going to change, to get better.. I was finally going to “get” to her….

… until that didn’t happen. The connection would be broken (by her) and she once again, moved out of my reach. Shit that is painful. And that is when my template was set I guess.  Connection equals heartbreak.  Connection equals disappointment and connection was not going to last.

I guess then, its no surprise I would immediately “dress rehearse” tragedy when feeling joy, is it?

 

I thought to myself earlier, I wonder if this is something I have always done. I am sure it is.  I am trying to think about how this may play out in my relationships.  It’s weird because I don’t think of myself as being guarded or defended or someone that moves away from commitment – I think of myself as the opposite because I CRAVE love and affection and commitment and forever-ness (not a word, I know) BUT…. looking back, my relationships with men were disastrous because I attracted avoidantly attached men, men that didn’t want closeness or forever-ness. This was bad for me because it totally reinforced my internalised opinion that I wasn’t worthy of love.

Every time I felt these men move away from me I felt abandoned all over again. Every time the relationships failed, I was left heartbroken.  I got nicknamed something at school which referenced how many boys I had dated. Friends used to tell me I was constantly in relationships.  Even as a young teen I knew that the amount I dated was more than most, but I didn’t understand why or see it as an issue. I was trying to find love – but in all of the wrong places.  Christ as I write this the phrase “you need to love yourself before you can love another” springs to mind. I’ve always thought that phrase was bollocks!

As I write this my eyebrows lift up and I realise the weight behind the words. The realisations I am having.  Writing this feels so revealing.

I was drawn to avoidantly attached men for a few reasons I think.

  1. Anxiously attached people attract avoidantly attached people due to confusing the mixed messages and the going hot and cold with passion.
  2. Anxiously attached people wish they were “less needy” and avoidantly attached people seem to have these admirable traits, independence and confidence. So we are drawn to them.

I question tonight whether I had a need to keep some emotional distance so that I wasn’t left distraught? I’m not sure.

Both of my parents are incapable of emotional closeness with me and I craved that so very much all of my life. It hurts me a lot to really realise that neither of my parents gave me the connection and emotional closeness that they should have – could have.  But understanding it wasn’t me, my fault, that helps to ease some shame.  It makes me so determined to never repeat that pattern with my own children. Also, it makes me determined to never waste time with anyone who isn’t able to tolerate emotional closeness again. I only hurt myself trying to change them. I guess I was trying to “right a wrong”.  Trying to finally “get” an emotionally distant guy.  To change the ending of that childhood story where I never did “get” either mum or dad.

Anyway, back to the point, I was drawn to these men and that was in some weird way, what I needed/wanted because unconsciously I knew that if they were incapable of real, intimate closeness, then I didn’t have to panic did I because I didn’t need to dress rehearse tragedy, the deep intimate connection was never there for the offering.  I think? Something like that, my head hurts a bit as I try to work this out. I think I need a bit more time with that bit.

Weirdly I dreamt last night that I was in Starbucks and I ordered something I didn’t want. That is making me laugh now as it suddenly feels relevant. I didn’t order what I really wanted.  HA! 

Applying this to my time in therapy, it makes sense that feeling that connection with T would have freaked me out so much.  It makes me think again about the fact that I decided to drop my second session a week whilst she was away on holiday.  Leave before being left maybe? Sabotage the closeness that was building in our relationship perhaps?

You know I have never been broken up with before. I’ve had a lot of relationships and I’ve done the leaving every.single.time. One of those times I was heartbroken for a few years afterwards which I could never understand. Why would you grieve a relationship that YOU ended? I can understand now that it was because I didn’t WANT it to end, our whole relationship was a battle of me wanting more closeness and commitment and him not being able to offer that.  I will admit, I cheated on him several times and I could never understand why when I loved him so much.  Finally after about 6 years I ended it but then tried to go back to him a month later to find out he had met someone else. That hurt me so much.

Even looking at my fiance now – okay so I finally met a more securely attached man. A man capable of closeness and intimacy (thank God) but he wasn’t truly “available” when I met him. He was married with children. He left his wife before we got together, but the first few years of our relationship was drama fuelled due to his ex-wife’s rage.  He also has 3 young children (strangely my father also went on to have 3 children) and so I was never able to be his total focus, his number 1 because there were “others”.  There has always been “others” in my life and understanding this has helped me to get a hold of pangs of jealousy where his children are involved.  As T says, I can now use those painful feelings to understand more about myself and my childhood.

In terms of my career, I started a psychology course once but then quit. I tried to learn to drive for 10 years on and off and on and off again. I applied for a promotion last year at work, only to pull my application when I was offered the interview! And now, currently, I’ve been freaking out about starting my new job in November. Why? Because I’m dress rehearsing it all going wrong of course!

But as Brown has taught me this weekend, predicting it going wrong won’t change anything. It won’t hurt any less if it does.  All it means is that I lose out on that wonderful feeling of joy that may not actually, ever be ruined at all. Being vulnerable then, is the way forward.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with b6 preset

vulnerable

soul mate