therapy in the park & inner calm

I want to write whilst I have a moment, living with 8 people in the in-laws house without a bedroom doesn’t allow for a lot of time to sit and contemplate one’s inner-thoughts yet alone allow for time to actually write them down! So whilst I am at work on this lovely Friday afternoon without much work to do, I thought I would grab the opportunity. 

I spoke to T on the phone yesterday as is my current routine since the move. To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I find it difficult to think of enough to talk about on the phone. I don’t really know why that is because I certainly don’t have that issue when there with her face-to-face, but there we go! Anyway, since the move to the in-laws I drive myself to a local park to speak to T where I can be alone and not overheard and me and my husband have taken to calling this TITP – Therapy In The Park, which has kinda stuck and I quite like it ha ha.

So yesterday’s TITP was way better than I had imagined it would be. I’m not entirely sure why, but as I settled down to speak to her, I realised that I felt a real sense of happiness and calm (which is VERY surprising considering everything). During our hour-long phone conversation, I felt light-hearted, fun, happy and just light… we laughed quite a lot and I felt totally and utterly unfiltered like I wasn’t thinking at all about the words forming in my head before they fell out of my lips – I just said stuff and laughed and it was just great. Before I knew it the phone session was over and I was fine with that in the sense that I had nothing pressing to talk about and I felt… whatever it is you feel after a good therapy session.. perhaps contained? – anyway we hung up and I felt myself literally smiling (probably made me look like a freak in public on her own grinning) and I went for a stroll around the park and took some photos and sent one to T showing her the view and telling her that I could get used to TITP. She sent me a quick message back and I smiled and put my phone away. 

Now nothing about that sounds particularly interesting I know, but the feeling I got was new… and if not new, then not common enough to feel “normal” or be taken for granted. It was nice. Really nice. I would quite like to tell her this but I wouldn’t have a clue how to explain it and I don’t want to analyse it or over-think/over-talk it and ruin it, so I am just writing it here to note it down for myself really. 

Regarding my mother..

I wanted to write another update about where I am with things regarding my mother after the other week’s complete meltdown. I still can’t believe how much that got to me, how much it shook me and how utterly distressed and desperate I felt.  

I feel so much better now. So, so, so much better.  

I seem to have found a bit of a middle-ground though and I’ve not gone straight back to how I was before the meltdown occurred in that me and my mother have exchanged more messages in the last few week than we had for about a year(!) but I am finding them nice, but not drastically important, and I’ve lost that awful, sudden need to see her which feels safer. At the same time her messages aren’t making or breaking my days and I am not consumed by the content or anything… it’s hard to explain. Yesterday we exchanged some messages about random things – she sent me photos of her new lounge and her garden and spoke about some events she has coming up etc and I spoke about how I am excited for a wedding next week and mine and Hubby’s apt at the fertility clinic etc. I was slightly nervous that she might ask me when I was coming to stay with her, but she didn’t and so I didn’t need to worry about what to say and how to say it which was a relief. 

I was telling a friend about how I felt the other week and about how upset I was in my session and she said to me “Well I have to admit that if one of my kids didn’t speak to me or want to see me, I would be very upset too” (her kids are also adults) and I found myself saying back to her “Yes but the difference is that if one of your kids didn’t want to see you and you had nothing to do with them or their wife, you would be sitting around trying to figure out what had gone wrong/what you had done and how you could make it better wouldn’t you?” – she agreed. I then said “the difference is, my mum has had years to do that but all she seems to come up with is that she’s never done anything wrong and that it is just all down to my husband and how he has manipulated me and poisoned me against her”. 

The words came out of my mouth and it was like I *heard* them and surprised myself at my own understanding (weird I know). I realised as I said it that it was absolutely true. I knew it before and I know it now, but I didn’t *feel* it the other week. The other week when I was completely and utterly drowning in the child part of me’s hopes and dreams and wishful thinking, none of that felt remotely important. I was willing to turn a blind eye to everything – all of it – in exchange for the love of my mother. I was utterly desperate to be looked after and nurtured and protected et. It felt bigger than everything. It felt HUGE. The logic had detached from the feelings and I couldn’t hold both at the same time.  

Now, at the moment I find myself in this weird no-man’s land really. I question if I am a little numb? (I am not sure). The way I feel is that I can see/feel/remember all the bad stuff yet feel no anger about it and also I can understand the wants, needs and wishes of the child but nowhere near enough to want to actually try and get them. I have no intention of going to stay at her house or of turning up at her door crying or begging her for the chance for us to start again or any of that dramatic, movie-type stuff that I was imagining. I just feel…. nothing really… just like I am here and I can see both sides of it equally but without being affected by either. 

I am not sure if that is a good sign of having balanced myself back out (potentially more so than before!) or whether I am actually numb because the pain of the other week was too much. Who knows? It sure feels better this way though. I feel calm inside and I am not caught up in the stress and anxiety of being angry with her, being hurt by her lack of contact or dreading seeing her or whatever.. I just feel like we can have a few messages about normal stuff which is genuinely fine… but I am not being guilt-tripped or attacked and I am not dying for more or using her messages to boost me up….. it just is what it is and it is actually fine. For now at least.

What happened rocked me in a massive, massive way. I am still shocked by the hugeness of the pain I felt but I am so, so glad that it has passed and that I am okay. I am wondering whether that is likely to happen again? Is it part of the process or was it me falling off the wagon so to speak? Has it helped in some weird way? Who knows!

Oh and to end, this made me laugh…. My mother said yesterday that she had started to read a book my sister recommended. She told me the name of it and so I downloaded it at the park yesterday and I’ve been listening to it since. The book is hilariously funny and extremely crude and rude and shocking in content, BUT that didn’t surprise me. What surprised me is this….. the girl who is narrating the story in first person/diary-entry style, is a young girl. This girl is having therapy…………. This girl is having therapy………………HA. My mother and my sister LOVED this book about a girl in therapy – it makes you die doesn’t it? The two people most adverse to anyone having therapy. Hilarious. Anyway, I am yet to see if the therapist is painted as some manipulating, evil, money-grabber (I sincerely hope not), but we shall see. It is interesting to me because as neither of them have a clue what therapy consists of and as they both clearly have their own fantasies (as T would say) – this book may be changing their opinion.. or confirming them!!

 

 

Advertisements

Longing for the mother

I woke up this morning with a thumping headache, a bad mood and a bad back ache. The back ache has got gradually worse the last few days but today it hurt a lot.

As we are staying with my fiancé’s family at the moment and his kids also stay with us at weekends, it was all a bit too much for me this morning. My mood was getting worse and holding it all in was getting harder and harder.

I found myself thinking about my T. I have thought about her a lot the last few days since my session on Tuesday. The closest feeling I could relate my feeling to would be “missing”. It was like I was missing her but I’m not sure that’s entirely accurate.

I touched on this briefly the other day, but the words I come up with are words such as “longing” and “missing”. As one of my fellow bloggers pointed out, it’s the grieving of the mother wound. I’m in touch with feelings of loneliness and sadness. It’s feelings I experienced when I was young and stuck with an emotionally unavailable mother. Isolation and sadness, emptiness. I feel those things again today and it’s very hard.

I wrote a list of words that just felt relevant to me today, they included the following words:

Missing

Longing

Sadness

Flat

Attachment

Connection

Emotional

Closeness

Attachment pain?

Mother wound?

Grief

Loneliness

Aching

Needing

Nurturance

So I think perhaps the feelings of sadness, aloneness, missing and longing are old feelings and in the here and now, they make me want to seek comfort and nurturance, connection and warmth. I want the familiar and genuine connection T offers me. I guess what I’m craving is “a mother”. MY mother but not my actual mother – it’s back to that fantasy mother I guess.

T provides me with some of the things I feel I need today and so I guess it makes sense for me to long for her in some ways – even if it’s not really her I need, but MY mother. The hole where my good enough mother should have been/be, but isn’t.

Days like this, times like this, being around lots of people makes me go stir crazy. I really struggle with that. I need time alone, I crave space and quiet. I need to cry or read or write or drink tea in a blanket. I struggle being “stepmum” and looking after the kids because I guess I’m triggered to a child like place myself and if I’m totally honest I think I struggle to be affectionate or enjoy them because it taps into the lack I had/have. I know that’s not what I should say or how I should feel but the words just came out so I’m sure they must be true.

It makes me angry. Perhaps my anger is hiding my sadness? Either way I couldn’t cope this morning and so guess where I am as I type this on my phone? I’m in my car. My lovely new car. I decided to grab a flask of tea, my psychologies magazine, my “Dear Daughter of a Narcissistic Mother” book, my make up bag(?) and off I went. I have only driven to the local park where I’ve parked up with the heating on and I’ve put my make up on, I’m listening to the radio and the snow is gently falling. I feel so calm now. Nothing like 45 minutes ago where I could have exploded from all the various emotions I wrote about above.

There’s some guilt that I shouldn’t be hiding in my car on my own and that I should be with my fiancé and the kids but I need to look after myself too, right? And what good am I to any of them in the state I was in earlier?

I feel so mean saying this but this is my happy place right now. I’m so at peace right now. I’m warm, I have my tea, I’ve kicked off my Ugg boots and am sitting cross legged (I’m small!), sipping my tea and typing out all these feelings which gives me such a release. I could stay here for hours if I didn’t feel like I should be with them.

I’ve read many articles which say in order to heal you need to internalise the good enough mother (so T) and that you learn to mother yourself and you learn to soothe yourself. I wonder in times like this whether the longing for comfort and closeness will ever go – right now it feels unlikely. I know I’ve been able to calm myself a bit, I’ve been able to give myself a little bit of space and I do understand that is progress… but I would still just like to be looked after if I’m honest. What I would like is for a really tight hug from a caring and kind mother. I would like to be a little girl for the day and not the adult. I hate that I’ve missed that chance and that I’ll never get that again.

I’m grieving that chance I suppose and I’m craving closeness and connection to make that pain more bearable when perhaps I just need to learn to tolerate it and let it pass?

Heinz Kohut – Self-Psychology

Last night I was reading and came across some information about a psychoanalyst, Heinz Kohut and his theory of “self-psychology”. I hadn’t heard of him/this theory before and I found it really interesting.

In very basic terms, Kohut believed that for a child d to develop healthily and therefore in order that a child gains a healthy sense of “self”, his or her parents need to meet 3 main needs:

  1. Mirroring
  2. Idealizing
  3. Twinship

Mirroring – This is where the parent (usually the mother) would reflect back at the child a sense that he or she is worthy, loved and special.

Idealiizing – Kohut believed that children need to idealize their caregiver and see them as powerful and knowledgeable. The child needs to feel as though they can turn to their caregiver to meet their needs and to help them make sense of their world. Their caregiver needed to be able to calm and reassure them.

Twinship – Kohut believed that children need to feel they fit in with others. They have a need to be similar to their parents – not too different that they felt “wrong”.  Children mimic behaviours or characteristics from their caregiver and gradually as the child matures, would be able to feel more comfortable with any differences.

I found this really interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, knowing that every single child needs to have these 3 basic needs met in order to gain a healthy sense of self reassures me a little more about my “neediness”.  What I mean by that is that my own neediness in life, and more relevantly, in therapy includes some of these needs. Mirroring is very clearly important to me and the idealizing is something that I am very aware of with my T. I do look at her as a special being in my life – as someone who is more powerful and more knowledgeable – more able to help me with my own anxieties than any other.  I guess the twinship plays out when clients wish they were the only client or the most liked client of their therapist.  Secondly I found this very interesting because it helps me to clearly see the areas my own mother didn’t successfully met my needs.  It helps me to understand what it was I needed, what I didn’t get and why I now feel insecure and crave certain things that perhaps others around me do not (making me feel “weird” or “different”) which obviously causes anxiety.

What happens if all goes well during this early stage is that the child’s needs are consistently and repeatedly met over a period of time and the child is able to internalise the caregiver (known as selfobjects) enough that on the odd occasion the caregiver fails to meet the child’s needs, the child has internalised this enough that it can actually step in and soothe itself. This can only happen if the misattunement is not often and not severe. This helps me to understand what my therapist really means when she says “you are only as needy as your unmet needs”. So, it really isn’t YOU! It really isn’t that you are doing something wrong, that you are fault or weak or whatever else you may think you are – it is very clearly that some of, or perhaps all of, these needs were unmet and so you haven’t been able to internalise that consistent caregiver that your friends have.  Bye bye now shame!!

In psychotherapy, transference is helpful because we relate to our therapist with all our unconscious thoughts, feelings and desires and we see and relate to the therapist through our own lense – not necessarily an accurate one. The therapist’s job is to provide us with an “corrective emotive experience” by providing us with enough empathy, understanding and attunement. The basic idea is that the therapist comes in as the good enough caregiver (selfobject) and provides us with a good enough experience of all those 3 major needs.  They mirror us adequately, we idealise them and our twinship needs are met also.  After this is done consistently enough, we internalise THE THERAPIST (as our caregiver failed) and therefore a healthy sense of self is borne – as it should have been all those years ago when for whatever reason, our caregiver failed us.

Mirroring transference – The therapist helps us by mirroring us – validating our feelings and empathising/understanding our feelings and helping us to understand and work through them to prevent them from being too scary for us to handle (as a child wouldn’t be able to handle their environment on their own). The therapist would praise our achievements and make us feel good enough – possibly for the first time.

Idealising transference – In therapy we often idealise our therapist as being strong and powerful and confident.  We NEED them to be this person because we need to know we are in safe hands.  Eventually in the therapy process, we come to develop a more realistic view of the therapist warts and all (like any human being). This causes ruptures in the therapeutic alliance which is then repaired repeatedly.  We learn we are safe.

Twinship transference – In therapy sometimes we will find similarities between us and our therapist and we will enjoy that feeling. I know for me personally, my T once told me that she also watched some of the same programmes as me and I really enjoyed that. I find myself wondering as I type this, if that is why I have such a keen interest in psychology and read so much into these theories? Am I trying to me like T? For others, perhaps you may enjoy a similar taste in clothes, politics, history etc. As our therapists disclose more of themselves, we find the similarities and feel more “normal” and accepted.  I assume this is why it can be so painful to find out things about our therapist that do NOT match us. It’s why our therapists don’t give too much away about themselves (although Kohut did not believe in the whole blank-screen thing as it wasn’t humane enough).

 

 

Anyway, there is more to say but this is about as far as I have read. I will continue to post my findings in the hope they help even one other person who is struggling in therapy right now with needs and vulnerability.

Any comments would be welcomed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.