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.

 

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Separation Anxiety: A Letter To T

Dear T,

Yesterday afternoon I found myself re-reading an old blog called “An Hour Is Never Enough“. I sent that blog to you back in June and we spent an entire session talking about it. Whilst reading it again,  I found myself crying and feeling the same (clearly that is why I went looking for it).

I wish that I could find the words to help you to understand how I am feeling but I can’t, it is really confusing. At first I wanted to write and say that I felt like I was just missing you, but something doesn’t quite feel right with that word. I can’t miss you because I had only been gone for a few hours.

I thought that perhaps it was because I just didn’t want to leave my session. I was enjoying my session and I felt very warm inside.

When I let myself cry at home, I got such a pang in my chest. I’ve written that before, it is a feeling I can never articulate very well but it always comes back when I am crying about loss somehow. When I nearly quit therapy when I lived in [    ], I remember vividly crying on the bathroom floor and having that same pain.  I keep thinking about losing my Thursday sessions and wondering how the hell I will cope without them if I was crying having seen you twice this week already.

I wrote a blog yesterday about how it must be because I hadn’t “had enough” yet which is another thing I’ve written about and told you about before, but since then I have come to realise that it is actually a bit more complicated than that. It’s almost as if the fact I felt so connected to you yesterday/recently is what is hurting me.  That is the only way I can explain it.

I wrote about the feelings I got when I was first dating [   ] and he would leave my flat to go home or to spend the weekend with the children. I would be in bits within seconds or minutes of him leaving. I would cry so much. I would yearn for him to be back and I hated it. I would be preoccupied with him and the only thing that helped in that time apart was that we had constant text messages and he would tell me that he missed me or that he loved me.  The pain feels very similar to that but obviously the attachment with you is different – the pain is the same though.  Does that make any sense at all?

A lady whose blog I follow wrote this (Life In A Bind):

“I wish I could email my therapist. Sometimes you just want to reach out to the person your heart feels safe with. Not even for a reply or an acknowledgment, but to be received and wrapped in thought.  You know that it will pass. That you will talk about it tomorrow. But right now she is the only person you feel intimately connected to. And you miss her, very much.  I wish that I could say: “I’m crying, and you make me feel safe ; I just wanted you to know”.

And that summed it up for me so well. I also know “it will pass” and that I can talk to you about it next week, but that doesn’t seem to help much. I acknowledge the huge amounts of shame that I am feeling about all of this. I try to tell myself its the child feelings and not the adult which makes me feel a little less pathetic (I can hear you saying “don’t do that to yourself” as I type that)!

I understand why I might be feeling sad and as though I am missing being there with you, I can understand that to a point.. but I can’t understand why getting what I’ve always wanted and needed can hurt so much at the same time. That doesn’t make sense and that feels so cruel and unfair.

If I have always wished I had someone (a mother) who was warm, attuned, who cared about me, who tried to “get me”, who I could talk to, laugh with etc.. then why, when I get those needs met do I leave feeling such heartache?