Therapy session today–ah, at last, after three weeks off. It felt great to see E again, even better because I’m in a good space emotionally, and I was able to share some nice stories about the holidays, my family, and the experience of having seven 25-year-old men staying at my home for the past week.
(An aside, to explain the seven 25-year-olds: this includes my son, two of his college roommates, Lawrence and Alain, Alain’s Australian boyfriend Ted, Alain’s co-worker at a television production company in New York, and two of Alain’s closest friends from high school. My son and Alain were roommates for three of their four years at New York University, and over time, that meant my son became friends with some of Alain’s friends from Virginia. Meanwhile, some of my son’s best friends from high school also visited him when he lived in New York. So over time, there are these two intersecting circles of friends from the east and west coasts. And you know what? They are an amazing group of young men. One is a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, working to ban fracking. One works for a non-profit in DC on policy issues related to solar power. One volunteered in South America to work on water rights for indigenous people. They are smart and dedicated and funny. They give me hope for the future. I wanted to share that, to maybe give you some hope, too.)
Back to today’s topic, today’s therapy session.After I told her about the holidays, and that I’m feeling better than I have in a long time, I said, “I also wanted to share something from my blog with you. I meant to send it to you this morning, but I got busy and didn’t get around to it. Is it okay if I read it to you?”
So I pulled up on my phone the post I wrote a few days ago, about allowing myself to feel anger at her, even though I knew it was unreasonable. I wanted to share this because 1) we’d been working on my ability to recognize and feel emotions; and 2) because it’s the first time I really felt a “negative” emotion, like anger, and didn’t try to talk myself out of it. It’s new, and it felt important.
At the same time, I didn’t want to provoke some defensiveness in her. I deliberately didn’t send her the post last night, because I worried that the parts about her not responding to me in a timely fashion might trigger some of her “bad therapist” voice in her head. (She has told me that she gets this sometimes when she feels she’s made a mistake.) I know, I’m not responsible for her feelings, but I also didn’t have any urgency to share the post, so I thought I’d wait until today. I felt if we talked about it together, she would get it. She would understand that I knew my emotions were unreasonable but was trying to respect them anyway. I was trusting her to handle hearing about my unreasonable anger without being thrown off.
When I got to the part about realizing I was mad at her, I paused to look up at her and say, “Don’t worry–really! Just wait…” She just smiled and didn’t interrupt as I went on.
I read the whole thing aloud, then waited for her reaction. And it was everything I hoped for. She could see right away that it was a good thing. It was good I realized what I felt–what a part of me felt, a young part whose fear of being unseen and unimportant was triggered. And it was especially good that I didn’t try to chase those feelings away or to shame myself for having them. She loved that I heard that little girl and allowed her to be mad, in fact to stay mad as long as she needed to.
E also noticed, happily, that I had expressed confidence that she and I would be fine together again, once we saw each other. Whatever anger I’d felt (which was long gone anyway), and whatever distance there had been because of the break, I’d trusted that our connection would be solid.
“That’s right,” I told her. “I was able to trust it would be okay, because you have shown me, over and over, that it was. I’m so grateful.”
I talked some about the trust I felt in her, and also some of the ways I’ve grown because of our work together. Then she told me, with tears in her eyes, that I’ve also affected her, taught her things and influenced the way she works with other clients. This surprised me. “But I’m glad of it,” I told her, “because I know I’ve put you through some hard times.”
She laughed, “Well, I’ve put you through some hard times, too, I think. This work isn’t easy.”
This session just validated my deep trust in her, that she could hear about my anger and understand that it was healthy growth and not a condemnation of her. It felt like a sweet way to start off our 2018 work together.