Some part of me knew that July meant attachment danger, and it’s definitely shaping up that way.
I have been thinking back to therapy ruptures from past years, and I realize that my fear of causing a new rupture has prevented me from talking through what it felt like, how intense it was, what I learned, what E did that (I felt) made it worse, and what she did that was helpful. I started thinking, hm, that might be a good conversation to have. And maybe I’m strong enough to have it now.
Of course, I recognize that there are risks involved in opening up such a conversation. For one thing, dealing directly with attachment anxiety has never been the strongest part of our work together. I’ve seen that E sometimes backs away and starts intellectualizing things, just when I need her to stay warm, calm, and present. I wonder if it scares her, because the vulnerable child parts of me are asking for things she can’t give. Or maybe there is something else there I don’t fully understand. But I guess I’ve recently started hoping I could broach that, gently, and maybe avoid triggering us both. Maybe.
I did mention this to a friend I trust, and she thinks I may be setting myself up to be disappointed. She thinks that E does care about me, but if she could do these conversations well, we would have already discussed this. My friend may be right. She suggested that if it feels really important to me, maybe I could go into my Wednesday session telling E, “I would like us to consider talking through our past ruptures, especially the first one, because I think I am strong enough to tolerate that now, and I think there’s more I can learn from it and we as a team can gain from processing it. But not today. Let’s just consider this an opening for a future conversation.” Or something like that (it’s my paraphrasing of my friend’s less wordy suggestion).
So I’ve been thinking the past few days that I would do that tomorrow.
Then this afternoon I got an email from E, letting me know that she’s going on a three-week vacation in September and has to cancel our sessions for those weeks. For a second, my heart stopped.
What?!? No, wait! E, haven’t you noticed the world is shut down? Haven’t you noticed we live in the US, where everything is a giant COVID mess right now? You can’t go anywhere anyway! Just take some long weekends and go camping locally, for god’s sake!
My inner toddler is raging. I suppose she is sad too, but right now, it mostly feels likes she’s furious, stomping around my internal house, kicking the furniture (don’t worry, she has good shoes on, so she won’t stub her toes). She is yelling and throwing a lot of the papers off the table onto the floor. Why are you leaving me? she says. You don’t even care, do you? You don’t love me…
I know, that is, the adult part of me knows that E isn’t going to be gone for three weeks because she can’t stand me and wants to push me away from her. I realize that this pandemic is horrible for all of us, and it’s got to be a terrible burden on therapists, who are hearing, week after week, about all the ways that their clients’ lives are so much harder than usual. And I know E hates the online sessions at least as much as I do. I know she’s an extrovert who is having a hard time with the social distancing. And anyway, I believe it’s a healthy thing to take vacations. So the adult part of me gets it.
But fuck it, I really thought that she wasn’t going to take one this year because no one can go anywhere anyway. I convinced myself that this year was “safe.” And even though we’ve been meeting less often (once a week since mid May, after years of twice a week), I have been leaning in and taking emotional risks and really trusting her. After all, I was even on the verge of talking openly to her about what our ruptures have felt like.
Now I am torn. Part of me wants to run and grab her close and say, Don’t abandon me, please, don’t go! Another part of me wants to close up, at least part of the way, hold her at more of a distance, and try not to care.
I won’t do the former, because 1) it’s humiliating and 2) it violates social distancing and would freak her out. I might do the latter, as a protective mechanism. If I’m feeling really strong tomorrow, maybe I’ll go in and just tell her everything I just wrote in this post. We’ll see.
CREDIT: Photo by Leandro Mazzuquini on Unsplash