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
Your intuition is strong about this July thing, and you have so much insight to see that it’s unresolved business. So it’s not going to just go away on it’s own I guess.
Sometimes I think we need therapy… about therapy! 😂
I’d want to start shutting down for self protection too, I can really understand that. But I also like your idea of showing this blog entry to E. have you ever sent it ahead of the session and asked that it be the topic when you meet up? Sometimes that works for me with Guy, but other times I need to read his face while he’s taking it in. It sometimes works for him to read it out loud when we’re together, but it can be easier to chase rabbits if we do that! Whatever you do I’m sure will be a good start. And I found myself so glad you got the holiday notice BEFORE broaching any of this, because had it been the other way around even I would have wondered if it was linked! 🙈 so at least that one is an impossibly.
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“We need therapy…about therapy!” Yes, we do! For the longest time, when E said something in therapy that kind of hurt my feelings or worried me or just felt like she didn’t get it, I never said anything. I felt I couldn’t–after all, she was so good to me. And anyway, I was too afraid to complain. What if she got mad and rejected me? So many fears!
But then we accidentally stumbled into a rupture which literally took months to mend (the one I might finally be ready to talk about, four years later). And we’ve had a few smaller ones since then.
Anyway, from these very painful experiences I have grown and gained a lot of confidence. From struggling to speak as honestly as possible about the hurt and the misunderstanding, without blaming my therapist for being a human being and therefore imperfect, as we all are, but also not blaming myself for having emotions besides only gratitude and appreciation, I have learned a lot about accepting myself and also allowing others to be real.
I think when we do deep work in therapy, it may be inevitable that we bump up against our therapist at some point, even if it’s only misunderstandings. We can choose, then, to ignore it (which I did many many times before ever saying anything), or we can choose to take a risk and speak up, and then if the therapist can handle that graciously and without becoming triggered herself or himself, there is a lot of potential for rich learning just in sorting things out.
Does that make sense at all? I guess I am saying, if we feel strong enough to risk it, therapy ABOUT the therapy relationship can teach us a lot about trust, acceptance, mending relationships and forgiving the people we love.
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Sounds like, although it’s anxiety-provoking, getting this 4-year rupture on the table and sorted once and for all will be a really healthy thing. I’ve read therapists talking about how they positively encourage clients to bring stuff up in real time like that, I’ve even had therapists encourage me to do exactly that here on WordPress! But like you, when you’ve got all your eggs in one basket therapeutically speaking, and have a history of people neglecting you and not doing you justice, it can be hard to expect any different from a therapist, just because they are human too!
So it all does make sense, I’ve teased Guy a few times about using him like my human guinea pig so I can test out my new tools on him!
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The self awareness and introspection you describe in this post is so powerfully important and vulnerable. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Sara, for your kind comment. It does feel a bit vulnerable to describe my internal raging toddler and her irrationality. But I’m coming to realize that we all have parts like that. We can’t let them run the show, but they do have a right to exist, and their pain deserves attention and soothing.
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Yes, so true. 💕
Ooof. I felt this. And it sounds like you’re listening to your intuition and trying not to judge yourself for your very real and valid feelings, which is awesome. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this.
Hey Empress, nice to see you again! And thanks for your understanding comment. I am, indeed, working hard to accept all my feelings, even the immature and kind of embarrassing ones. I’m learning I can acknowledge them even if I don’t allow them to determine my behavior (for example, by actually going over to E’s office and kicking her furniture and throwing her papers on the floor!).
Oh, but wouldn’t it feel AMAZING to barge in and kick the furniture and throw papers on the floor?? 😂 Here’s to accepting and not avoiding but not acting on embarrassing feelings! 🥂
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