Feelings can be irrational: Example #637


Preface:This is going to be a bit of gloom and doom as I am in the middle of doing some fairly heavy processing of which this post is a part. When I am doing this kind of work the past rides close, which means that I will be struggling with bad feelings about myself. I know they’re not all, or even most of them, true. I also have a number of lovely friends and my husband who have been supporting me through this with care, kindness and love. So don’t take the gloom too seriously. Yes, this is not fun, but it’s also not insurmountable or unbearable and I am not alone in facing it.

This has been a really long crappy week. I’ve been dealing with a couple of different situations in which I’ve had to work very hard to keep my boundaries clear, work very hard to examine myself to sort out my own stuff and in most of the situations draw a hard boundary which has either not gone over well or has left me feeling like I’m kicking puppies or even worse, becoming my father. At one point this week I was actually wondering if someone had hung a sign somewhere on my person that said “please tell me what a crappy human being I am.” Since I am quite capable of doing that on my own more often than I would like, I honestly could have done without the assistance. 🙂

In the midst of this I have managed to stumble into a massive rupture with BN. To make it even more painful, it is mostly of my own making. Our last session was a very good one. BN helped me to understand some deep triggers that were occurring in a difficult interaction, one in which I was questioning and second guessing my motivations and whether I had handled thing correctly. It involved my having to make a difficult decision in an area in which I exercised authority. I was really struggling with feeling comfortable with the decision I had made, which was even more complicated by the fact that a friend for whom I have a deep respect was concerned about the decision. We had a very open, respectful, considerate talk about it which helped both of us, but I went to the session still not completely sure.

My husband and I had been in for a couples’ session the week before that had not gone well, at least for me. My husband and I had decided to go get some help dealing with our weight, which we’re not happy about from a health standpoint. My weight problem has been of long-standing duration and was actually what drove me to start therapy 26 years ago. But I have somehow managed to dodge ever facing it head on. (Side note: I am close to certain that giving up my coping mechanism of stuffing down unwelcome feelings with copious amounts of food is contributing to my present difficulties). At the end of our first session with BN about the topic (our first couples’ session in a year and a half) we had covered a lot of basics but near the end of the session BN had brought up shame. So when we went to the second couples’ session, I was acutely aware I did not want to do this.  I am profoundly uncomfortable discussing my body and my weight. So we’re sitting in session and BN and DH are chatting calmly away and I’m sitting there looking calm but inside my head is a little voice SCREAMING “this is horrible, I am so uncomfortable, I can’t do this, it’s too embarrassing, can I run out of the room and exit the building before they realize?” It was like watching the gauge go up on a pressure cooker. When it redlined, I just suddenly exploded into words, and said “this is horrible, I am dealing with a huge amount of shame and I want to flee.” So BN, being the sharp crayon he is 🙂 focused in on me. We spent the rest of the session discussing my sense of shame, with me NOT happy about being the only mess in the room. At one point, I actually came close to screaming at both of them that my DH sat there calmly and BN sat there all detached (please picture a lot of arm waving and vehement pointing) and why was I the only one who had to be a hot mess?!?? And here I was making it all about me! Again!  BN was really good and very reassuring but I really wasn’t having it. (OK I was behaving like a three-year old having a tantrum. And I may be insulting three-year olds.)

So I had a week to brood before my next individual session. In processing what happened, I connected to a deep sense of humiliation. So I started out the session by telling BN I needed to discuss the situation again (we had talked previously about it) but that I had also connected to these deep feelings of being humiliated and I had no idea how but the two felt connected. As we explored it, the memories surfaced in me of how I could feel humiliated by BN because of his detachment but I realized that he had NEVER humiliated me, I had just felt ashamed in front of him. That the sense of being humiliated was really about my father (NO! A feeling about BN that turned out to be about my father?!? I was shocked, shocked I tell you!). That I hated how humiliated I felt, how angry I got about it and that there was a deep desire to be my father so I could have humiliated him and hurt him so he could know what it felt like. This was neither an easy or welcome realization. I actually reached for the trash can, because I was close to being physically ill. BN did reassure me that I did not want to be my father, I just wanted enough power to enable me to stop the abuse.  And then  BN made a very powerful connection that deeply resonated with me. My exercising authority was triggering me into feeling as if I was behaving like my father, abusing my power to humiliate someone. As soon as we made the connection, it actually became clear I had not done that at all. I had sought good counsel, I had worked hard to examine myself and in the end, in good conscience, made a decision in the best interests of all involved. We talked about how you could never be certain, and that sometimes you could get it wrong, but you had to do the best you could with what you were able to be conscious of at the time.

So at the end of the session, I felt a LOT better and much more clear. I made an appointment for two weeks out (April 24th). But the sense of connection and well-being slipped away really quickly. I was having trouble hanging on to a sense of the connection, which honestly hasn’t happened in a long time, at least not this intensely. As I struggled with why I was feeling this way, I realized I had this nagging feeling that something had shifted between BN and I, that the relationship had changed but I honestly couldn’t tell if I was picking up on something real or projecting my own fears. After wrestling for a couple of days, on Thursday I emailed BN to ask if I could get in the following week instead of waiting two weeks, planning on asking him about the feeling. I know he wouldn’t talk about his feelings or what was going on, but he would be honest with me if I WAS picking up on something (he has done so in the past when I’ve done reality checking).

I think I have mentioned this before, scheduling does not seem to be BN’s strong suit. It can sometimes take days to hear back about an appointment and in the past, he has not responded because he doesn’t have an appointment to offer. So I very carefully worded the email, telling him I wanted to get in earlier if possible, could he respond to me either way and let me know if it was yes or no, and I wanted to keep the appointment on the 24th in either case. I got an email back that evening which said he had gotten my email, he would email as soon as he knew and thanks for my patience. So I waited. I knew his schedule well enough that I didn’t expect to hear from him until Monday or Tuesday of this week. I hit Wednesday and still nothing.

Remember how at the beginning I said that this rupture was mostly of my own making? I had an emotional pattern that we had identified early on in our work; (I think it was actually in couples’ work before I even saw him individually) my pattern of being so scared to express my feelings, that I would hold them in with everything in me, until they built up and they burst forth with the scorching heat  of a 1000 burning suns, catching EVERYONE off guard with their intensity, including me. I’ve done a HUGE amount of work in this area and really haven’t done that in a long time. Until, you guessed it, this week. When I finally called on Wednesday and BN returned my call, I exploded all over the poor man. Turned out that he thought he had already told me an appointment wasn’t available in his original email. He apologized when I told him it hadn’t and was very non-defensive. But I was really upset. So I ended with a very stern demand that on the 24th we needed to find a better way to handle appointments because I couldn’t stand ending up in this place again.

After we got off the phone, and I had calmed down a bit, and replayed the call in my head, I realized BN had sounded genuinely shocked. One of the things I had told him was that when I read “thank you for your patience” that even though I know he didn’t mean it that way (as if that made a difference! :)) what I heard was “please just wait to hear from me and don’t nag me about the appointment.” I HATE having to do a follow-up call asking for an appointment because I already feel like a gaping, insatiable, maw of need because I asked for one in the first place. On the other hand, BN has gone blue in the face telling me not to hesitate to call, even to the point of telling me that his phone system is set up in a such a way that a reply is more reliable. So during the call, he had told me that it’s always ok to call, that when I realized I was upset, it would have been fine to call. Which is when I realized that if I had just called when I realized it was bothering me I hadn’t heard back, we probably would have had a very calm talk, discovered the mix up and it really wouldn’t have been a big deal. He had also mentioned being very busy (which actually has been happening a lot recently.) Which is when I realized I had fallen back into my explosion pattern.

I knew I didn’t have to apologize for getting angry, but I didn’t like the way I handled my anger. So I ended up emailing an apology to BN that evening explaining that. I did not expect a response and ended with “see you next Tuesday.” But within about ten minutes of sending it, I realized that I had just put myself back in the exact place I had just exploded on the phone to get OUT of. Wondering whether or not I would hear back from BN. At which point I thought, ok, what am I getting out of this, what am I trying to recreate by emailing, why won’t I call? Decided I really needed to examine that at our next session.

I woke up the next morning. If BN emails in the morning, it’s usually between 8 and 8:30 before his first appointment. I checked my email around nine o’ clock and was really surprised to see a reply from BN at 8:37 (a sure indicator he was running late, which means he probably thought it was important that I get a response.) And I thought, that’s really nice, he didn’t need to do that, and opened the email expecting some reassurance that the apology was accepted and we were fine. Gentle readers, it was a ONE word email. It said “thanks.” Just for the record, there are an almost endless number of possibilities for the tone in which you can hear “thanks” uttered, some of which were the furthest thing from reassuring. Those, of course, were the tones I made a beeline towards. And I was already struggling with the feeling something was “off.”

I went into complete attachment freak out meltdown. I was certain he was beyond annoyed with me, and heartily wished I would just disappear. I ended up talking to a friend and realizing I needed to call. That this fear was just me dealing with childhood fears, and that a phone call would put it right. We always do well on the phone. So I called his answering service and left an emergency message. He returned my call about 15 minutes later (almost past the time I would have expected a return call, he was even further behind then when he had emailed me that morning). I told him I was pretty sure it was coming from me, but that I was feeling very scared about our connection and needed to make sure we were ok. He said “yes, we’re fine” and then I said, “so you’re not angry with me” to which he replied “nope” and I said Ok, and he said “take care, goodbye.” I checked my cell and the call had lasted 27 seconds. Yes, less than half a minute. Now usually when I was in that kind of state, BN would have checked in with me to make sure I was ok before getting off the phone or been more affirming. So yes, this was when the bottom REALLY dropped out. Because now I had called him and had no where else to go.

My frontal lobe when off-line. My higher cognitive functions disappeared and suddenly it took the kind of concentration you’d apply to solving a particularly difficult ballistics problem in order to call a friend. I was in a dissociative state the like of which I had not experienced for years. Thursday was NOT a good day. A series of friends picked me up and carried me through the day. And when my husband got home, he was really lovely. When I explained what was going on, he was very quick to reassure me that he thought BN was just busy and my fears were unfounded. Which was good because at that point I had worked myself into believing that I had done the impossible and exceeded even BN’s legendary patience, that he was going to talk to me about terminating on Tuesday. Yes, my better sense told me this was just my fear, but my amygdala was being very counter productive, running around in circles, screaming “aaaaahhhh aaaaahhhh aahaahhhh.” Makes it hard to think.

I went to bed early, took a 1/2 Xanax (which I occasionally use as a sleeping aid and seemed even more appropriate at this time) and got a good night’s sleep. By the time I woke up this morning, I had achieved a sense of stability so that I could get through to next Tuesday when I see BN. I was also immensely helped by an email from a dear friend who had generously used part of her own session to ask her therapist about what I was going through and sent some very reassuring feedback. So I decided not to send the email I had written telling him I had hit my breaking point and could go no further and was leaving therapy. (Yes, I feel like a Class A drama queen, but there it is.) Near the end of the day, I ended up coming here and reading my posts about the “L” word and the subsequent appointments, because it has felt like things haven’t been quite right since I brought up the whole subject of BN loving me. As I read through my posts, I realized that we’ve had a lot of disruptions lately, ones that involved me being angry at BN. I had gotten angry over him not reading the blog, we had another mix up about appointments which led to a less than stellar reply from him when he was on vacation, to which I send a really snippy reply, something I’ve never done before. I had confronted him about saying he had a standing appointment, when years before he told me he doesn’t do them. I had yelled at him and DH in the couples session. I was starting to see a pattern.

I got home from work and took the dog for a walk. It was a really nice day, 80 degrees and sunny, and my husband was still at work, so I had some time to really reflect. I went back through that list of disruptions and realized I’ve been angry a lot lately (an emotion I am still working on getting comfortable with, especially in regards to BN.) As I thought about why I was angry, I realized it was coming from a very young place. So I decided to allow it to come a little closer to see what it was about.

Please now refer to the title of this post: feelings can be irrational. Because this is what I realized. I am angry at BN, actually I’m furious at BN, possibly enraged, for two reasons. The first of which is that he is insisting on continuing to be my therapist. Every time I move closer, every time I acknowledge the depth and reality of the relationship- and it doesn’t get more real than admitting there’s really love involved- I run up against my desire to get everything now I didn’t get then. So how dare he continue to just be my therapist? And then I realized the second thing:  I was angry at him because he wasn’t my father. Why wasn’t he fixing this, damn it?!? He totally understands the problem, so why wasn’t he just MAKING IT RIGHT and becoming my father. Yes, gentle readers, I am grappling with the fact that my beloved therapist is not a magician, wizard or miracle worker, nor is he perfect. They did not issue him a magic wand when he graduated. He is actually human. And I am angry at him for being merely human and not the idealized amazing creature I thought he was for so long. It’s why I’ve been getting so angry at these small failures, they are rubbing my nose, in fact my whole head, in the fact that he is human. Only a man, doing his best, which let’s face it, is pretty damn impressive, to help me heal. But he’s human and that means he’s not going to fix everything and turn into my father and make all the pain go away.

I am hoping, fervently hoping (but knowing I probably hope in vain) that this is the last time I have to pry open the tiny clutching fingers of my inner four-year old AG and let go of the hope. It should be an interesting session on Tuesday, where BN will be what I do not want him to be, but very much need him to be, my steady, consistent, trustworthy therapist with his clear boundaries and firm grasp on his own human limitations

  1. Starrynights
    April 21, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I’m sorry AG, but this was incredibly touching and real. I feel for you, because I totally get what you’re saying about darn BN for being human and not the therapist-god he ought to be, and darn him for not just FIXING everything instead of making me struggle to figure out what he already knows I too have vacillated between loving my T and being so mad at him I could scream. ~ then quickly hug him, of course, not that he would ever let me! But through the anger, I recognize my frustration with myself and my past, and feel gratitude that this dear man respects me and his ever-steady boundaries enough to let me come to truth and healing as I’M ready, not as he decides for me. (As we’re raising our kids, how much easier would it be to just tell them everything and spare them the hardship of having to learn some things on their own, right?)

    Anyway, I’m sorry that you’ve had this rift, but I’m betting some breakthrough is on the horizon, and in the meantime, you’ve written yet another post that has really touched my heart and shown me that I’m not alone.

    Thank you for opening your heart to us, especially after the challenging week you went through.
    Hoping you feel hugged,
    Starry

    Like

    • April 21, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      ((((Starry))) Thank you for telling me it touched your heart. I honestly almost didn’t publish it because writing it felt more like I was trying to sort through and figure out what was going on with me. Still am, and will hopefully understand even more after my session on Tuesday. So it’s good to know that someone else found it helpful. It’s a messy, painful journey, and so many longings that we have held for so long come to light. But it’s in these struggles that we learn who we are. Thanks for the hugs. 🙂

      AG

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  2. Little Blond Girl
    April 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    I have to think your feelings aren’t all that irrational – if you think of yourself as a child. And because I’m struggling with the exact same thing myself these days (I’ve even used the term “attachment freak-out” more than once over the last couple of weeks!). I am angry about all the boundaries. I am angry/hurt because how dare he tell me that he would like to have me as a daughter and then not make it happen – because if I could just have that, it would fix everything wouldn’t it? (okay, it wouldn’t – but as he keeps reminding me – I’m six – it’s not all rational!). And he tells me that to get angry about the boundaries would be good (because it just doesn’t feel okay to get angry with him). So I wish you a healing session on Tuesday. I will be struggling with talking about my anger about all the things I can’t have on Tuesday and I’m sure many more days into the future…

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    • April 21, 2012 at 10:37 pm

      LBG,
      Thanks for that insight, you’re right, this feels very young. It’s the cry of young child who expects that mommy and daddy can fix ANYTHING. And what you said “because if I could just have that, it would fix everything wouldn’t it?” is so very familiar. I can get so wrapped up in wanting PAST the boundaries that I don’t really know what it is I want. And then I hit the painful realization that what I am longing for, whatever it is, would still not be enough. It’s finding that balance between allowing these feelings in, but then recognizing reality. Getting angry at the boundaries has been very helpful for me (not sure how much fun that’s been for BN :)) because getting angry at BN’s boundaries was what allowed me to realize how angry I am at how I was treated as a child and the things I did and didn’t get; it allowed me to access a lot of long-buried feelings. I hope both of us have healing sessions on Tuesday. Thank you.

      AG

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  3. True North
    April 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    I very much agree with the conclusions you reached when examing why you have been so angry with BN lately. I’d like to add another thought here. This is something I do and have done more than once with my T (who is very much like BN). When I move closer to him and things seem as if they should be going even better than previously… that is when I become the most angry at him. I look for anything to fight with him over. To be able to push him further away with my anger and my bad attitude and behavior. I have literally walked in there thinking I’m so lucky to have him and with a card for him in my purse. I give him the card which expresses a lot of my feelings for him and I then proceed to be angry with him for the rest of the session and for a number of sessions afterward. It’s one of the lovely side effects of disorganized attachment.

    Maybe all those conversations you have had with BN lately talking about love has triggered those feelings of “danger” and you are looking for reasons to push him away so you can stay safe (although that is an illusion).

    I wish you a very good connecting and healing session on Tuesday.

    Like

    • April 25, 2012 at 11:27 am

      TN,
      If you read my post “Bookends” you can sit back and enjoy feeling smug for awhile, as I do believe you were absolutely correct that I was trying to push him away. Being closer, admitting it really was love, was scaring me so much that I was desperately looking for a reasons to get the hell out of dodge. You talk just like someone who graduated summa cum laude. 🙂

      AG

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  4. Kashley
    April 22, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I thought I posted something, but I guess it didn’t work. Anyway, I was just saying that it’s really admirable to watch you work through this struggle. Knowing the ins and outs of patterns that were formed so long ago and from things that were dissociated away is like learning to navigate in the dark just by feeling for the walls and corners and steps. It’s so hard! So I feel honored to be able to see how you work your way through all of it and hope I can eventually do the same.

    I hope these next few days pass quickly and that you’re able to have a connected session and get a little closure.

    Like

  5. April 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Hi Kashley,
    Nice to see you here on the blog! Thanks for reading and commenting. I think you’re description of navigating in the dark is very apt, that’s exactly what it’s like, especially if you add in that someone is slowly add bits and pieces of architecture as you go along! It’s slow, hard work and often only really makes sense in retrospect. But the further along you get, and clearer a sense of your story you develop, the easier it gets to move forward. It’s work that progressively builds on its own progress.

    AG

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  6. Cat's Meow
    July 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Thank you for writing this. It was partially through reading this post and the following that I was able to find the clarity and courage to email my t, telling her exactly how quickly go to a place of being being certain that I am about to be rejected because I am too needy/ intense/ horrible/ damaged/ whatever and she has finally gotten disgusted with me. The rational part of me (most of the time) understands that she just doesn’t operate that way, but the deeply hurt child still doesn’t get it. It astounds me just how deeply the shame runs- to my very core. Now that I told her that this is going on, I have committed myself to talking about it at our next session. I am so embarrassed to talk about something that I feel that I “should” know better about, but not talking about it was going to disrupt my ability to trust her at the level that I need to. And, frankly, I deserve having the experience of having someone reliable in my life.

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