Wanted, not needed, to go
Greetings dear readers,
First I want to say thank you to all of you who commented and read my last post (Therapy isn’t enough Redux) and all the support you offered. There was a lot of very wise insight offered, along with a lot of love and compassion, that helped me get through a very difficult passage. It was through reading all of your comments that I was able to go through the process of understanding my feelings and what was going on and through your support that I found the strength.
I had actually talked on the phone with a good friend of mine who had gently asked how I was feeling about my previous session? She has known me a long time and witnessed my many creative attempts to flee from BN, right after I had allowed myself to move closer and the intimacy to grow deeper. She pointed out that I had felt very close to BN and deeply cared for and in that past, that usually scared me. Evidently that dynamic is still alive and kickin’ and predictable. 🙂
The more I thought about it, the more it hit me just how intense the session before had been. One of the things that BN had commented on was that I was staying more present and moving through my feelings better. That he had seen me controlling my breathing and successfully fighting off dissociating to stay with the feelings coming up. Guess what else happens when I am more present? I can take in more of what is going on with BN. I continue to be amazed by the intense ambivalence I feel when I can see and feel how much he cares. Once, years ago, during a couples’ session, when BN was particularly moved by something my husband said, he very casually said, “I started to tear up, of course, AG could tell you how easily I cry.” I sat there stunned, thinking “wtf!? when?!? you cry?!? how would I know? how did I miss this? what else have I been missing?!?” I had told BN about it later in an individual session, but we didn’t go too deeply into it (I suspect because he knew I’d run out of the door screaming, not in a good way, and never come back. 😉 ) There was a particular event we were discussing in the last session, and I heard a real depth of pain in BN’s voice because he so immediately recognized the ramifications and resonances of the pain, on several different levels, that I experienced. I also palpably sensed his compassion and sorrow about the pain I was in. And then, when he was noting the growth in me, he truly was so excited and proud about my progress, which at the time, was really affirming and heartwarming. I was present enough for once, that my experience was undeniable (I can usually convince myself later that I made these things up because I wasn’t really present enough to experience them fully. Whoops, not this time.)
So my experience of the session was very affirming and left me in a much calmer space. But because I had experienced such a deep sense of connection and safety, it was also difficult to leave. And unconsciously, I think seeing BN’s feelings and care in such proximity triggered off an unconscious terror. And I think what followed was very deliberately, but unconsciously, done. Using my difficulty in leaving as an excuse, I reached out to BN by email, despite knowing calling was a much more reliable way to get a timely answer, because I wanted to create a failure on his part, some kind of disruption, and email was my best shot. And having him fail me would provide the excuse my oh so logical frontal lobe needed to do what my limbic system was already screaming at me “get out, get the hell out, this is dangerous.” I think Greeneyes pretty much nailed it in her comment, which I had already clued into due to my friend’s gentle prodding. GE’s comment provided the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. 🙂
So I went to see BN last Friday. Totally relaxed and very much looking forward to discussing this. HA! I was a nervous wreck. While sitting in his waiting room, I, of course, heard the client before me laughing, a really lovely laugh, the kind of laugh that makes you want to both befriend the person and know what they are laughing about. And the cadence and tone of BN’s reply (I cannot hear actual words and usually wouldn’t be able to hear what I did but no one had turned on the radio which is usually playing in the tiny waiting area) was familiar to me from our more intimate moments. Not a good week to hear how his relationships with other clients could also be intimate. I was very prepared to hate this woman, but when the door opened, it was obvious she had been seriously crying and been through a brutal session. And then our eyes met, and despite her obvious distress, she smiled at me. I felt terrible. How could I begrudge her BN’s care, which she obviously needed in the same way that I do. I really dislike feeling jealous of other clients, especially as I realize it’s because it is such a stark reminder of my place in BN’s life. Have I ever mentioned I don’t believe in coincidences?
I went in to the usual broad smile and warm welcome from BN. When I sat down, I told him I was very activated and scared and need a minute to calm down. Then I asked him if we had left it that he was not going to reply to my email when we spoke on the phone on Monday? BN was kind of unsure but said that he remembered me telling him that I felt better knowing that he had not seen the email. So I told him that my impression had been that he was still going to answer the email but had not been sure if I had told him not to answer because I was so upset on the phone. But that it had been a long hard week being upset about it and all the stuff that had gotten kicked up. I went on to explain all the stuff I said above about realizing how intense the last session had been, about my being more present and how I thought I unconsciously sabotaged the relationship to give me an excuse to move away.
I talked about my reaction when I got off the phone. The frustration of knowing I spent the weekend in agony, while he had put me up on a shelf for the weekend (btw, he told me later at the end of the appointment when I asked about a picture of his newest grandson, that they had been away to attend his grandson’s christening.) The anger and wanting to hurt him back, but realizing I had so little leverage. But I also knew that he needed to be able to put me up on a shelf. That his not needing me and having some detachment were necessary to doing the work. BN characterized it a little differently 🙂 as it being true that I wouldn’t always be at the forefront of his mind, but that it did not make the relationship disappear. But he didn’t want to dodge that it was true that I was not as important to him as he was to me. That the only time things got as intense on the therapist’s end was if something from their past was being triggered… and I chimed in and said and if they don’t manage their countertransference you have a real mess on your hands. And he told me, exactly, you have the understanding and vocabulary to describe that. He also told me that a lot clients won’t go there and that he appreciated my understanding the need for the boundaries and for the detachment.
We went back to discussing the yearning and I talked about how if I needed or wanted something from another person, then I was handing them the power in the relationship and they would use that power to hurt me. BN totally understood why I would believe that because that is what I experienced. I had one of those sudden cascades of connections. It hit me that I get so angry at BN because I am ashamed of needing him, but that my anger over my powerlessness with BN was really about how angry I was at my dad because I needed him and he used it to hurt me. And I was powerless to stop him from abusing me, to express my rage and to stop being drawn back by my needs. (BN actually seemed a little impressed over me making that connection. Or it was relief over me connecting the anger to my dad instead of him. 😉 ) BN talked about being able to experience a relationship in which my needs were not exploited to meet his needs, but were only attended to. That one of the things I was learning with him is that having a need was not in any way an invitation to be abused. And in a perfect loop back around, which was why it was so important he had clear boundaries that protected me, to prevent a re-enactment of him using me to meet his own needs.
I talked about how when I experienced his care and could sense his pain for me, that it was difficult because it provided me a glimpse of what I should have had. That I could sometimes hate him because he showed me exactly what I had lost. And that the yearning and longing for the impossible, to have had someone like him as my father, someone who would have protected me, was really painful in its own right. He very gently asked me what those feelings reminded me of? I told him it felt like going towards my father to get my needs met, only to be hurt again. BN told me that he totally understood the yearning for more than our relationship contained, because I was yearning for what I should have had, and there was nothing wrong with that. But that the pain that yearning evoked would send me back into the shame I used to feel about moving closer only to get hurt. He told me again, for about the 7000th time, that this was such a hellish part of the healing. That even feeling his care and my increasing safety would also increase my fear and sense of danger. Which was why it was so important that I come to him and discuss these feelings because it was the only way to break the sense of shame. That there was no need to feel ashamed of wanting to be closer to him, or enjoying feeling cared for and that talking about the feelings and having him welcome them and accept them is what would teach me that it was no longer dangerous to grow closer and that I, and my feelings, far from being shameful, matter. He talked again about how since we have started talking about my body and losing weight, and being noticed if I am losing weight and my sexuality, that shame had been a constant theme. That being seen, the way I had felt the session before, was going to trigger those feelings of shame. So it was important that we keep discussing these feelings. (are you getting a theme here? 🙂 )
We ended up discussing the problem which must not be spoken of for a bit, with me bringing him up to date on some happenings. As we drew near the end of the session, I realized that despite all we had said, I was still feeling apprehensive. So I told BN that I wasn’t sure that there was anything that he could do about it, but I needed to tell him that while I understood everything we had discussed about boundaries, that underneath I was feeling little and afraid that everything he said really meant he didn’t care and I wasn’t safe, that I still had to deal with how painful the yearning could be. BN was very gentle and told me he was really glad that I was willing to acknowledge that those feelings were still there and that he did not want me to hesitate to call him if I needed to connect or needed reassurance. His patience with these feelings and his ability to not take them personally (because really, let’s face it, on one level, he would have every right to rear back and be mortally offended that after all we’ve been through and how he has been available to me, how could I still question the relationship? From the standpoint of a “normal” relationship, he has more than proven himself) is incredibly healing. To have my longings, and fears, and anger and joys accepted and understood, no fuss, no muss, really does signal so strongly to me, that what I have always believed was impossible, is beyond all hope, true: All of me makes sense, is human and is acceptable. So its ok to acknowledge that all my parts and feelings are part of me and none need to be denied to make me “ok.”
So I am here to admit, a bit sheepishly I might add, that it was not time for me to leave, I was just fishing around for an excuse to. Thank you all for telling me I needed to go talk about this.
Quick status note: Things are becoming taxing again with the problem which must not be spoken of, and I am feeling a bit drained (I already had the bulk of this entry written, so I wanted to get it posted). I am dealing with a difficult flashback which also caused the shame floodgates to open, so there’s not a lot of energy to spare right now. I am seeing BN tomorrow, which hopefully will get me back on track, but I am open to possibly needing to take another break. But in either case, I am guessing my presence may be a bit curtailed for the next few days. I appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience.
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