Nothing wrong all along

Ann left a comment on my last post:

AG, if you don’t mind sharing, what exactly helped you recognize that BN was totally comfortable with your relationship with him?

Instead of answering in the comments, I thought I’d write a post about my last session instead. So my thanks to Ann for providing inspiration. 🙂

I know I have been speaking about my work with shame recently, but in some ways my work has always been about shame. BN and I have recognized a pattern, often discussed, since the beginning of my work with him. I was worried I had manipulated my way into working with him (which is actually pretty funny in retrospect as manipulating BN would take someone a lot smarter than me 🙂 ), that I had no right to be there, that I had been there too long, that I was too much and too demanding, that I was too dependent and too needy. I’m sure you’re catching a theme here. I found reason after reason why I shouldn’t be seeing BN.

And if I felt guilty about seeing him, that is nothing compared to how I felt about the feelings that I have for him; the neediness, the attraction, the paternal longings. Having such deep feelings about someone I do not know wholly and with whom I am in a fiduciary, professional relationship caused me to cringe. The feelings felt humiliating, wrong, dangerous, you name it. I remember very early on, nearly the first time I ever discussed my feelings of attraction for BN, him asking me how did I feel about feeling this way? (A question only a therapist would ask. 😀 )I looked at him stunned, because to me it seemed so blindingly obvious that how I felt was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I mean he was my marriage counselor, how stupid (and horrible) that I was developing feelings of attraction to him. He told me that some people find comfort from these kinds of feelings. I have told him many times since, including last session, that he might as well have been speaking Russian for all the sense that made to me. If I am honest, I think my reaction was along the lines of “are you out of your blinking mind?!?” I was so worried about the relationship vis-a-vis my marriage vows that I actually sought out an older, wiser woman whose values I share and whose judgment I trusted, to see if she thought it was wrong to continue working with BN, as well as being open with my husband about how I was feeling. So I think we can say with some degree of certainty that there has been a sense of discomfort surrounding my relationship with BN. The same way water is a little damp. 🙂

So I went to my session and talked to BN about everything in my last post. The mixed feelings surrounding my mother refusing to have a relationship and all the shame that was being triggered. It was nothing earth shattering but BN listens while I talk through all the feelings about my mom, and him and other people in my life and he truly understands what it is like for me. He very gently told me that when these thoughts of being a terrible person or my fear that I have been blind to my own selfishness (other stuff was also being discussed) come up that is my shame speaking and it’s not true. That it has not been his experience with me and if I stop to think, it really doesn’t fit with what I know of myself. But he does it with an immense amount of compassion and understanding of why I would feel that way. He really got how my mom’s rejection is triggering all of my “not good enough” and “I’m unlovable” messages.

I have recently been facing some of my less than pretty parts lately in therapy and areas in my life that I am finally able to tolerate seeing where I have not been the person I would have wished to have been. One of those had been mentioned, very casually, in the middle of something else BN had told me in our previous session. I told him that I had been wondering how long he had waited to talk about that issue (and that I knew he couldn’t until I could see it for myself). It felt like he might have been sitting across from me all this time thinking how terrible I was. That becoming more conscious of my behaviors was making me look back over my life and that while I knew I shouldn’t slip over the edge into shame, I was also realizing that I may have seen myself as better than I was to protect myself. I worry that I was more self-centered and selfish than I realized… and he interrupted me and told me that this was the shame and when I was feeling it, that I felt like such a terrible person that it would feel like anyone behaving as if they believe anything else about me must be lying. Then he said this drawn out, really gentle no and told me it’s not the truth. But he realized that his saying that would feel like he is lying and therefore, the relationship is not real and cannot be trusted. You can see where emotionally it’s a Catch-22 where I lose either way.

I had a very intense reaction to something that BN had said at our previous session. We were discussing the relationship with my dad and BN said something that in retrospect was quite obvious: that I was ashamed of the relationship with my father. This went straight through me and felt like an explosion in my chest. Through all these years as I have healed and struggled with shame, it was always centered on me, on what I felt myself to be, on what I had done, but I had never thought about in terms of how I felt about the relationship with my father. So it hit me with an explosion of clarity, that I was literally ashamed of how I felt about my father, not just about what happened between us. I returned to this again last session since I had time to think about how that had impacted me. He repeated something from last week, that an event had triggered off feelings of my and BN’s relationship being illicit and something of which to be ashamed, but the truth is our relationship has been corrective and a safe place for me to learn that I didn’t need to be ashamed. The relationship is a safe place where ALL of my feelings, no matter what they are, can be safely heard. While I was listening to BN, it impinged upon me in a visceral way that BN knows exactly what our relationship means to me and he’s not only comfortable with my feelings, he thinks it’s a good thing I feel that way.

And that’s when the realization hit me. I had been ashamed of the relationship with my father and that had so clearly spilled over into my feelings about the relationship with BN (can anyone say transference? Funny how most major breakthroughs in therapy have a “D’oh!” quality about them. 🙂 ). With that realization came the memory of how much shame I experienced in all of my early attachment relationships. So much so, that any time my attachment mechanisms get activated – so any time I move closer or form an emotional connection or have someone attend to my needs – it always comes with a sense of doing something shameful. So even when I am having perfectly healthy, reasonable feelings and having them met in a completely legitimate manner, I still feel ashamed. And that flash of insight gave me enough space between me and my feelings of shame to realize that they’re not true. That there really is nothing wrong, and so much right, about my relationship with BN, especially as I can completely trust him to hold appropriate boundaries. So my feelings of neediness and being comforted by him and wanting to enjoy that I found him comforting… you get the picture… are really ok. I don’t have to be scared all the time that I am doing something wrong.

And near the end of the session, I told BN that I was feeling so clingy that the feeling of being an insatiable maw comes up … and he took over and said “so it feels like you’re going to ask too much and wear me out.” He told me it’s the shame again. I looked at him and told him that I keep walking into his office and expecting this will be the week he’ll look at me and say “I just can’t do it anymore, I just can’t keep acting like you’re ok, get out.” I said it was so insane that I could even think that. And he told me that he knows that I get that’s not going to happen, but the feeling is very real and he understands it.

So I left feeling very connected and feel myself “breaking in” the realization that there is nothing to be ashamed of here: not my need for BN or the pleasure I take in feeling cared for or the comfort and security I derive from knowing that I can depend on him. These are GOOD things. It feels like breaking in a new pair of shoes. It pinches in some places and doesn’t feel completely comfortable, but the realization is made of really high quality leather and I can tell that in time it will stretch to fit just right. So the shame isn’t gone, but it has a lot less staying power because I keep returning to what I now know is the truth.

  1. muff
    April 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Oh what a feeling to know, sense and feel total trust in our therapist?
    And after a childhood of shame, it seems we can do no wrong in our therapist eyes. To them, we are perfect. Aint that the way we should have been treated from our beginning?


    • April 29, 2014 at 10:54 am

      So true Muff. These are the feelings we should have had as children when we could have deeply woven them into our sense of ourselves. But better late than never is my attitude. 🙂


  2. muff
    April 28, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Our truth is all that matters AG.


    • April 29, 2014 at 10:55 am

      I do believe in truth with a capital “T” Muff, as I do believe there are truths larger than our perspectives, but our truth is the only one we know and colors how we live, so I take your point. 🙂


  3. MM
    April 28, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    AG – You are supremely blessed with your T! He is seriously a Transference Master among other things. Wow. He is really good.

    Your post came at the perfect time. I just came back from seeing my T and came home feeling too much & too needy. I talk about my transference sometimes, but I honestly think it scares the guy. I’m learning so much for your experiences. Thank you for being willing to share your ongoing story of growth & healing!


    • April 29, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Please know I am acutely aware of how blessed I am to have BN. He is not someone I would ever want to take for granted (especially knowning that there are so many people who would love to have a T like him). I am glad that reading here is helping you understand, especially since your T does not seem all that comfortable. BN has told me he was not as comfortable early on in his career. If your T is open to it and you think it might help, maybe ask him to read some articles here? Or I would highly recommend David Wallin’s Attachment in Psychotherapy which provides an excellent explanation of attachment injuries and how to handle them in therapy. ~ AG


  4. Ann
    April 29, 2014 at 9:31 am

    AG, your post is so poetic, yet clearly to the point. It is amazing how such a simple epiphany can rock your whole perspective! I understand the shame part of attachment. I remember wanting to ask about something pertaining to sex, but always felt it was wrong to ask a male therapist and felt it was disloyal to my husband. I finally asked my T why it wasn’t disloyal to talk about my husband and sex to him. I liked his answer. He said as long as I didn’t get aroused talking about it there was no problem! Huh? I was so ambivalent about talking about personal sex questions, I couldn’t image feeling anything but shame. That opened the door for me to explore my question. I guess some women enjoy setting themselves up for rejection (by trying to seduce their T), but it would never enter my mind to try to get off on talking about sex with my T. Shame, yes. Arousal, no. Anyway, like you, I just needed very simple imput from my T to gain courage to move forward. 🙂 I think some clients can accept therapy for what it is. But there are those of us who want to understand and master the process as we move along. This may make therapy go more slowly, but it is definitely a very rich experience (pain and all)! Thank you for giving us a peek into your session. It is definitely an encouragement to me. Funny how one day we can feel like life is unbearable and a couple days later, bam! A simple human connection can turn things around for awhile! Happy Tuesday! Xo Ann


    • April 29, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Thanks again Ann for the question. I am very glad that you liked the answer. 🙂 And totally agree with you. I would never think to seduce my T (OK, for one thing, the last way I see myself is seductive, so the thought of seducing anyone, especially my T who has an ethical commitment is, to say the least, only laughable). Discussing sex for me just feels shameful. And talking about my feelings of attraction have only ever felt humiliating. I talk about them because I feel like I need to in order to work through my issues, but its never been about wanting to convince BN to step outside the boundaries (not saying the longings haven’t been there, it just hasn’t been a goal I am working on).

      I loved what you said about wanting to understand and master the process. It’s not just about wanting to for me, I can’t seem to find the courage to move forward without the understanding. I was being dismissive once about my understanding because I knew that I still had to experience the feelings and move through them. That it isn’t about what I know. BN responded that my understanding is where I found the courage to allow the feelings in.

      And NEVER underestimate the power of simple human connection. 🙂

      xx AG


  5. Little Blond Girl
    April 29, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    And if there are any realizations to have in/from therapy, this is truly a good one. I’m happy you’ve found a way to be okay with it. Even though your “shoes” are new and need some breaking in, I bet they’re sparkly 🙂



  6. May 8, 2014 at 2:00 am

    AG, you really help me identify the different layers of shame and it’s power. It’s not just shame about what happened, but shame about wanting to be comforted and loved, shame about taking what I could get, shame about not having a good dad – all of it. So many different layers, levels, thoughts on where the healing needs to happen. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. ❤


    • May 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Good description! That’s exactly it, the shame seems to permeate everything and be woven in and out of all my experiences. I have always been aware of carrying shame, but was still shocked when I started digging in how deep it went and how widespread it is. But its getting better. I’m really glad this provided you with insight (partly because it helps me feel less crazy and alone. 🙂 ) xx AG


  7. May 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    I think I’m going to have to have a similar conversation with my therapist soon. It’s hard to know what’s ok to get out of the relationship, if that makes sense.

    Glad to have found your blog AG.


    • May 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Judy75,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. And it makes total sense. I think one of the most important developmental steps we skip with insecure attachment is learning about boundaries and what we are responsible for. The really good thing about therapy though is that your T is responsible for the boundaries, so they should provide clarity in terms of what they see as theirs and what they see as yours. BN has always told me its NOT a problem for me to run into a boundary (feels terrifying for me), that I’m not supposed to know where they are beforehand. Their is a lot of safety in understanding that its ok for me to ask and explore, knowing that while I might be corrected, it will not harm the relationship. Good luck with the discussion, I usually find them very beneficial. ~ AG

      Liked by 1 person

  8. LJB
    May 22, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    AG–thank you again for yet another great post! The shame really reminded me of my last therapy session. My T has been doing EMDR for the last three years (but had to take medication before therapy every week because of triggers), so he recently tried two new modalities with me. I felt, in my heart, that he was ‘fishing’ for something that worked. I had images of him typing in the different modalities we tried with the word FAILED behind it. And my fear was that he was running out of modalities and there would be some point when he would turn to me and say, “I just don’t know what else to do.” OMG the shame and fear! So, last session and told him this. He said, “What? Like I’m going to give up on you?” I said, “Yeah, when you run out of things.” He gave the metaphor of using different tools in a toolbox. “If you have a hammer, all you’re going to do is bang things. But, if you have a hammer, a wrench, a slide rule, a ratchet set–you can make some pretty beautiful things.” He then said all of these modalities are things to help me heal. And, most importantly, he said, “I’m not going to give up on you. We will find what works, so you can step back into your life.” What comfort!



  9. Erica
    July 24, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    AG- I’m so grateful for you and your blog! This post has reminded me that attachment, connection, feeling comforted are all okay. Even if the shame that comes along can be excruciating at times, the reality of it is that my feelings are okay. And I know in my heart that my therapist is okay with my attachment. It’s so hard, though, to get space from the shame. I’ve been working on my shame for many months. It’s disheartening when it comes back so strong (like when my therapist goes on vacation and all my needy, young feelings come right back- ahh). But I just have to keep reminding myself that I am okay, my feelings are okay, and my therapist is not upset with me. I have to trust her and take her word when she says she cares about me and is okay with all of my feelings, especially those directed toward her. Ugh, this shame and negative transference stuff is SO HARD though!! Thanks for writing about your experiences…they definitely help to normalize what I’m feeling and alleviate even a small bit of my shame 🙂


    • July 24, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Ah, I’m really glad it helped. I heard so much of my shame in what you were saying in your post. It is such an incredibly difficult emotion (took me years to even learn it WAS an emotion. It just feels like a state of being). I am glad that reading this reminded you of the truth about your relationship with your T. And BN always reminds me that the nature of our woundedness is that when we hit a pocket and these feelings arise part of them is feeling like all of our progress disappears and its just not true, the growth is still there. So I’ll tell you what he tells me (and funny enough I believe it when I say it to you 🙂 ) you’re doing better than you think you are. xx AG


  10. kelly
    November 17, 2014 at 7:55 am

    I am truly finding your insights so helpful, thank you, having read this one I am now wandering if I should speak with my T about the my feelings toward him, that I need him to be there, pick me up when I fall, how dependant I am on his help right now I’ve even written it all in a letter – since I often lose the power of speech during a session but haven’t had the courage to go there! There’s so much I need to explore with him and I fear if I go there he ll show me the door – dilemmas and what to do, maybe tomorrow will be my day!


  11. Healing14
    January 2, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    I have read all your posts but reread this one after your January 2015 post. For months I have hated feeling close to my T. I kept thinking I shouldn’t have any feelings towards her since I pay her, it’s one sided, can’t be a friendship, etc. I have told her I don’t like feeling close, I don’t want to care about her and have picked her apart trying to distance her. I’ve known this for months but your post today made me realize I’m treating her like my mom and other woman who try to be genuinely concerned for me. There’s a shame about it that I shouldn’t want or need it. It’s like I can’t take in nurturing from anyone.
    Thank you for posting this! I’ve had the hardest time describing my feelings towards my T. or accepting them. This post made gave me a lot of realizations!


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