Home > ambivalance, anger, existential crisis, expressing needs, healing, responsibility, safety, shame, Uncategorized > Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part II

Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part II


Tiny Tom:I’m frightened!
Bobby: As well you should be. Freedom is scary. It’s a blast of cool wind that
burns your face to wake you up.
– Run, Freedom, Run from Urinetown the Musical

This is part II of a series. For the first part, see Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part I.

I walked in and sat and BN opened with “so you’re having a hard time?” (We tend to get straight to it. Any chitchat is done at the end of the session when setting up my next appointment). I told BN I was really activated and he asked why. So I basically did a dump of what I described in Part I. Near the end of my spew, I was saying how I just wanted BN to reassure me but he was in full-on therapist mode (I totally get the need for detachment but sometimes it just feels horrible Smiley). He was great, he just looked straight at me and as calmly as possible said “It’s all going to be ok.” I cracked up. Then he asked me an interesting question (he’s really good at asking very hard questions which seem SO obvious once he says them, but that I would never think to ask myself.)

He asked me why I wanted to lose the weight? It was weird, because on one hand my thought was “It isn’t obvious?” I mean, I’m super morbidly obese (really want to track down and hurt whoever came up with THAT label), there’s no one on the planet who would think I didn’t need to lose weight. Doctors have told me I need to lose weight. My mirror tells me I need to lose weight every time I look in it. But then I realized that I had never thought to ask that question. I just knew I “should” lose weight. I started talking about my reasons: wanting to be in better health, increase my mobility, be able to enjoy walks and traveling and being able to sightsee, keep up with my presently hypothetical grandchildren. BN asked if those sounded like good things? It hit me later that I was talking about how scary it was to give up food and I think he was trying to get me to see this as going towards something good rather than just giving something up. But after giving the “right” reasons, and then sitting with it for a few minutes, to my surprise I realized I was angry. And I kind of erupted into a rant about what if I didn’t want to lose weight? What if I didn’t want to give up eating? I liked a lot of things in my life and I enjoy being sedentary (most of my favorite activities involve either a couch or a computer or cruise deck chair. I am a simple woman. 🙂 ) and why do I have to change? Maybe I don’t want to live longer if it means being miserable! I was REALLY angry and delivered a pretty good rant. BN told me later in the session that I was courageous to go past the “acceptable” reasons and talk about my anger and frustration.

To my everlasting shock, BN’s response was simply “So don’t lose weight.”

I kind of sat there stunned. I mean, shouldn’t a therapist urge you to do the healthy thing? My response was something along the lines of “huh?” BN went on to tell me that while I had to recognize that there were consequences for my health to making a decision not to change my eating, it is my life and I am free to do what I want. The part that really blew my mind? This wasn’t reverse psychology or any kind of trick. He meant EVERY word. It’s my life and it’s ok to do what I want. And whatever I decided to do would not affect our relationship one iota. I would still be welcome and cared for and attended to; treated as worthwhile, because I still would be. Such a foreign concept to me, that a relationship does not depend on pleasing the other person and adhering to their needs.

BN talked about how important it was that I am allowed to make my own decisions about my own life. That in order to live fully, I need to be free to actually be myself. My focus needs to shift inward, towards what I am feeling and thinking, rather than an anxious observation of the other, trying to please them so I won’t be left alone. I carry a very deep belief and fear that actually being myself will lead to my abandonment.

It’s hard to describe the level of fear that rises up. Do what I want? Do what I think it best, without “shoulds” or making other people’s opinion more important than my own? But that means I have to figure out how I feel and what I want. My brain and body just kind of stop and shut down; how am I supposed to figure that out? I told BN that everyone talks about how wonderful freedom is but that it can feel scary and threatening. I quoted the lyric I started this post with to him, as that seemed to capture the feeling. 🙂

As we were discussing my freedom to just be myself, I told BN that I was getting that picture of existential free fall. Telling me I needed to be true to myself was like pulling the floor out from under me, sending me into free fall. BN talked about how I needed to know that in truth there is always a floor underneath me. I started laughing and told him I had always thought of him as a piling on a dock, but now I needed to see him as a large piece of linoleum? We both laughed, but then he told me that he isn’t the floor. That the ground is always underneath but I needed to internalize my sense of its presence. Something very powerful happened when he said this. When he said he wasn’t the floor, I got a visual of me falling through a black void with nothing near me or underneath; hence the free fall because there is nothing with which to stop my falling. But when BN said I needed a sense of the ground, there was this flash of knowing it was my “picture,” under my control, and I suddenly just imagined a floor appearing underneath me (oddly it was a really nice wood parquet in a triangle pattern. Go figure! 🙂 ). I landed on it and the free fall stopped. I shared the mental visualization with BN and he thought it both powerful and significant.

So we left it at that. I knew I needed to be thinking about what it meant to be myself and allow the concept of making decisions based on what I felt and needed to sink in. We made an appointment for the following Friday. My next post will talk about what the following week and that next session were like. So much processing, so little time.  🙂

Just a FYI, I am flying out tomorrow and will be away for a week and a half. I will have internet access but am not sure how much time available, so I’ll do my best to get my next post up in a timely manner and reply to comments. I appreciate everyone’s patience.

  1. gentlewind
    June 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    That’s really powerful AG. Thanks so much for sharing. I so relate to the part where you talk about always looking to please the other as the way to feel safe and nourished, when it’s me I need to look toward. It’s so hard. I admire your journey and courage and so appreciate your blog.

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  2. Liz
    June 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    great stuff, AG! I must remind myself to read ‘Fear of freedom’ by Erich Fromm again.
    And at the same time imagine a floor for me to land on if necessary.
    Lovely touch, some Edwardian parquet, classy! I hope my imagination will come up with a soft bed, freshly made up with spring flower smelling bedding, ironed to perfection…

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  3. drgeraldstein
    June 2, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Your therapist sounds top notch and you are an attentive student. Brava!

    Like

  4. June 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    OMG AG!!!!! This is EXACTLY what we discussed in my session this morning!!! It was so eerie to read this and have such a profound understanding of the feelings you describe. The memories that shaped our inner world can be so painful to access, but relieving to express. I especially liked when you said BN has a way of asking questions that sound obvious when said out loud, but you’d never think of them yourself.

    Carrying the sense of your only purpose in life is to be used by others is one of the most horrible effects of abuse. It’s such a core concept that imagining anything different can be indescribably overwhelming, it’s almost like starting a new world view from scratch. My T talked with me today about the same issue, and the way I relate to others while I hold the deep belief that one wrong move and they will be gone. It’s terrifying and hard to accurately convey how real those feelings are, no matter how much you logically understand these are feelings from childhood.

    It’s also an exhausting way to live, to constantly be on guard. T likened it to having a smoke detector that never shuts off. After awhile it’s hard to determine what’s dangerous and what’s not, which feelings are flashbacks and which are appropriate to the here and now.
    I really love that you’re moving toward a deeper realization of being your own person. I hope you can have even more corrective experiences with BN to eventually cement the concept of how healthy it is to be yourself.

    Sending hugs

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  5. June 2, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    “I carry a very deep belief and fear that actually being myself will lead to my abandonment.”

    This is what I connect with the most. I think what’s been so utterly confusing lately in therapy is that I’ve been myself in very scary ways and I haven’t been abandoned. I can’t make any sense of it. It’s rather bewildering.

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  6. Ann
    June 3, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    AG, you have really hit it out of the ballpark!! I totally get the feeling of not standing on steady ground. I also appropriate other people’s emotions to measure my own emotional reactions. I still haven’t figured out how to feel safe in my own head.
    I also love that your BN has challenged you about deciding for yourself about managing your weight. I am a huge coach potato and could sit all day and read. While you my dear seem very active. One trick I use which kind of reflects your BN ‘s advise is that no one else decides what I eat. My parents were and still try to be controling of what I eat. (As a female’s value consists of her figure in their world). It drives my husband nuts, but I might allow myself to buy four cupcakes and take them home. I generally eat just one and trash the rest (I know, wasteful). But on some level I am taking back control from my parents and internally screaming a big fuck you to their obsession with my food intake. Just allowing myself to buy whatever food I want has helped me self regulate a bit. But it is my choice. (Plus I am diabetic so I do need to be somewhat responsible). I hope your week away is for pleasure!💆💆💆💇💇💅💅💏💏😃😃😃 xoxo Ann

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  7. Moto
    June 4, 2015 at 12:18 am

    AG what great and powerful insight! I read your post right before going into my session on Tuesday. I love how you mentioned the “Do what I want”. On Friday something very similar came up between me and T. He said, “That is your power. You do what you want. I won’t take that power from you.” I looked at him and said, “I don’t want the power either.” I like how you described the floor and I am glad you were able to imagine a floor underneath you! Have fun on your vacation (if it is a vacation!)!!

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