When the therapy couch is on fire


Even though it was the coldest night of the year, the therapy room was on fire last night. I left the session feeling like every inch of my body, soul and heart had been exposed and then gently draped in golden silk.

My therapist (I’ll call him DS for Deep Soul from now on) had truly seen me. Behind the anxious facade and insecurities. Behind the fear and self-doubt. Behind all of the walls I had built up to protect my feelings and sensitivity. He didn’t run. Instead, he metaphorically held my hand as I ended up opening to him about something I hadn’t planned to speak about or had even thought to share with someone.

Hair on the chair, again…

The wind was howling outside and he invited me to use the mohair blanket on the side of the couch to keep warm. He said this while ensconced in a fluffy blanket of his own. I was wearing dark pants and he warned me that the mohair might leave fine white hairs. It was amusing that he had even thought of that! I decided I was okay without the blanket for the moment and started speaking to him about boundaries.

I’ve recently realised that I was never taught how to set boundaries as a kid. I was expected to suck all the drama up, deal with people’s feelings and be responsible for everything. At the same time, it felt like it was a battle I could never win. I could rarely do anything right or be competent. What often ended up happening was that I would become desperately anxious to please when I felt the wrath of my parents or when they were unhappy with me. The goal was to be close to them no matter the personal cost. I told DS this. I added that I had started experimenting with setting emotional boundaries with people and it felt good.

I guess it’s really hard for me to do that because I feel other people’s emotions so keenly, as if they were my own. These feelings overwhelm me. Yet, it’s so hard for me to tap into how I am feeling (go figure). Anyway, I said one boundary I was planning to enforce was not accepting attacks on my character anymore or being made to feel unworthy. It was something I felt really strongly about and which had caused me pain recently. At this, a rush of resolve came over me and I shivered. I grabbed the mohair blanket and covered myself.

I didn’t know therapists could buy flash-back blankets…

“Wow, this blanket is so warm!” I said in surprise, drawn out of the moment. Fingertips brushed absent-mindedly over the fibres. I was back in my gran’s home in the mountains, in front of the fireplace. She had always invited me to spend the holidays with her. For a month every year I felt like I truly belonged in a family because I was accepted for who I was. Hell, she made my dad and so I think she could appreciate the quirky genes.

“She gave me a mohair blanket exactly like this, except purple and pink. And a gollywog doll which is still at the top of my cupboard. I really treasure these things.”

The memory made me feel warm and safe. DS must have been surprised to hear me speaking so candidly and spontaneously. I sat in silence processing thoughts and feelings. From nowhere, I told him I sometimes felt like he was the big brother I had always wanted. I explained that my mom had miscarried a boy before having me. I doubted whether I would have been born if he survived. But I truly believed that he still had a soul and counted.

“What do you imagine your big brother would have been like?” he asked in a soft, steady voice.

The question surprised me. I was waiting for him to tell me I was crazy for having such sentimental and deluded thoughts about something I wasn’t directly involved in. He made it okay to have this desire. I imagined my brother would have been witty, smart and perhaps a bit of a ‘smart-ass”. Despite this, he would have been fiercely protective of me. He would have loved me unconditionally and been my team mate. Mine.

Weirdly, this is how I had been feeling with DS. Except he would never be mine. I sobbed from a very deep place in my soul. The realisation hurt like hell.

Whoever invented therapy, had a Freud sense of humour…

DS said people often loved each other because of how they made each other feel. He was making me feel the way I had always wanted to feel and he accepted the power in that. I was so emotional that I kind of thought he was using that to dismiss the fact that I also saw him as a person. DS said he knew this. That there was me, him and then the therapy room. He also understood that it was frustrating for me to feel so powerfully about someone I knew so little.

I agreed and said I was convinced some therapists had a persona and fixed on their therapist face as soon as they started work in the morning. I giggled and shared a random thought with him.

“For all I know, you may go home and change into a clown outfit and huge clown shoes. That your favourite thing is to juggle balls around, jump through fiery hoops and fit into small clown cars. When you get to work, you put your clown shoes in your backpack and wipe the smile off your face.”

He laughed and I think he appreciated the hilarity of the thought. “But I don’t think you’re a clown,” I added at the end for good measure.

We stood up and there was this weird energy between us. Something new was there. Our smiles met and our eyes crinkled. He was seeing me and I was okay with that.

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6 thoughts on “When the therapy couch is on fire

  1. You are so adorable. What a playful and intimate session. You clearly have a very special relationship with your therapist.

    • Jay says:

      Thanks, glad it came across in my writing! Sometimes it is so hard to accurately portray something that is so deeply felt, by just using words. It definitely felt special and I hope this feeling carries across in our future sessions.

  2. I am enjoying your posts more and more, and I especially LOVE the symbol of fire. I am the last of the fire signs in the Zodiac, much of my artwork has fire as a recurring symbol, and FIRE itself is just a darn sexy word!! Also, it is interesting to note that Jungian Analysts often use the symbol of the “oven” to describe the room (or space) containing the analysis. In this sense, the oven is symbolic of the womb (the bun is in the oven!! lol) acting as the container for rebirth and transformation.

    I know I personally get very apprehensive about sharing what happens in my own “oven” with the outside, but it seems that your writing gives you a powerful way of integrating and processing the experience – it is inspiring 🙂

  3. Jay says:

    Thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful comment 🙂 Your avatar and passionate way of seeing things definitely portrays that fiery character in the best way possible lol. Fire is so mystical and primitive. Just by looking through a flame, I feel somehow connected to our ancestors. I get this tug in my belly. It’s something I can’t quite understand or explain. Even though so much has changed through civilization, humans still find a need and joy in a simple flame. I guess what also interests me about fire is the dichotomy between it being a life force and a death force. What so easily provides light, nutrition and warmth can very quickly lead to pain, destruction and death. And isn’t that so true of our own passion?

    I find the oven concept fascinating by the way!! You have inspired me to read up a bit more on this.

    Talking about the therapy room as an oven for transformation, I didn’t include in this post that I had another tunnel dream that I shared with DS in this session. I felt very strongly that this dream was trying to tell me something. It’s definitely linked to transformation and I found DS’s insights fascinating. Guess I will have to write about it sometime 😉

  4. velvetmp says:

    I just love your posts as a therapist it’s cool to hear the other side of the couch.
    Your hilarious and I’m sure DS enjoys you and looks forward to the hour. Said with appropriate boundaries of course 🙂

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