Therapy butterflies


I’m having one of those “What have I done?” moments after therapy on Monday.  The feeling is familiar and reeks of vulnerability… so basically the mainstay of any long-term psychotherapy.

The session with DS (Deep Soul) was steaming along very productively. We discussed all my unresolved feelings about the boundaries he had set down for the way he worked and my idea to hand him notes. I really felt like I was being heard and that he knew how important it was for me to feel supported. What struck me was that he was actively keeping certain boundaries in place because he trying to work out something important about how I operate. The boundaries were not about me being a bad person and needing to be restrained and kept in place. Knowing this seemed to remind me that he was on my side. He was not trying to punish me.

Therapists give the best gifts…

Quite by surprise, DS said I was welcome to contact him during the week and organise an in-between session if I was feeling overwhelmed and needed his support. He said this had always been an option but realised we had never spoken about it and that I therefore wouldn’t have known. I was really touched. It feels like a gift when someone offers more of their time and concern. I think I looked like I had just been hit by a truck because he said he was trying to work out how I was feeling. It was just overwhelming to have him come through for me like that. Talk about needing time to process.

Flitting thought the rainforest…

With that out in the open, we moved onto how I’ve been grappling with my existence lately. I’ve been bogged down by the struggle to define my purpose on this planet. I explained how I’ve always felt so different to everyone and how I was convinced I had a different brain because I seemed to think and feel more deeply than my peers and the general population. I’d told told him before that Elaine Aron’s HSP theory had gone some way to explaining this feeling of being different.

“And then I discovered this blog about rainforest minds. I found it fascinating because it was talking about how sensitive and curious people are quite often gifted. Not purely in the intellectual sense but emotionally, imaginationally and with their senses,” I gushed out.

DS hadn’t heard about Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski’s theory of overexcitabilities, and how it proposed that many gifted people were born with innate intensities and sensitivities. I asked him to look it up and get back to me. And then I proceeded to explain that it’s not that I WAS gifted or anything like that. Or maybe it was a struggle to believe it could be true because of self-doubt. Anyway, I felt the term gifted was loaded in a sense because it seemed to imply a sense of being better than others, which I didn’t appreciate.

He calmly recommended I read The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. I had heard of it but hadn’t been able to get a copy. Laughing, I said I assumed from the title it was about giftedness.

“I must be honest. I haven’t actually read it myself,” DS said with a small, sheepish smile. With that, he turned around and ran his finger along the spines of his books to find it. He pulled it out and started reading the back.

“Actually, I’d like to go through it first before you read it. I hope that’s okay,” he asked.

I said that was fine.

Christmas comes twice in one hour…

“Yes and when I’m done, you can borrow my copy.”

Oh. Em. Gee. How can so few words provide so much pleasure?! I was dumbfounded, again. DS was loosening the boundaries for me slightly and actually offering a something of his to hold onto, even just for a little bit. I remember thanking him with a very serious expression on my face because I wanted him to know how important this was.

“And don’t worry DS. I look after books like I do children and pets,” I blurted out. I hope he knows I am good with little ones and fur balls, not a crazy lady looking to hack things to pieces.

Why butterflies, why?!

I think I skipped and whistled out of the therapy room. In fact, I think it was a first that I didn’t trip down his stairs or along the uneven parking lot because it was dark and I was on a high.

AND THEN… I had a shocking thought. A completely paranoid, unnecessary thought which has not ruined my happy feelings about DS but is nonetheless flitting around like a thousand butterflies in my skull and stomach.


Dude, what if he never speaks about the book again and it becomes the gifted but quiet elephant in the room? Worse, what if he does bring it up and tactfully tries to tell me that I wasn’t the sensitive child discussed in the book. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of this.

So many trapshots in therapy. Should I even be worrying about this or is my concern legitimate?

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8 thoughts on “Therapy butterflies

  1. He’s not there to judge. Allow yourself to feel the butterflies, they will no doubt pass before you yourself get a chance to read and digest the book. The book wasn’t written about you, it’s unlikely he’d even be making that kind of a comparison. And even if he did, and found that somehow you didn’t measure up, would that be so bad? Would that be his unhelpful thought or yours?

    Would it be out of the question for you to discuss your butterflies with him? It would be kind of embarrassing but maybe the best way to get over it?

    • Jay says:

      You’re right that he is not there to judge… I guess my default mode is that everyone is judging me. I am unfortunately still overly concerned with what others think of me. Something to work on!

  2. Ellen says:

    I’ve felt that gratitude and surprise also, when my T offered an extra session, or to have longer sessions. What? You want to spend more time with me? Just astonishment and feeling supported. And borrowing a book – yep, it’s a good feeling. Interesting your discussion about your vulnerabilities seems to have led to his moving closer, not further away as you might have feared.

    The Drama of the Gifted Child – It’s actually not about what it means to be ‘gifted’ or ‘special’. It’s about the damage parents can do by kind of co-opting the child in service to their own needs. According to Miller, if the child is especially sensitive or intelligent to start with, the damage parents can do is greater. Something like that. So DS will have no reason to think you are not ‘gifted’ from reading this book. Whatever that may be.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you for providing more info on the book. I vaguely remember it being something like that. I think my fear was that he would read the book and decide that I was perfectly fine and hadn’t experienced giving up my own needs as a child. In other words, that my childhood experiences would be invalidated. Obviously, as I read what I type here, I highly doubt he would do that because I trust that he’s seen enough of me to know what my issues are!

      Thanks for helping me to unpack it a bit more. Really appreciated!

  3. The Gifted Child is a lovely book and I feel fairly confident you will see yourself in it. It sounds like you had a very heartwarming session. And I love that he offered an in between session. I’ve had a few. Every time it has been entirely worth it. For my birthday, I gave myself am extra half hour and that was lovely too. I do this sparingly, of course, but sometimes it’s exactly what one needs.

    • Jay says:

      SFL lives! Thanks for popping by 🙂 It was such a necessary session in terms of strengthening the therapeutic alliance. Awesome to hear about your experience of in-between sessions, especially the idea of a birthday treat.

      Just had the funniest thought. People always ask me what I want for my birthday. Can you imagine if I had a therapy fund jar?! Ha ha.

  4. Penny Lane says:

    I’m pretty sure there aren’t many therapists in their right mind that would hand over a book without first reading it themselves! What if it’s full of things that could shove you over the edge! Or you come in with a million questions and he has no idea! I think he’ll be prepared then hand over the book with some warnings or recommendations. And you can work through it together. Sounds like he’ll be expecting you to ask questions throughout 😉

    • Jay says:

      So true! It honestly made me trust him more when he said he’d like to read the book first. It means that he is serious about the possible impact it might have and also about whether it is appropriate. As you say, he needs to be prepared for a million questions. Or at least ten 😉

      I just thought of something else. I was so touched by his offer to let me read his copy and I guess part of the paranoia was that he might retract that offer in some way. I’ve got this habit of really building up expectation and hope for something that is promised and being extremely let down when it doesn’t happen. It annoys me!

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