Reclining in therapy

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I went to my therapy session last night after deciding I was going to resist a pattern of avoiding intimacy and difficult feelings. The idea was to tell my therapist DS (Deep Soul) that I had considered taking a month’s break from therapy and that it was a way to punish him. In a weird way, I wanted him to know how awful, hurtful and lonely it felt for someone to be inaccessible. The same way I felt he was… Someone who would not show me how he was really feeling, who he was and what he was about.

It took a while for me to open up last night because the pain I felt from the previous session sat in my chest. DS listened carefully and seemed curious to know what I had felt at the end of our last session. I sensed he was waiting for me to make the link between describing myself as “upset” and the undercurrent of anger that he was picking up in the moment.

My GPS can’t find anger?…

Needless to say, it has taken over a year in therapy to even admit to being angry sometimes. Before then, it was a landscape I dared not tread or reveal to others. At my core, I have believed that anger is destructive and will annihilate relationships if expressed.

After some back-and-forth questioning, I eventually admitted that I was angry with him. I was so exhausted from a mentally and physically draining day at work, there was barely energy to remain seated upright on his couch. Admitting to the anger was a relief but also seemed to suck out the last vestiges of energy. I so desperately wanted to lie down, tuck a pillow under my head and relax into the slate grey material.

But everything inside was screaming that it was not safe to lie down. It felt too intimate and dangerous. Lying down was as good as being defenceless and at his mercy. Not only did I think these things but my body was tensing up to defend itself from something.

I took a deep breath and realised that I needed to take a risk. Especially as I had already risked baring my anger in a small way to him. And with that, I explained I was going to lie down a bit because I was tired.

Not my most graceful couch dive…

Have you ever seen a cat being forced into a bathtub of water? That’s how my body felt as I leaned back and rested my head against the pillow. Every limb wanted to spring up and out of there! My chest, stomach and legs felt exposed. I curled my legs up away from him and placed a cushion over my legs as a sort of barrier. I told DS that I felt like putting up the cushion between us as a makeshift wall.

It was a peculiar situation. I can’t say I knew exactly what possible scenario I was protecting myself from. After the initial internal freak out, the fear and anxiety became manageable and my body melted into his soft couch. I had never noticed the lampshade with dull, comforting light next to the couch. The position afforded me a view out into the street below and of his two bonsai trees on the window sill. Being there was surprisingly comforting in a way. I was going to tell DS that the couch felt  like a boat, drifting along the sea but I didn’t end up sharing that for some reason.

My reclining body was triggered again when he spoke about the difficulties of the therapy relationship and how it was inherently one-sided. He was trying to empathize with where I am right now. As he said this, it was like there was a bubbling volcano about to explode in my stomach. A pain in my stomach erupted. It was scary and I was sobbing. He acknowledged that it probably felt like he was putting up a boundary. I agreed and felt like showing strong emotion was pointless. There was no use in being angry with him because it would not change anything. DS agreed but said that not having a use didn’t eliminate the anger. It was still there.

Thanks for getting the Wild Thing song stuck in my head…

At the end of the session, he suggested I read the children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, which some psychoanalysts believe is a reference to how destructive anger may seem in a relationship but is a feeling that can be tolerated if the attachment is strong enough. I quite liked listening to someone read the short picture book aloud here. If you watch the video or know about the book, you will spot how synchronous it was that the couch felt like a boat!

One thing I really enjoyed about last night’s session was that DS used “shitty” and “crappy” when talking about moments of anger. It’s the first time he has sworn. I told him that it made me feel like he was a real person and that he was probably doing it to encourage me to vent a bit more. If only he knew I swore like a sailor sometimes 😉

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6 thoughts on “Reclining in therapy

  1. drgeraldstein says:

    I agree that anger can be destructive. From an evolutionary standpoint it is necessary, however, in defense of oneself, family, country, etc. I recently had an experience with a long distance, old time friend whose explosion came, he said, after being angry with me for four or five years without saying a word about it. Part of what dissipates anger can be its expression in smaller doses, not built up in the way I just described. In any case, it sounds like you made an important step. Nicely written, too.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment here. I think that is what I am really struggling with… how to express anger in a constructive manner that dissipates that energy without unnecesssarily alienating anyone. What I am slowly realising though is that the anger needs to come out in some form because it doesn’t just go away. It finds a way to express itself passively or to show up somatically.

      Keep well!

  2. mindspawned says:

    I love this post. Not because of what you went through, but because it feels safer, more motivating to maybe let it happen myself. Thanks. 🙂

    • Jay says:

      Oh wow that is fantastic to hear mindspawned! I think there is strength in being witness to the struggles of others and taking a leap of faith where others have tread.

  3. Hi jay,
    I nominate you for the Liebster award. 🙂 https://fallingdowmtherabbithole.wordpress.com
    Click on the link to answer the questions and see the rules, ext.
    I love your blog and your writing. You are so honest about your feelings in (and about therapy) it gives me some courage to explore my own feelings regarding therapy. Thank you for your bold honesty of your therapeutic journey. 🙂

  4. Hi Jay, just wanted to invite you over to my post Five Things you Always Want to Ask Your Therapist but are Afraid to Ask (http://spacefreedomlove.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/five-things-you-always-want-to-ask-your-therapist-but-are-afraid-to-ask/). Dr. Gerald Stein is going to be writing a post on the topic and I thought you might want to pose some of your own questions. Just reply to his comment to my post. Hope you’re well!

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