Monthly Archives: December 2017

Therapy and Holidays

imageTherapists need annual holidays to remain at their best for us. They also deserve time to connect with their families. Our adult parts know and respect this. The younger parts? It’s much more complex.

HH is on holiday for three weeks. We are missing six sessions. On the one hand, I am relieved he is taking a break. I am exquisitely aware of underlying energies. His office, body and mannerisms have REEKED of chaos for the last month and it’s been challenging working with that. While he kept his therapist exterior on, I was not fooled and could sense he was wearing out from juggling so many balls with depleting energy.

I told him I could sense he needed the holiday and he smiled in a way that felt I had hit the mark.

To give or not to give?

I had pondered whether to give him something small for Christmas. I know gifts in therapy are loaded with meaning and had thus never given a Christmas gift to DS, especially because we were in the grip of some weird transference. As it turns out, HH’s gift came about quite by accident. My friend invited me to her home to bake and decorate festive gingerbread cookies. The whole way through, I was aware of voices telling me I was going to mess something up. My friend was super chilled and encouraged me. It felt okay to make mistakes. She left the icing decorations to me and it turned out I had quite a knack for it. It was my first time and she was impressed. The experience was very healing. I got a gingerbread man tin and decided to set some aside for HH because it was personal, inexpensive and  heartfelt. He got the cookies before the last session because I wanted them to stay fresh. He took them, thanked me and never mentioned them again. I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t tell me whether he had enjoyed them. Maybe there was some childish longing there. It felt like this was one of many gifts he had stashed in a pile and forgotten about.

Will you remember me?

In some ways, I feared this would happen to me too over the break. Was he looking foward to discarding his clients and responsibilities? Would it be easy for him to forget about me and the work we were doing? Some very young parts wanted reassurance but I told HH that I knew he couldn’t offer this to me as a therapist. I told him that DS had given me books over breaks as transitional objects and these had really helped me remain connected to him in some way. I shared with HH that I had wanted to email him before our last session to ask him to bring something I could hold onto during the three weeks. But I had felt foolish and not sent him the message. HH encouraged me to express what I/these parts needed. After what felt like an eternity of silent back and forth in my head, I quietly asked if he had something I could hold onto. I was cringing with vulnerability and the possibility of rejection. “How about holding onto words and memories here?” he asked. I sighed.

It’s not easy to do that because it feels fleeting and of little comfort. We have had a number of ruptures lately. I don’t think we have had any fuzzy, warm moments where he has shared personal, comforting or reassuring words. I still struggle to call up his face at will. How practical is it to ask me to internalise this as comfort?

Soft toy shame

I told him I needed something physical to hold onto. He asked about soft toys. At the time, I thought he was asking because he had something in mind. If I recall his words now, I think he was implying I should find a soft toy at home that someone special had given to me. He was implying he did not want to be too much of an attachment figure. I was losing hope at expressing my needs and being understood.

“Is giving objects over breaks something you do for other clients?” I asked with increasing dread. He paused. “I usually do this for children in play therapy,” he responded. I burnt with shame. Why had I even brought this up?

“I wonder whether you are going to be angry if I don’t give you something?” he continued. “Angry?” I asked. It was more disappointment, foolishness, rage at myself.

In any event, I felt I had to be okay with his decision because our time was up and I didn’t want to cry as I left. Who wants to open up a can of worms without a holding space?

He didn’t wish me a good break as we parted ways. I felt like nothing in that moment. Discardable.

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What to do when your therapist gets your name wrong…

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Forgetting someone’s name, or getting a name wrong, is something that happens to the best of us. But what if that person is your therapist you’ve been seeing for 7 months?

It happened in our session yesterday and I was taken aback. HH (heart healer) had just sat down in front of me and asked how I was doing, in the third person, referring to me by a name that was similar but most definitely not mine. “Sorry?” I asked, wondering if I had heard him correctly. He repeated the question and the wrong name. CRINGE. It was so many things at once. Awkward, shocking, sad, funny and painful.

Having gone into the room with a drawing hidden in my bag, which mapped out hurtful inner voices, I would say I was in a vulnerable and childlike state. It might have been easier to hear if it was another day.

Picking my jaw back up off the floor, I told him I didn’t know whether to say something. He replied that I was welcome to. If I think back on it now, he might not have realised yet at this point that he had used the wrong name and that I was upset. I shared that I was hurt. Because we had been working together for a while, this didn’t feel like just a social faux pas. It felt more personal… Like I was easy to forget. Not important.

He calmly stated that some people have certain triggers which make things like a mistake more hurtful because of things that have happened in the past.

While I agree with that, it felt very theoretical. It was distancing. I sat on his couch sobbing quietly and feeling very hurt. He kept quiet.

Eventually, I told him this was not the first time he had called me by that name. It happened a while ago and I didn’t say something because I thought it might have been a genuine mistake. “If it were me, the first thing I would have done now would have been to apologise and make things right, before proceeding to an exploration of triggers. To be human. That’s just me. You are you. I get we are different people,” I said softly between sobs. He kept quiet.

I tried to pull myself together and keep things in perspective for my own sake because I didn’t want to spend the whole session on it.

We moved to the drawing and he spent a lot of time looking at everything I had written down (which I will blog about another time).

At the end of the session, he apologised “for getting the consonants wrong”.

Obviously, his mistake was more painful for me because I have struggled a lot with being truly seen and doubt my worthiness at times. Relational mistakes are also more physically and emotionally painful for those with attachment trauma.

So many mixed feelings about this. I accept he is human and also nearing retirement age, which brings its own “old fart” moments. Then again, this is not the first time. And it felt minimising when the first thing he alluded to was that it only felt more painful because of my unique struggles.

I am trying very hard to be an adult here, to be fair and not jump to conclusions.

Maybe there is also counter transference at play. Do I remind him of someone else? Does he struggle with our sessions? Is he burning out?

 

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