Tag Archives: anger

Am I overreacting?

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Please tell me whether I am overreacting. I need outside perspective from those who are familiar with the therapy process.

DS informed me at the end of last year that we would need to change our session from a Monday evening to a Wednesday evening because he was taking on new commitments. In our first session this year, he said we could keep the same day and time for now but that Wednesday would be a possibility in the near future. A few weeks ago, he confirmed it would be changing and we met yesterday in our new session time. I shuffled things around a bit to make it happen, knowing that the sacrifices were worth it because I really valued what I was getting from therapy and that it was important enough to me. I am more sensitive to change than normal and it takes me a while to digest how things might be different.

I arrive at our new session slot last night and DS poses himself in such a way on the chair that I know he is going to announce something. He tells me that he is phasing out his evening sessions and asks whether I will be available sometime during the day or just after 5pm. He knows from our previous negotiations with session days and times (we’ve been through this three times in the last 22 months), that it’s almost impossible to meet during the day or just after 5pm because my job is hectic and unpredictable.

I was shocked that he was changing things up as soon as in our first new session. It made no sense why he would prepare me to meet on a Wednesday evening and then tell me in that first new slot that actually he doesn’t want to work evenings anymore. It seems like an unnecessary disturbance.

The phasing out of his evening session seems unfair to me given that he suggested it in the first place. Once we changed from a weekend slot to a weekday slot, he created a reasonable assumption that that would be available to me for as long as I needed it. To me, removing his evening slot is based entirely on his needs, not on mine. Don’t get me wrong… I cannot overstate how much I imagine he has to deal with and how he may need more time outside of his therapy role to remain healthy.

But for once, I don’t want to have to think about his needs before mine, something which already happens in our alliance. I am dealing with the grief of losing my job, the huge anticipation and nerves around a new job, trying to finish up my Masters thesis, awaiting the outcome of a serious professional issue that arose from a genuine mistake and could threaten my reputation, and worrying about my dad’s health. To be honest, I don’t feel like myself at all and am finding it a challenge to cope. I feel very vulnerable.

Given that he knows how much I am going through, is it harmless to shake up the therapeutic frame and take away that secure base? And is it fair to put the spotlight back on the therapy process when he recently noted that he wonders what has been happening for me in daily life because we’ve talked so much about the alliance lately?

I understand that it could very well be an overreaction given my present fragile state. It just feels scary and real that I could lose DS and my therapy space if he does not budge. I know I need to be assertive and tell him what I need. With a head alternating between racing thoughts and big, empty expanse, it is hard to think clearly.

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Do not abandon me…

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Barely a minute after I make myself comfortable on the couch, DS assumes a businesslike position, refers to his iPad and says he would like to chat. Something is different. Normally, he’s reclined in his chair with one leg over the other, waiting to listen. Every inch of my body stiffens in anticipation of his announcement. It’s like the last few seconds before a car crash. Everything happens in slow motion, sound seems to distort and it’s impossible to escape the inevitability of it all. Why do I feel like a naughty schoolgirl being called into the principal’s office? I try to focus on his face.

DS tells me he will not be able to make our session the week after next and can we reschedule? The first part of the sentence makes my neck stiffen and the second part induces a relieved whoosh of air through my lips. Just last week he told me he would be off for two weeks over Christmas. Add to that my vacation plans and I was facing three weeks without him. At the time, I tried to be grown up about it but that had slowly given way to fear at how I was going to cope without him. I try to reason with myself while listening to DS, attempting a flicking of the “do not panic” nervous system switch. Attachment panic does not listen to reason. It lays urgent claim to every bodily process and tries to establish a sense of security. I nod and we work out an alternative session for the week after next. In the back of my head I am wondering whether he is going to bring up the ballet show invite I e-mailed him a week ago. My body remains on the edge of the seat and ready to respond to any threat. It seems like we are coming to the end of our administrative discussion but alas, it is just the beginning.

“I also needed to speak to you about our session time for next year,” DS says while looking down at his screen, presumably at a calendar or a set of notes. He seems really calm. Cold fear grips my heart. This can’t be good. He doesn’t want me around anymore.

Just a few days ago, I dreamt that I arrived at his office and found a strange man sitting in his spot. This stranger was rude, perfunctory and looking at a tick-list. I felt like I was in a bureaucratic department and not a therapy room. This strange therapist ignored my pleas to see DS and decided I was done with therapy. I was enraged. He ticked a huge box on the form and sent me away.

“I am taking on some new commitments next year and will not be able to meet with you at our regular time on a Monday,” he says. “I was hoping we could discuss another time that works for both of us”. His words filter slowly through the neurons in my brain and it seems like a confused, foggy soup in there.

“How does Monday during the day work for you?” Anger rises in my chest at his request. I tell him I have to work during the day to make a living and there is no way to carve time out. “And lunch time?” he asks. No, he doesn’t get it. He is coming up with impossible times because he knows I won’t be able to say yes and it will give him a reason to say he has no other option but to stop seeing me. Tears pop up at the corners of my eyes. I cannot do lunch because I have such an unpredictable job. There is no way to commit to that. I feel frustrated, I want to scream… I feel completely abandoned. Instead, I sit mute and re-iterate that I can only see him after work. He offers an after-hours session on Wednesdays next year and I quickly nod.

Everything feels too intense. DS’s voice seems distant. Concentration is near impossible. He is negotiating and I just want to close my eyes and rest my head. Escape can’t come quick enough.

But it doesn’t and we’re straight onto our third matter for the day, the invite. DS acknowledges the invite and wants to know how I feel after sending it. I feel content with my decision to invite him to the show but also uncertain of what his reaction will be. “Well, to…um… respond, I cannot go to your show because of our professional relationship,” DS says. I hate that I am putting him in this possibly uncomfortable position. Obviously, we had already chatted about how I knew it wasn’t possible for him to attend. It still didn’t lessen the disappointment that I felt in the moment.

We spent the rest of the session talking about my fear at slipping back into old patterns of feeling and relating while spending the holidays with my parents. DS wanted to know about all my fears. What he doesn’t know is that I am scared he is going to forget about me. I am also scared because it is difficult to call up his face in my mind, especially when I feeling strongly, and I doubt my own abilities to self-soothe. As much as I hate to admit my dependency, I am continuing with a move towards intimacy and plan to ask for something of his to hold onto until our first session in the new year. I think this would be a way to soothe all the childlike fears I have and represent a physical way of holding onto the therapeutic relationship.

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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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