Tag Archives: love

I was his last client.

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As I walked out the therapy room 41 days ago, DS closed the door… to his room, his practice and our alliance.

Our last session went as well as I could have hoped. There were smiles and tears. Reminiscence and talk about the future. Pain. And joy. I felt lighter once home. Knowing about DS (Deep Soul’s) imminent departure had weighed me down for months. So much so that I hadn’t been able to find the right head and heart space to blog.

I hadn’t planned to be his last client. It just worked out that way. Somehow it made it a bit better knowing I would be the last to see him before he jetted off to his home in a new country a week later.

What you wouldn’t have known is that many of our last sessions were weighed down by the very real grief of not being able to give him something I had made to say goodbye and help with closure. The process and end product was symbolic and largely about me. It was not so much dependent on his reaction and whether he liked it (although that would have been a bonus). I shared that I was making him something (I never told him what it was). He replied that he had a strict no-gift policy. I thought this was surely different because it was not something of great financial value. Nor were these normal circumstances. Shocked and furious, I told him I couldn’t believe he was dictating how I could and could not grieve. We were already saying goodbye because of what was happening in his life. I explained that I wanted to feel as though I could move forward on my terms for once. Allow me to do this the way I need to, I said. He remained firm and I couldn’t find the heart to finish the gift, knowing I would not be able to go through with the process. But at the end I did finish, for myself.

I knitted him a pure cotton cream scarf. He was moving to a country very much colder. Part of the healing process was imagining him being able to wrap it around his neck to keep warm. The knitting became a form of self-soothing and a time of reflection. With every knitting session, I could pour all my feelings into the product. And the plan was to hand it over, having cast off the last stitch after “processing” everything.

Anyway, I brought the scarf to the final session despite knowing I wouldn’t be giving it to him. DS genuinely seemed pleasantly surprised and touched as I took the scarf out a plastic bag to show him. He held it as I explained the process. I took it back because that was what he wanted. And then, with what looked like a sheepish smile, he said he could accept the gift. Talk about being confused. I asked him to explain and he said he was referring to gifts that people bought and were worth something. With that I gave the scarf back. Obviously I was happy and relieved.

What I miss most is having someone ‘neutral’ and safe to share my feelings, thoughts and difficulties with. That said, I think I am doing better than expected. I truly miss him as a person. He was really kick-ass. I still haven’t decided whether to see another therapist at some point.

Saddest is that his face is disappearing from my mind. Memories of his voice are becoming harder and harder to access. I suppose this is what happens when someone you care about leaves your life.

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Cold comfort

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In the weeks since DS announced he is closing his therapy practice and moving to another country, I’ve been trying my best to keep things together. Like a mantra, I tell myself it will be okay after August and that this is for the best. My husband, family and friends have been very supportive and collectively tell me everything happens for a reason and I will get over it. It feels like there is this expectation that I should be over it now because they have said their kind words and allowed me to vent. The publicly acceptable gap for mourning is closing.

And yet the pain is so fresh. I don’t WANT to lose DS. I don’t WANT him to be so far away and very possibly never see him again.

When the lights are out and the night silence opens the space for terror and isolation, I cling to my cow Daisy for dear life and wish all the pain inside away. I try to find sleep in the fetal position and wedge Daisy’s head between my chin and shoulder. Sometimes, the softness against my bare skin seems to work and I find myself calming down. Other times, I lay curled in the dark with my racing thoughts and sleeping husband, at times wiggling closer to his warm skin for comfort and desperately wishing I could share in his utter surrender to the world around our bed.

If DS knew how much this was affecting me, I wonder whether he would think it’s all because of the transference and therefore not as valid or real? It’s real to me but I still question my own experiences and perception. It feels like his departure is more than just a re-activation of abandonment and safety fears from my childhood. I’ve connected with him on a very mature level. I will miss the relationship we built together, his listening and empathy skills, and especially the small bits of “non-therapist him” that shone through.

Our session on Wednesday was so disjointed and I feel like such a loser. I so desperately want to connect with him and enjoy our sessions while we still have them. But instead I just felt so sad. Having him in front of me was the most painful reminder of everything that I am going to be missing.

I saw blue wrapping paper, or what looked like it, in his bin as I was throwing my tissues away. For all I know, it could have been an envelope but I imagined another client giving DS a parting gift and I felt so excluded. Other clients are merrily sharing happy, intimate, nostalgic or healing moments with him, processing things, and here I am, weak and unable to connect.

It feels impossible to show myself compassion right now. Instead, all I hear is: you are pathetic.

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Call in the transference crew

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I wish I could call in a cleaning crew to deal with the mess of the hectic transference I am dealing with in the therapy room at the moment. My feelings are splattered across DS’s wall in garish colours. It’s confusing and disorientating to look at. The sheen of shame casts a veil. I cringe. My true feelings trickle down in globs, split into rivulets, meet again as new shades. This is the Jackson Pollock of erotic transference, peeps.

I’ve been in its grip for quite a while but have always kind of tamed it with vigorous swipes of denial, obfuscation or throwing cold water over affectionate, loving feelings for him. As it has progressed, I’ve felt safe enough to open up to DS about my experience of him. He’s dissected dreams and fantasies of beds, being in nature together and other symbols. In my dreams, he appears as a playful, warm, loving, open and accepting male figure who cares about me. I feel beautiful, happy and seen. Awake, there is a longing that gnaws at my soul.

While I’ve tirelessly read up on what transference is and how it works, it has not eliminated the shame of feeling this way about DS when I am a married woman in love with her husband. There’s this little voice that screams that I am bad, not loyal and do not deserve my husband. Today is a strong day so I can muster up a “screw you” to that voice. Other days, I tend to believe it.

I guess the thing that I am slowly discovering is that feelings are not something you can really control. They just are. They pop up when they please. We then choose to assign meaning to them. This is new for me as I tend to to feel overly responsible for my thoughts and feelings, as well as of others’.

This magnetic pull to the wonderful DS is FIRMLY rooted in some long unmet childhood needs that he’s given the space to surface. If I think of it like that, DS is merely a safe container or receptacle for those desires. Instead of acting on them, he’s gently probed for meaning to help me understand what is going on.

The last thing I would want is for him to actually act out the fantasies or cross the boundaries. To do so would be very scary and completely obliterate the professional relationship we’ve both worked hard at creating and nurturing.

On Monday, DS asked me whether I had thought about being with him or what a romantic relationship with him would feel like. Obviously, he asked this question with the professional aim of working out the root of my longings. It was not intended as a suggestion or come-on. I replied that I had not really thought about it in concrete terms. Rather, I would have visions pop up every now and then of what it would be like to do things together or various scenes in which certain scenarios or feelings would play out.

The child in me wants to be loved without conditions or limits. She wants to be given the space to be playful, unrestricted and creative. Above all, she wants to be seen and be enough.

At the moment, I am restricted by my own doubts and fears about being worthy enough to assert myself in the world. Maybe, in the future, I will be brave and skilled enough to successfully fulfill these needs outside of therapy.

In the meantime, I have to trust in the process and try to deal with the awkwardness of talking about all sorts of erotic and romantic notions.

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17 days without DS…

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Our last therapy session for the year was terrible. I had wanted to reflect on our work together and strengthen our connection so I would be okay over the break. I envisioned a warm session where my walls were down. Us ensconced in a rich and infectious aura of Christmas hope and thankfulness. A snowglobe of memories and feelings to shake and eye in wonder while apart.

Instead, I sat in front of DS (Deep Soul) with an inexplicable headache, feeling irritated by the pain and my own low feelings. I struggled to concentrate because the pain was unrelenting. We spoke but I felt disconnected.

He remembered to give me a book to hold onto during the vacation, called “A Tale for The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. Such a magical book. Two weeks before that, he had surprised me with another book about two orphan girls caught up in a tale of transience and loss. I was taken aback that he was giving me a book before the break, as I thought this would be the only one to hold onto. He said he would give me another if I finished it in time, and I did. Such thoughtfulness on his part. During our last session, I explained how meaningful the first book had been and how many things had resonated. DS confessed that this was unintentional and coincidental. He  said he hadn’t spent time thinking about what to give me but had picked stuff based on a gut feeling. Covering up my feelings of surprise and disappointment, I said: “Yes, I know that obviously”. I didn’t know. I envisioned him running his fingers carefully over the spines in his shelf, a slight furrow in his brow and a biting of his lip indicating the concentration and thought about what best to leave me with. Why do I feel like an idiotic child for thinking this?

I had also contemplated making a Christmas card for him because I knew he had a strict policy on gifts and would not accept even a small token of appreciation. Actually, I bumped against this boundary a few weeks earlier when I handed him a science magazine I received in the mail. I said he could read it and then pass it on. I told him at the time that he could place it with the other mags in his waiting room when he was done but he said he would give it back to me afterwards because he did not accept gifts. I understand why his policy is in place but it wasn’t a gift. Nonetheless, if keeping those boundaries in place keeps him sane, then I can’t really complain. Going back to the Christmas card, I wanted to draw something cool, color it in with bright khokis and leave a small but meaningful message for him. I felt like the card would be a good way to close the year. I ended up at the session empty-handed because I honestly couldn’t face the possibility of rejection so close to a break.

So here I am, 17 days in, and I miss him with every inch of my being. It’s been a bit easier than I expected and I have had the support of my husband and family. We flew to see my mom, dad and sister at the coast and it’s been wonderful catching up with them the last two weeks. We fly back home on Monday and I see DS in the evening for our first session of the year. I want to be braver this year. I want to ask him what he did over the break. I want to open up about other things in my life. Maybe, at some point this year, I will be able to shake off these feelings of being unworthy, of time flying by too quickly and leaving me in its dust. Maybe, this year, I will find peace.

 

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Love, loss and longing

 

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Love, loss and longing have flitted in and out of my consciousness the last two weeks. Without my therapist DS (Deep Soul)’s presence, I have been a little boat on a deep body of water, trying to navigate emotions snapping like ravenous piranhas under my belly.

Love…

My husband was a welcoming dock. Warm lips and kind words lubricated my bow. I gratefully lost myself in him. It was a temporary reprieve from the somewhat inexplicable sadness and confusion kicked up in the therapy room.

At the same time, my spirits were lifted by the week-long visit of an old university friend who has been like a sister to me. She recently went through an extremely difficult time in which she was admitted to a psych ward with depression and anxiety. I slipped into a familiar caregiving role with ease and focused on her wellbeing with all my might. I wanted her to know how much she was loved and appreciated. We spoke for hours on end and I took off time from work to treat her and show her around. Most importantly, I was a container for all the emotions she struggled to handle. When she criticized herself, I questioned her beliefs behind the criticism and softened the blow. When frustration threatened to crack her apart, I stood patiently beside her and held her hand. I took in all her sadness and despair and reflected love and acceptance back. I did this because she needed me. And this is the care I would have wanted from someone had I been in a dark pit with no way out. Perhaps mirroring a therapist’s containing care was unsustainable but I think the holiday did her a world of good and it offered an escape for me.

I also leaned in to our upstairs neighbour, her husband and their adorable 11-month-old son. We have recently became close and I’ve developed a strong bond with their boy, who lights up with a smile and holds out his tiny hands every time he sees me. The friendship has been a welcome breath of fresh air for both of us. You see, my neighbour has a busy and sometimes lonely schedule as a famous pop singer.

Loss…

Just as soon as our house was bustling and full of life, it emptied out. My husband left early this morning for a week-long business trip. A few hours later, I hugged my friend goodbye and watched as she left for back home. An empty house. The smell of the pancakes my friend made for a farewell dinner lingered in the air. I caught a whiff of my husband’s shampoo on our bedsheets.

Upstairs, I could hear my neighbour and her family packing for a month-long music tour overseas. They would be leaving before nightfall. Next door, I heard the sound of people packing up boxes and moving furniture out. It was the family of our elderly German neighbour who had come to move him into a retirement home. They painted over the oil splatters and smoke stains of a lonely man. They replaced the smell of neglect with the smell of paint and disinfectant.

The ache of loss dragged my stomach down.

Longing…

I long to be okay with everything I am feeling. I long to understand why I sometimes feel so unworthy and damaged. Why do I feel like the love and happiness I receive will just as surely be taken away from me if I enjoy it and attach to it too much? Why am I so hyper-vigilant about possible abandonment and perceived alienation? I wish I knew.

The week stretches before me. I am scared. But I also see a time to sit. To contemplate. To feel everything. Life is bittersweet and the universe has thrown me a bone to keep the scales in balance.

I saw DS again tonight after a series of interrupted sessions. I was not quite sure what to expect after our tempestuous session last time. The session helped sooth me a bit and prepare for the week and our future sessions. As always, my dream last week spoke louder than words:

I used a magical machine that gave me the option to warp to different places. I pressed a button and it warped me to a house on a hill in a posh housing estate. I was invisible because the machine had put an invisibility cloak over me. From the patio, I could see a pool as well as the rolling countryside over the high walls and electric fencing. I guessed this was either DS’s house or his family’s house. I stood at the bottom of the house and saw a family on a higher patio playing around and joking with each other at the table. They all had curly hair like DS, some brown like him and some blonde like me. I desperately sought DS because I needed to speak to him. I couldn’t find him and guessed he must have been inside a bedroom because he was sick. There was no way for me to get past the family because then I would have become visible. I had an aching sense of loneliness and separation looking at the family scene. There was an ornamental metal hippo sculpture next to me. I patted and stroked it lovingly while lost in thought and unsure of where to go next.

And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation (and reunion, I would add)… The Prophet by Kahil Gibran.

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Therapy clients often feel sheepish

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My therapist DS (Deep Soul) definitely cares about me. I have come to this realisation after blogging about our last session and how devastated I was that he had kept me at a distance. It was one of those moments when things are so emotional that you are blind to your own issues and first need to vent before being able to think straight.

To the bloggers who are either in therapy, therapists or just emotionally intelligent: Your insightful and objective comments as outsiders gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for being there, not judging and also giving me the space to come to what now seems obvious.

My more rational and gathered thoughts about Monday’s session are as follows:

– I went into the session with two opposing expectations. On the one hand, I expected him to be there for me and comfort me, when my dad had not. On the other, I was expecting him to be exactly like my dad and disappoint me.

– I think DS kept a clinical distance with his neutral tone of voice and unaffected demeanor because he did not want to enter a dynamic playing out in the moment.

– He was being a good therapist by giving me the space to fully feel the overwhelming fear, panic, sadness and anger that seemed to emerge out of nowhere. He was allowing these feelings to discharge their energy.

– Not rushing to alleviate my abandonment fears allowed him to observe me and listen to what I had to say, in order to get a better understanding of why I was feeling this way.

– As far as I understand, he was basically allowing the negative transference to strengthen. He then timed his interventions to make me aware of the similarities between how I was feeling about him and how I had felt with my mom and dad, two major attachment figures.

– He did not rush in to offer comfort because that is not his job. By standing back, he was trying to allow me to sit with the discomfort and build the capacity to do that by myself in future.

– When he did not answer my question about whether he had thought of me during our break, he might have been extra icy and seemingly detached to tease out the anger and rage that I’ve been too scared to unleash.

– He put the transference needs above the needs of our therapeutic relationship. While research shows the relationship as being the most reliable marker of therapy success, I think he took the risk because he knew it would pay off.

– The risk was that I might think he was such an absolute asshole that our relationship would be irrevocably damaged and I would cancel all sessions. (But I think that would more likely have happened with an avoidantly attached client and not an anxiously attached one)

– I don’t think it was easy for him to see me in such pain and to indirectly cause me more pain in the moment by not responding as I had wanted.

Sheep have feelings too…

I am satisfied with these findings and they resonate on a cognitive level. They are starting to sink in on an emotional level. If he had responded as a friend or family member, we would have lost a good opportunity to advance my therapeutic goals. Could I go so far to say that he was giving me tough love? (And I hate to use the L word here because I cannot even comprehend that would be his feelings for a mere client)

Yes, I am only human and I am still feeling very raw. And it does hurt to expose a wounded heart. There is also an emotional pain volcano inside my torso that I have to deal with. After erupting on Monday, it’s now at the point where it’s bubbling and simmering slowly.

DS said that even though he was going away this weekend and would be taking Monday and Tuesday off, he would let me know if an evening session opened up on Wednesday. Failing that, I would see him in two weeks time.

While I was wiping my snot and streaked mascara from my face, he also said he thinks I am being too hard on myself by expecting progress all the time. When I think of how he dealt with me, it actually just strengthens the warm feelings I have for him as a therapist. Which creates a dilemma in the sense that my attachment to him has now only strengthened. It’s going to be a bitch to eventually say goodbye.

 

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Peeking through the cracks

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I did something this week that I haven’t done in over twenty years. It was both intimate and disturbing.

I was nestled on a comfy spot at my regular coffee shop while the rain belted down outside. With the gentle hubbub of voices and steam drifting off a mug of green tea, I felt brave and strong enough. I decided to have a conversation with my inner child (which I’ve included below).

Why does that seem like a big deal? Well, I didn’t exactly know she existed. I realised I had deep pain and wounds from my childhood but I hadn’t really embodied it as part of an inner child. Instead, I had just assumed that this was who I was… cracked and disfigured like an old mug that had been sloppily glued back together to hide the imperfections.

Glumpty-Dumpty had a big fall…

My view changed this month. In the last session with DS (my therapist Deep Soul), I acknowledged to him that I was made up of false selves. I wept because I had read about the concept of the authentic self and didn’t know what was real for me and what I’d put on for the sake of others. I really wanted to know who I was before I had to hide.

Since I started seeing him a year ago, DS has been able to extract bits and pieces of “real” me. He has had conversations with the wounded parts and enabled me to grieve. This is part of why I deeply appreciate his presence in my life. Anyway, I left the session with a mission and feeling connected to DS. Then it came about that we wouldn’t be meeting for two weeks. This was bearable until my dad couldn’t make a planned lunch on Father’s Day. The mixture unleashed devastating disappointment, abandonment issues and sadness.

A blogger (SpaceFreedomLove) kindly suggested in a comment that I nurture my wounded child in this time and listen to what she needs to feel better. I think she called it re-parenting! I really had to grapple with this concept. Firstly, it felt unnatural to think about my own needs without thinking of others’. I either felt guilty or like I would be punished for being so selfish. That’s some messed up thinking but I accept that it’s a conditioned part of me that I can work on. Secondly, there was a constant battle with the critical inner voice that had the ability to annihilate self-compassion and nurturing.

This voice said it was “stupid and New-Age” to speak to something which I was making up and which didn’t have a physical presence. But my curiosity and aching need to resolve the pain drowned out the voice. I took a lot of deep breaths and gently looked inwards to ask this child what it was feeling and needing in the moment.

Mini-Jay is in the house…

I wrote down the questions and waited for the answers. Here is the conversation that followed:

– Are you there?

Yes

– What do you need?

Accept me. Enjoy me. Give me the chance to breath. Don’t fight me. Protect me. Shield me from pain and hurt.

– I sense a lot of sadness inside?

Why are you only acknowledging me now? After all these years of shaming, pushing my needs down and ignoring me. How would you feel if someone locked you up for more than 20 years and chose not to look at you?

I’ve sat here in the dark, crying out for help. When my cries went unanswered, I sobbed and screamed. Still, no one came. So I stopped. I retreated to one corner of this cage and crumpled. Every now and then I would stand back up and try to call out again for food, nourishment, company, acknowledgement. Anything. That was not good enough. You came inside and kicked me back into the corner. Imagine how that feels. Sadness does not describe it. I am not sure I exist. I am talking to you but I don’t know if I am real. I need time to process this.

——-

I was taken aback by how devastated I was inside. Disbelief and shock vibrated through every cell. Instead of retreating from these feelings, I tried to ride through the discomfort. What followed was bliss. The scary wave dissipated and was replaced with calm. Just acknowledging and listening to this inner truth has shifted something.

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A letter to my therapist from the top of disappointment mountain.

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I was disappointed that you couldn’t make our regular session tonight. And then my heart dropped when you said you couldn’t see me tomorrow morning instead, especially because I was so excited to have some time off from work, which never happens. I had felt quite enterprising to come up with that solution. I needed to see you because of what I was feeling on Father’s Day.

I’ve reached the point in disappointment mountain…

My aunt and I had planned this whole lunch in honour of my dad, my grandad and her boyfriend, who is a dad. The day before the lunch, my dad’s wife (my step-mom) got awful news that her elderly dad had finally passed away. My dad apologised and said he would not be able to make lunch because he had to be there for her. I was trying to deal with the mixed feelings of not seeing my dad and also feeling my step-mom’s pain at losing her father. I completely understood that my dad needed to be there for her and I said as much to him. I guess I felt though that this was not the first time he had been there for other people and not me. Obviously, it was not just about my dad not making this one thing. It brought up a lot of times in the past when he had not shown up when he needed to. When I was left disappointed by his actions. The times I felt achingly alone and like he didn’t care that he was leaving me in that state. I realise I am sitting on a mountain of disappointment that’s collected over the years and I don’t quite know how to get off it. This mountain is high and its magnitude is dizzying. Disappointment sits thick in the base of my throat and stomach. It threatens to choke and engulf me from the inside. I remain vigilant, waiting for other people to do the same. I even half expected you not to answer my e-mail before tomorrow, but you did.

Where’s the pause button in my brain?…

It was when I was sitting with these emotions, trying my best to deal with them, that I got your message. I was happy that you had taken the time to respond to me. But then I found out that you wouldn’t be able to meet me at an alternative time because you were sick. So much ran through my mind and I tried to slow it down. I tried to think about things logically. But I couldn’t deny what I was feeling. The disappointment was rising through my torso, slowly. My body felt tight, clenching. Scared to relax in case I drowned. My chest also felt tight. Was that my heart closing off? No.

It felt like a scratch on an open wound I guess. And you didn’t cause the wound. It felt like a scratch because I had expected so much from you. I shouldn’t have done that. I should have just waited for your response before imagining our session and the relief at being able to let go of what I was feeling. The relief of being in your consistent, accepting and calming presence. There is no relief now.

Let’s all just acknowledge that sick has ick in it…

Within this maelstrom is sickening worry. This is the second time you have taken sick leave in a few weeks. I am so concerned for you. Are you sick with a heavy cold because of the weather and long working hours? Did you come down with flu because you are burnt out from us and your body needs rest? Or is it something far more serious?

I try to take a deep breath and think of the safe place in my head I shared with you recently. In the field you stand in your sturdy green tweed jacket among the verdant winter bushes. The misty mountains act as a backdrop and a light drizzle leaves a film of crystals on your clothes. You smile gently and I pray this reassurance washes away the disappointment.

I can’t afford to lose another person who means so much. You are like family to me. Please don’t leave me.

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When the therapy couch is on fire

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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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I was glued to my therapist (It takes two to therapy: volume two)

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No one warns you that you may become extremely attached to your therapist; that the relationship becomes central in your life and that they have the ability to evoke a maelstrom of powerful feelings within you, whether it be love, hate, anger, longing, envy or mistrust.

I never expected that I would see mine as anything more than a professional service provider. And yet, when you consider that a therapist provides unconditional positive regard, acceptance, empathy and a bottomless well of listening, it seems inevitable that this person holds the promise of a parental (or other) relationship you never had and so desperately wanted.

In the beginning, I was extremely focused on unloading my immediate predicament and unbearable emotions onto him. This bespectacled, tame soul was nothing more than a container for my secrets and feelings. A few sessions passed and he was still listening without judgment. The therapy relationship deepened and although I had some serious attachment issues playing out, I felt we could relate and that he wouldn’t intentionally hurt me. Most psychodynamic therapists feel the therapeutic relationship is key to healing and use the dynamics that play out as clues to what you might need. It was the small things that mattered to me. When he greeted, he kept the door open for me and offered me a glass of water or coffee. One evening (we have our sessions at 6.20pm because I have a hectic job), he came out to the waiting room and put the light on for me so I wouldn’t wait in darkness. He was always very in tune with whether the room was too hot or cold and offered to switch the air-con off or hand over a blanket. The best for me was the short chats we sometimes had at the end of the session in which he would recommend cool psychology or neuroscience articles, books or TED talks. We both had a keen interest in this type of stuff and I felt important when he thought I’d like something.

I came up with the idea to create a cartoon strip on the process of therapy (similar to Therapy Tales) and made him the central character. I spent hours perfecting the drawings, colour and message and handed it over to him during a session. He seemed surprised but chuckled and put it down on the table next to him. Another time, I overcame my fears and pored my soul into a non-fiction creative piece for my Masters degree. I printed it out and handed it to him, both wanting and not wanting to hear his opinion. It became vital that I obtain his approval and find ways to please him and impress him. At this stage, it should be obvious that I was treating him like the loving, affectionate father I had always wanted. It wasn’t really about him but about the relationship framework I was carrying over from childhood.

Many hours were spent thinking about what he was like outside the therapy room, what his wishes and fears were, what he did to de-stress, whether he had people who cared about him and other personal aspects I had absolutely no idea about. It was infuriating because he revealed very little about himself and always steered the conversation back to me, which was the whole point of therapy I suppose. I experienced a feeling very similar to the pure love one has for a teacher or adoring uncle. I felt ashamed that I was thinking about him so much and that I had fantasies of bumping into him at the shops or speaking about him over coffee.

It was at this point that I did some reading to see whether this was a common occurence. I found that many people had been through the same experience as me and immediately felt a bit better. Professionals and clients alike recommended speaking to your therapist about these powerful feelings as a vehicle to understanding yourself better.

It took a lot of courage and vulnerability but I opened up to him. After listening carefully for most of the hour, he normalized the situation while gently reminding me that boundaries remained in place and that we could never be friends. I felt both relieved that he hadn’t outright rejected me but also devastated that this relationship would always be one-sided. A few months later, I was still working through some severe disappointment and had a reality check which I shared in a session.

“You are this kind to everyone,” I said softly while averting my eyes. “I thought I was special and that you had seen something in me. That you thought about me as much as I did you. I wanted to be special but this is your job. You deal in empathy and your job is to care. It’s the job, not me.”

He didn’t confirm or deny. Instead, he just waited for me to continue and asked questions to clarify certain feelings. While I knew he could feel my disappointment, there were no satisfying conclusions. It became a little easier to speak to him after that because I felt like I was seeing him at least a bit clearer. The goal of being the perfect therapy client and caring how I came across didn’t matter as much anymore.

I still care about him deeply and regard him in the same way I would a father or the older brother I always wanted but never had.

All I hope for is that he really does care about me as a person. That he won’t forget about me when our professional relationship comes to an end one day. And, maybe, that he took something valuable away too.

 

 

 

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