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?