Tag Archives: vulnerability

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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Being held (and the promise of a transitional object)

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I sit wide-eyed and stiff on the therapy couch, anxious at our imminent separation over the holidays. My body plays “statue statue” and attempts to remain as inconspicuous as possible. I feel very young in this session. While I am sure I’ve shown my young side to DS before, this is the first time I am aware of it. It is the strangest sensation. My mind peeks at my arms and legs and they seem fully-grown. My feet can easily reach the floor if they want to. And yet, I feel small. My lips pout like a toddler. My throat emits a slow, somewhat babyish and unsure voice. Me, but not me.

DS, on the other hand, is exactly the same. He wears one of his checked shirts, unbuttoned over a soft cotton top, jeans, and sandals. His feet are nice. Soft and squishy toes like mine. Re-assuring.

When we started the session, I’d shared another dream I had about him. I was with my mom and sister in his waiting room, and my mom was asking about him. I looked through all his client folders and pulled out one with his information. It was in my handwriting and we looked through it. Out of all the text there, all I could recall seeing was his name and surname. The next folder I pulled out contained a drawing of a bunny rabbit. We found this peculiar and laughed. The scene changed and we sat under a tree in a lane. DS walked past with a bottle of red wine or champagne in his hand. He was on his way to a party and he stopped to greet. I was dressed in a lilac and silver dress with revealing cleavage. He seemed taken aback by my appearance in a good way. I introduced him to my mom and then we chatted while my mom and sister chatted. DS was so relaxed. He seemed spontaneous and uninhibited. I was in awe that he could speak so much! The scene changed again and I was walking into a cottage, with DS leading the way. I was telling him how much I needed him and how scared I was. I sensed he was trying to let me down gently without upsetting me. Not wanting to be confronted for my neediness or held accountable for my behaviour, I pretended to sleepwalk while talking to him. My eyes were closed at times and I held out my hands to guide the way. He stopped in the bathroom with his back to me and said “We  have reached a really important stage in your therapy”. DS seemed to be very conflicted and weighing up the best course of action. Eventually, he invited me to wrap his arms around him from behind. It felt surreal and warm. Then he turned around to face me and brought me closer to his chest, like a parent would with their child. We gazed into each other’s eyes. I felt truly held and safe in that moment.

Tears fall down my cheek and he asks what I am feeling. I am sad and he wants to know why. I figure out that it’s because I know he can never hold me like that. From the dream, the session unfolds into memories of pretending to sleepwalk as a small child so I can spend time with my parents instead of being alone and scared in a dark bedroom. I have a bedtime and am supposed to leave my parents alone after that. I make myself as inconspicuous as possible in front of the television and hope they notice but don’t notice me. Sometimes it works.

“So you were supposed to disappear after 7pm? You were not supposed to exist after that,” DS says gently, more as a statement than a question. I nod and feel the pain of these weighty words. He draws a parallel between me then and the me sitting before him now, present but not able to be fully present.

He doesn’t know that for the last month or so, I’ve been sleeping with a soft toy cow my mom gave me a few years ago. I want to ask him about transitional objects but also fear that if he knows about the cow, he will deem that sufficient. Then I think that obviously it’s not the same because it’s not his. With my mind made up, I shyly ask him if he ever gives his clients something to hold onto during breaks.

“Yes I do. Actually I had been thinking about that for you,” he responds. My eyes widen even further and my heart skips a few beats. He understands. The mood changes in the room and although I am still reserved, excitement pops its head out.

I ask if he has chosen an object and he says yes, a book. The corners of my mouth shoot outwards. Books are special. We often talk about them and I sometimes share with him what I am reading. Has he chosen a specific book yet?

“I have a few in mind,” he says, adding that he is still deciding between fiction or non-fiction and what do I think?

I want to bounce around in my seat in anticipation. “Fiction”. Fiction is personal. I imagine reading the words that his eyes have already sealed onto the page and imbued with meaning just waiting for me to discover. While a book is not soft, it can still be held and even better, loved in words and thought.

It becomes clear he has spotted the ‘Haruki Murakami’ book lying next to me, which I’d bought along to read beforehand. He asks whether I’ve read Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and I reply that it’s my favourite book.

“I would like to read something I haven’t read before. Surprise me.” The kid is feeling cheeky and brave. He takes it well and we agree that he will think about it.

The session comes to a close quietly. I feel shy again but content. My eyes slowly gaze upwards at DS and he smiles. I smile and quickly look down again. A few seconds pass and I look at him again. His eyes radiate and he smiles again. A fun game. For a moment, I am held in mind.

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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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Broken mirrors

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Letter to my therapist DS (Deep Soul)… I feel icky for sharing my insecurities with you. Being aware of my self-doubt and baggage tonight made me feel weak, gross and broken. I said that when I looked into a mirror, I felt flawed and like I needed to be perfect. After our session, I feel sick with shame. I have so many things to be grateful for, like my health and things like having legs and arms and functioning lungs. Instead, voicing some of this toxicity inside makes me feel like an ungrateful, sick person.

I just feel so tired. You saw my confusion tonight. I was trying to answer your gentle probing questions about these feelings around my body. I don’t know what to believe. I feel conflicted. I don’t know how to explain this. Some days I feel presentable, pretty even. I feel calm and strong. Other days I feel revolting unless I bath, clean up, put make up on and dress well. My skin literally crawls with revulsion unless I do this. My mom and sister’s joking remarks about my big bum size, small boobs, paleness and gawkiness while I was growing up have no doubt been internalized. As have the insults from idiotic bullies when I was in school. I still look in the mirror today for signs that these flaws are visible. These routines and habits are like a safety blanket. I feel more confident when I have a presentable exterior.

You hear this but I wonder whether you are confused because you see a relatively normal body in front of you, not someone overweight or underweight. You see someone with makeup, good clothes and a whiff of perfume. I make sure I am this way for therapy because it makes me feel a bit more self-assured, a bit more like-able, a little less f-ed up. Looking good is part of my identity out in the world. Often, I contemplate pitching up at therapy with a bare face, greasy hair and baggy clothing. No doubt you would remain professional and not say a thing. But I would be wondering about your reaction on the inside.

I cannot shake off this yucky feeling after seeing you. I feel like I am less in your eyes for sharing these concerns. I wanted to be strong, at peace, even desirable as a healthy woman in your presence. There is an intense urge to switch off and separate from all these thoughts.

Perhaps it comes down to something I told you tonight… As a major attachment figure, I feel little embers of self-acceptance glow when you truly see me and accept anything I bring to the session. I told you it feels like I can only find self-love through this mirroring. The deep compassion and care I easily extend unto others is something so inaccessible to myself. Outside of therapy, It mostly feels like there is only my cracked mirror offering a pretty warped reflection.

Right now, I don’t know what you think of all of this. Yes, I could see in the session that you were empathizing. I guess I wondered how you REALLY felt. And what seemed so present and comforting in the hour seems so far away now.

May I gather the strength to work through these feelings this week without giving into the need to email you in the hope you will reassure me that I am worthy, just as I am. I know that will never happen. It is too sickening to think about how much I want that reassurance and know I’ll never get it. To email you in between the session would be a failure in my eyes. It would be confirmation that I had finally broken down and broken your rules. It would confirm I am just another needy girl.

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