My session yesterday went very well. I’m a little surprised because I was so anxious going into it, but I think all of the writing and talking I did throughout the weekend helped me feel more confident.

Before heading into session, I started to regret not making an exhaustive bulleted list of everything I wanted to cover (which is my usual routine). But then I remembered my posts here and all of the important dialogue I had with my lovely readers, and I started to calm down. I reassured myself that I knew what was important to me and found some confidence that I didn’t even know I had.

I opened the hour by saying,

“I feel like it’s been forever since I was here…I’m like ‘wait, what were we even working on?’ But it also seems like I never left. It kinda feels the exact same…like we’re just hitting the replay button or something.”

She asked what in particular I was feeling.

“Anger, I guess. Like…I feel okay-ish outside of here. More optimistic, to be sure. But then I come in here and sit down and I just feel so pissed!”

She speculated that my anger comes from all of the tension and difficult emotions surrounding our latest discussion about boundaries. This is when I felt my throat start to tighten. I was so worried I would say the wrong thing and lead us back into an argument. But I also didn’t want to just surrender, so I said:

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As much as I was soothed by the phone call I had with my therapist on Friday evening, I continue to be very agitated regarding the issue of boundaries and affection. I’d say I was probably at about 8/10 on the panic scale when I left session, 6/10 after talking to her, and since then I’ve been hanging out around 4-5/10.

I really loved her metaphor about the elephant. And I appreciated that she made a point to let me know that she wants to support me and would never intentionally or deliberately deny me what I need. I also understand that her version of giving me what I need will likely always differ, sometimes vastly, from what I imagine.

But I also can’t shake the feeling that all of this is happening within the realm of where the therapist is most comfortable. I think she has a flexible way of conducting therapy that also exists within a very rigid framework. Which is to say that she is only flexible when it suits her particular needs, or her specific version of therapy.

And so here I am, twisting and bending and trying desperately not to break, in an effort to preserve the therapeutic relationship. I will admit that I do see her bending as well, but as I mentioned – I feel as though she only does so within a limited range, whereas I’m expected to move far outside my comfort soon.

Which, you know, may very well be the whole point of therapy.

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The Elephant

After I published my post about yesterday’s session, I called my therapist. I left a voicemail that went something like this:

“Hi. I’m calling because I think we probably need to talk before Monday because that’s a long ways away and this feels important. I know you’re out of the office tomorrow, and potentially all weekend, so you may not be able to call me back, but I’m asking anyway. I *think* I need to talk to you, but I don’t know…because I don’t really know what that even means! Anyway, if you have a chance between now and then, can you please call me?”


She called back an hour or so later and we were able to speak for about ten minutes. I told her just about everything I was feeling and thinking. I essentially outlined much of what I’d written in my previous post, specifically that I felt like she was not necessary putting conditions on affection for me, but just withholding it entirely.

I also said that although she is certainly entitled to conduct therapy in the ways she thinks are most helpful, I’m not sure that my feeling as though she won’t offer me compassion or reassurance, even when I really need it, is a good match for me. I explained that I’d imagined I didn’t feel those things from her because I simply hadn’t been asking for them (or asking in the right way). But upon finally finding a way to point out this specific need, I learned that it wasn’t something she was even considering offering to me and that was absolutely devastating. I further told her that this realization not only undermined my relationship with her, but my relationship with therapy in general. I was questioning everything!

I was somewhat surprised by her reaction to all of this.

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The End?

Wow. I seriously feel like the floor just fell out from underneath me. Not just for today, or with this therapist, but for therapy in general. Its the type of realization that I’m not sure has the potential to be reparable because my very understanding of the therapeutic process and relationship has shifted.

I wonder if it’s always been this way. Am I just now seeing this? Have I been hoping and reaching for something this entire time that never actually even existed??! Am I really that fucking naïve and stupid?

Probably. Let me try to explain.

I went into session today hoping to expand on yesterday’s session. Since I had written so much on the topic, I figured I could just pull from that material. But I didn’t want to get into vulnerable stuff if my therapist had somehow changed her mind about allowing me to call her to connect between sessions (something I do maybe a couple times a month). So I went about asking about the phone calls in an admittedly less-than-ideal manner. I playfully said,

So did you have a chance to think about our conversation yesterday? Are you going to take away phone calls or..?”

I get that there were better ways to ask this question, or address the issue, but that’s something I’m actively working on, and still really struggle with. She responded by being a bit snarky and saying that she felt like there was no way for her to really answer that question. Why? I cannot tell you. I know she explained it several times, but it all seems like nonsensical bullshit to me right now.

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Want v. Need

When I was a kid, my parents would send my siblings and I outside to play. I didn’t really mind because I honestly loved being outside. As soon as it was nice enough, I was playing outdoors until the street lights came on. During the cooler months, they’d send us to our playroom – a room that evolved from something for small children (with endless toys) to something more appropriate for older kids (with a cool fold-out couch, TV, stereo, and many posters torn out from the pages of Teen Beat magazine).

I kinda loved having the separate spaces. My parents were often boring, annoying, or outright scary. But, also, they would tell us not to disturb them. Common phrases I heard were, “Don’t bother me unless you are dying” or “That scream better be because your arm was just cut off!”

Whether or not they meant that in the literal sense? Who knows. But I know my siblings and I certainly thought they were serious. And so my very difficult relationship with “needing” pretty much anything continued to develop.

My therapist and I have been having a deliberate conversation around boundaries. This is always the toughest subject for us in session. It just triggers such HUGE emotional pain for me. In a recent session, I asked her two questions that she interpreted as me “mocking the boundaries”. That statement felt very confusing to me because my intent was simply to try and open up a conversation about something that was really hard to talk about. I didn’t experience myself as consciously doing anything at all with the boundaries, but she clearly did.

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After writing my last post, I spent some time thinking about the dynamic with my therapist surrounding the impact we have on each other.

I get that she wants to be treated with a reasonable amount of respect, and I am always reasonably respectful. But sometimes, yes, I’m also a bratty brat who gets snarky and passive-aggressive and (as she likes to say) “provocative”.

I don’t enjoy being that way, but it’s all a very real part of how I still react and communicate, especially during particularly tense or scary moments.

So I brought this issue back into session on Friday. I told her that I understood her perspective, but that I also want to reiterate that sometimes the snark is part of the message. It’s important that I’m able to communicate the entire message, rather than the sanitized “nice girl” version. I told her that I do see that I tend to be provocative, but that being provocative is often times the way I communicate how I’m feeling.

Which segued our conversation back to the idea of interpretation. I explained that I often act the most bratty when I’m afraid. Putting up a wall of sarcasm allows me to stay (somewhat) engaged in the conversation while also protecting myself. She said that was interesting and helpful to hear because in those moments, the message she gets from me is that I’m disengaging and needing space from her. Which is why she tends to back off a bit (which I then interpret as a rejection and results in a rupture).

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Stranger Sessions

Things have been so strange in therapy lately. I think we recovered fairly well from the whole “Google” incident, and I was able to talk to her openly about what it meant to have Grey Mouse as a transitional object. Although that conversation was upsetting because she sorta went in a different direction than I did.

I’d imagined she’d offered me the doll to help hold onto her and our work over that weekend. She did, but the thing she identified *first* was how she believed that taking care of the doll might help me connect with the part of myself that has such incredible love and compassion for my nieces and nephew. In essence, she was hoping I could channel that into compassion and love for myself, in particular the younger parts of myself.

Which is a good idea, but it felt like a rejection. And then I felt embarrassed for thinking she’d offered it to me to help connect with her (as opposed to myself). She clarified that it was for both reasons, but by that point all the warm fuzzies I’d felt from the original gesture were gone and I hastily threw the doll back in his normal resting place on the ottoman in her office.


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As I mentioned in my last post, my therapist lent me a stuffed animal to use as a transitional object for this weekend. I have session this afternoon and I’ll have to bring Gray Mouse back to her office.

It’s been interesting to have him with me the last three days. I think that my relationship with this stuffed mouse has somehow been a recreation of the relationship I have with my therapist. (Maybe that’s the point?)

It’s hard to explain, but I feel a lot of restraint around it. I know it’s here and that I can ultimately love it or hate it as much as I want, but I am cautious and protective of myself. I feel almost afraid to truly allow myself to feel connected to the doll and what it represents, which is the connection I have with my therapist and our work together.

I can tell that there is a part (or parts) of me that feel a desperate and unfiltered attachment to this doll. But I can also feel the skepticism and restraint that comes from other parts. So although it is literally just a stuffed animal, I find myself feeling a lot of complicated emotions around it.

I haven’t let it out of my sight since she gave it to me. It’s generally been within arms-length of me the entire weekend. I even slept with it, alongside my other stuffed animals. My wife suggested that Gray Mouse could befriend some of our other toys and I was incredibly resistant to this idea. It felt like too much – like something that wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be allowed. I think I was trying to figure out exactly how my therapist would want me to utilize this gesture and what she would and would not approve of me doing with the mouse.

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Transitional Object

At this point, I believe I have seen my therapist for 202 sessions. That’s a lot. In all of those sessions, I have never asked her for any sort of transitional object. Partly because I’m afraid to ask and partly because I wouldn’t know what to ask for.

She has a very plain office, void of almost anything personal. I often sneak a glance at her bookshelf to see the titles, but I believe it’s entirely professional texts and nonfiction selections.

She also has maybe five tchotchke type items and I never pick them up or ask about them. And she has a single stuffed animal, a gray mouse, that made a mysterious appearance in her office several months ago. The mouse is generally resting in various positions nestled on or between the three pillows she keeps on top of an ottoman. I have laid down on the floor a couple of times and when I do that, I usually grab a pillow to place my head on.But otherwise I’m too afraid to touch anything else. I don’t want to be intrusive or get called out for being “nosy”.

Until today. Today I was in “rare form” (as my parents would say) and I felt curious about everything. I think it may have partially been a way to distract from myself and what was going on with me, but I also just felt an uninhibited curiosity that I wanted to explore. So I picked one item up at a time, brought it back to my chair, held it and played with it, and asked her about it. There wasn’t much to say, but she was kind and forthcoming with the conversation. I think she was curious herself, about my strange behavior.

Finally, I allowed myself to reach for the gray mouse. Or, Gray Mouse, as Anna (our 7 year old part) formally calls him. I’ve never actually touched him myself. I usually avoid looking at the toy because it activates that child inside and it distracts me. I don’t like feeling connected to the young parts. Their vulnerability and insatiable needs are frightening to me. But I grabbed him and held him close to my heart for about half of the session.

It was an interesting session. I felt dissociated from almost everything, which allowed me to speak in the kind of open and honest manner that I normally only wish for. I shared some things I’ve been holding onto for a long time. I asked my therapist some simple (and somewhat “personal”) questions I’ve been wondering about more or less since I met her.

It was nice, but also quite  raw and painful. I can tell that we are at a crucial point right now. I am incredibly emotionally vulnerable for myriad reasons, including the nature of our current relational work and the possible transitional state of my self-destrutive impulses (from restricting back to cutting, drinking, using, etc).

As our session wrapped up, I could tell she sensed how intense I was feeling. She asked about my plans for this evening and the weekend, most likely checking in for safety and stability purposes. But then she said,

“This might seem like a strange question, but do you want to take Gray Mouse home with you and take care of him this weekend?”

I felt that little girl inside of me absolutely squeal with delight. I let out this sound that I cannot even describe and said, “Really?! You would let me take him for the weekend?!!”

I was damn near hysterical with joy. I looked up and saw my therapist beginning to become misty-eyed. I’m not sure what she expected in response, but I think she was somehow very touched by the moment.

“Yes. But you have to take care of him and make sure he doesn’t get hurt. You have to take care of each other.”

I squeezed that mouse with everything I had and told her I would take excellent care of him before stashing him gently in my bag. I don’t really feel much of anything right now, but I’m hoping I can “unthaw” a bit and pull out of this dissociated state some more so that I can really use this object to feel connected to my therapist throughout the weekend.

I really, really need that.


Having An Impact

I knew I wanted to set up yesterday’s session for success as much as possible, but I wasn’t sure how. I was still reeling from Monday and felt confused and unsure how to proceed. In the end, I decided that just being as honest as possible would probably be my best bet.

So I went in and talked a bit about the things I wrote about in my previous post – feeling unheard, shut down, veered into a space I wasn’t prepared or willing to enter. I told her I felt as though she was withholding connection, perhaps as a consequence for seeking (and ultimately receiving) connection in the “wrong” way. I mentioned the seemingly strange ways she was drawing a distinction between us and how distancing and alienating that felt to me. I talked about feeling as though there was a mismatch between the conversation we’d had on Friday versus Monday and the seeming incongruence between what she was saying and what I was feeling.

She mostly just listened. For a while, she didn’t really respond or seem to identify with much of what I said. She maintained that she was indeed “there with me” during the session, even if it felt different or disconnected. Then she once again mentioned that my actions have consequences. At that point, I felt very frustrated with the way she was talking around this issue, so I asked her what exactly she meant by that.

Finally, she said,

“I guess maybe I am having a bit of a a delayed negative reaction to being googled. And I see and hear that you felt a lot of positivity from the connection we shared on Friday and you want to talk about that and find that space again, but I am not feeling that connection. I feel like you’re trying to force me into a space of connection instead of talking about why you did what you did…”

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