I had another therapy session today (our regularly scheduled Monday session). I was so damn nervous about it that I actually sat down and wrote this affirmation to myself in her waiting room before it started:
Focus on remaining calm. It will be okay. She’s on your side. You do not have to be perfect. Just be honest. Remember to breathe. This is your treatment, so you can talk about whatever you want. If she redirects you, it is probably to keep the therapeutic space safe and if that activates feelings of rejection or invalidation, you can simply tell her that. You are stronger than you ever fully give yourself credit for. Embrace the awkward!
I think the affirmation helped because it went very well. Probably the best session we’ve had so far, actually. She asked me if I remembered Friday’s session. I do, but in that weird underwater way that I remember things when someone else is fronting. We still talked about it, though. She brought up a lot of the same points that Julia articulated in her post reflecting on that session, which I thought was very fascinating. Then I mentioned that Julia wrote a post about it and she asked if she could hear it. So I read it to her and she said several interesting things in response:
- She felt Julia was actually very articulate and spoke quite poignantly about her experiences.
- At the moment Julia was feeling stupid (and thus laughed at her), she was also feeling stupid for being laughed at, so they were both feeling stupid at the same time.
- She noted the “ten minute warning” she gave at the end of session and could clearly see that it agitated Julia.
- She did know it was Julia, based on information I had previously given her.
I was very impressed by how obviously attuned she was to Julia throughout their session and afterwards. She was paying close attention and although she wasn’t entirely sure how to navigate therapy with this new part she’d ultimately never met before, she was okay with not having all of the answers. What a relief.
Then we talked about Zooey (of course). I brought in a printed version of the “Math” post that I wrote (in which I did legitimate arithmetic to make myself feel better about my time in treatment with her). I also briefly talked about some other things, like an agenda I had written for a session where I outlined various reasons our therapeutic alliance was declining and a bulleted list of new boundary guidelines for Zooey and I. I will share those here once I fully discuss them with the new therapist.
We didn’t talk about it today because we ran out of time. I could have just given her the papers like I always did with Zooey, but this therapist doesn’t do that. She said that although I am welcome to share anything I want with her, she wants us to actually talk about it together before I hand it over. She feels that to just give pieces of paper (with very important stuff written on them) to her without discussing it is in itself a rather “dissociated” way of doing therapy. She makes a good point.
I’ll admit I felt sorta lame once I was looking it all of this paperwork again. I actually said out loud, “God, I am so stupid.“ But then the therapist was like, “I think the exact opposite. I can clearly see how hard you were working.” And she’s right. I fought so hard to figure out how to make it work with Zooey. I was constantly shifting and moving and trying to predict what would make her feel the most safe and comfortable and effective. If that is not a re-creation of my family dynamics, I don’t know what is!
But the thing is, this new therapist said that that is okay. In fact, it’s expected. Of course I’m going to re-create my family dynamics. That’s generally what happens in therapy.
Then I was explaining how at one point I started setting an alarm on my iPhone so I wouldn’t go over session time. She immediately said “Okay, just so you know – it is MY job to keep track of time. That’s what I am supposed to be doing, not you.” Zooey never did that. I actually couldn’t even SEE the clock in her office because it was sorta behind me. So although I couldn’t even tell when I was going over my session time, I was still absolutely terrified that I would go over and upset Zooey.
And that, in a nutshell, sums up exactly what I was trying to convey during this session (although it took me 50 minutes to figure that out): I cannot be responsible for her.
I cannot be the one who does all of the sacrificing and maneuvering to make this therapy work. I cannot constantly worry about whether or not she is feeling secure and empowered in her job as my therapist. I (and others) are certainly willing to partake in the work it requires to have an effective therapeutic relationship, but I need the therapist to meet me halfway (at least!). I need her to actually do her job.
Luckily, she is a) seemingly much more aware of what her job is and b) willing to, you know, do it.