Three Jars

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.03.00 PMToday’s therapy session was another very dense hour of conversation. I went in feeling a little unsure of how I wanted to start the session. I knew of a couple things I wanted to address, but it can be overwhelming to start a session. This therapist is not the type to give prompting questions or to connect last session with this one by asking leading questions. I actually think that’s a good thing, but it puts all the pressure on me to open the conversation.

So in standard Andi form, I just told her that. I said I felt really awkward about the first few minutes of every single session. She asked what made it awkward and I explained that there are a few reasons. For one thing, it’s hard to walk into a room and sit down and then suddenly have the spotlight on you for an hour. It’s hard for me to slow down enough to really be present in that space. It’s hard to choose a topic from all the billions of things spinning around in my collective brain-space. It’s hard to push through vulnerability and insecurity about bringing up certain topics. It’s also challenging to choose a topic and understand how to frame it because I always feel hyper-aware of all the things I’m communicating. The words I actually say are an important piece, but the way I choose them, phrase them, emphasize them, and the fact that I’m talking about something at all communicates a lot more than just what the words are saying.

She acknowledged all of this and asked if this might be related to last session when I brought up a trauma anniversary and then we spent the rest of session discussing whether or not to talk more about what happened and then how we’d process such a trauma, rather than actually processing it.

Yes. It did (partially. There’s a lot more to it). I felt awkward brining it back up because I’d already mentioned it. It’s extremely vulnerable. In “normal life”, if you mentioned something like that to a friend or family member, they’d likely follow-up with you next time they saw you (i.e. “Hey, I was wondering about that thing you mentioned last week…” or whatever). In therapy, the relationship is totally different. The client leads the conversation.

I suppose that’s how it should be. It makes sense, right? If the therapist is constantly bringing up their own curiosities and follow-up questions, it could totally overshadow the patient’s needs and possibly re-activate them. No one wants that. But at the same time, it’s still just admittedly weird to navigate this particular dynamic. Therapist suggested I try to simply tell her that I want to bring up something I’ve mentioned before. I can either be explicit, or just do a subtle segue: “Oh that actually reminds me of that other thing I brought up a few sessions ago…”

I think that’s a good idea, but I’m definitely going to need to work on that. A lot. It’s hard for me to believe the things I say are important enough to bring up once, let alone twice!

She said to imagine that we have three separate containers: #1 is for things we aren’t willing to talk about. #2 is for things we are probably willing to talk about, but aren’t yet ready or we simply haven’t figured out how to have that conversation yet. And #3 is for things we’re definitely willing to talk about and/or actively discussing. She also said she hopes the first jar will only have a tiny amount of stuff in it.

I like that. I immediately pictured glass jars for some reason. So I think this unaddressed trauma is there – in our therapeutic jar #2 – waiting for me. Although I might not want to address it right now, I know that there’s room for me to do so eventually. I can just pick it out of jar #2 when I’m ready and move it into jar #3. And maybe I could even move it back to a different jar if it didn’t feel okay to talk about once I started to bring it up again.

It’s not gone. It’s not forgotten. It wasn’t dropped. It’s just being stored in a jar for now.

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17 thoughts on “Three Jars

  1. Cat says:

    I was reading a post by Amber tonight about narcissistic parents and how the children often grow up with a self-belief that we are selfish. Bringing things up in conversation or in therapy that are all about us can be a real challenge. I suppose the sessions do need to be client lead, but this can feel uncomfortable, especially if we ever perceive our Therapist is not interested enough to ask. I love the three jar analogy, but what struck me is that you don’t have a jar for things you definitely will not talk about, that is courageous. I wouldn’t have many things I wouldn’t discuss, but there are a couple

    Liked by 1 person

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