Rupture and Repair

I just got out of session and I have to say – that didn’t feel very good. I did share the letter I wrote about ideals and hopes and expectations around adding more space to the therapy. But not until the last 15 minutes and not until after we had some strange (albeit mild) therapeutic rupture.

At first I talked about Father’s Day and how generally shitty that day is. Julia printed out her poem to share, but she didn’t pull it out during session. Maybe another time. Once I finished talking about Father’s Day, the therapist reflected that I somehow seem both more distant and disconnected from my biological father than from my biological mother, yet also more impacted by Father’s Day than Mother’s Day.

She’s right. Sorta. I find both Mother’s and Father’s Day to be painful, but for very different reasons.

WIth Mother’s Day – I always feel a sense of sadness. I feel bereft and empty. There are so many women in my life who have served as “Moms” to me since I was a little girl. I think I was always looking for mothering – for empathy and nurturing. I found it in several people, many of whom were ripped out of my life by my actual bio mother when she found them to be too threatening. But the two that remain – my “Mom” and my Mother-in-law – are women that I love very much and who both provide mothering in distinct, yet important ways. However, there is still always this sense of loss…the “mother-shaped hole” in my heart that can seemingly never be repaired.

Father’s Day, however, is more about disgust. I feel gross, dirty, even itchy when I think about it. As I spoke of this in session today, I also talked about how every damn year people write these completely over-the-top “My Dad is my hero and the greatest man to ever live, etc” posts on their social media accounts for Father’s Day. She asked how I felt when I read those posts.

Confused, mostly.”

“Hmm. I wonder why.”

“Because I don’t get it. I don’t think I really understand what a Dad is – what fathering is. I have always felt a yearning for more of my own mother or just more mothering in general. But I never had that with my father. I never felt like I wanted more or had a need that I was desperate to fulfill. I didn’t look for fathers in other places. I never have. I have a great Father-in-law who cares for me very deeply, but I’d hardly say we’re close. And that’s okay. I don’t want that. I don’t need it. I don’t get it.”

She reflected back that perhaps since I associate such intense feelings of disgust with fathers that I’ve never really wanted to go in search of a replacement.

Absolutely. The last thing I need in this life is another father.

Anyway. That conversation was kind of exhausting. I felt particularly exposed due to the traumatic memory I’d shared last time. I knew in my head that I wanted to accomplish two more things in this session:

  1. show her a photo I’d referenced last session; and
  2. read her the damn letter

After sitting in silence for a good 3-4 minutes, I finally took a deep breath and said, “Do you want to see that picture I was talking about?”

“What picture? … Oh! From last time – in the bathing suit?”

“Yeah. You’ll know what I mean.”

“Okay. Yeah. And also, you said you wanted to share something else important…”

I totally froze. I shut my iPad cover and set it down. I thought I was going to burst into tears.

“Whoa. What just happened?”

“Nothing”

“It really does not seem like ‘nothing’.”

Silence.

Then, finally, I said, “It’s just…I’m really really sensitive.”

“And I interrupted you…”

Yes. She did. I explained that it was very frustrating to me that she let me sit in silence for a good four minutes, not saying anything. But then when I finally found the courage to share something really vulnerable (the photo) she chooses that moment to prompt me about the letter. To me, it felt like rejection. As if she was saying that the photo wasn’t important. Or worse, that she didn’t want me to share it with her (even if she was perhaps only feeling this on a subliminal level).

She said that she very much wanted to both see the photo and to hear the letter. And that she understood why I was upset by her interrupting me and could also see why I felt sensitive to that interaction. She explained that she brought up the letter because mentioning the photo made her realize that I was bringing up material from last session and she wanted to encourage me to share this other really important thing.

She also said that she doesn’t mean for the silence in session to be sadistic. For some clients, it gives them a chance to collect their thoughts and figure out what they want to say next. Not for me. Instead it feels like torture. I always imagine that there is a definite something I should be saying next and if I don’t say that specific thing, it will be really bad for whatever reason. I also feel a lot of pressure to bring up things that we both know are unresolved. I hate it. I feel like I’m stuck in this awful space where I can’t move in any direction. She told me that was very helpful feedback to have because she will reconsider how she uses silence with me in session.

I believe her. I know she didn’t mean to hurt me or reject me or even interrupt me. But I am really sensitive and that did hut me. I told her that it wasn’t really anything she did, I just tend to react weirdly to things sometimes. She asked if perhaps her explaining her thought process triggers me to feel even worse about myself because I tend to follow it up by engaging in some form of self-loathing self-talk.

I mean, yes. I do feel a need to protect her ego. Which in turn protects me. But also, I know that I’m just being over-sensitive and weird and that she didn’t mean to hurt me.

She gently reminded me that this is a classic trauma response. Even if I know she isn’t trying to hurt me on a logical level, on other, perhaps more emotional levels, I feel very threatened and reactive.

True.

Anyway. I wasn’t sure we’d be able to dig our way out of this small, but pretty significant rupture. I sat there feeling really frustrated with myself for being so weird and wasting all this time.

In true form, however, the therapist responded to a need I had literally just vocalized and broke the silence herself.

“I’d really like to see that picture. I’m wondering if you’d still be willing to show it to me?”

I laughed. “Sure. And thank you for saying that.”

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11 thoughts on “Rupture and Repair

  1. Life in a Bind - BPD and me says:

    I love love this post and particularly your therapist’s reaction at the end – how awesome is her response to your need 🙂 As for silence. ….I’m exactly the same. It feels paralysing and like abandonment and I have no idea what I should be saying next. It’s horrible. ….I hope your next session goes really well and you’re able to pick up where you left off. .. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks so much! Yes – that is very much my experience in session as well. I hope things go well, too. I’m admittedly nervous because I just feel so exposed and vulnerable right now. But hoping the honesty will pay off. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mutedworrier says:

    I have the exact same problem with silence…you describe it perfectly. I find myself holding my breath too and feeling like I can’t even swallow.
    Though it saddens me to read on here how others are facing daily battles, I also feel relief when I can relate so much to what others say…it makes me feel slightly less alone.
    Good luck with your recovery 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    I know it doesn’t feel great right now, to have had that rupture, yet I see this as quite healing; you were triggered, and had someone in the moment, attend to that trigger. Creating a new pathway. Nice work in staying with the sensitivity, and communicating it to your therapist.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. alicewithptsd says:

    I hate silence in therapy, too. I always feel like I am supposed to be saying something, but that i don’t know the right answer, and will dissapoint or upset that other person. And then that thought circles around and around in my head, and i get more and more panicked until i can’t think striaght and end up frozen. I was lucky that I explained this to Bea early on, and she did most of the talking for a long time– even though she explained that therapists are trained to not talk, to let the client do almost all the talking, and that silence is useful to collect thoughts. I think its more common than therapists think, us being afraid of silence. I don’t know. And I am so over sensative to everything, every little nuanace, tone of voice, ext. We have had so many small ruptures because of this. You aren’t alone in feeling like this. I’m really glad you shared your letter, that you were brave enough to do so. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I wish I had explained this more earlier in session. Perhaps we should spend more time discussing this because it really is super hard for me. Paralyzing, even. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone xo

      Like

  5. Cat says:

    I understand that sense of loss and the different issues between mothers and fathers. I have not thought about it from this point of view before, but I do tend to look for replacement mother figures, but never a father.

    Silence in sessions, eek. This was one of the first problems that I shared with my T and he has used those silences as a time of refection rather than allow me to sink down that black hole. Therapists do tend to leave the silent moments for the reasons your T mentioned, but that’s okay for someone who can think through painful silence. I wonder if in time you might feel you need moments that are more silent. It’s hard to imagine now, but this might change when you are more comfortable.

    These ruptures seem to happen in therapy all the time and talking it through honestly like you did is where we find healing. Always amazing work, Andi

    Liked by 1 person

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