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.
“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:
- show her a photo I’d referenced last session; and
- 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?”
“It really does not seem like ‘nothing’.”
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.
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.”