Hollow and Disconnected

When I got home last night, Wife asked me how session had gone. I told her it was fine, but “strange.” She asked me what was “strange” about it. I wasn’t really sure, but once I thought about it, I realized it there seemed to be a pretty big disconnect between the therapist and I throughout the hour. Having just come off a couple of intense and important sessions, the relative blandness of the session felt hollow to me.

But then I realized that I had intentionally disconnected from her. I think that the vulnerability of asking (and receiving) even more time in therapy raised alarm bells in the System. As we were discussing physical touch yesterday, I had a visible physical reaction to her language. When she asked me what was happening, I told her I was getting a lot of shame messages from the Inside. I couldn’t elaborate much beyond that, but she asked me to keep her posted as information came in.

I don’t think it’s entirely related to the change in sessions, but that’s certainly a big part. When I finished reading her my post about panicking over receiving a voicemail from her, she told me my reactions made perfect sense. And she said that if she had had to change or cancel my session, that absolutely would have been a big deal and it would have totally made sense for me to feel afraid or upset by that. I appreciated the validation, but it felt so empty to me for some reason.

I also offered her some feedback. I told her I wanted to reflect something to her and I explained that I often feel as though she tries to lighten the mood when I am in a particularly dark space. I said I wasn’t sure if that was real or just my perception, but it makes it hard for me to move forward in the conversation when I feel like she is trying to flee the emotions of it. Then, if I think she is sending a cue that something is wrong or undesirable (hence the need to flee), I respond to that by feeling unsafe and then I step away from the feelings instead of leaning into them, which just creates a shame spiral and I end up regretting ever bringing up the “darker” stuff in the first place.

She responded by saying that she has noticed something similar. In those moments she is often torn between comforting me or pushing me to dig deeper. She explained that because she often gets uncertainty from me, she errs on the side of caution and offers comfort instead of pushing me to a place I may not be ready (or able) to go yet. I replied that yes, I am often uncertain, which is why it’s important that she reassure me it’s okay to keep talking (or feeling).

She said, “I hear you, but in the same way that you are responding to my cues, I am responding to yours. I am watching and listening to you, looking for information on how to help you through the conversation. So if you are unsure of how to proceed, I get that cue from you and your uncertainty makes it hard for me to know how to meet your needs, since I’m not sure what those needs are.”

She makes a really good point, but I felt so frustrated. I understand everything she’s saying and I can see how we’re both sorta stuck in this cycle of uncertainty, but it still feels so awful. I know neither of us are doing this on purpose. The result, however, still sucks since we end up “missing” each other time and time again.

A lot of the session just felt hollow. I got through some very important items – I read her the blog post, I brought up the desire to be held in a moment of distress, and I offered her some important feedback about our interactions in session. This is all really good stuff that was necessary to talk about, but I wish I hadn’t felt such a strong need to deliberately disconnect from her. I hate walking away from session with that empty, lonely feeling.

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20 thoughts on “Hollow and Disconnected

  1. myambivalentexistence says:

    *hugs*. That sounds like a pretty crappy session. But , at least you know that you are connecting most of the time and she truly wants to understand and meet your needs in therapy b

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Melanie says:

    This reminds me of a Frasier episode where Frasier and his mentor, a Psychiatrist work through his problems. It was an awing exchange of lingo and concepts and this exchange you have with your therapist is incredibly insightful and self aware on your side (I mean, INCREDIBLY so) and so…I can’t think of the right word – she seems to treat you with the same respect a mentor treats their mentee. Giving you the utmost respect and space and is wiling to take on everything you’ve said and counter with respectful concepts. It’s never been my experience although my therapists have mostly been great in their own fashion.
    I think it’s fantastic that this is the sort of exchange you can have, and honestly your insight is mind blowing, I know the subject matter was difficult but this is what struck me about the post. I do hope the sessions get the return you’re hoping for after this exchange.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    This post reminds me of one you wrote awhile back about coming to her with a lot of positive emotion about a session, and her commenting that not all sessions will feel that way. There seems to be a very real, normal rhythm to your relationship of closeness and separation. And what strikes me is that I don’t see it necessarily as disconnection in the sense that disconnection (at least for me) feels negative, but more just a healthy separation. And ebb and flow in an intimate relationship. We can’t always have the most intense connection of vulnerablity with people we are close to and share ourselves with. And I think for us, people prone to legit disconnection, these feelings in our therapy relationships seem distressing because we fear it will lead to a REAL disconnection or abandonment. But really, from an outsider’s point of view, I see your therapy relationship as a normal relationship that might be close or might be more distant on any given day.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rachel says:

    and I don’t say this to undermine your feelings AT ALL, trust me, I get it. Just to say, “good job, you have a normal relationship. Which might feel weird because you haven’t had a lot of context for that (in this way, I know you have a wonderful wife).”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. alicewithptsd says:

    I hate that alone feeling after a session, too. I always feel like i want to send an email asking if she is mad at me. When i did, once, she emailed back that she was absolutely not mad at me at all. Then in the next session, Bea pointed out i was feeling maybe abandoned and actually asking if she was gone (not mad at all, that mad is just how i frame it for some reason) because we had not connected as intensely as we had in other sessions. I pretty much shut down because i freak out whenever she starts to talk about the relationship, but i think, she said something similar to what rachel is saying about the ebb and flow in a normal relationship and how things can not be intense all of the time but that doesnt mean she is going anywhere or that anything is wrong. And, as much as I hate to admit it, i feel much closer to people when there is intensity of closeness rather than just a normal rythem. I don’t know if that makes sense or if i have explained this well, and maybe none of this will feel like it is what you are talking about…..I don’t know. But, i do know that lonely, empty, “is my shrink still there?” feeling. And it sucks. I hope it doesn’t last long. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cat's Meow says:

      I need to think about this concept of normal ebb and flow of closeness in relationships. I think that it might be messing with my ability to have good adult friendships in person. I’m guessing that I feel like I glom on to someone and then when they push back for some space, I feel rejected and run. Huh.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I also tend to use “mad” as a stand-in for “abandoned” (which I didn’t realize until I just read your comment). And yea, I absolutely need reassurance that she is still there if somehow the session felt empty or as though we were far apart. I definitely feel closer when there is intensity, which is probably because my entire childhood was so intense and all of my relationships were so intense that I don’t know how to get what I need outside of that environment (yet).

      Like

      • alicewithptsd says:

        I’m glad (in that way of I wish you didn’t, but am glad I’m not alone kind of way) that you get using mad as a stand in for abandoned. The way you just explained this….everything was very intense in your childhood so you don’t know how to get what you need outside of that (yet) makes perfect sense. I feel like things were either very intense or there was no connection at all in my childhood. I don’t know. But I like how you said “yet”. It’s hopeful. Because you will learn. And so will I. 😊 xx

        Liked by 1 person

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