I’ve been thinking a lot about the emotions that came up at the end of my last session. It’s hard to really pull apart what happened because I experienced a mixture of different thoughts and feelings.
My initial thought is that I felt ashamed of my dream. It was extraordinarily difficult for me to share that with the therapist. She’s quite interested in dream interpretation and has much more knowledge about this topic than I do. I was worried she would see something in the dream that revealed more about me than I wanted her to know (or that I want to know about myself).
As far as I can tell, she interpreted the dream as a subconscious reaction to our increased intimacy. Yet I still worry that the dream is perhaps more literal and reveals something terrible about me.
So the sexual nature of the dream was particularly agonizing to reveal. I worry so much about how my trauma has affected me. I often wonder if it has irreversibly contaminated or perverted my worldview. I worry about being an abuser myself in some ways, or the implications of the link between abuse and pleasure that I sometimes experience.
I also felt ashamed of needing to ask her to not harm me in the way the dream version of her hurt me.
But this is so complex.
First of all, when I step back and look at this situation, it’s heartbreaking. The reality that I have been so intensely betrayed by people I trusted to protect me that I need to explicitly ask my therapist to please not rape me is devastating. It’s generally difficult for me to feel compassion for myself, but I have to admit that this is very sad and I do feel a sense of sympathy for the girl who had to deal with all of those betrayals.
Secondly, as we were wrapping up this conversation, it became very intense for me. The moment was highly emotionally charged and felt really important, which it was. It was tremendous! I didn’t realize that at the time, but as I was reflecting on it later, I noted that this is actually the first time I’ve ever asserted myself in this manner. I have never once asked (or told) someone to not hurt me. I’ve never stood up for myself or drawn a boundary that was non-negotiable. I’ve never set a line that said “You don’t get to invade my body!”
I’m not sure that I needed that particular line to be drawn for this therapist, but it’s still a big fucking deal that I did it. And perhaps this is a good practice for a time when I may need to be more explicit with a person who DOES need such a boundary.
Lastly, as I dig deeper into the feelings of rejection, I keep coming up with something that is especially alarming for me.
I think part of that rejection simply stems from the mismatch between the intensity of my emotions versus how calm and collected she was. I also think that I felt as though she wasn’t grasping the magnitude of what was happening in that space so I felt silly and dramatic.
At this point, I am almost certain she knew exactly how monumental this exchange was and was thus doing her best to hold me in that space without doing anything too jarring. It’s as though she was trying to hold still and let me get through what I had to say before making any movements that might startle me. Unfortunately, in the moment my brain computed that behavior as a form of abandonment.
However the other component of the rejection feeling is a bit more complicated for me and difficult to explain. I was very comforted by her willingness to immediately reassure me that she would never physically harm me in any manner. I needed to hear that and I believed her.
But her promise also manifested a different type of rejection. I felt relieved, but I also felt disappointed. I felt cared for and protected, but I also felt ignored or undesirable. There is a sense that by promising me she won’t sexually violate me, she is indicating a lack of interest or investment in me. If she doesn’t want to have sex with me (or force sex upon me), maybe she doesn’t care about me at all?
Logically, I can conclude that these thoughts and feelings come from my history. Many people have sexually abused or assaulted me, most of whom were responsible for my care and safety. They were supposed to love me, and I thought they did. For me, the connection between being given “love” and “protection” is very tightly woven with being hurt and violated. Most of the affection I received throughout my life has come from individuals who also asserted enormous control, manipulation, and power over my life and my body.
So although I don’t actively wish for this person to harm me, I do long for her to care about me. I want her to enjoy being with me and find me interesting. I want her to protect me and nurture me and keep me safe. I want her to love me. The problem, of course, is that I don’t exactly know what those things look like without the added burden of being hurt.
Throughout much of my life, being hit or screamed at meant someone was paying attention to me and found me interesting. Being raped meant being desirable and attractive. Being emotionally controlled and manipulated meant someone was invested in me and cared about my life. Being abused meant being loved.
So…yes…I needed her to tell me that she wouldn’t abuse me. That was an important and necessary conversation for us to have. But it didn’t feel as good as I thought it would to have that reassurance.
It felt like a rejection.