Talking About Her Comment

Going into Thursday’s session, I knew I wanted to talk about the comment my therapist made on Monday in response to my fears around our growing attachment (“Well that’s kind of hard when you’re coming three times a week!”). I re-capped that part of the conversation and I explained that it felt like she was making fun of me or mocking me somehow.

“How so?”

“It’s like you were saying: ‘Well what did you think was going to happen if you came here so often?!’…as if I am stupid or something.”

“I don’t think that. In fact, I have no expectation that you should know what to feel or expect about coming here three times a week. I’m sure you feel a lot of complicated things about it.”

She continued…

“And I can see how my comment might not have sat well with you…”

She paused a bit to reflect on the conversation and her own intentions.

“I think what I was doing was responding to the double-bind you were in: that you want so much to have support and to feel safe and secure in this space, but at the same time, that intimacy scares you and pulls you out of the safety. So as I was listening to you speak on Monday, I realized how difficult this situation is for you and I wanted to speak to that.”

“Well it felt more like you were pulling away from the moment. I felt a lot of painful emotions during that conversation. By saying that, it felt as though you were pinning the responsibility of frequency entirely onto me – as if you had no say in that change. Or, even worse, that you were subconsciously communicating regret about increasing frequency.”

“Huh. Well, first of all, I do not feel regret at all.”

“But I imagine you do! I imagine that you check your calendar on the days I have session; you go down the list of clients and see my name and think ‘Oh man’ in a disappointed or annoyed manner, as if you’re dreading that session.”

She looked genuinely shocked. I could tell she was struggling to find her words.

“You really do that?”

“Yes. I mean, I think that as I check my own phone. Once I see our session in my calendar, I picture you doing the same thing and that’s how I imagine you reacting.”

“Okay. Well I want to point out that we made that decision together, to increase sessions. It was something we talked about a lot beforehand and slowly eased into. I do not feel regret about that. Actually, I think it’s working really well for us. And I don’t regret seeing you three times a week. I think this work is really exciting and I think we’re doing great things.”

“Whoa. Okay. But that’s a lot of pressure.”

She just looked at me with the same expression she always gives that kind of makes it seem like I’m breaking her heart. I kept talking,

“I mean, well…what happens when this changes and it’s not exciting anymore?”

“It won’t always look exactly the way it does right now. It will look different and then shift and look different again. But that doesn’t mean it will change in a bad way.”

“But what if I do something and you decide we’re not doing ‘great work’ anymore?”

“There is no expectation of what you will or will not do. This work is not dependent on your behaviors or reactions. I just want you to be authentic and yourself, whatever that is.”

I started to settle a bit.

“Also, I notice how this is another tough situation for you: you want to feel as though this is working for you…for us. And I think we’re in a really good space. But that, in turn, causes you to feel distress over somehow messing up and ruining it.”

(Yes. Absolutely.)

She later reflected that she felt she was trying to lighten the mood a bit when she made that comment. We frequently use humor in session and it mostly works very well for us. I responded,

“No, I know that. I caught that actually…that you were joking. It wasn’t lost on me, I mean. I just…sometimes when people are joking, they’re not; they joke about something they don’t want to say outright; it’s a form of passive-aggression.”

“That is very true. However, and this is where we can do some reality checking, right?, I was not being passive-aggressive or communicating anything indirectly. But I see how that particular moment was poor timing for a joke. And now that we’ve talked about this more, I can see how a joke at that moment, no matter how well-intended, would have been hurtful to you.”

“Thank you. It was hurtful. But I’m glad that’s not how you really feel.”

These moments are so difficult, both when they occur and when we talk about them later. But the follow-up conversations are always so important and usually where a lot of crucial relationship development happens.

This dialogue was necessary, not so much because I was unable to see what she genuinely meant (I could see that; I know her well enough to understand most of her intentions), but because it allowed me to talk about related fears and worries that otherwise may not surface. And it allowed her to be more open with me about how she feels about this work, forging a stronger (albeit more scary/precarious) bond.

I always dread bringing things like this into session. But not once have I ever regretted it. Not with her.

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32 thoughts on “Talking About Her Comment

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

    Yes yes yes, I’m doing a happy dance inside! What a great conversation! And yes, those painful conversations which repair ruptures are such wonderful relationship builders. Like you, I have not once regretted raising these moments for conversation, however excruciating it first felt. I love that you are allowing us to witness this relationship grow, scary as hell though that growth is for you – and probably even more scary for the fact we are witnessing it and affiriming it! But you can do this – and it absolutely seems that she can too. What a team 🙂 I feel ridiculously excited…..!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. La Quemada says:

    Such a rich conversation! You are brave to bring these things up. When E says something that stings (which is rare, but of course it happens), I feel it and sometimes carry it with me for a while, but then I tuck it away and say, “it must be my problem…” I wonder what would happen if I brought it up with her.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    I am so inspired by this conversation. Specifically, inspired by you telling her your fears and feelings without apologizing for them. By returning to your feelings when she expressed something that didn’t quite resonate, not settling for a sort-of understanding, but coming to an UNDERSTANDING. That leads to that deepening that is oh-so healing and emotionally corrective.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Rachel. I like that you said that because it’s extra hard for me to double down even when she’s explaining herself and apologizing. Because although her intentions are important, the way I experience her is really what this is about. And I agree, knowing what THAT is helps us to know a lot more about the bigger picture. It really is quite healing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. spacey tracey says:

    Wow!! This is like dejavu….same shit different city/client/therapist!! As i stated before Im sure i would have taken the comment as you did. Im always looking for subtle hints or messages that people are sick of me (and yes, people often joke about what they wish or should say seriously). I OFTEN FEEL EXACTLY THE SAME WAY YOU DO, THAT WHEN MY THERAPIST SEES MY NAME ON THE SCHEDULE SHE IS THINKING…OH GOD, NOT HER AGAIN. So, I too brought it up and she said “well if i thought that then I wouldnt have recently put up a fight with the administrators who wanted to reduce you to once per week”. Well i couldnt really say much to that because it was true, she has a waiting list and they want her getting people in and out. It made me feel so good to hear that and really know it was true. She says if i put in the work then she will too. Though, she did once tell me honestly that she does have to work harder with me than with some clients because of all the dissociation. She says that many of the parts are young and have few words and that watching flashbacks and body memories and painful physical symptoms is hard to do when there is so much of it. It never dawned on me that it affected her. She seems so strong and experienced and well, just God-like. But she was only giving me that info in regard to questions that I, myself brought up. She’s nothing if not honest with me. We had a period when we were really stuck and she said that seeing me so often nausous with my face in the garbage can or coughing and choking and gagging and puking from body memories repeatedly had really made her question if we were doing the right thing. I couldnt understand and not sure i do now but she said to me then that maybe our work wasnt productive and we should re-evaluate. THAT FREAKED ME OUT!! I totally felt that she wanted to abandon me and wanted to just die. She says that that was never the intention but we were trying emdr and various other things and going twice per week and with such difficult things at a standstill for so long, as a therapist she became concerned that the work was doing more harm than good. So, that probably did scare me enough that i pushed harder and harder during emdr sessions to tolerate things that before would just shut me down, and i found some way to slowly give up some of the most disgusting, shameful details that i thought would be taken to the grave AND WE DID PAINFULLY PUSH PAST THAT STUCK SPACE but maybe at a cost. While it is feels really good and is a huge relief that we forged through, it also makes me feel that our sessions are conditional on how hard i “work” which of course brings up the other issue that you spoke of…PRESSURE!!! I honestly cannot often guage what is hard work and what is not because during that period when we were so stuck, I could feel it every moment of every session at the time and let me tell you BEING STUCK WAS EVEN HARDER THAN “WORKING” BECAUSE I WASNT DOING IT ON PURPOSE!!!! One of my parts frozen, is just that…frozen, stuck. And maybe more than one is in that space. I mean ive tried to explain that being stuck seems harder and maybe just as painful as disclosing a horribly shameful trauma or doing emdr or riding through flashbacks and trying to identify triggers for body memories….etc. I still dont know now what had me so stuck but i know the memory of it is very scary and the fear that if i get lost in that again, i might lose counseling at a time when im needing the therapist the most. NOW THAT IS PRESSURE. So, i completely get what you are saying. I do very little social media so Im not sure if maybe that is the reason that i find it so shocking and fascinating when i read your blog that mirrors my own experiences so so so closely. Im also fairly new so still wondering are there a lot of others that relate so completely?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      In that case, I’m even more excited that you found my blog! I think seeing ourselves reflected in the experience of others is one of the most beautiful and healing things in this world.

      I can see how seeing a client suffer without a real sense of how to pull them out of distress could be overwhelming and perhaps scary for a therapist. I know they’re not superhuman. I’m glad yours stuck it out and worked with Frozen to help move you guys a little forward (and less distressed!). And, yes, it does create a lot of pressure. We want to be moving, but not so quickly that we’re overwhelmed (and thus overwhelming). It’s a bit of a balancing act.

      Like

      • spacey tracey says:

        Well the thing is is that i didnt get the feeling that she was scared or overwhelmed (which is good because that reeks of what you went through with z, and i have overwhwlmed my share of inexperienced therapists in the past). It felt more like concern that maybe she thought this was more than was good for me at the time. Also, i should say that she never said that even if i needed a break that i wouldnt still pick back up with her. No, unlike therapists we have both had in the past she is calm, steady, confidant and experienced and i dont think i scare her, and even her comment about it being hard to watch somebody in that much physical pain, these were physical symptoms from the trauma…body memories and whatnot causing much physical illness and body pain. I think the concern was it was too much for the body, not her. She is a psychologist with a background in nursing which makes her very aware of those kinds of concerns but i didnt feel like she was overwhelmed. If she had been she hides it well and i have asked her outright and she convincingly says no. Later when i wasnt so frozen i was able to describe how much harder that is than to do work, but i havent told her how scared i am about getting stuck again and how much pressure i feel that if im not working then she will stop my sessions or reduce. I think she knows from my reaction but i think i will clarify with her tomorrow how much fear is still there. I dont think she is a zooey!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        Oh no, I didn’t mean that she was like Zooey at all. I was just trying to make a general statement about the dynamics at play in this kind of work. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear on that!

        Like

      • Spacey Tracey says:

        No, I don’t think you implied that. I think it’s my own defensiveness that comes from fear of what did happen with zooey primarily because I had a similar experience with a therapist and it is my biggest fear.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Lemonbella says:

    This rings really true for me and I think is something about the nebulous “Process” that it took me so, *so* long to work out (and to be honest I’m still working out and still fight unconsciously); that unpicking This, Now helps me understand That, Then and over time that helps me be less at the mercy of This and That, in the Future. I still struggle with it, but that struggle has made me realise that one of my That/Thens is not being allowed to identify and own my This/Nows as a child and the consequences that any This/Now had for me.

    This is one of those sentences that makes absolute sense to me but doesn’t quite translate out of my head… Basically I’m saying “Me too!”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cat says:

    “This dialogue was necessary, not so much because I was unable to see what she genuinely meant (I could see that; I know her well enough to understand most of her intentions), but because it allowed me to talk about related fears and worries that otherwise may not surface. ” This is spot on, Andi, another great session

    Liked by 1 person

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