Things have been a little strange in the therapy world lately. I think my therapist and I are probably in a good space overall, but the work has stalled a bit.
In my last post I mentioned that the second half of Monday’s session was challenging. I’ve been having a lot of doubts about therapy. I keep searching for any and every excuse to cut back or eliminate sessions altogether. I think that mainly comes from a place of intense fear.
But on Monday, I wasn’t able to articulate that. Before session, I journaled a bit to try to sort out my thoughts:
I just need to understand what I’m (we’re) doing and WHY. My head is overflowing and I can’t make sense out of what all of this is for. I need her to take me seriously and not treat me like an angry, rebellious kid who’s playing dumb. I need her to talk through this with me and help me understand what’s going on, independent of my desire to run away or my fears around attachment (which, to be fair, is its own conversation). I need her to simply TALK to me about all of this.
I also think I need more guidance in sessions. There’s always so much I can (and need to!) talk about, but it’s incredibly difficult to do so, especially when things start piling up or other vulnerabilities decrease my ability to cope.
Today, especially, I need her to take a little more authority and reach out to me. I need her to SEE me. I’ve dropped a lot of material into that space. ALL of it is very important. Where do I even begin?
I just need her to talk to me today. I cannot feel alone in this struggle. Not today.
Maybe I should have just brought that in and read it to her, but I’ve been trying to be less rehearsed and controlled in sessions. So once we finished the conversation about body dysmorphia, I transitioned the conversation onto our relationship.
I can’t remember much of what I said because my emotions were overwhelming me and I was intermittently dissociating. But I know we ended up in a very tense conversation and I was super agitated.
I was trying to ask her to help me understand where we’re going with this work; what is the goal? What is the trajectory? Where does she see this going?
I know from experience that she doesn’t generally talk about these things. She believes that talking too much about the work can pull you OUT of the work. She prefers to keep the focus on what we’re doing right now.
But I really needed to try and have this conversation with her.
After a few minutes, it was obvious that I wasn’t being clear enough with my line of questioning, so I got a little more aggressive in my approach:
“So, okay, you must write notes about our sessions or something, right? In your job as my therapist, you must think about the work we’re doing and come up with some kind of plan; an idea for how this will play out or at least a sense of how I could progress? I mean, I know you won’t tell me what they say, nor would I ask you, but I’m just speaking in a general sense. So I just need to understand the way you see this. You always sound so sure and optimistic about this work. You say we’re in a ‘good place’ and that I’m making progress. I believe you, but I don’t feel it. I wish I could, but I don’t.”
She had a bemused expression that made me uncomfortable, but I kept talking:
“So, I mean, I’m paying you to help me, so…”
She jumped in: “Are you? Because it sounds like you’re having a lot of doubts right now.”
I felt heat rise up my torso and into my face. I responded,
“Actually, no. That’s not what I was saying at all. I’m not having doubts, so this is your shit and I’m not gonna let you put that on me!”
“Yes! So maybe you are having doubts about your ability to help me and now you’re projecting that onto me or into this space?”
“What’s going on right now? You seem angry.”
“No, I’m not angry.”
“Well I feel a lot of anger here in the room with us right now.”
“Then maybe YOU are angry, but I’m not!”
“I don’t feel angry.”
There was a moment where neither of us said much of anything. We just sat there, soaking in whatever emotions were flying around that room. Then I finally said,
“I just feel like you’re being an asshole today and that sucks. I can feel emotion coming from you. I also feel like you’re not hearing me and you’re being defensive about my line of questioning because I’m behaving in a way you’re not used to and it’s unsettling to you. But you won’t admit that you’re feeling something. And so yet again I’m this crazy person who’s freaking out about some imaginary rupture because I’m the sensitive one who’s out of touch and melodramatic. And that’s so fucking irritating.”
I turned my body away from her and pouted. I was trying so hard not to cry. After another pause, she said,
“I do feel defensive. I feel like you’re intentionally trying to provoke me today and I’m not sure why or what’s going on.”
“Oh, so NOW you’ll admit you’re being defensive!”
“Is now not good enough?”
I threw up my hands and turned all the way to the side of the chair, facing the wall. I leaned my head against the back of the chair and just started sobbing. I don’t even know why, I just couldn’t contain my emotions anymore.
She let me cry for a while.
Then she very quietly and gently started speaking. I don’t remember what precisely what she said, but I know she was reassuring me that everything I was expressing made a lot of sense. She said it was okay for me to be angry with her and that she was so glad that I was opening up about some of these important feelings.
She also responded to my comment about her not “seeing” me by saying:
“I really want to see you. I really want to hear you. Today, and every day that you’re here, I want you to feel safe and seen and heard. It won’t always be perfect. There are days, like this one, where we will miss each other; where we won’t understand each other and where I won’t be able to track with what you need. But I want you to feel like you can always keep trying and that you can always share these things with me.”
I turned ever so slightly back towards her as she continued speaking:
“And I think moments like this, where things get tense and we struggle to find each other, is actually an important part of the work. And I want you to know that I don’t take what you say personally or offensively and it’s okay for you to share what you’re honestly feeling about your experience of me and this relationship.”
I kept crying until the session ended. I just couldn’t shake off the fear, the frustration, the helplessness. I walked out feeling so overwhelmed and a little scared that she really WAS angry with me (or would be once she thought about the session a little more).
So it’s been hard to move forward with any material that isn’t the two of us struggling to make sense out of the work while not having a conversation about the work itself.
But maybe being stalled is also part of the work?