Anger and Layers

Last week seemed to be all about patience and trust. With myself, with my therapist, with the whole process.

Since the last couple of weeks have been wrought with various ruptures and challenges within therapy and the therapeutic relationship, I’ve been exhausted and detached from the entire experience.

But I think that’s okay. And maybe even a good thing.

I wrote about Thursday’s session being a lovely conversation. I felt more like me in that hour than I’ve felt in a very long time. I was calm and able to be both authentic and vulnerable with my therapist. I felt like we were attuned to each other and in sync.

Friday’s session was also nice. My appointment was right after a nine hour professional conference, so I showed up in a suit and completely burned out from a day of heightened social interactions. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to talk about very much in that state, but we were able to pick up on the good energy of the session on Thursday and flow with it.

At one point I inevitably started to tire and the conversation lulled. As I sat there, staring off into wherever, my therapist asked me where I went off to. She often does this to allow me room to talk about what happens during the moments I dissociate or to give space for others to come forward and speak if they want.

But this time I wasn’t dissociating, so I said:

“I was actually just thinking about last week…replaying what happened; reminding myself that we were fighting and that I felt really angry and alone in that space.”

“Hmm. I wonder why you’re doing that?”

“Probably because this feels nice, this session. Yesterday was nice, too. It feels good to be able to sit here and just talk with you. But I’m still a little mad, I think. And still skeptical, hesitant, guarded.”

“That’s okay. Maybe that means there’s still some talking left to do around what happened and more to process. It makes sense that you’d want to protect yourself and perhaps you do that by reminding yourself that this isn’t always safe; that I’m not always safe?”

“Yes. But I’m not sure there’s a whole lot left to process. It doesn’t feel like that, it feels different.”

“Different how?”

“Different in the sense that I don’t think there’s anything left unsaid or held back. I’ve said this before recently, but I really do believe that I just need to be angry. I need to be allowed to be mad at you, maybe for no reason or for dumb reasons or for unjust reasons. I’m not sure. But I think I just need to be pissed about this and I need you to be okay with that.”

“I am absolutely okay with that. I think it’s good for you to be feeling that emotion and I’m glad you told me that. We don’t always have to ‘work through’ stuff. Sometimes we can just hold it for a while. But if you want to bring it up again and maybe look at it some more, we can do that too.”

Sounds good to me.

Then I told her that despite all that happened last week, I always sort of felt okay about therapy and about her.

“It’s like there’s these two layers that exist together. The bottom layer is built out of trust. It’s the foundation we stand on. That layer is where I felt okay; I knew that we’d work it out. I try to imagine you intentionally hurting me and I just can’t. I think that would be horrifying to you, to hurt me. And I don’t really think you’d just leave me. I actually think you care about me very much. You care about my treatment and you put a lot of thought into helping me.”

She nodded.

“But then there’s another layer on top of that one. And I think that layer is in the past, in a way. It’s the ‘trauma layer’. It’s there to remind me of what has happened before and what could happen again, which scares me. But it needs to be there, because all of that stuff is important. And I’ve talked before about how this relationship is sometimes the only medium through which I’m able to talk about and process all of the thoughts and emotions I have about the old stuff. The two layers have to exist together, at the same time. So even though I DO feel a sense of trust and safety in this relationship, I always feel frightened and hesitant. I have to be both. I think the bottom layer was built so that I could bring in the top layer in all it’s ugliness.”

She smiled. “That’s terrific. Yes, both layers do need to exist and that is exactly how we do this tough work together.”

“Alright, fine. But don’t hold me to that.”

She looked confused.

“I mean, you know, just because I feel okay and semi-trusting right now…”

“It doesn’t mean you always will?”


“You don’t have to. But I’m glad you do right now.”

I took a deep breath. “Me too.”


15 thoughts on “Anger and Layers

  1. Ellen says:

    I really relate to the layer cake – great way of putting it! And I relate to needing to be angry with the T, even if rationally, they are not at fault. I never talked about it like this though, right out loud. So interesting. Glad all is well in therapy for you, for the moment.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Rachel says:

    Yes! Such reflective insight here, and the layer analogy makes a lot of sense to me. I really relate to that description, and was just talking about this very topic with my therapist on the phone the other day. Thanks for sharing. And I am also glad to hear that things are feeling a bit more settled in therapy, in this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. alicewithptsd says:

    I really relate to the layers you wrote about– the layer of trusting her and then the layer over that of being angry. I always feel like my emotions and reactions to things are like onions– so many layers to get through. I think it’s really awesome you can tell her you are angry with her and bring that into session. You are really doing so much good work. And I am really glad things are feeling better with the therapist. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes – onion is a great analogy! It is so complex and right when you think you’ve tackled one thing, there’s another right underneath it. Thank you for the support. Much appreciated xo


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