Things have been so strange in therapy lately. I think we recovered fairly well from the whole “Google” incident, and I was able to talk to her openly about what it meant to have Grey Mouse as a transitional object. Although that conversation was upsetting because she sorta went in a different direction than I did.
I’d imagined she’d offered me the doll to help hold onto her and our work over that weekend. She did, but the thing she identified *first* was how she believed that taking care of the doll might help me connect with the part of myself that has such incredible love and compassion for my nieces and nephew. In essence, she was hoping I could channel that into compassion and love for myself, in particular the younger parts of myself.
Which is a good idea, but it felt like a rejection. And then I felt embarrassed for thinking she’d offered it to me to help connect with her (as opposed to myself). She clarified that it was for both reasons, but by that point all the warm fuzzies I’d felt from the original gesture were gone and I hastily threw the doll back in his normal resting place on the ottoman in her office.
Since then, I suppose things have been kinda all over the place. It’s hard to remember, or to piece it together in any coherent way. I know that last Monday was rough for me. The weekend had been particularly challenging as far as ED recovery goes, so I spent the session balled up in the corner sobbing and just screaming about how horribly fat I am and how much I hate myself.
In the session before that I was completely silent. It wasn’t an act of rebellion or punishment. I didn’t want or need my therapist to save my from anything. I just…couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. After about 25 minutes of being completely distracted by how uncomfortable I felt in my ever-expanding body, I was able to relax enough around those particular emotions to realize that what I actually felt was rage – an emotion I rarely allow myself to acknowledge.
I’ve been feeling particularly vulnerable and threatened in the therapeutic relationship lately. My therapist often uses humor, which sometimes borders on (or actually is) sarcasm. She can be a bit forceful with me. She has a strength that intimidates and sometimes overwhelms me. Normally I just roll with it because, overall, she’s quite kind and friendly with me. But recently we’ve been in some serious mother-transference territory and the slightest hint of sarcasm or even minor suggestions of rejection send me reeling.
So I finally just asked her to please stop talking to me that way. I know she doesn’t mean to hurt me and that she uses humor to open up space and build rapport, but there are certain things that I just never find humorous. So I told her that. I asked that she please not joke about money, boundaries, or abandonment/rejection.
She kinda hemmed and hawed a bit. Her initial response was to remind me that I have an impact on her as well. She doesn’t think it’s fair that I should be allowed to come at her with a sarcastic or disrespectful tone and she should just “take it”. And, in general, I don’t think she should have to take it.
Except that I kinda do.
I reminded her that we are not equal in this matter. She is in the more powerful position, particularly as we’re dealing with very intense and painful emotions around my relationship with my mother. In this dynamic, she represents my mother – the one person who has done more psychological damage to me than anyone. So, yes, I have an impact on her, but to suggest we are somehow on equal footing here is simply ridiculous.
Eventually she heard me and said that she would definitely consider what I said and be more careful with her tone and the way she utilizes humor. It felt good to assert myself in that way but the reaction I had following that session was very strange and unsettling.
I initially felt sadness and grief. I was rather shocked by how easy it ultimately was to ask someone to treat me in a different manner and have that person response in a positive way. I tried to think back on another time in my life when I had done such a thing and nothing came to mind. So then I felt sad that I hadn’t been able to just all my parents (and others) to stop hurting me and have them, you know, stop.
But then on my train ride home, my emotions shifted to something else: guilt. I started to wonder if perhaps I hadn’t given my parents a fair chance to treat me differently because I had never outright asked them. Maybe if I had asked, they would have listened.
So then I tried to remember why I became estranged from my family in the first place and nothing came to mind. I couldn’t think of anything and I couldn’t conjure up a single negative emotional memory of them. This has never happened before. Part of what has made this estrangement so “easy” is that the pain and terror of being in contact with my family has always been very accessible to me.
It frightened me to feel this guilt and to struggle so much to remember why I don’t speak to them. I felt crazy! I became very agitated on the train and couldn’t wait to get home.
Then I started thinking about the AIDS crisis and how HIV was often spread by men engaging in homosexual activity that were “on the down low”. They would sneak around to have unprotected sex with other men, only to then go home and have unprotected sex with their wives or girlfriends, thus spreading the disease. The theory behind such reckless behavior is that these men couldn’t tolerate the dissonance or admit to their homosexual desires. To use a condom was to somehow admit to their same-sex sexual attractions and they couldn’t tolerate such an admission.
I wondered if that is the same reason why my father never used protection. Maybe he felt that if he wasn’t using protection, it wasn’t real sex (and by sex, I mean rape). I brought this up with my therapist and she said, “Well, to use protection, her would have had to acknowledge that you were a separate person, rather than simply an extension of him. And no, I don’t think he could do that.”
Damn. That hit me like a ton of bricks.
This week has been equally strange. There’s some sort of tension or something between us. I can’t figure it out, but I just feel so disengaged from her and from the process. I don’t want to feel that way, but I can’t figure out how to fix it.
*Yes, the title of this post is a nod to the Netflix series:)