As much as I was soothed by the phone call I had with my therapist on Friday evening, I continue to be very agitated regarding the issue of boundaries and affection. I’d say I was probably at about 8/10 on the panic scale when I left session, 6/10 after talking to her, and since then I’ve been hanging out around 4-5/10.
I really loved her metaphor about the elephant. And I appreciated that she made a point to let me know that she wants to support me and would never intentionally or deliberately deny me what I need. I also understand that her version of giving me what I need will likely always differ, sometimes vastly, from what I imagine.
But I also can’t shake the feeling that all of this is happening within the realm of where the therapist is most comfortable. I think she has a flexible way of conducting therapy that also exists within a very rigid framework. Which is to say that she is only flexible when it suits her particular needs, or her specific version of therapy.
And so here I am, twisting and bending and trying desperately not to break, in an effort to preserve the therapeutic relationship. I will admit that I do see her bending as well, but as I mentioned – I feel as though she only does so within a limited range, whereas I’m expected to move far outside my comfort soon.
Which, you know, may very well be the whole point of therapy.
But it also seems like I’m being pushed super hard, with the expectation that I will suffer through the anguish, while she is allowed to coast through this mess comfortably within her emotional range. I guess she’s probably more valuable to me within that range, but I admittedly wish she’d spend a little more time challenging her current beliefs and attitudes around therapy and how she approaches certain issues.
Then again, there’s also a part of me that is curious as to whether or not she could ever meet my standards. I think I (unintentionally) set them very high, and then also shift them if she begins to approach that standard. One thing I’ve noticed is that I become very anxious and irritated in moments when I begin to feel connected to her, or when I realize she’s really trying to connect with me. I resent it. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. I want to hurt her and shut that shit down before she hurts me.
Which reminds me of my biological mother in some ways. That woman could never offer me reassurance. On the contrary, she often created more fear and terror. One example is when I was in elementary school:
My art teacher specifically asked us not to mix the paints. I knew she’d said that, but I got caught up in my creative inspiration and decided to mix two colors to create what I thought would be the perfect paint color. It was not really an “accident” as much as me being mindless, but it certainly wasn’t intentional. I didn’t do it to be deliberately insubordinate.
But my art teacher didn’t care. She walked by my table and saw the mixed paints. Then she grabbed my arm, twisted it, dragged me (by that arm) out into the hallway and literally threw me into a cubby. I sat there until the end of class. Then I was silent the rest of the day, before crying all the way home.
When I got home, I told my mother what happened. She said nothing except to tell me to get in the car. Then she drove me back to school, where she stormed into the administrative office, screaming and asking to see the principal and the art teacher. I really loved my principal at this school, so I was relieved that she was available to speak. But my Mom just reamed her out and demanded consequences for the art teacher. Everyone was upset, my mother was making a scene, and it terrified me.
No one ever asked me how I felt or offered me any comfort or reassurance. It was like this incident has absolutely nothing to do with me. Plus it was super confusing since my mother was violent towards me all the time. I guess it was only people from outside the family that could not hurt me?
Looking back now I can see that my mother was upset, not because I was hurt, but because someone had the audacity to put their hands on her child, her property, and thus an extension of herself. She was angry on behalf of a slight against herself, not me. I was invisible.
So maybe part of what I fear is being lost in the relational transaction. Or being punished for needing something. Or being screamed at for allowing myself to get hurt.
I still have much more thinking to do on this. I’m nervous to go to session tomorrow. My therapist will be on vacation the following week and things are generally more tense than usual at such a time. It also feels like I’m holding onto too many things and that tends to make it increasingly difficult for me to find ways to open up and start sharing my ideas and thoughts. I don’t want to just freeze up or spend the hour in some tense headlock with her.