The thing I remember most about my last session with my therapist is her statement that I had violated her by sending my last email. Although I came into the session wanting to talk about this stuff, and willing to discuss the way I’ve been pushing the edges of the boundaries, I also apparently did not want to talk about it in the way she wanted me to do so, which caused us to lock horns and get into a massive power struggle for half the session.
She imagined I was trying to place all of my emotions onto her. She said I expected her to do all the work and I was seemingly unwilling to reflect on my own behavior. Which is absurd because if there’s anything I am consistent at doing, it’s self-reflection. She didn’t even mention the email until probably 20 minutes into session, at which point she said,
“I feel like you did to me what was done to you. You got angry with me so you violated me, you violated my boundaries.”
I screamed back, “Of course I did! When my parents felt frustrated, angry, scared, helpless, incompetent, powerless, or any other difficult emotion, they FUCKED ME! The way they dealt with intense emotions was to literally fuck me. So of COURSE I would manage my own emotions by violating you!”
I think she said she understood the connection, but since I violated her, she now needed to protect herself, hence the change in email rules.
I’m so furious. Not because she’s wrong – there’s definitely an element of truth in the idea that I discharge my emotion onto her in a way that was intrusive. But to whittle this huge, complex thing down to me simply wanting to violate her feels like it misses a whole lot. Because, yes, I think I did violate her (although that language feels a bit fucking strong in my opinion), but no, I don’t think I wanted to do that. I think it’s just so much a part of how I was raised and the environment I lived in that it’s almost a natural response. As crappy a skill as it is, it’s one of the tools that was most often used in my home life.
What I was wanting to do was be seen. I’ve felt a lot of strong, painful stuff coming to the surface. We’ve been talking a lot lately about sexual feelings and the link between sexual arousal and other things like compassion, love, nurturance, connection, etc. I’ve shared my urges to have sex with her, or somehow be sexual with her. It’s incredibly complicated and very hard to talk about, so I’ve had to actively and willingly stay with that pain even when all of my instincts tell me to flee.
I think I needed her to see how hard this is and I also needed more connection with her, or some way to better hold the connection when I’m not with her. I had reached out and asked for extra session time last week and the week before Christmas break, so it’s not like I wasn’t aware of that need and trying desperately to fill it in a responsible manner. But somehow it just wasn’t enough and I knew that. We both knew that.
Which is a theme that has come up time and time again for us – the idea that the connection I feel to her is limited to the time I’m in session with her. And the space between is then completely agonizing because I can’t find or hold into those good, safe feelings.
And for the vast majority of the time I’ve been seeing her, I’ve obsessed about the boundaries, attempting to be as controlled as possible and steer clear from any area that might cause her to shut me down. I’d argue that she’s spent more time trying to get me to chill the fuck out about the boundaries, rather than having to reinforce them. The fact that I was in a space that brought me to behave in this manner is very telling of how awful an emotional space I’ve been in recently.
And I felt like she just didn’t want to talk about that with me. Or she did, but in this very specific way that left no room for me to talk about what was important to me. And since she typically waits for me to talk about whatever “comes up” in sessions, it was especially jarring to be pushed away from where I wanted to go into a place I most certainly did not want to be.
I think back to the 3 or 4 sessions before I sent that email and it’s so clear that I was trying to have this conversation with her. I’d sent her an email several weeks ago requesting a phone check-in over the weekend. I wrote, “I just need to know you’re still there and we’re okay…” She wrote back and the very first sentence read,
“I’m still here and we’re still okay.”
She also responded to the phone request, but her response to my need for reassurance came through email, NOT the phone or in session. In fact, that single sentence was so comforting to me that I took a screenshot and made it my phone wallpaper:
I used it to affirm that she was, in fact, still here and that we’re somehow connected to each other. Whenever I felt that connection slipping, I just needed to look at my phone and remind myself of her words. Which is something I told her, and I showed her my phone’s wallpaper, sharing how I’d been so comforted by her words and was grateful that she’d extended that comfort via email.
She told me she was glad I’d done that and thought it was a creative way to stay connected to her between sessions.
So, I mean, I might be totally crazy here, but this whole exchange feels quite a bit outside the realm of “logistics”.
She’s also responded to my voicemails via email. And just last week we had a lengthy conversation about how I’d kinda relaxed a bit in one particular email (which was about scheduling) to add some humor and she responded with humor as well. We discussed how it was a moment of mutuality, and I really enjoyed the way it felt to realize she’d caught onto my joke and found it funny.
Which, again, feels like more than logistics.
I’m not excusing my behavior and suggesting I was entirely right. But what I AM suggesting is that it just wasn’t as clear as my therapist apparently needs to believe. For me, I think I saw these slight movements into new email territory a bit unsettling and responded by testing the edges. Which seems natural, if not completely expected.
And she responded by retaliating against me and essentially saying, “Look at what you’ve made me do! Now I have to ban you from emailing me altogether!” And as a commenter pointed out, her statement that if I emailed her again she would block me seems like a challenge; like she’s daring me to push that boundary again. Because if she really means that I can never email her again, why not just block me now? What would be the point of leaving that space open?
This is all so upsetting and confusing and I’m just not sure what I’m going to do when I see her again on Tuesday.