Psychotherapy, Facebook & Minor Boundary Blurring

It’s been a long time since my last post. A number of very sweet people appear to have noticed this, and I feel genuinely touched by that. So, today I sat down to write an update. It ended up being about six (yes, six!) pages long, and when I read through it, I didn’t like most of what I had written. So, below is an extract of what I wrote, taken “as is” and just pasted into this post. I know there will be some lose ends, both at the beginning and at the end. But loose ends are not our enemy, they are simply the places where we can start our explorations..

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But, we live in a fast-moving world where things are not always so clear-cut. I know I’ve written before about googling our therapists, that there is a natural curiousity about who they are, a curiousity which I believe most clients have, and it is borne out of the fact that they know so much about us, yet we are let in on so very little when it comes to them. Some things we can gather from being with them, like their rough age, maybe something about their sense of humour, or how they react when something we say is a bit close to the bone, [A. has a very definite “tell” when it comes to this!] – other things may be discerned from the way their counselling room has been decked out. Although many therapists favour reasonably neutral rooms, few would choose to hang a picture they really dislike in the room they spend most of their days, there may be a book shelf or little figurines that tell you something, or at least gets your fantasies going. But all in all, the fact is that your therapist will always know more about you than you do about them.

In my case – and I didn’t know this when I first started seeing A. – there is some minor overlap in our semi-social circles. To my knowledge we don’t have any close friends in common, but, as it turns out we do move in similar secondary circles on occasion. I only realised this a few months into seeing A. when her name began popping up a here and there. It was almost by chance that I connected the dots, and when I did it turned into a bit of a crisis for me, because I didn’t feel ready to talk about this discovery, because I worried that she might feel I was stepping onto her turf, and even though there really wasn’t anything I could do about it, the longer I didn’t talk about it, the more I felt that my motives for not doing so might be called into question. It took me a very long time to open up and talk about this with A. Once I did A. very helpfully pointed out that although I may think of it as her turf, it could also be seen as her standing in the way of what is just as much my turf. And still, despite having had this conversation, I feel that we both more often than not steer clear of things that could bring these over-laps up. Not sure A. would agree, or admit it, but I definitely feel that this doesn’t just come from me.

When A. went on maternity leave, I felt very aware that even though I would not be seeing her, I would likely hear about her baby being born through these over-lapping circles. I didn’t talk to A. about it, partly because I still have that sense of it being her turf, and I shouldn’t really be there and I find it hard to talk about these feelings, and partly because there was some sort of acceptance that there really is nothing I can do about this over-lap, anyway.

When the baby was born I did eventually hear about it, but not through the route which I might have expected – and had slightly prepared for – but through a much more personal link.

The culprit? Modern technology by the name of Facebook. My Facebook account is completely private, can’t be found in a search unless you have my personal email address, which most people haven’t, and even if you do have it, you wouldn’t have any form of access to photos, status updates or info until I have accepted the friendship request. (This is, incidentally, not because of extreme social paranoia – although I do think it is important to take charge of and be careful with your online presence – but because the place where I occasionally work happens to be one of those place where you simply cannot allow any of your personal details to be disclosed, and any contact outside of that place is strictly prohibited in any way shape or form.)

However, Facebook being Facebook, it does its darndest to connect people whether you want it to or not, and one morning a picture of a very vaguely familiar man holding a tiny black-haired baby popped up on my screen as a “person you might know”.

A.’s husband.
Presumably a combination of having a number of mutual friends and us both having A.’s email address in our address books had caused him to appear on my screen. I felt quite shaken by this. Didn’t know what to do with it. Had a whole host of feelings about it. Still do.

But have I talked to A. about it? No. And I feel I am now repeating the exact same cycle of avoidance that I did when I first realised A. and I have some common turf outside of therapy. It’s not good, because it is becoming something of a barrier for me, this holding back. I know I need to overcome it, somehow, but I don’t feel brave enough to deal with it just yet..

*

xx

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3 responses

  1. Try to draw strength from the fact that you overcame your avoidance in the end, namely, the worry about turf.

    Yes, it’s hard because it cuts close to something you want very much. However, nothing can change what has now transpired and what is in essence life moving forward despite whatever we may be going through.

    So try to hang on to that, and it’ll happen.

    C

  2. Hey C,

    Good to hear from you!
    Not sure I’ve entirely overcome my avoidance, but I’m certainly doing better with it than I was. Small victories, right? Am seeing A. in the morrow, and hoping to find some sort of courage to talk about common turf stuff.

    Hope things are well with you, mate.
    Now that the Olympics are over we may be able to pencil in a date, at some stage.

    Take care,

    xx

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