Today I did something that scared me, something that made me feel, something that needed me to be braver than I have ever been before. I shared something that I had never ever shared with anyone before.
I have now been seeing P. for just over a month. Ten sessions to be precise. And it has been, well, quite a big change for me. It is hard to not constantly compare the work I am doing with her to the work I did with A. It isn’t so much that I keep thinking that one is decidedly better than the other, but I am struck, over and over, by how different it is to be in therapy with P. The relationship we are tentatively building has a whole different feel to it, there is an added dimension to it, a quality that is hard to paint in words, but which is so real I can almost feel it physically.
That said, I miss A. I do. I really miss her. I miss the way I would spend time in session self-analysing and contemplating different angles to things, turning things round and round and having the luxury of going through all the ins and outs of my thoughts, with A. every now and then reflecting back to me what she heard me say.
I find myself, sometimes, making statements that I feel would have fitted well in A.’s therapy room, but which don’t quite work in the space I share with P. I find that doing my ‘getting into therapy mode’ routine, which I have been doing for nearly five years with A., feels awkward and out of place with P. I still do it, because it is simply the way I kick into gear, but I always feel very aware that P. is there, waiting for me to look at her and greet her properly.
So, there’s a lot to get used to. I find it so scary, the way P. meets me at the door, always with a big, warm and welcoming smile, and the way she seeks to make eye contact with me. I find her invitation to form a real relationship with her absolutely terrifying. There are alarm bells going off all over the place, simply because they have been tuned to mistrust that kind of openness and warmth, has been trained to automatically look for the ulterior motive behind any random act of kindness.
But, I am determined to not allow myself to use that fear as an excuse not to dig deeper. I am determined to find a way to ‘dare to trust’, to challenge my own hardwired concept of the world, of others being out to cause me harm. So, I’ve been pushing on with P. I’ve used my sessions to talk and talk and talk and talk about this fear of attaching, this extreme inability to trust – I’ve talked very openly about it all and she, in turn, has responded to it. And I think that that is where some of the healing may lay; in having those fears heard, having that reluctance be understood and accepted. Because – paradoxically – that is what may ultimately allow me to let my guard down, to allow P. in for real.
And today I took a leap of faith. I brought my journal with me, and I shared a drawing I made this morning of something that happened to me, something I had relived in the form of a flashback earlier today, and which I have never ever shared with anyone before.
It was incredibly scary to do, and before I did it, before I even opened up my journal, we spent time talking about what I was feeling, what the fear really was. I explained that there was something about P.’s presence that made me feel more scared than I would be, if I were on my own with the drawing. That something about her being there made me feel more exposed, more vulnerable, because I didn’t know how I would react to looking at the drawing in front of her, and I also didn’t know how she would react. The metaphor I used to explain it to P. was that it’s like standing in front of the mirror, naked, and then doing the same thing, but with someone next to you. The first is hard enough to do, the second all the more frightening.
At first I just sat with the journal in my lap, looking at the drawing I had made, without sharing it with P. Just to see what that would feel like, to test the waters. I found it difficult, had to actually use my hand to cover up the parts of my drawing that felt too difficult to look at. And then, in the middle of doing this – in the middle of shielding myself from my own drawing – it occurred to me that I didn’t need to be the one who was stuck with the drawing. I didn’t need to shield myself from it. I could give it to P., and she could protect me from the full force of the raw horror that the drawing contained. So, I handed it over to her, barely daring to look at her.
But I did. Look at her. And, yes, there was a reaction to what I had drawn, an obvious emotional response to what she was seeing splashed across her face, and it made me feel very afraid, anxious that maybe I had pushed her too hard, too soon. But then P. spoke, first about how what I had shared in the drawing was something no child should have to experience, and later, about how she felt about me having shared it with her. And it made me feel better.
In the session before this one, I also shared something, in words rather than through a drawing that time, and towards the end of the session P. asked me how I felt about what I had shared. So I talked about it. And then – the thing that made me really feel that there might be a possibility that I could trust her to take good care of me – she asked if maybe I needed to also know how she was feeling, having listened to me. So, I nodded and said that I thought that would be good, feeling so immensely grateful that she had understood how enormous my fear of breaking others with my story is.
And that – her honesty in sharing exactly how listening to me affected her – is what made it possible for me to take this huge step in today’s session. Because, something about that – about P. not holding back on her own response, is what makes me feel safe, makes me feel that she knows her own limitations, and that – because of this – she wouldn’t allow either one of us to go further than we could cope with.
“It’s time we made a place
Where people’s souls may be seen and made safe
Be careful with each other
These fragile flames..
For innocence can’t be lost
It just needs to be maintained..”
Innocence Maintained © 1998 Jewel Kilcher
Du har aldrig varit annat än modig!
Blir glad över att du tog steget, att du vågade testa P och så pass snabbt. Jag tycker det verkar som om hon fick godkänt (iaf i denna test).
Brava! It sounds like you were feeling shame early in the session (of course, I can’t know this, but that is what came to mind in reading). Continued good luck with your new therapist.
Now this is a great post, made me cry. I’m going to read it again, and if you don’t mind, link to it someday. Is that okay?
Hej Ninisen, min vän
Jo, det känns bra för mig med att ha vågat testa. Det var jättesvårt, men jag tycker att det gick relativt bra. Kändes särskilt bra att P. stämde av hur det kändes för mig med jämna mellanrum under vår “session”. Fast som alltid fylls jag av en viss panik efteråt, så nu gruvlängtar jag (för att använda min farmors uttryck) till måndag då jag ska träffa P. igen..
1001 kramar tillbaka till dig,
Hello Dr Stein,
Once again thank you for taking the time to comment. As always it is much appreciated. I’ve been trying to figure out if it was shame I was feeling early in the session (I’m not exactly a natural when it comes to identifying emotions), but I’m not entirely sure that it was. I think it was something along those lines, but not EXACTLY that, if that makes sense. Then again I suppose all feelings are on a spectrum. I think what felt most tangible before handing P. my journal was fear of “not knowing” (how she would react, how I would react, how I would react to her reaction and so on). Because P. is still something of an unknown quantity to me, I had no real idea of how she might react, and that’s pretty scary.
Anyway, thanks for making me think. I always enjoy hearing what others take from what I write, because there are so very many ways to look at things, and getting other people’s input broadens my horisons.
All the very best,
You are welcome. As I think you are aware, I was only trying to give an impression based on what you wrote. You and only you know what is going on inside. Continued good wishes.
Thank you so much for both taking the time to read and to comment on my post. I am glad that you liked it. While bringing someone to tears isn’t necessarily my aim, as a writer, knowing that what you’ve written has touched someone is the highest form of praise. Of course you are more than welcome to link to my post. I am a big fan of your blog, so it would be an honour for me.
All the very best,