Another Day, Another Blessing – Writing Myself Out Of A Phunk

Another day, another smile. Another blessing. Met up with a friend at a café yesterday, and it was great, as always. I have this café which has become The Café, the one where I usually meet with my friends. And it’s kind of nice. I know the place, the staff, the menu. Very reassuring.

Woke up on Sunday, a day which was ridiculously sunny, and I though, let’s do something nice today. So I decided to try to organise a little get-together for the women from my poetry group. We last met as a group at the reading back in December. We’re overdue a meet. Said and done. Got my phone out and sent a mass-text out, suggesting we meet up. But as soon as I had done that, that little negative voice in my head started making itself heard, and I almost immediately decided that it had been a silly thing to do. People won’t want to meet up, they’ll think I’m being pushy, they’ll have forgotten who I am altogether.

Thankfully the anxiety levels didn’t have time to rise too high before I had the first text back, in the affirmative. Then I had another. And another. Great! People want to meet up, they don’t think I’m pushy – and most importantly – they do remember me.

Next step was figuring out a time and place. Well, a time, at least. The place was basically a given, since most of these women will have shared a hot chocolate with me at The Café at least once before, so it made sense to keep it simple. Time was a bit trickier. As it always is when it comes to finding a time that will suit as many as possible, but after some fiddling and a few phone calls to a few people a time was agreed; next Sunday, early afternoon. Works perfectly for me since I’m basically incommunicado over FriSat, closing down for shabbat and also taking some proper me-time. So meeting up with friends the day after, once I re-connect my various devices, is always nice.

Finished the Maroda book this morning. And as always, it was with a slight feeling of loss. I absolutely love reading books that make me think, both on a more general level, but also to reflect on my own personal situation, and this book certainly did that for me.

As I’m writing this, I realise that this doesn’t feel like a real blog entry. It’s a bit too positive. And, in all honesty, up until I sat down to write this, I really wasn’t feeling all that up-beat; feeling a bit caught up in some sort of greyness, clouding my thoughts in quite a bad way.

But hey, if it works, it works.

Be good and well.

xx

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Ruins, Emotion & Change – Learning How To Feel

Had my first session at A.’s new place yesterday. Owing to my negative sense of direction I gave myself a ridiculous amount of time to find the place. As it turns out it was both needed and not needed. Went down the wrong road twice (not great when you’ve got a knee injury which is making every step agony) – but I still found the road well in time for session, meaning I ended up loitering on a side street for some thirty minutes. Luckily someone in the area had an open internet connection so I filled the time randomly browsing the interweb. Also it gave me the time to read another chapter of Dr Maroda’s book. (See previous post).

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog offerings anxiety levels have been on a steady upward curve for the last couple of weeks, since I found out about A.’s move. Things, big things, are stirring inside of me. I do realise this is not all to do with A.’s move; the effect is far in excess of the cause. Admittedly, there are a number of things happening in my life, all of which have an effect – but this still feels different, disconnected somehow, to present events. It feels like a change on a much, much deeper level – outside of specific causes; on a basic human level.

Last Thursday I suddenly felt absolutely overwhelmed by emotions. I happened to be on the phone with my sisters at the time, but even that didn’t help. It was a tsunami-like wave of feelings that completely swept me off my feet, made me loose my grip. So I hung up on my sisters to try to deal with this. My initial feeling – or actually it was more of a self-protective instinct – was to try to shut down. Only I couldn’t. Next this very intense urge to cut hit me, wanting desperately to reach for those scalpels. But even at the height of intensity, in the middle of the urge, I knew that I wasn’t going to resort to that. Instead I tried to just stay in the moment – allow those feelings to be. To not fight them, even though every cell in my body was preparing for flight mode. I ended up curled up in bed, foetal position, unable to do anything but just breathe. In and out, through the experience. Just breathing. That was all I could cope with.

Getting a scalpel out would have been the easy option, but I knew that something big was happening, and that I had to find a way to let it. I had one single thought in my head that I can consciously remember: I need to find a way to bring this experience to session on Tuesday.

So this session, the first one at The New Place, was, at least for me, very different to other sessions. I’m not sure if it was noticeable to A., but I was very consciously allowing myself to just go quiet every time a feeling came over me. I didn’t really try to verbalise it much, because for me, even just allowing the feelings to exist (as opposed to immediately, and by any means necessary, control them) is pretty big. I don’t know if it showed on my face or not; it’s possible that to the outside world it would not have been possible to discern this difference in me. But, to me, this was a huge step. To allow myself to fully feel. And in the presence of another person.

At one stage in the session, having tried to explain what happened on Thursday (and has been happening – albeit in smaller doses – since then) to A. I asked if maybe this is me regressing. I posed it as a question, but, really I suppose what I was doing was trying to tell A. that this is what I believe is happening.

Later A. asked what I was regressing to, and also commented that I seem unsure as to whether I’m going backwards or forwards. I explained that I don’t really think of it as regressing backwards in a real sense, but more about somehow allowing myself to feel the things I should have felt a long time ago. Acknowledging these feelings.

As I said that a song popped into my head, so I quoted part of it to A.:

“..I will crawl through my past
over stones blood and glass
in the ruins

Reaching under the fence
as I try to make sense
in the ruins..

But if I am to heal
I must first learn to feel
in the ruins..”

Now, I’m not convinced about the need to be crawling over stones, blood or glass, nor am I sure that it is possible to make sense of the ruins or the damage done – some things are simply senseless – but I do think that there is a need to explore the past. Not necessarily through recounting and re-visiting every single memory in graphically verbalised detail – but rather through a true acceptance of the feelings attached to those memories.

“..if I am to heal, I must first learn to feel..”

So, frightening and painful as this experience is, I am absolutely sure that without allowing these emotions to play out you can’t bring about real change. Yes, you can change things on the surface. Of course you can. But not on a real lasting and deep level. For that you need to accept yourself as a vulnerable, feeling human being.

xx

PS. I was going to post a link to a YouTube clip of Melissa Etheridge performing Ruins – but I couldn’t find one that matched in emotion what the lyrics are saying. They all seemed too “showy”. Instead I recommend you listen to the studio version, which can be found on ME’s 1993 Yes, I Am-album.

Unconscious Communication

Anxiety levels soaring, I’m trying to control it the best way I know how; by reading. Thankfully a book arrived in the post on Friday, one which I have been waiting for for over a year. (Yes – over a year.. It was meant to be released in Jan 2009, but wasn’t until just recently).

Regular readers of this blog will already be aware of my love of books of all sorts, but in particular books on therapy and/or psychology related topics. The book I’m currently reading is Dr Karen Maroda‘s most recent offering; Psychodynamic Techniques. I’m about a third of the way through this book, and I have to say, I’m liking it. It should probably be noted that this volume is primarily aimed at neophyte therapists starting out, and touches on issues like the use of self-disclosure in the therapeutic relationship, therapeutic and non-therapeutic regression and how erotic feelings can either help or hinder the process.

Having previously read Dr Maroda’s books “The Power of Countertransference” and “Seduction, Surrender & Transformation” (see links to the right and previous blog entries) I notice that this book is written in the same ultra-accessible style, with many case studies to illustrate the theory in a real in treatment situation.

In my most recent session with A. she made the comment that (in contrast to other situations in my life) I seem to feel that in therapy I perceive her as being the one holding all the power. I responded that I don’t entirely agree with that statement, but that, although I choose what to talk about and what to withhold, I am not the only person in that room, and that just as she plays off me, so I play off her; that she brings something to each session through being who she is. I don’t think I managed to quite verbalise what I meant, but reading Maroda’s chapter on mutuality and collaboration in the therapeutic dyad, I found something that much better expresses what it was that I was trying to say: both therapist and client will inevitably repeat past patterns (within the therapeutic relationship), and so, even though the focus of treatment is (as it should be) on me and my progress, A. does have a certain directional power in the way she responds to me and how she either encourages or discourages me to delve deeper into certain areas. Naturally, this is not necessarily a conscious choice and often not expressed verbally, but it nonetheless plays a part in how the therapy develops. I suppose what I am trying to get at is that far beyond our conscious and surface choices our respective unconscious are also in some way connecting, communicating; in short are aware of what the other is experiencing in the situation. Naturally not in a psychic I-know-what-you’re-thinkings ort of way, but on a more subtle level of knowing when we’re hitting the mark and when we’re not.

Anyway, must end this here. Time to (hopefully) watch Canada trash USA in the men’s ice-hockey final.

All the very best and more,

xx

Additional comment: YEEEEEAAAAAAHHH! Go Canada, go!

Stress, Random Thoughts & Specific Theories

Tomorrow is Friday. The first one back in the country since counselling finished at the end of December. And it does make a difference..

In the midst of dealing with the hang-over from spending Christmas in Sweden, packing up my stuff at the flat, trying to take it in that I won’t be living with Dev come next week, well, I reckon a session with D. would have been pretty perfect.
Someone who knows and understands the context of the thoughts flying around in my head, and who genuinely cares about what I do with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am doing reasonably well. It’s just that I’m not entirely sure if that is because I’m holding back on more than I should, or because I simply haven’t begun processing all these things yet. Or maybe, just maybe, because I have actually become better at coping with things. Either way, a session with D. would quite possibly help me to at least understand which of the above guesses is more likely to be accurate. I’m not saying that it would necessarily change anything, but I do think that the clearer I am on what I’m actually dealing with, the better I can find the right balance, emotionally.

Apart from the above worries, I am also quite nervous about this new place I’m moving to. I mean, although I have lived in shared accommodation before this will be a completely new experience. Not only will I be living with people who I actually don’t know at all, but the whole set up is very different from what I have experienced before. I think it’s reasonable to assume that it will be quite a big change to deal with; house meetings with my house mates and two therapists three times a week – well, it’s not exactly the norm, is it? I expect I will struggle quite a lot to find my place in this new situation. Still, having said that, I do believe that it is the right place for me to be. I think that staying in a place where the focus is personal change/insight, and all the challenges that will present me with, I’m certain that I will gain a lot from it.

On to something different..
A book arrived in the post while a was away – Karen J. Maroda’s The Power of Countertransference – and now that I’ve finally been able to start reading it I’m finding it difficult to put it down for long enough to get any packing done.

Maroda’s take on analytic technique is one that I personally find very appealing. To a lay-person such as myself her ideas seem to make perfect sense.

I am, of course, well aware of the traditional stance in psychoanalytic thinking; that the therapist will hold back on his or her immediate thoughts and feelings, in order to allow the patient to use the therapist as a blank canvass and to not burden the patient with the feelings the he or she may have evoked in the therapist etc. This is, in essence, to avoid allowing the patient to repeat past habits and thereby reinforcing his or her set pathology. Maroda’s theory, on the other hand, is – and this is a very general and broad summary – that for real change to take place in a therapy situation the therapist must join the patient in the experience of regression, rather than merely observing it from a safe distance. In other words, the therapist needs to both be able and willing to give more of herself to the patient, so that not only the transference factor is being looked at in the sessions, but also the countertransference factor. This, naturally, means breaking off from the often authoritarian therapist-patient relationship that psychoanalytic thinking typically entails. Maroda highlights the fact that even Freud was not unknown to alter his theories when he found that his experiments didn’t pan out the way he had expected, and that as society has undergone such tremendous change in the past several decades since Freud first introduced his theories to the world, so too psychoanalytic technique needs to change. Needless to say, when Maroda’s book was first published back in 1990 it caused something of a stir amongst the practitioners in this particular field. She was not at all the first to point to what to me seem like obvious flaws in the ‘blank canvas’-approach, however, up until then any attempt to bring about change had been fairly limited and there was no structured concept, such as the one Maroda presents in her book.

Anyway, if you happen to have a bit of spare time, I’d recommend this book. It’s probably one of the most accessible and readable texts around on practical implementation of counter-transference as an active part in the therapist-patient relationship, and a very interesting one at that!

xx