Daring To Trust

 

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.

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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.

xx

“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..”

JK

 

Innocence Maintained  © 1998 Jewel Kilcher
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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..

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xx