Abandonment, Anger & Expressing Negative Emotions

As if by magic, following my previous post about wanting my therapist back, I received a two-line email from A. on Wednesday “to confirm that we are meeting on July Xth” and asking could I come at a slightly different time to my usual slot? Very formal and to the point, complete with a “Dear..” at the beginning and ending with “Best wishes,” in typical A. style. She does the same thing in texts, which I always find both amusing and somewhat incongruous to the kind of relationship we have and the way we communicate. It’s the text message equivalent of suddenly calling me Ms Y in session. :)

Anyway, having received said email I instantaneously found myself regressing into some sort of teenage state where my immediate reaction was I’ve spent months not knowing when my therapy will resume, weeks and weeks in limbo. If you think I’m going to reply to your stupid little email straight away, you’re wrong! You can sit there and wonder whether or not I can do the time you asked about. So THERE!

Not many points for maturity, as you can see, and of course entirely irrational; it’s not as if A. will have been anxiously awaiting our work to resume or has struggled to make it through this break. Nor is it likely that she will be particularly concerned about my holding back on replying to her email, but it still felt kind of good to allow myself to act out in this obviously infantile fashion.

Thus, it wasn’t until Friday I emailed her back. And when I did, I made sure to be decidedly less formal than she had been, writing in a way similar to how we speak, starting with a simple Hi A., and ending with a casual Shabbat Shalom for later. [Although, in hindsight, I realise that I actually don’t usually wish her Shabbat Shalom at the end of our Friday afternoon session, but more generally a good weekend. Stuff to ponder in another post, methinks.]

Clearly this need to act out stems from a place of anger at having been abandoned, and not wanting to make things easy for her. There is a part of me who wants to punish her for having put me through this separation, for having put me on hold while she carried on with her real life, and I have a feeling that it may well be a bumpy and challenging time to come once therapy starts over, while we work through this anger, which I genuinely hope I will allow myself to express.

This anger is, of course, not only about A.’s maternity leave, but also a deeply buried echo of all other times when I have felt left behind and uncared for, beginning with my birth mother giving me up for adoption and followed on by similar feelings towards my parents and other adults in my life, growing up. A person doesn’t need to be physically abandoned in order to experience the very powerful feelings associated with it..

And this – rather than just wanting to put A. through a bit of a rough time upon her return – is the reason why I say I hope I’ll be able to give myself licence to let this anger out. It has been trapped for a long time. Maybe the time has come to let it surface? Perhaps a chance for a much needed corrective emotional experience; being accepted even when expressing negative emotions?


PS. Ever wondered how your therapist really feels about you blogging about your therapy? I think my lovely fellow blogging tweetist Therapy Tales has it right. Click the link for a spot on cartoon strip!

It’s Not You, It’s Me? – An Entry About Positive & Negative Influences

I stayed at the crisis centre today after counselling since I had made plans to see a friend of mine who is currently staying there. I hadn’t seen her in quite a few weeks, so it was great to finally manage to find a day when we were both in a good enough place emotionally to be able to meet up.

See, that’s one of the things about depression, that it makes it incredibly hard to plan things. Not only because the task of making a plan to do something in itself is quite difficult, but also because there is simply no guarantee that you’ll feel well enough to venture out of isolation to socialise. Owing to this P., my friend, and I hadn’t been able to see each other. We’ve kept in touch through phone calls and texts, but that’s about it. So, seeing her today was really really good.

She was in the process of transferring her things from her old room to another room further down when I found her, so I gave her a hand with that. Sweaty work, if you’re unfit like me, so when we were done we made our way downstairs to the communal lunch room.

We’d only just entered the room when another woman who’s staying at the centre commented that I must be a very good friend’s of P.’s because it was the first time she’d seen P. smile since she’d been there.

I’m not sure if it is entirely possible to deem whether or not people are good friends based on a smile, but it did make me think. It made me wonder about what effect I have on people. I mean, I was very flattered by the comment, and I’d like to think that I generally have a positive effect on the people around me. But, looking a bit deeper, and at people who are very close to me – how do I influence them? And how is my behaviour influenced by them?

It’s probably fair to say that Dev is just about the only person who ever gets to see me in a really bad mood; the only person I’ll snap at or shoot unfair comments at in the heat of the moment. I’m incredibly adept at holding negative emotions back, but, I guess, with him I feel safe enough to allow myself to let my less good qualities show, too. I know he loves me for all that I am, not just the pretty bits.

I grew up in a family where negative emotions and acting out wes simply unacceptable. Anger, harsh words, shouting – it just wasn’t tolerated. I remember that I would, in my early teens, very very occasionally stomp up to my room and slam the door behind me, and that this was seen as highly inappropriate behaviour. I was never actually told outright that it was, but the message was sent through in very clear non-verbal communication. I also remember my mother once or twice, when she was arguing with me ask “Are you going to go slam the door now?” in a tone bordering on ridicule, as if this was behaviour I displayed every other day, as opposed to once or twice, in all of my teen years.

So I learned to control any impulse to act out. Not in a biting my tongue kind of way, but to the point where I repressed the very impulse so far that it would never even enter my mind that I could voice any negative feelings. I can count the number of times I’ve lost my temper on the fingers of one hand. I used to say that with pride, but after many hours of talking about my inability to allow myself to stay with negative feelings for long enough to even identify them I’ve come to see how unnatural this way of acting is.

The problem is of course that it’s not easy to un-learn a behaviour I have been working so hard at perfecting for the better part of my life.

In April I made a decision to take a break from my immediate family. There were many reasons for this, and one of them was that I wanted to find a way to change my emotional response patterns, and I felt that it would be too difficult for me to do that with my family still in my life, trying to – probably to a large extent both unintentionally and unknowingly – keep me from doing this, since what is familiar tends also to be what is the most comfortable, and change, on the other hand, is often both frightening and worrisome.

Since the last time I was in contact with my family I have been working incredibly hard to alter my way of relating to many things. I don’t know how long it will be before I get back in touch with my family, but I genuinely hope it won’t be too long, and I want to make the most of this time I have bought myself, I want to feel I have made good use of it. And I definitely don’t want to feel that this break from my family has been for nothing.

I guess that my behaviour – like everybody else’s – has been tailored to fit in with the environment I grew up in. Darwinism in a speeded up microcosm.

But have I had the same impact on the other members of my family? Have I manipulated them to act in a certain way towards me? Well, yes and no, I suspect. The same way that not all of me (thoughts, behaviour, ways of relating) has been directly moulded by my family will all of their characteristics have been influenced by me. Some things, like the abuse one of my brothers put me through, had absolutely nothing to do with the way I was. But, on the other hand, I’m sure that some things – like the way my mother would turn to me with her worries was perpetuated, at least to some extent, by my own wish to feel needed and special in a family of six, with tons of other people constantly coming and going in our home.

I also know that I have had a huge impact on my extended family, my More Than Family. My youngest sister, for example listened almost without exception to the music I had fed her, and I’m sure that it’s not pure chance that some years ago my other sister and I ended up buying the same dress, the same camera, the same sandals and so on. Also, I can easily see that they both are a lot like me, when it comes to what I consider to be my better traits, like being open and fair-minded for example. Whether that is definitely down to me is, of course, impossible to say. I have learned a lot from them, too, and it’s not entirely unviable that I am all of those thingsbecause of them.

It’s a constant give and take, I suppose.
And what’s more, it’s an absolutely natural process and it will occur whether you want it to or not. The key is, however – at least in my mind – to be able to see when the influence you have goes from being on a normal, healthy learn-from-one-another level to a dangerously personality altering level.

Well, there you are; my rambling thoughts of the day.

Be good to yourselves and others around you who deserve it,