Library, Community and Therapy – An Entry About Feeling Safe

I am at the library. I’m enjoying it. It’s my safe place, my home away from home – the place I go to when things get too much. I like the semi-calm, the not-quite-quietness of this place. It’s a good place to be; I can think clearly here. I can feel freely.

I’ve only just finished a mini-essay on the topic of happiness, which seems ironic, considering that I am in fact not especially happy at the moment. Oh, there is no need to panic, I’m by no means in a let’s drink a litre of anti-freeze kind of mood. But I am feeling distinctly low.

As you probably know by now I live in a therapeutic community. Only at the moment it seems it is neither particularly therapeutic, nor much of a community. The latter is, naturally, in part down to me. I’m a member of this little household, and as such it is within my power to make this place more of a real community. Only my heart’s not really in it. I’m not all that interested in communal living. I like my independence, I don’t want to go on group shopping trips, nor do I feel a need to have all my meals with my house mates. This is – I feel obliged to point out – in no way a reflection on my house mates, but merely a statement about myself and where I’m at.

The second part [or the first, depending on how you look at it] – the bit about being therapeutic – well – that’s a little more complex. Or at least it feels like it’s somewhat more out of my hands at the moment. Yes, I do have good conversations with, hm, one of my house mates every now and then, and for that I am thankful. But, what I mean when I say that there is very little in the house that is therapeutic, I mean that the thrice-weekly house meetings have become something of a silent battleground. And, it’s not about my house mates, but, rather, about the two house therapists. Perhaps not solely, but certainly to some quite significant degree. At the moment there is an atmosphere in the house meetings which makes it almost impossible to have an open and honest multi-way conversation.

There have been a few incidents lately where the response to expressed emotions have been less than helpful, and in some instances (in my view) directly damaging. The comments from one or both house therapists have sometimes been so exceptionally defensive or dismissive that it appears to have killed off any desire to risk sharing anything even remotely personal in the meetings. In short, it doesn’t feel like a safe place to share things that really matter, because there is no knowing whether or not what you say will be heard with any degree of respect, or if it will merely be shot down.

There are several things going on in my life that I really ought to share in the house meetings – and I’m guessing this may be true for my house mates, too – but I choose not to, because I feel too afraid of what the response may be.

Naturally, therapist or not, a person is a person, and no one can be expected to respond in the right way all the time, but – on the other hand – I suppose my view is that there are some things that any person, therapist or not, ought to be able to offer another person. Respect is one of them. A willingness to listen, to really hear the other person, is another.

So, these two things; that I might not really be the right type of person to live in a community, and feeling that the meetings have become pointless and infertile battleground, makes me wonder if, perhaps, it is time for me to move on. Again, something I should probably be discussing in the meetings, but feel unable to.

Thankfully individual therapy is going really well. Damn hard work at times, but there has been some progress. Like I’ve said many times: I don’t think it’s meant to be easy, I think it’s meant to be worth it. And I believe that I have now got to a point in my relationship with A. where I feel that I can begin to trust her. To let her in a little more than before, perhaps – provided I can find the courage within to do so.

The other week I made A. laugh, and, silly as it may seem, that really was the moment when I felt that Yup, this is the right person for me to work with. I only wish there wasn’t so much time between sessions. When the meetings are good, and I can get something from them, then twice-weekly sessions with A. is just about right, but since they aren’t – well, I do feel that I need something more.

I feel that I need to just talk and talk and talk. Or, rather, I need to be heard and heard and heard. And I need a safe place where that can happen. An emotional sanctuary, a library of sorts.


Is Everything A. OK? – An Entry About Choosing The Road Less Travelled

I’ve met with my new therapist now. Her name is A. (Ok, so it’s not A., but, that’s what I’ll be calling her in my blog, following in the tradition of D. and B.)

I had to rush a little to get there since I had a house meeting right before, but in the end, having opted for the tube rather than waiting for a bus, I arrived bang on time.

A. met me at the door and we made our way up a narrow-bordering-on-claustrophobic (if you’re so inclined) staircase. My first observation about A. was that she has a nose piercing. For some reason that makes a difference. One of my previous therapists (incidentally also called A.) had one, too – and so I took that as a good sign. – Don’t worry, I’m not really saying that a nose stud wearing therapist is automatically a goodtherapist, but for me, well, it’s something to identify with, somehow. (For those of you who don’t know me by sight; I’ve had my nose pierced a few times in my life, and am currently sporting both a lip and a tongue piercing). So, as I said – to me, that was a positive first sign; a vague sense of kinship.

The second thing I noticed, having sat down I the none-too-comfortable and slightly too deep chair was that she had a book by RD Laing sitting on her bookshelf. That also made a difference because RD Laing, apart from having made the profound and oft-quoted statement that “life is a sexually transmitted disease” also happens to be one of the founders of the organisation that runs the community I’m living in, meaning that chances were that A. wouldn’t be completely unaware of the ethos of this organisation.

The actual session went reasonable smoothly. As always it’s a little difficult to know at what end to begin when asked to talk about yourself, but I got through it in something that could potentially, and somewhat optimistically, be called chronological order. Also, I spent some time talking a bit more specifically about why I was coming to see A. now, about what I felt hadn’t worked so well with B. and how difficult it has been for me to make the decision to seek out someone else to work with, having arrived at the conclusion that B. simply wasn’t the right person for me, yet at the same time being very aware that I may be setting myself up for rejection again.

I’m not going to go through this first session in detail, because, in many ways, the precise ins and outs of it don’t really matter, but I can say that I felt really good coming out of it. I felt that that unidentifiable something that I’d been missing in my sessions with B. was definitely there, and that I was somehow back on track again. It’s just one of those things that you just know.

I feel like I took a wrong turn after my sessions with D. ended, but now I’m back on the road I’m meant to be on again. It’s a road less travelled, but it is, without a shadow of a doubt, the one I’m meant to be on, and with some trepidation I am looking forward to seeing what’s round the next bend.


PS. I appologise profusely about the lame heading, but in my defence, I know at least one person who’ll get what it’s a reference to, and who might possibly find it mildly amusing..

Shoes, Skulls & Honesty – An Entry About Therapeutic Experience

I had an extremely delayed bing-bing experience yesterday. I was in the lounge with my housemate, talking about what it’s like to be in therapy/counselling and comparing what we each found most and least helpful.

Pretty soon we reached the conclusion that we both have the same general idea about what does and doesn’t help. One thing we agreed on was the fact that although interpretations can sometimes be helpful, more often than not they don’t really add much value to the experience. Also we both said that there is nothing more frustrating than to have a question answered with a question. Especially if it’s concerning something that has taken some courage to ask about in the first place.

To use a more concrete example: Let’s say that you’re in a session and you get the feeling that your therapist is in a bad mood and seems annoyed with you. This is clearly something that will bother you, but it’s not the easiest thing in the world to confront your therapist about, especially since you may not be entirely sure that your reading is correct. So, you let fifteen of your precious fifty-minute hour pass, because you’re unsure how to ask about this without making your therapist even more upset with you. You may even consider not asking at all. But, in the end you do ask the question: “Are you upset with me?” You ask because you really want to know.

There are now two main routes for the therapist to take: The first one – which has been used for years by therapist as a means of turning the focus back on the client – would be to reply with “What makes you ask that?” and although I understand the idea behind responding in this way, I don’t really see in which way this would be therapeutic for the client.

The other route – the one that would seem more obvious, and also more closely related to how things work in the world outside of the therapy setting, would be for the therapist to simply answer the question. Just a simple “Yes, actually, I am a bit upset with you because you’re doing something I have repeatedly asked you not to do. How do you feel about me being upset with you?” (Or, “No, I’m not upset with you, but I do have a cold coming on, and maybe that’s why I seem a bit off?”).

My housemate and I also talked about the fact that quite often it isn’t necessarily what is actually being said in a session that brings about a change in you, but what happens. (Not really a huge newsflash, but still.) Although it is helpful to be able to talk about things that are on your mind, the talking itself doesn’t really change anything. It’s more like a symptom relief. (Like taking a painkiller – it takes away your headache, but it isn’t likely to take away the cause for it).

On to my little bing-bing moment, which followed this part of our discussion: Last year I came to one of my sessions with D. wearing a pair of new trainers. At the beginning of the session D. commented on them, saying that she quite liked them. I have no idea what we talked about in that session, to be honest, but as I was getting ready to leave and I started putting my trainers back on again she realised that they weren’t all black as she had initially thought, but that they actually have skulls and bones printed on the side. She then made a comment about that and asked why – out of all the trainers in the world – did I have to choose the ones with skulls on them? I said something back about liking them and that that particular brand of shoes nearly always came with skulls printed on them. We went back and forth for a bit in a very parent/child sort of way, and in the end I blurted out an incredibly teenagey “Well, it’s lucky you don’t have to wear them then!” (At which I think D. may actually have smiled).

Now, I’ve re-told this little store to quite a few of my friends, but I don’t think I had realised until just yesterday why I have been doing it. I think I probably just put it down to me thinking it was a bit amusing that someone could react so strongly to a pair of trainers and that it was more about D.’s reaction than mine. But, having this discussion with my housemate and again repeating this story to her it suddenly dawned on me that the reason why I’ve held on to that tiny little detail is that it really changed something for me.

As I’ve mentioned before I grew up in a house where disagreements weren’t really accepted at all, and so as a result I was probably the most well behaved kid around throughout my teenage years. I never called my parents names or even shouted at them, in fact I hardly displayed any of the behaviour typical of a teenager. Because I was afraid what would happen if I did.
And now, years later, having had the above exchange with my counsellor, well, it was incredibly liberating. It showed me that it’s ok to get annoyed with someone, or to disagree, and even to express it in a less than thought-through way. The world didn’t stop, nothing bad happened – and it certainly didn’t ruin my relationship with D.

So there you go! A perfect example of how the smallest things can sometimes bring about the biggest changes.

All the very best and more,


PS. I now have red Skullcandy earphones to go with my skull adorned trainers. :þ

BLATANT PLUG: Check out my brand new online store Earthprint Organic Clothing where I sell organic clothes with my own designs printed on them!

Uncertainty – An Entry About Dealing With The Unknown

I often don’t know what I’ll be writing about when I sit down to blog. Today is one of those times. It’s more a case of finding myself overwhelmed by a need to write; that there are a lot of feelings swimming around inside of me, and somehow they need to be expressed or at least explored. It helps me figure out what’s really going on in my mind.

This morning I spent about forty-five minutes trying to find a suitable psychotherapist to help me do this in a more controlled environment, since sometimes when I write I take things a step further than I was actually ready for. So, deciding on a therapist is a pretty important thing. Especially since the person needs to be someone who can read you well enough – gauge where you’re at – to be able to help you decide what you are and aren’t ready for.

The thing is though, that although there are absolutely tons of psychotherapists about, well – until you actually meet them you can’t possibly know that they are the right one, can you? Sure, I have a wish list of sorts at the back of my head (has to be female, have a certain amount of life experience, preferably be interested in a psychodynamic approach, and so on), but, as I said, until you’ve met a person, how can you know?

So, that’s something that’s definitely weighing on my mind. The fact that I haven’t yet sorted out a therapist, even though I know that the last session of counselling with D. is drawing rapidly nearer.

And of course, that in itself, the ending of counselling, well, it’s a pretty big thing. I really don’t like endings. I accept that they have to happen sometimes, but I really don’t like them. (On the other hand, I can’t say that I know of anyone who does like them). For me an ending is like, I don’t know – it’s just enormously frightening. Particularly when it is the ending of something which I have experienced as being very positive. It gives me a feeling of being abandoned. Or maybe abandoned isn’t the right word. But something similar to it. And it makes me feel incredibly alone and vulnerable. Especially when I don’t know what’s round the next bend.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. That one of the things I’ve really been struggling a lot with in life is the fact that there are so many loose ends. So much uncertainty. Both in my present situation and in my past. And I think what I want to get out of therapy is some sort of closure. Not in a done and dustedsort of way – I don’t believe that’s possible, since life is a journey and as a person I am constantly changing, constantly evolving. A better way to put it is perhaps that I would like to have a bit more order in amongst the loose ends. And I think psychotherapy could help me with that.

I think I’ve made a pretty good start in this round of counselling. I feel a lot more aware of how things hang together, how they all interrelate. At least on a surface level. I guess, with psychotherapy, I hope to get a deeper understanding of it. How the finer (or often not so fine) details have lead me down a certain path, has steered me into a certain way of behaving, of dealing with things.

Apart from that, what else is going on? Well, Christmas is getting closer by the second. And Christmas means going home.. My mother now knows that I will be in my hometown over this period; she was told earlier in the week. What I don’t know is what her reaction to that was, but, me being me, well – I do worry. I worry that it was really hard for her, I worry that I’ve really made her upset this time. And also – yes – I worry that my decision hasn’t had much of an impact at all. Because that would probably be the response that would mean the most..

Still, I am going home. It was my own decision. And I think that, as challenging as it will be, it is the right one. I think I need to reclaim my turf a bit. I also think that I am a lot better equipped to do so now, compared to earlier in the year.

I just hope I won’t forget it once I’m there.