There are times when I feel like there’s not just ‘an’ elephant in the room in my therapy sessions but rather ‘a herd’ of elephants in the room with me. Some days there are so many jostling for position and distracting me that it can make it very difficult to do any work. I can’t even see or hear my therapist over and around the huge mass and racket that a number of metaphorical pachyderms generate in my mind.
I’ve been aware, for a long time, that there are some elephants that could do with moving on to make space for me and my therapist to work together. They’re quite stubborn, big buggers, though, and they don’t want to move! It doesn’t help, either, that The Critic is doing everything possible to keep the elephants there…and we all know how powerful she is.
I know I can’t push the elephants out the door on my own, or persuade them to move on. I need my therapist’s help with this task. She knows there are elephants too. She mentions them a fair bit, but I don’t think she has always got an idea of which elephant is sitting between us on any given day; she just senses a presence. She tries to invite the elephant out of the shadows – she can’t miss my silence, she knows it’s there, but when I have an elephant’s trunk wrapped around my face acting as a gag I can’t say anything.
I’ve learnt over time that it’s not just as simple as my asking the elephants to ‘please go back to where you came from (so I can just talk about something else that is easy)’ in order for them to leave. I have to tell my therapist that they’re there, who they are, and together we have to coax the elephant into not feeling like it belongs in hiding anymore. We have to make friends with it, give it some attention, and then it gladly moves out for a bit, or sometimes even permanently (if we do a good enough job).
Whilst I want to set these massive beasts free because they don’t look at all comfortable in the small room, and I am certainly uncomfortable when they are there, it is not as easy as it might seem. See, the thing is, these elephants often feel threatening to me. Whilst The Critic is a fabulous ring master in this circus that is my therapy and can tell the elephants exactly what to do, I am less confident with them. I’m more of a cat person, really!
Part of the problem is that I worry about how my therapist will respond to the elephants when she meets them properly. I wonder (panic about) whether she will be able to help me with them or whether she’ll send me packing along with them when she finally sees just how destructive they could be. Some of the elephants are very young, vulnerable, and needy and just want to sit with her but know they can’t; others are absolutely raging and want to destroy the place. It’s complex. Any one of them handled in the wrong way could result in a stampede.
Recently, after the Easter break, I was feeling brave/desperate/squashed and so I finally pointed out one of the long-standing, elderly elephants to my therapist. I felt a bit like David Attenborough as I described this twenty year old. Her name is Edey, or ED. Edey has been a near constant companion to me since my teens. She’s a skinny elephant and looks like she’s had a tough time over the years. My therapist knows of her but has never really come face-to-face with her before.
Edey is a shy elephant and frightens easily. So when she first met my therapist properly she was quite tentative and didn’t want to be fully seen. Little by little over the last couple of months she let herself be seen more by my therapist and I was able to talk about the problems Edey has. It was going so well. I felt like my therapist and I were, for the first time, really getting to grips with this massive elephant together. It felt like we were co-creating a plan for her. She was calming down, trusted my therapist, and was thinking about going outside.
And then something unexpected happened. My therapist took her by surprise and spooked her in a session and since then Edey has gone back to being one of the elephants in the room. My therapist and I both know she’s there, but for now I don’t feel like I can mention her because this sad, little elephant could be the one that gets me terminated from my therapy, or at least having to ‘work towards an ending’. And frankly there are other little elephants in the room who can’t bear the thought of that. Edey really couldn’t care less now. She wants to smash everything up and get all the others to join her and then march out the door.
I was worried about talking about Edey, in six years she’s rarely come up, despite having always been there with me, but after what’s happened (and yes, I know my therapist was just doing her job and has acted in my best interests etc- it’s not what has been done that’s the problem, it’s how it was done) I am even more terrified about talking about some of the others. Edey is a tough old beast but some of the little ones are already so wounded that I am not sure they could handle my therapist treating them in anything but a gentle way.
Anyway, winding metaphors aside, I wrote my therapist a letter this week. I’ll type it up and post it on here, later. I am still unsure if I will hand it over on Monday. This is a nothing post but I just had to write this because I saw this image on Facebook earlier and thought it was utter genius!