The last few weeks in therapy have been absolutely incredible/transformational (sorry if I sound like a broken record here!) and I absolutely plan to write about what’s going on in a few password protected posts soon – but before that happens I need some time to really process it all properly with A.
This, as you’ll see, is not a protected post. I’ve just woken up from the most winding, random, emotionally-charged therapy dream and whilst it’s fresh I think I’ll write about it here before I forget it – although I don’t think I’ll forget that all too familiar feeling of sadness and shame it’s left me with. I definitely need to take it to session tomorrow because I am still jangling inside even though I know it’s just my brain having a good sort out!
I seem to have a thing about dreaming about my therapist/s don’t I? I think over the years I have written about handful of them here. In fact, I am struggling to think of a title that isn’t the same as all the others! Why am I writing about dreams again? Well, I’ve noticed that the blog posts that seem to get the most traction here are the ones about ‘dreaming of my therapist’, ‘touch in therapy’ , ‘eye contact’ and ‘ruptures’ which just goes to show that these things concern a lot of us in therapy. It’s not really surprising that we process relational stuff in our dreams and that this crops up in the form of our therapists with whom we are processing our attachment issues.
I used to feel huge amounts of shame when I’d have these BIG dreams and keep quiet about them for weeks and months on end letting the feelings steadily eat away at me – but this was because Em never really knew how to handle what I was saying. I remember the time I finally told her that I dreamt she’d violently thrown my three-year-old son out the back of an ambulance that was parked on her drive so that he injured himself as he landed on the concrete. She’d stepped over him and gone back into her house and shut the door on us both. I was left holding him unconscious in my arms …fuck me why did I not listen to what my mind was trying to show me then – talk about a clear message about my inner child!!
She was so distant, so unmoved, so analytical ‘what does this episode remind you of?’ Being curious about dream content is fine and useful, but sometimes when my mind is serving me up trauma 101 I just really need to hear, ‘that sounds really upsetting and I am sorry that I hurt you in the dream. Can we look at the feelings that have come up for you around this? I wonder what your dream is trying to tell us?’
It’s really not easy unpicking upsetting dreams ABOUT your therapist WITH your therapist – especially when you’re still reeling from feeling rejected or abandoned and so it’s really important that a sense of safety is established first. Anita is really good at this – thank god. But it’s so alien after years of feeling so much shame if Em even made it into a dream and often not saying anything because it would just pour salt in the wound.
It’s been a little while since Anita has made it into my dreams – in fact I think it’s got to be back in June or something, when we were in the thick of lockdown and online therapy sessions. I was feeling unsettled and was caught up in a panic, worrying about the various ways that she would abandon me and tell me she couldn’t work with me anymore. God the abandonment narrative never gets old does it?!
I’ve found that taking these hard dreams to A has been really helpful. We work through them and the underlying fear (being left/abandoned or being too much) and it really seems to help solidify the relationship and help build trust, because of course my brain is replaying long-standing fears and imagining the worst that could happen in the relationship in these dreams. Anita doesn’t have a problem with giving reassurance (remember how Em wouldn’t AT ALL?) and even though it takes a lot (A LOT!) of repetition what she is saying IS starting to go in a little bit. At least part of me is starting to believe that she’s not planning on running off into the sunset screaming ‘fucking leave me alone you freak!’.
They say that it takes the brain thousands of repetitions of an action in order to make a new neural pathway so it’s going to take a lot of ‘I care about you, I am not going anywhere, and I love you’ for it to really stick and start create its own track in my brain. Oh help!… imagine that also needing to happen for all the different parts of me – because it’s not always the same part present that hears the affirmations!
For the longest time it has felt like I get told these lovely things and they almost bounce off me, or slip through my fingers and are suddenly gone. K said to me the other day that there’s a part that really struggles to take in love and care, like that part literally has no idea what to do with it, and she’s so right. I so desperately want to find a place inside myself to put this care and love because now that I am finally experiencing what has been lacking my whole frigging life I don’t want it to disappear. And yet I have nowhere to store it…which is hilarious because there feels like an endless black hole in my heart area that needs filling! Ugh.
Anyway, back to dreams – recently, I had a dream about Em (yeah, that relationship and its ending is still giving me the occasional nightmare even 9 months down the line) that affected me so badly that I really couldn’t hold myself together at all. I forewarned A in a text before my session about what had happened and what I needed in the session from her – basically to stay close to me so I didn’t dissociate.
No surprises that A was phenomenal that day – just completely saw what I needed – and that’s where the passworded posts will begin. To have that horrible sense of feeling rejected and abandoned when it’s completely live and unfiltered, witnessed by A felt hard, but allowing that pain and young stuff, to be truly seen by A was what triggered to move into this new therapeutic space we are now in. The level of emotional intimacy has ramped up and the most vulnerable parts are finally getting seen, held, and contained which is both great and fucking terrifying.
After several really wonderful holding sessions this month where the young parts have been seen and worked with, the untrusting, angry, self-loathing critical part who is pickled in shame turned up to therapy on Monday and it was utterly horrendous. I completely shut down. My body language was so closed, knees pulled up into my body, head down, completely rigid. I couldn’t look at A at all. The longer I was in the room the harder it got. A was so kind, consistent, and present and it just made things worse (for a bit!).
Every time she asked a question or said something kind, I wanted to scream at her to leave me alone. I did tell her to ‘shut up’ at one point! Eek. I couldn’t bear to be seen and if I could have curled up in a ball and hidden from her view I would have. Anita believes in letting the protective defensive parts have their say, and to be in the space, but also talks to them and understands the situation enough that she is able to disarm them a bit. In the end my defences shattered and that protector backed down and the vulnerable that feels so much shame came out but again was met with exactly what it needs.
Anyway, all that’s for the other posts but I’m not surprised that I had the dream I had this morning having had the voice that says, ‘You’re too needy. This isn’t real. This isn’t safe. She’ll realise she’s made a mistake and leave soon’ being so present on Monday.
I was due to see Anita for a therapy session at the end of the day. She lived at the top of a very long, steep hill, and for some reason I had parked at the bottom of the hill. I walked up the tree lined street. It was heading towards sunset and the view back down the road was lovely. I thought I was going to be late and so started running up the remainder of the hill – I was exhausted by the time I reached the house!
The house was built into a hill (I used to live somewhere like this when I was a teen) – it was an upside-down house with the living room and kitchen upstairs and there were steps spiralling round the outside of the property to get to the front door at the top. There was a large veranda off the back and when I arrived there was a village gathering going on – like a ‘bring and share’ sort of thing with heaps of people milling around chatting. There was a long table laid out and I was invited to sit down but A wasn’t there. I was totally confused. I didn’t feel like I should be there but people insisted that I stay and it was fine that A had said I would be there. I felt awkward and embarrassed.
People kept talking to me and I got on fine, cue my chameleon skills, but inside I was wondering what the fuck was going on. I looked around and noticed that Anita was sitting at the far end of the table on the corner about two seats down from me. When I saw her, I got the absolute jealous rage! There was a friend of mine (not someone I actually know in real life) who was about 17 sitting perched on her lap and laughing her head off. She seemed really confident and happy and just one of those people that seem to have it all. A and this girl clearly had a deep relationship and I felt so unbelievably angry.
I had no idea that they knew each other and was furious that this person, my friend, seemed to be so connected to A, that it was so easy for them both to laugh and joke and be close. I got up quietly from the table, glanced again at A – we made eye contact and I could feel the tears coming. I quickly left the house and ran off down the hill. I felt so sad but also massively abandoned, too. I didn’t want to have some crap second rate pretend relationship with Anita when clearly my friend didn’t.
There was no reason I should know about my friend knowing A but I didn’t feel like I could trust Anita anymore because she’d let me walk into that situation. Surely, she must know that would hurt me. I ran out of energy and the rage dissipated. I sat down on someone’s front lawn at the bottom of the hill under a tree and just sobbed like my heart was breaking. I felt so sad that yet again things were going to shit with someone I care about – someone I love -there was no way I could continue to see A if this other girl was involved.
Anita came walking down the road and sat down beside me. She tried to comfort me but I just couldn’t hear what she was saying. I couldn’t feel it. I was so shutdown. I needed to protect myself from more hurt. She handed me some old pieces of paper and pictures and explained to me that she was still with me and that nothing had changed and to read these things she’d given me and I’d see that our relationship was important to her, that the relationship she had with the girl was different but not more important. I felt slightly better but I still hurt. I knew it wasn’t rational but I felt like I had lost everything.
A neighbour called to Anita from across the street and she went to over to see them. The 17-year-old friend came towards me and sat down. I said, ‘I didn’t know you knew Anita?’ and the girl told me she’d know A for years and that they were really close. She said that A was good at making clients feel special but it’s just a game, that’s her job, it’s not real, none of it is real. She pointed at the pieces of paper that A had given me and said ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen all those before’. I couldn’t contain my sadness and got up, leaving the papers behind me and ran off again. I had to get away.
Anita saw me go and shouted after me, but I didn’t look back and just kept running. I ended up in a school, in a changing room cubicle and sat with my feet up on the bench so that I couldn’t be seen by anyone walking by outside. I opened my eyes and there was a little girl in there with me, maybe four years old, in a grey pinafore dress. She was clearly lost and looked really sad. I asked her name and she couldn’t speak. I asked her if she was lost and she nodded. I sat her next to me and told her that it would be ok although I didn’t really believe it either for her or me.
At that moment I heard Anita and the 17-year-old enter the changing room. I put my finger to my lips and gestured for the little girl to be quiet. I could hear Anita talking about me, ‘She’s intelligent but she’s an emotional wreck and really so needy, I’ve never come across anyone like her. How do you know her and why on earth would you spend time with her?’ And the girl said that we went to college together and agreed that I was a bit strange but nice enough.
I felt really betrayed hearing Anita talking about me to this other person in this way and just sat there stunned. The little girl’s shoe poked out from under the door and Anita and the 17-year-old knocked and I had to open it. I looked up at Anita and burst into tears and the little girl ran into the arms of the 17-year-old – they were sisters.
I don’t remember how it ended but man…. I have woken up really exhausted. I feel like I have done an emotional workout before the day has even begun and whilst adult me knows that none of it is real there’s that horrible hangover that just niggles in the background ‘what if?’.
So, there we are. Hopefully I won’t go into shutdown tomorrow and can actually just see that this is ‘the fear’ doing its thing.
Honestly, my poor little brain needs a rest! Remind me why I do this to myself!! x