Therapy is never fun. Sometimes J and I do have these brief moments of shared laughter, but on the whole it isn’t enjoyable. I suppose it isn’t meant to be, but my session today seemed to have a load of extra un-fun.
I guess I might have anticipated it wouldn’t be great, because while walking there I couldn’t figure out why I was even going. This morning I was preoccupied with questions about why I keep doing therapy when it is so hard and doesn’t really bring any relief. I was wondering what I actually want from the process, what I want from J and what I really need for myself.
The weekend was full of worry too. At the moment I am anxious about so many things, they all blur into one lump of stress I just carry around with me. I’m worried about money; my wife and I can hardly afford our rent, bills and food, even though we’ve made big cut backs. I’m worried about work, my family, a friend who’s having a tough time, and of course the ongoing police investigation into the allegations I’ve made against my brother.
All of this combined meant I was consumed by a massively anxious energy when I walked into therapy. I felt full of an expanding pressure. J noticed immediately, commenting that I seemed ‘on edge’. I didn’t feel a great deal different from usual, but I obviously seemed it.
I explained about the sporadic contact I’ve had with my parents in recent weeks. In the past, I’ve told J I miss them and I want to be close to them again. I’ve always said that family was what gave my life meaning. That’s why it is so hard to be the nucleus of this awful shit storm my family is going through right now. Yes, I know it is ultimately my sex predator brother’s fault, but I also made the choice to kick off about it now. After 20 years of silence. I chose this; I didn’t choose to be abused, but I 100% chose what’s happening now.
What happened next was that J went into rescue mode. I felt under attack, as she plagued me with questions about how I think my parents really feel. Not my assumptions based on old feelings, but how I think they feel from a ‘here and now’ place.
I hated it. I felt like she was telling me I was wrong. I felt like she had no right to question my assumptions about my family. After all, they are my family and I know them pretty bloody well. I know for a fact that my dad never, ever changes his mind about anything. Not without a sustained effort on the part of the one trying to persuade him. I know that my mum can’t deal with her own emotions enough to be able to listen to what I say and actually hear it. She has too much of her own baggage to be open to that.
Eventually I just closed down. I felt incredibly defensive, like J was really pushing me, adding to the horrible sense of pressure I was already sitting with. Usually I appreciate her gently challenging me on things, but this didn’t feel gentle. I felt afraid, I couldn’t explain why but I was filled with fear. That led to me sinking into my familiar shame spiral; assuming she was right and I was wrong and there was no way I could or should stop and say that I was feeling crushed by it.
Thankfully J noticed what had happened between us and we discussed it. I was scared of saying how I felt, but I managed to anyway and she apologised. She said she disagreed with my logic, but she accepted my feelings about it all. I felt a huge wave of relief, knowing that she wasn’t trying to prove me wrong or undermine me. She was just attempting to encourage me to think differently, because she wanted to help.
The problem is that I am not ready to think differently. I’m not ready to open myself up to how interacting with my parents makes me feel. I’m not strong enough right now to be truthful with them about how I feel. Even without emotion, I can look pragmatically at the situation and do a cost / benefit analysis. Right now, I am on thin ice and the risk of letting my parents get close and hurt me is just too great.