Overreacting to a change in therapy

When I arrived at therapy yesterday J had moved all the furniture. It shouldn’t have upset me but it did. It’s just furniture. But it’s also not just furniture.

It came as a shock really. It seemed kind of funny at the time to be shocked by it. I joked about not liking it and how strange it felt. I asked her to bring in her dog for me and her friendly presence made me feel better.

However, last night I couldn’t settle to sleep because I was thinking about the furniture. The more I thought about it, the more upset I got. I ended up feeling very stressed about the whole thing, anxious and worried about going to my session today. I didn’t want to tell J how I was feeling about it, which in turn made me want to just cancel the session.

By this morning I was thinking more rationally, and I was less scared about trying to explain what was going on. It still felt like a big overreaction, but I figured that J is used to me being sensitive and reactive, so it probably wouldn’t surprise her.

While I could see the reality of it just being furniture, I could also understand why the change unsettled me so much. It affected a small, vulnerable part of myself that feels safe with what’s familiar and finds change terrifying.

That child part experienced a seismic change that was totally beyond her control when her parents discovered her brother had been abusing her. So she’s understandably frightened when things change suddenly.

I also realised that the change destabilised the sense of safety and security that young part is used to feeling with J. The room is less enclosed, more open and so feels less containing. The chair I sit in faces the outside and I feel exposed sitting there. Also, J can’t see out of the door from where she’s moved her chair to, and so I feel like she can’t protect me from someone possibly intruding into the space.

She also removed the sofa she always used to sit on. I was used to her sitting there and I liked how it felt when she was there. Sometimes, if I really needed it, I would sit beside her and I can remember that feeling really comforting. Even though I haven’t done it in a while, it always felt good to know I had the choice of being closer to her. Now the sofa has gone, that option has too. I feel sad about that. I feel sad that it means J seems less accessible now.

J asked me today if the room being different makes her feel different to me, and it does. I couldn’t describe how, but it feels like the whole dynamic of us sitting together has been shifted with the furniture. That thought really upset me, because I am always scared of our relationship changing, and of my connection with her being lost and not regained.

I think from that young place I am also angry that this has happened. From my adult perspective, I can be calm about it because I know I’ll get used to the difference. But that vulnerable part is angry that J has made the space feel unsafe. I’m angry that I can’t find any of the aspects of the room that anchored me before, that their familiar presence has been taken away.

Reading this back I feel melodramatic. I felt it as I sat there with J today. I felt pathetic and needy and ridiculous. But there are parts of me that are all of those things. Those broken, traumatised parts need to feel held and secure. It’s hard for me not to feel ashamed of that, but it’s the truth.


Photo: philipglevy, Creative Commons.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. I can absolutely relate to this. I don’t think it’s melodramatic at all. I hated it when Eve sat in a different spot from usual or had the window open, but I never said anything. When she said they were going to move the practice to another location I hated that idea, and I asked if they were taking the same furniture, which they were and it was a bit of a relief. I think that everything in the therapy room has meaning and any change is also meaningful, but it’s especially hard to deal with if you’ve had a life with lots of unsettling changes that give you an underlying message that change=bad. For me that was lots of moving around (around 20 different houses in 3 different countries so far) and my mother’s continual changes of mood and changes of rules which always meant trouble so I was always vigilant about tiny changes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Oh I can imagine how stressful it would have been for them to change location, even if they did take the same furniture! You’re right about everything having meaning. I’ve had two years of everything being in a particular place, and one of my dissociative habits is to lose myself in the details of what I can see in order to avoid feeling. So all those little things really matter to me, I am almost obsessively familiar with them.


  2. Alexis Rose says:

    I remember when that happened with my therapist and it totally destabilized me. Things were just so out of sorts. It took a while, and when he went to paint his office he showed me the paint and we talked about it and prepared me that it would be sage green next session. I always felt the same way you did, that I was being melodramatic. I felt so childish and thought no one else would react this way. Thank You for being honest. You are not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      It’s good to hear that, it makes me feel less like I am being really crazy about it. And it’s horrible when the vulnerable child part is activated because you still have a sense of what’s ‘normal’ for an adult and so can see that you’re being childish. I’m sure I will settle back into it given time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alexis Rose says:

        Yep, it will then become the new normal.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bethanyk says:

    I cant believe you wrote about this. I was JUST in therapy and i was keenly aware of the furniture and how that room and how it was set up was my little safe spot , where i park my scooter and where everything is around it. If she moved the furniture around i’d be very upset.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura Black says:

      Yes I think space is really important, and for me habits are too. Being habitual and having a routine helps me feel secure and I think it’s the same for a lot of people.

      Liked by 1 person

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