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.