I keep having dreams that feature my therapist. I am in a strange place at the moment when it comes to our relationship. I worry about it frequently throughout the day. She comes to mind for all sorts of reasons, and I have a lot of imaginary conversations with her in my head.
It’s odd that I do this, because when I am actually with J I find it really hard to speak. I search for something to share, to be able to open myself up, but the more I try to grasp it the more it slips away. Then I end up in this frozen silence, feeling anxious and stressed.
The dreams are full of anxious, unsettling emotions. They’re never frightening, I wouldn’t call them nightmares. But they have a big impact, leaving me with these odd emotional hangovers that can last days. In the dreams, I am often in J’s house, and all her family are around – or she’s in the house I grew up in and my family are there. Either way, I can see her and I want to talk to her, to spend time with her, but I know I am not welcome. Although she’s aware I’m there and I want to see her, I have to stay hidden away. The feeling of longing for contact and being ignored is really painful. And I suppose pretty familiar from my childhood.
My over-attachment to J bothers me. That’s an understatement; it actually messes with my head a lot. I never thought that just having a therapist in itself could be such a head f**k. It’s not even the content of our conversations that screws me up. It’s the way I feel about her, the way I feel when I am with her.
I believe in J and I trust her. She is intelligent and grounded and she genuinely cares about me. She really does ‘go the extra mile’. She’s been giving me an extra session, free of charge, every week for probably over a year now. When I had my police interview, in which I had to go through all the details of the abuse, she came with me. She made me feel safe in a really scary situation. I love her for that, and for consistently accepting and supporting me.
On Thursday, J steered our session around to talking about our relationship. Of all the things we discuss, this is the topic I find hardest and most uncomfortable. I worry I will say the wrong thing, and because I see our relationship feels fragile, it seems as though it could be easily damaged. I suppose it is easily damaged.
During this session, J explained her take on what happens when I don’t want to speak or don’t feel able to. She said that she gets the feeling I keep myself distant, but want her to reach out and ask me something. That’s true. She went on to say that she feels I am irritated or angry at the same time, because whatever she says to me is wrong. I could see how that is accurate as well.
This ambivalence is what makes the relationship so hard for me. J asked me to identify what the ambivalence is, and I couldn’t think of one significant thing. There were a whole load of them. Here are a few:
- I want to be seen / I don’t want to be seen
- I want J to solve all my problems / I want to be self-reliant
- I feel like a lost little girl / I should be behaving like an adult
- I love that J cares about me / I hate feeling dependent on her
- I want to feel close to J / I am scared of letting her get close
- I want to feel better / I don’t want to move on from where I am
- The boundaries of the relationship make me feel secure / The boundaries feel cold and clinical.
It was really hard to list these out to J. And the more I thought about explaining them, the more confusing the whole thing got. I guess another reason I hate talking about this stuff with her is that it makes me feel pathetic. When I bring up how insecure I feel about our relationship, or talk about my worries around it, I feel it’s critical of her and that I am seeking reassurance that really isn’t necessary.
Rationally, I know it’s highly unlikely she would just disappear or tell me she can’t work with me anymore. But I feel like I need her to keep saying that, to keep reiterating that she cares and wants to hear me and persevere with this stuck place I’m in. It never quite sinks in enough. And asking for this reassurance all the time feels extra needy to me.
While I hated talking about all this, J seemed to think it was important. I get the feeling this session wasn’t the last of it. J was telling me she thinks the ambivalence comes from the fear of taking a risk. As in, holding two conflicting thoughts or beliefs means I don’t have to take the risk of committing to one or the other. It’s safer.
This means at some point I am going to have to think about why that risk seems so enormous to me. But that doesn’t have to happen right now. So I will wait. I will just keep hedging my bets, until some courage materialises in me and I am able to take a leap of faith.
Photo: Kristina Kupstienė, Creative Commons.
5 Comments Add yours
I want to write a proper comment in response to this but I am literally half asleep reading with one eye open so I’ll reply properly in the morning. I just want to say that I totally understand this. The push and pull is soooooo shit – it’s so similar to what I’m going through at the moment with my T. Let me reply tomorrow thinking of you xx
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I don’t think it’s pathetic at all to hold those contradictory feelings about your therapist. It seems very human. The therapy relationship is intense and important, and it’s unlike any other we have in our lives. When else is it all about us? To whom else do we tell our deepest secrets? Combine that with the fact that we are only there because of emotional wounds from our childhood, and I think feeling a push/pull towards our therapists makes a lot of sense!
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Yeah it makes sense of paper, but still feels insane and confusing in my head!
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I totally connect with this. The therapeutic relationship seems so unfair, yet works so well because of the boundaries. You can’t open up to someone you don’t trust, and to share the secrets people like us have to share, well, you just can’t help but feel emotionally intimate trusting that stuff with someone. I too have dreams…sometimes in her home or in her office after hours, when I don’t belong there. And even though I’d love nothing more than to hang out with her, I hide, because I know I don’t belong there. I’m also mindful of not saying too much to push the boundary or to make her not like me or whatever other thing it is my emotions come up with. It’s a tricky relationship you really just have to end up trusting will work out the way it’s supposed to:)
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Thanks, I found your last sentence reassuring. It helped me think that maybe I can stop trying to make it feel logical or that I’m getting it ‘right’ and just accept what it is for now.