I drive through a slushy snow storm to get to therapy today. Still make it in time though. Ron is wearing his blue suit with blue shirt. He fixes me with a steady unsmiling gaze as per usual. I sit for a while getting acclimatized to his office.
R. I’m going to keep this heater going for a while I think.
R. So group last night was difficult for you?
E. Well, not too bad really. It was interesting how it was all about people’s relationships with each other this time. It wasn’t people saying this is my issue and then going on about that, like before. So that was interesting.
R. You seemed to be having trouble with me at some point, when I was asking you questions. Maybe you thought if you answered people would be angry with you, or dislike you….
E. No. I’m worried about being ignored. I don’t mind if people are angry with me. The only thing was I ended up a bit dissociated after the group. I couldn’t sleep without taking a bunch of pills.
E. I think it happened when you were asking me the questions. I felt really really confused….When I feel like that, often it’s because I’ve dissociated. It happens if I feel I can’t handle a situation sometimes.
R. I thought you felt I was attacking you somehow. As if you had to provide a definitive answer.
E. No, I didn’t think that. I just didn’t know what the answer was.
Ron had asked me a few questions, when I had been responding to E about how I hadn’t cared about her issue, last time the group met. One of the questions was, ‘So how do you feel about E? Do you care about her?’ And I’d felt put on the spot. And unsure how I felt about E. So I asked was he going to ask other people that question, or just me? Was he going to ask R, or A? To which Ron replied he didn’t know if he would or not.
R. Why did you ask me if I was going to ask other people the same question?
E. I don’t know….It was maybe hostile. I think I was buying time, because I didn’t know what to answer to that.
R. I wasn’t thinking you were hostile. It seemed like you thought I was. Maybe next time I won’t ask you a direct question…I may just say what about exploring this…
This is kind of amazing to me, that Ron is so interested in this point about when he asked me questions. To me it was no big deal. Yeah, I fobbed him off a bit, but I hadn’t taken it that seriously at the time. I kind of liked arguing with him at the time. I liked that I wasn’t scared of him, that I knew he wouldn’t get mad.
E. Or you could ask questions, and I could work out how to answer and not get dissociated, if I notice it.
E. About the emails…I know they’re pretty negative. Do you mind getting them? Are they too negative?
I’d sent Ron a couple of emails (two) between our sessions, both about problems I was having.
R. You’re afraid I’ll reject you for being negative?
E. No….I kind of offload bad stuff onto you. It doesn’t seem quite fair. I know if I had a friend who did that, I wouldn’t like it. On the other hand, you are a therapist, which is different….
R. The emails are fine. We’ve discussed it, I’ve encouraged you to send them. I think it’s part of our contract with each other that this is OK.
I’m not sure what contract he’s talking about, but this is what I want to hear.
E. Oh, OK. Good then. It really helps me a lot.
There’s a peaceful pause in the room, where things feel really nice. The heater whirs peacefully. But therapy has only just started, so we press on.
E. So my co-worker was let go on Monday. I was really upset about it. All they give him is two weeks’ notice. It also means they could do the same with me.
R. In what sense is it a contract then, if they can let you go any time with only two weeks’ notice?
E. That’s just how it works. It’s always written into my contract like that.
E. I wrote to you a couple times about being lonely. It’s like a severe loneliness, not just missing people. A friend of mine said it could be loneliness I felt as an abused child, when it’s severe like that. Do you think it could be?
Ron looks kind of enigmatic and doesn’t say anything, at least not that I can remember. I didn’t think it at the time, but now I’m worried he thinks I was lonely for him. Sigh. No I wasn’t.
E. Sometimes at work, I’ll show up for a meeting, and I’ll be completely scared. I hate that. It’s like out of the blue.
R. Like you are little and everyone else is big?
E. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but maybe. Do you think it’s a feeling from my past that I blocked out, that’s popping up now?
R. That could very well be.
E. I had a meeting at work with one of the managers there, he’s young, he’s very good looking, and he’s smart – he has everything, I tell you. It’s not fair.
Ron gives me this look. I don’t know what it means. Not friendly. Am I not supposed to mention people’s looks? Or what?
E. I met with him the day after V got his notice, so I was pretty upset still. And I ended up switching into the kid. Which was very embarrassing.
R. What happened?
E. Well, not that much. I just started speaking in a childish voice…
R. What did you say?
E. Oh, something like the procedures were too complicated, and I get all confused…I can’t remember what I said exactly.
R. How did he react?
E. He was OK, he didn’t act like anything unusual had happened. He’s nice. I just realized afterwards….man, I was talking in a kid voice. Sometimes men think I’m flirting with them if that happens, then they have to warn me off, man it’s embarrassing. But this guy is nice.
Ron gives me another enigmatic look and doesn’t say anything. Whatever. This is my session for enigmatic looks.
E. I’m more aware of the kid voice now. I never used to be unless it took over. But now I can tune into it all the time.
R. How often would you respond to the kid part? Like daily, weekly, several times a day?
E. I don’t know…maybe daily. You know last time I switched into the kid part…that was really important to me. It felt really good.
Ron says a bunch of theoretical stuff which unfortunately I’ve completely blocked out. But somewhere in there one of my internal voices pops up, and I want to figure out why, so I mention it.
E. There, the suicidal voice. It’s right there. It was there in the group also, a few times, but not shouting like before.
R. Do you remember when in the group that happened?
E. No, I don’t. I wish I did.
R. I think that’s the teenage part. Try talking from that place.
I switch into the teenage voice. It’s not as stark a contrast to my everyday mind as switching into the kid is. The teenager has logic and her mind is mostly working the same as my usual mind.
E. I want to die. I feel sad. Everything is black……I hate everybody. They’re mean to me. I hate high school. Ach, I see the lockers from high school. I didn’t have any friends….I really want to kill myself.
R. People were mean to you?
E. Yes. They shouldn’t be like that!
R. No they shouldn’t.
E. I hate high school……I hate people. It’s not good to hate everyone, but I do. That’s how I feel.
R. I want to talk to you. I want to hear how you feel.
R. Yes…..How do you feel about me?
I look doubtfully at Ron.
E. I’ve never talked to you. Oh yes, I have. I got mad one time, and I talked to you! I was really mad. I feel angry a lot.
R. You have good reason to be angry. Your father was sadistically silent with you…
E. Yes he was.
At this point I start feeling emotional, and it’s almost the end of the session. I switch out of the teenager, because the kid wants to tell Ron how much she likes him and his office. Sigh.
R. I’d still like to talk to the teenager.
E. OK. So I hate everyone. Like the people in your group. They don’t like me.
R. Because they don’t understand. You have these parts that make your relationships difficult. (Or he says something like this, it’s a little hazy.)
E. Like Z told me she doesn’t like me because I don’t make eye contact. I do look at her. That’s just not fair. And E, who says I don’t say hi to her when I see her leaving her session. I do say hi to her! I don’t even know what she’s talking about.
R. Maybe a part of you says hi but a part of you doesn’t….Remember when you said I never looked at you the whole group, and I was sure that I had? Maybe another part of you is seeing that…
E. I have no idea what you’re talking about. That doesn’t make sense. Anyway, I don’t lose time. I always know what’s going on. And if I’m doing something they don’t understand, they should tell me! How else will I know?
I switch out of the teenager again. I’m feeling really upset but there is no time to cry as the session is over. Ron talks a bit about how groups are helpful, or some such. I followed it at the time, but now it’s lost. I get my coat. I look at Ron as I go out, as I’m working on eye contact. And he looks rather freaked out to tell the truth, as if I scare him. That’s what it seems like.
I feel kind of sad from the experience of switching into the teenager. But I’m functional. I get home and do some work.
I feel bad about the group now, where before I had felt vaguely positive. I don’t actually think all the people in it don’t like me. Just that teenager part does think that. But Ron seemed to agree with that, which bothers me. Maybe they all don’t like me? I just don’t think that’s true. If it were, I wouldn’t go.
It is interesting to hear how people really feel. Where else does that happen? And it’s good for me to be reminded of the eye contact issue I suppose.