I am once again 20 minutes early for my session, which is completely unheard of for me, except for therapy. I waltz into things right on time, or five minutes late, is my usual pattern.
I don’t meet anyone I know on the way to Ron’s office. I pass the same young woman I’ve seen there before, thin, dressed in black and carrying a briefcase, who always looks in control and held in. I suspect she is Ron’s previous client, but I’m not quite sure. There are a few offices there. It seems important to figure this out, so I’ll maybe be in the waiting room ten minutes early next time. Don’t ask me why I want to know. Because I have no idea, except I’m maybe becoming very strange.
Ron walks by and tells me to go on in, he’ll be back in a minute.
He comes back and we both sit down.
E. Well…It’s Saturday, and you’re working!
Ron nods yes. He hasn’t shaved it looks like, and looks a little rumpled and sleepy.
E. I’m thinking what to talk about.
R. You had quite an intense experience the other night – what about starting with that.
E. In general, I wonder if there’s a book I could read that explains your type of therapy? Psychodynamic? I’ve been reading about group therapy, and it’s very interesting. I hadn’t really been getting it before.
R. What are you reading?
E. The Art and Practice of Group Psychotherapy.
E. Yes. I got it from the library. It’s six hundred pages. But he’s a good writer – it’s very clear, but he doesn’t condescend, so it’s interesting.
R. Sure, I can recommend a book. Would you like to borrow something?
E. Sure, that would be great.
E. So I wish you weren’t leaving. You should stay here and take care of me.
R. I remember when my therapist would go on vacation. I’d have mixed feelings. Part of me would be relieved. Part would feel sorry.
E. Yeah? I just feel bad.
E. So was it irritating when I was mad at you in the group for no reason?
R. No. I’m a strong supporter of anger. Anger lets us know something is wrong.
E. But this was misplaced anger. It wasn’t about you.
R. Maybe it was. Maybe I failed to give you what you needed at that point.
I don’t say anything, as I hadn’t thought of this before.
E. But it was a kid part.
R. You dismiss the kid parts as if they aren’t valid. They are part of you. When you dismiss them, you are keeping them separate.
We sit. I am relieved about what Ron said about anger. The kid comes up, and I immediately reach for the fur blanket to spread it over my legs. I stroke the blanket a bit. We sit.
E. No…..So I’ll tell you about my problems. I am lonely. Last weekend I was super lonely. I thought I was getting together with a friend, but when I phoned her she had made other plans. And she acted like she didn’t want to talk to me and wanted to get me off the phone really fast. I think she doesn’t want to be friends anymore, and then I’ll only have one friend.
Ron looks kind of surprised at this, and kind of bored or something. I know he’s expecting me to talk about what happened in the group, but I feel like I want to choose what to talk about. Though in hindsight, I wish I had talked about the ice floe experience in the group because it was very strong. I hate to do what Ron thinks I should do though.
E. So she said a while ago I wasn’t supportive of her, about a problem she had. But I was – I listened to her for a long time. I listen to her a lot more than she listens to me. She can’t listen to stuff that happens to me in therapy for instance. I’m kind of obsessed with healing at the moment.
R. So what’s happened, that you only have two friends? One friend perhaps…..
E. I don’t know. I don’t go out enough. And for a while, I was trying to make friends in a social anxiety group. I just don’t think I have that problem though. People in that group….they avoid everything. They shut down at the slightest problem. Not a huge problem, like my saying something about my abuse history….Smaller things. Like for instance I was talking to one fellow, and I mentioned that my hairdresser was very sick, and he could barely stand last time I went to him, he has Hepatitis C. So this guy instantly changed the subject, to the weather or something. I was upset about the hairdresser, and he couldn’t handle even that. So I don’t think I’m like that. I can engage. I can have a conversation.
Ron looks completely unconvinced.
E. Look, I have other problems. I have PTSD. But I can talk. Or what do you think?
Now I can’t remember the answer. Ron isn’t convinced I’m any good at relationships, but he concedes I can talk.
E. I wish I didn’t have PTSD. My legs are shaking from it. I wish I didn’t have it. I wonder how this parts situation happened? I think it must be because I was so young when I was traumatized. Because I’ve read about other people who went through much worse experiences than what I went through….
R. There’s an inbuilt propensity to dissociate. Some people are quite different in different situations – they might act one way at work, and totally differently with friends….
E. (impatient with this) That’s not like what I have.
R. No, no. So sometimes, there are walls that go up….and then there are parts that have very few connections to the rest of the personality. They are very separate.
E. But for me, the parts are all younger versions of me.
R. But they have very different personalities. The kid has a different personality than the teenager for instance.
I hadn’t thought of this before. I guess it is true. I’d been thinking the parts are me, but somehow stuck back in time. They are kind of different. Though the same person at five and at fifteen is pretty different. I’m not sure about this.
R. And it would be helpful to tell the group about these parts of you.
E. (completely whining) No one else tells the group about their diagnosis…..Why should I have to do that?
R. A did….
E. (angry) OK, OK, except for A. Nobody else.
E. So I’ll talk about the group. I don’t know what the ice floe experience was about.
R. (softly) Your father put you on an ice floe in a way….
E. I think this was about my uncle not my father. Well…there wasn’t the choking. But it was like a flashback. But with ice floes. I don’t know. It was like I was completely alone…
R. When I asked if it would help for me to sit closer to you, you didn’t want that?
E. I couldn’t even think to respond. It may not have looked like it, but I was completely overwhelmed by the experience.
R. It did look like that.
E. And then I got angry. A. was very sweet, with her feedback, and I couldn’t accept it. I was angry with everybody. Except with R, R got a pass. Then with you….totally misplaced. You didn’t do anything.
R. Maybe I didn’t help you the way you needed me to.
I hadn’t thought of this either. I just thought it was anger from what happened to me, spilling onto whoever was available.