It’s one of those overly beautiful spring days. The Maple trees are all in bloom with acid green flowers, showing off against a mid blue sky. With sunglasses on, it’s even more vivid and amazing.
In all this, my mood is black as I drive to my session. I think about the group and the angry email I sent Ron. I feel really afraid, and would rather not see him. I’m also still angry.
Ron starts right in.
R. Let’s discuss the email you sent me. It seems important.
He always is eager to talk about anything regarding the group. Secondarily anything relating to himself. This one featured both.
E. OK. Whatever I said, I stand by it. I can’t remember exactly what I said though.
Ron goes to get his phone and hands it to me.
R. Here. Why don’t you read it to me.
I like Ron’s phone, the novelty of reading an email on such a tiny screen. I start reading the email to myself.
E. I’m kind of embarrassed reading these afterwards. OK.
I read the first part out loud. Sorry, I don’t want to reproduce this exactly, as I find it embarrassing at the moment.
E. This is true. You are like E. I do dissociate. That’s the whole problem. I can have a part that handles the group, it’s a real part, but the rest of me is not there. It doesn’t matter if I leave or not. Just whether I’m dissociated or not. Like after your group, I was all dissociated, I couldn’t feel anything.
R. Dissociating is OK. It’s how you will heal. It’s fine if that happens in the group.
I can’t remember what Ron says for most of this session, because I am so upset. This is a big point though. For me I’m always trying to avoid dissociating, especially depersonalization and not being able to feel. It seems to me that’s a good goal. Surely it’s not healthy to come out of a group that’s supposed to help me, completely numb and unable to feel. Ron doesn’t agree with me on this. I wish I could remember what else he said, because I don’t know now what his idea on this is.
E.( reading more) I hate that you like E. and take her side. That whole aspect I could work on in the group. The dissociation not so much. It’s like I’m pretending, when I’m dissociated.
R. How do I take E’s side? How are there sides?
E. You totally do take her side. You get along very well with E. obviously.
R. (annoyed) I don’t know what that means.
E. Like with the finger pointing. You encourage us to voice what we think, even if it’s negative. Then you attack me for doing that!
I’d said in the group that E was being a martyr. She’d spoken for a long time, then she sighed, and said she wished she’d never bothered to speak, and that she’d stayed home that evening with her kids, who needed her, instead. E. started to cry, and then I’d said I was sorry I’d said that…..as I didn’t want to make her cry. The conversation veered off to myself and R. Then Ron said to me, well, do you think you might be a martyr? When one finger points at someone else, there are three pointing back at you….Which didn’t make me mad at the time, but it did at four in the morning that night.
R. It’s an odd phrase to use….
E. Maybe it’s not the perfect word, but why was she saying she wished she hadn’t spoken? Just because she wasn’t getting the response she wanted.
R. In your own life, do you feel like a martyr? When we accuse someone else of something, it’s often about us.
E. Great. Now I’m accusing. You of course never accuse.
We went back and forth like this for a bit, me getting more and more frustrated, then choking and feeling blocked entirely.
E. So it was hard to listen to E. going on about the problem of her mother and writing her mother some email. I mean, I was sitting there thinking about death. Like earlier in the week, I’d gone in to work, had a really hard time getting up, had to lie back down I was so depressed. Then I made it through the day, and end of day, waiting for the subway, I really thought about jumping in front of a train. Well, it was a part. So I didn’t do that. But it’s upsetting.
I cry a bit.
R. So you were in anguish, sitting listening in the group.
E. When I was E’s age, I had a young child, an abusive husband, no way of earning a living, and a bad case of PTSD. E’s problems don’t seem that huge to me.
R. So you don’t think she should talk about her problems?
E. I didn’t say that. Well, everyone has their pain, and pain is pain. It’s just….
R. There are degrees of problems. Do you ever want to listen to other people?
This hurts. Ron has brought this up before, when we weren’t getting along previously. Like I’m this self-obsessed person who doesn’t care.
R. You want to quit the group because the feelings it stirs up in you feel overwhelming. Your solution is to leave. But there’s nothing that can’t be dealt with in a group. I’ve never run a group or been in a group where someone was asked to leave, or something couldn’t be worked with…
Great. Now he’s reassuring me he won’t ask me to leave his group. I wasn’t worried about that and didn’t think it was really a possibility.
R. You dismiss things. Instead of letting a comment sink in, and then after absorbing it, deciding whether it’s true for you or not, you dismiss it without taking it on board.
I don’t say anything to this. I shred up my sopping kleenex instead.
I’m trying to stay angry at Ron, because that is how I feel, while at the same time I’m feeling like I’m being choked and humiliated (feelings from the past). So I keep crying, then I continue with why I’m mad, and Ron continues defending himself. Then we stop and sit.
R. It seems as if you have all these feelings, and you say them, but you don’t want to go into any of them.
E. That’s true. I really feel blocked. Like I’m choking when I try and stay angry with you.
I end up talking from three different places, all mixed up. The kid is remembering abuse, and is choking and scared. The teenager is furious with Ron. And I’m there, trying to make this coherent.
R. So I see all three of you – the little girl who was traumatized, the angry teenager, you….I’m talking to all of you.
This is the one part of the session where I feel a bit heard. I’d complained to Ron that he was ‘too intelligent’ to talk to parts, so he’s trying now, and it feels good actually.
E. I can really see how I’m in all these parts at once. I don’t want to be that way, it scares me.
R. If you don’t want to be that way, you are denying who you are. That is how you are keeping these splits going. You shut down most of yourself all the time. When we first started working together, you used to lie down, and go through some of these feelings?
E. What? I used to lie down?
R. Yes, you said you’d turn on music, and feel things….
E. Oh, that. That was because the dentist was triggering all these memories. Yeah.
E. I do let the parts be. Like those drawings I do. Like here. You mean I don’t do that with other people there? If I was like this with friends, they’d be pretty upset.
R. You wouldn’t be exactly like this with friends – you aren’t in therapy with your friends. But you are denying pieces of who you are all the time.
E. Well, I have to function. (I’m really irritated). I have to work.
I can’t remember what happened next. I’m partly in a memory that’s been triggered because I’m so angry with Ron, so I’m kind of overtaken by emotions and my mind is not working well. The upshot is that Ron thinks I’m perpetuating these splits in myself by not listening to them and allowing them space, and treating them the same way my family treated me when I was a child, by ignoring.
It’s not a bad theory really. But I never feel any kind of connection or caring from Ron. We’re sparring the whole time, and a part of me is devastated by that. He talks for a while, then I simply sit on his black couch, staring at my hands. I get up and leave a few minutes early. Neither of us feeling good I’d say.