I sit down in Ron’s office, looking around as usual for anything that might have changed since last time. He has two big wrinkles in his carpet, which I point out. And a styrofoam coffee cup with most of the coffee drunk. I think it’s the parts that are so interested in his office and vigilant for any changes.
I am no longer feeling angry, so I am relieved about that, though I still feel we’re not getting along real well. I smile at Ron and keep looking around the office.
E. Group was better last night.
R. You wrote to me that you felt the group was harming our connection, so much so that you wanted to quit?
E. Yeah, I do feel like that. I was trying to explain in my last session, but you seemed completely defensive.
R. What would I have been defending?
There, he’s still being defensive. Oh well.
E. Like when I said you take Emily’s side, and you said there were no sides.
R. Could you see that as an exploring kind of a statement – seeing what you meant by that?
R. Why would I be defending myself?
E. I have no idea. You would know.
R. What do you imagine?
E. I was more pre-occupied with my own feelings at the time, actually, I wasn’t imagining yours.
R. It’s actually difficult not to imagine other people’s reactions to us – we do it automatically. What would be the benefit to me?
E. Well, you’re a therapist. You’re not supposed to be taking anyone’s side. That’s the benefit.
I forget how he does it, but Ron wriggles out of this completely. He’s had years of practice at this of course. Very irritating.
R. I think you don’t allow yourself to respond to things people say. You brush them off without reacting.
E. You mean in the group or here? You mean things you say?
R. In the group. Yes, things I say.
E. Do you have an example?
R. (thinking) I want to be accurate….like when you say ‘What?’ when I talk to you.
E. Oh. That’s because I blank out sometimes. It’s a big problem for me actually. Dissociation.
R. Yes. But there’s something behind that, before you blank out. Something is causing that to happen.
E. Of course.
I guess the upshot is I’m supposed to try and talk more when the blanking out happens, explore it. Can’t remember what else Ron said to this.
E. So last session was a really bad session for me. And the group was really difficult. The problem that happened was I was feeling so bad going into the group. So I created these two tracks. On one track, I felt really awful and thought about suicide. The other track was being in the group and participating. Then I ended up feeling really bad.
E. And the other thing is, E really triggers me. She pushes all my buttons. She brings up all my issues. So there’s really no point talking to her about her stuff. It’s just all tainted by how we don’t get along.
R. You need to explore your reactions to E.
The upshot here is I’m supposed to explore my relationship to E, not shut it down, which is what I’m thinking of doing. It actually felt good to not respond to her comments to me last time. They feel fake anyway, like she is trying to be a good person so she’s saying such and such. I don’t get into this though.
E. The thing is, I have other things going on in my life besides the group.
Ron nods at this.
E. And there’s not time to address it. We have to spend all this time discussing the group, then there’s no time left.
R. The group is about you. So when we talk about the group, we’re talking about you.
E. I guess.
R. And….we could meet twice, or meet for a longer time, if that would help.
I don’t say anything to this. Yes, it sounds nice. If we were just casually meeting…This is an expensive transaction that’s happening. I can’t afford to throw more money at therapy. Not unless it’s an emergency.
E. I do feel that you take E’s side. Like what you said about the finger pointing, when I expressed my reaction to her. You said I was accusing her. You’ve done that before with E. Like when she criticized me for fiddling with my keys. You immediately popped in to interpret that I was playing with the keys instead of expressing sadness or something. I didn’t need that! It’s like you’re backing her up.
R. You didn’t want to hear my opinion?
E. It wasn’t the right moment to interpret. I just felt completely criticized.
R. How do you feel criticized? What exactly is it?
E. I can’t defend it in a court of law. It’s just how I feel.
R. Do you think you’re reacting to me the way you would have to your dad when you were a child? You’ve said E reminds you of your sister. Am I reminding you of your father?
There might be some truth to this. I know I argued a lot with my father as a child.
R. (stern at this point) What did your father do? Did he cross-examine you?
E. I don’t know….Maybe.
I can’t remember how those arguments went.
E. I hate it when you criticize me. I feel attacked. I feel like I’m being beat up with sticks.
Now the kid has taken over, and I start crying.
E. And you’re supposed to help me, and you don’t help me!
The kid is really crying now.
R. You’re speaking from a really young part of you….you need me to see how hurt and vulnerable you are when this happens….
I’m crying and don’t respond. I get some kleenex to wipe my eyes. Then it’s over.
R. You just switched out of that young place. How did you do that?
E. (calm) I don’t know. I specialize….
I shake my head, and my earrings touch my neck. They’re very light and they shake easily.
E. Oh! I have earings! I don’t have pierced ears….But now I do!
I’m real happy to discover I have earings. I’ve switched to another part.
R. So you don’t have pierced ears?
E. No. I’m happy to be in your office. I like the wooden things….
I point at a wooden piece of driftwood on the window ledge.
E. Oh god, I’m switching….
R. That’s fine. A part of you wants to tell me she’s happy here in this office, she wants to talk about the things in it.
E. But I don’t! That’s not the topic of conversation. I don’t want to talk about your office.
R. Part of you does. And it’s OK to switch into parts here. You don’t have to control it here.
E. No? Well….
I am somewhat ashamed that this happens. But I don’t feel as ashamed as in the past.
E. Well…I guess it’s kind of interesting, that I do that.
R. It’s good that you think it’s interesting. That’s better than thinking it’s bad. You don’t have to control it in the group either.
E. Well, I guess…I think they’d be kind of surprised though.
We just sit for a bit. It’s kind of peaceful there in Ron’s office.
E. That’s maybe what’s causing the panic, in the group. I’m getting too much input from parts.
This is a nice part of the session. There’s still some time left, so somehow I get back into how bad I feel when E talks, and I say something, and Ron backs her up. Then I veer away from that. It’s still incredibly painful for me, and it’s obviously not resolved. The thought of that situation is a stabbing wound really.
So we sit.
E. Well, I don’t want to leave your office. That’s good. There are five minutes left. I’m just going to sit here….Could we not talk about something peaceful? There must be peaceful topics.
R. Well, it’s good that you think the parts are interesting. That’s progress.
E. Uh huh….I gave R a ride home last night after the group.
R. And how was that?
E. Good. I like R, he’s nice.
R. That’s good.
Ron says this in a bright and shiny voice. Don’t know why, and don’t ask.
That’s the extent of the peaceful topics. After a minute or two, I get up, wish Ron a good weekend.
R. You too.
I walk out. I do feel as if peace has been restored to some extent at least. We still have issues, but things feel more workable.
At home, I think I’m fine and do an hour’s work. Then I feel an irresistible need to sleep, so I go for a good long nap. It didn’t seem like a heavy session, but it still takes the rest of the day to process it.
Art: Image from Tangled, Walt Disney, brought to you by the kid