Therapy Lite

Therapy was a while ago. I’ll see what I can remember this smoggy hot and humid Monday. This city can be a steam bath in summer and this is an early taste of it. I’m cowering inside with my AC pointed right at my computer chair.

Ron’s office is warm and close this time. I ask him to open the window. He offers to also turn out the lights for coolness, so I ask him to do that also.

E. Sorry, I’m making you work. I’m not a heat person at all.

R. No…that’s OK.

E. I don’t want to get into anything too heavy this time. I’ve got a dentist appointment later, 2:40. I need to be in one piece for that.

R. Sure.

We sit.

E. Well, there’s always group. Was the email I sent you about it disturbing?

R. No.

E. I didn’t think so. It was just how I felt.

R. I never find your emails disturbing.

E. Sometimes you have. A few times, I was upset by the group, and I wrote to you about it, and you seemed upset by that.

R. That may be your experience, but I didn’t experience being upset.

E. It seemed like it. Well, this time I just wanted to talk about some things the group is triggering in me, and I didn’t get a chance to do that, so it was difficult for me.

We go on to discuss the group. Ron feels I could perhaps somehow have said how I was feeling.

R. For instance, R kept turning the conversation back to how he was feeling.

E. He stayed with the topics that Y was talking about though. He didn’t change the subject.

R. True.

E. The situation with A and E together not liking me is reminding me of times in the past when I was ostracized by groups. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with groups….And now A no longer says hi to me, and she grimaces when she sees me. And E, well, she never did say hi to me….I actually had a dream about A. Shall I tell you?

R. Sure.

E. We’re on a Greek hillside, both leading groups up a hill, at dusk. A shouts out that everyone should know, E has been in treatment for 3 weeks…..I feel humiliated by this.

The dream is a little more detailed, but that’s the gist. And Ron is surprisingly reluctant to investigate it. He usually likes dreams and dives right into them. I really suspect that he doesn’t want me to engage A too much. A is very young, she has a borderline diagnosis, and was in hospital in September for it. I think he is pretty protective of her. I can see that and it makes sense, and it’s OK with me. I have no desire to trigger this girl whatsoever. She has clearly decided to dislike me, and I can live with that. Borderlines, as I understand it, often divide people into good and bad, with no middle ground, so that could be what happened with her view of me. She usually says very little, so her outburst at me a few weeks ago was very unusual. Then she completely blocked out most of what she said. My impression is there is just a wealth of really ‘bad news’ beneath her placid surface, which quite honestly I do not want to have to cope with. Let her stay quiet, I’m good with that.

R. I wonder why three weeks? And I wonder what ‘in treatment’ means….

E. Yeah, I don’t know. Well, in treatment would mean in therapy I suppose. Though why that would be shameful I don’t know. She’s in therapy also after all.

Ron says nothing further on the dream.

E.  Then I found myself feeling almost enraged with E. I actually woke up one night seething with rage. It’s amazing that someone who really isn’t in your life can make you so mad. I was hoping to explore it in the group.

R. Well, why not now. There are only two more weeks of group.

E. I don’t want to do it here. She isn’t here. I wanted to do it in the group with you helping.

Now I get into a more heated debate with Ron about E. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much of it. We batted the argument back and forth like a ping pong ball. I remember the energy – Ron insisting, me vehement that he was not seeing it correctly. I remember saying No, No repeatedly to whatever he was trying to tell me.

E. I hate how E uses the language of therapy to attack me! She’s basically talking to you Ron. I really hate that. ‘She feels like closing down’ (I add whiny voice effects – what can I say, I’m a child). ‘She thinks I don’t want to know who she really is’. It’s bullshit. She just wants to look good to you. I hate it when people do that, adopt a language to attack someone else. This would be a whole other conversation if you weren’t there!

R. I doubt it would be a helpful conversation. Is there any way she could put this that you would accept?

E. Yes. She could say ‘I’m angry about such and such’. Or ‘I’m hurt you said that.’

E. Then…I hate how she’s stored up everything I’ve said to her since September and dumped it all on my at once.

R. What do you mean by ‘dumped on’ you?

E. Just stored it all up. I can’t even remember the circumstances of those statements she keeps repeating at this point. She should have said something at the time. Or the next week. Not months later….

R. What is this ‘dumping on’?

I have no idea what Ron was trying to get at with this, and I didn’t reply to this. I guess he didn’t like the phrase.

I’m actually bored of this whole scenario writing it down – it has maybe lost its charge.

E. And then E lashed out at me in the middle of the group last night….I wouldn’t do that to her.

R. I thought Y was completely defensive and closed when you told him how you were feeling….I wonder if it was similar to the difficulties you and E have?

E. Kind of. But with Y, I felt there was some movement, he responded right away, and I felt the energy was different. I feel fine about Y now. With E, it’s like a train going down the track – every stop is pre-determined, she never sways, I don’t influence her at all. She has like a template she puts on me and she can’t see anything else.

R. I think the principle is the same.

Now what was the principle? Ron kept harping on it, in a way, and I got annoyed, because I didn’t think the two situations were that similar. But now I wish I could remember what the principle was. Was it when I say something, the other person gets defensive…..I’ll have to ask him next time. I do want to learn. In the heat of the moment however, I don’t.

R. I think you are more forgiving of men than of women.

E. Yeah…that could be. I might be.

It’s likely true. Especially when they’re cute and earnest as the men in Ron’s group are. I do have a harder time connecting with women.

The second part of the session was about my weekend.

E. I felt really bad after the last session. I actually couldn’t function for days….a long time.

I remember how awful it was, and my voice starts to quaver.

R. This seems important…..and you did say you needed to stay away from heavier topics this session.

E. I know. But you know what? I have no one to tell about how I was feeling. So I’m going to tell you.

E. I think part of my anxiety going to the group is that I’ve been having these extreme experiences…and then I go to your group, and people are struggling with whether to talk or not…and I think OK. Not sure I’m in the right place. I can’t relate. And then I don’t get to talk about how I’ve been feeling either. And I have no one to talk to. And I can’t talk in your group. So it makes me anxious.

E. I wonder….why I’m falling apart like this after therapy session….What do you think?

Now Ron says some things about finding lost parts of ourselves….

R. It’s more a falling together than a falling apart.

E. I didn’t even manage to get groceries. Nothing. I couldn’t function.

R. In what sense couldn’t you function. Did you not know how to get groceries?

E. No. I knew how. It just didn’t seem important. Nothing seemed important feeling like I was. Then Monday – I didn’t make it into work until 10 – one and a half hours late. I wanted to go to work – I just couldn’t manage it. Of course I know how to do these things….

R. You could be so disorganized that you wouldn’t know how.

E. Oh. No.

R. It makes sense that it didn’t seem important. Compared to what happened to you, it’s not important, in that context.

E. I think it’s parts coming forward actually. They start talking a bit in a session, and then they stay.

E. I sent you an email about this actually. Sunday. You never responded. So I thought maybe you’re sick, maybe away, maybe so full of people’s pain you can’t face any more. But then I wrote you about the group, and you replied right away.

R. That email was so complex – I couldn’t think of any way of replying that didn’t seem facile to me.

E. Yeah? Oh. I didn’t think it was complex. It really helped me to write it out and send it to you. After that I got a few things done, which I hadn’t been able to do before. But then, you really hurt my feelings, when you didn’t respond. I was feeling so awful.

R. As I said, the email about the group was easier to respond to, so I replied to that one. 

We sit. There are ten minutes left.

R. Do you want to talk about how you can take care of yourself when going to the dentist?

I feel so much fear at the thought of the dentist….I just start fragmenting. So we stop talking about it.

R. Would it help to call me tonight?

E. Um…sure, thanks.

R. 10 pm OK?

E. Sure.

And the session is over. I thank Ron and say goodbye this time. Not rushing out too upset to say goodbye.

I have an hour at home before the dentist. I don’t feel a therapy aftermath this time. Very unusual. I can make a salad and eat normal food. So I kept to my plan of not getting into feelings from the past this session. The dentist is enough to cope with for one week.

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7 comments
  1. Laura said:

    this seems like a very complex session, Ellen, despite keeping it light.I was struck by your argument with him (you didn't remember the details) apparently, about how he sees things, versus how you see them. And you're fighting him – NO NO! I wonder if he was refuting your interpretations? I think this is a "theme" in this post.the interpretations that I see here start with, that he finds your emails upsetting and disturbing, and the elaborate story about A that you didn't describe to him. When he says that he's not upset (etc) by your emails, does it change anything – or do you continue to think you're right? And your (dismissal) of E's anger at you – this seems familiar in my life – I get angry at people who are angry at me, for not doing it right. Has someone ever adopted a false language to express anger at you, before?(And I have less tolerance for women than for men because I think they remind me of myself – and I can SEE their bullshit)And you say, twice, that you have no one to talk to about what's going on with you during the week. How is that a true statement??

  2. Ellen said:

    Hi Laura,The no no argument 🙂 hmm…it was where Ron was trying to point out the similarity between Y's and my interaction and E's and my interaction. I didn't see it beyond a superficial level. One big difference – Ron criticized Y, and never defended him, while he has never criticized E, and frequently defended her. I stand by my interpretations of the emails, but we didn't get into arguing about it. How can I argue Ron was upset, if he says he wasn't? I still think he was. Yes, the elaborate story about A is definitely my interpretation. I do think she's pretty unbalanced (who am I to talk) and there's not a lot to gain by disturbing her. How do I dismiss E's anger? Not sure. Lots of people have used false language with me – for instance, when I was fired, many years ago, that manager used management speak to twist things against me. This is such a common practice – just turn on the evening news for instance. I believe I connect better with men than women because I never really bonded with my mother actually. It's pretty deep. So you mean the blog? To me it's just not the same has having someone in my life. It is meaningful, but I can't depend on a response for instance. It's kind of like sending out a message in a bottle. Not to say I don't value your responses and others' very much, because I do. Thanks for the insights!

  3. Ruth said:

    Good for you keeping things light enough to be able to go to the dentist. You knew what you needed and your counselor chacked in with you to make sure things didn't go too deeply. I think that speaks well for both of you. Have you caonsidered the possiblity that the argument with Ron was more about the fact that you were not talking about the same thing? You were observing how Ron treated Y and A differently. Ron was looking for similarities in how your reaction was similar between Y and A. Hard to come to an agreement comparing oranges and pickles. Other than group being in common nothing else really fits. Just a different way of looking at your disagreement.My counselor was similar to Ron about emails. If it was an 'easy' answer, he would email me back. If it was more complex he waited to discuss the email in session. Sometimes I would bring the email printed out with me to help keep me on the subject. Hard to say what the other person is feeling. I know I feel upset when I can't answer a question but it doesn't appear to bother my counselor at all. He seemed to accept that sometimes there is no real answer for human experiences. I don't know if this will seem similar to your experience with Ron. I learned to accept that sometimes my counselor just doesn't answer. To me, you have some interesting frame work for future sessions. Good job making it to the dentist.Ruth

  4. Laura said:

    Wow, Ellen.How does the group feel about what Ellen just said? does anyone else feel like they've been annihilated?I think what I'm seeing is that you don't think that anyone else is real, beyond yourself. You're so busy interpreting reality, that you may be right. What you see is not real. And yet, there's a smug tone to the above. I think you see yourself above everyone else – like, you have the inside track, on the truth. You know how the world works. You think you know what Ron feels, and he can't tell you differently. You know you're right. You can't be influenced.And E doesn't meet your requirements for being angry (you've moved away from her more visceral expression.)And we're not real either. We don't meet your requirements for being real people in your life. I feel badly for the folks who have shared painful parts of themselves to lend you support. And I've spent a lot of real time and thought responding to your posts. I wonder why you waste your time blogging when you could be out having real friends.I think that Ron has been trying to point this out to you. I challenge you to give him the link to your blog, and let him see you.

  5. Ellen said:

    Laura, you have now hurt my feelings, as I seem to have hurt yours. I am sorry for that. I have appreciated your comments in the past.

  6. Ellen said:

    Hi Ruth,Thanks for the pat on the back re the dentist. I didn't go for seven years at one point and it led to problems, so now at least I'm going. I actually can't clearly remember the content of the argument Ruth. I got kind of emotional and it interferes with memory. Interesting about your experiences with emails. For the recent problem, I really just needed to hear that Ron cared or heard me. I guess next time for that, I'll have to ensure there are no complications in the email. Because he is generally good about responding. Thanks!

  7. Laura said:

    I think you're interpreting – that I'm lashing out at you because my feelings are hurt. that's the way people work, isn't it?I think I'm seeing something that Ron has been trying to point out to you, and you're dismissing it.this isn't a criticism – you have this defense mechanism that you can't really see, because you're always looking through it. it might have served you at one time, but it no longer does. You can handle reality, now. By giving Ron free access to your blog, you will be subverting your defense mechanism.

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