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