Jazz and therapy

A full day of sun, a balm for the cold windy spring days we’ve been having. Light is still pouring in my front window and it’s almost eight o’clock. This is my favorite time of year – long days, sun, so what if it’s a bit chilly. All that promise.

Today I went to a ‘Jazz Vespers’ with a local meetup group. Enjoyable. A jazz quartet, four older guys, but very cool and very good I thought. It’s a kind of jazz I wouldn’t listen to at home, with a vibraphone, kind of cool and intricate….but I did enjoy it live. The churchy part of the service was minimal. An enjoyable hour spent doing something new. I didn’t really meet my fellow meetup attendees – hard to tell who they were, and I didn’t feel like going for coffee hour. I didn’t really feel up to socializing anyway, so scooted out the door when it was over. That was fine.

I’m happy I’m feeling up to doing a few things again.

Therapy wise things are good. I once again feel Ron supports me and is helping me with things. The last session was difficult more in the sense that I relived a bit of the trauma from when I was a tiny child. That always scares and depresses me. But I switched out of it again after the session. Then I spoke to Ron on the phone that evening, which was reassuring also.

I don’t feel up to describing the session in detail. I am pretty fatigued still from the experience. We spoke about the previous nights’ group, where I’d discussed my troubles trusting Ron and wondering if he was a competent therapist. Sigh. When I then expressed how guilty I felt when I said things like this, Ron said that he’d expect everyone to ask themselves that at some point, it was a valid question. He’s nice like that.

Ron seemed to be trying not to trigger me into my mistrust during the session. We talked about how I like it when he reflects back to me what he hears me saying, when it’s important.

I remember Ron saying he thinks when I am afraid he is angry with me, even though he never is, but nevertheless I’m convinced he is, that a part of me is trying to tell him about when someone important did get angry and how hurtful it was. We end up calling that person ‘the mad choker’ because I always feel like I’m choking when this comes up.

I tune into the kid at that point, and  sense a lot of confusion and tumultuous feelings. Then I switch into the kid entirely, in the middle of some kind of flashback. It was half and half – I was first mostly describing how the kid felt, then I switched into the kid entirely. At the very end of the session the kid started crying and couldn’t stop. Had trouble switching back out in order to leave. Ron was concerned in case I couldn’t drive.

But once out of his office, I calm down and can drive perfectly well. It’s all a matter of switching out.

I am relieved because at no point do I think that Ron caused this pain. It’s so clearly from something traumatic that happened to me which I cannot remember in the regular way. And it’s as if it goes behind a wall again. That sensation of a wall / fence / line is so strong it feels physically present.

I know I’m going to talk to Ron that evening, so I feel better. On the phone that night, I tell Ron about the line, and how things have retreated behind it, but that it still helps to talk to him. We talk maybe for five minutes.

  1. You sound like you are in a space of progress without feeling overwhelmed. I questioned repeatedly both of my counselors. Perhaps it is more common than you think. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Being able to process without being overwhelmed – that is gold. I hope I’ve hit a vein of it here. Thanks

  2. Gel said:

    Good for you for getting out, listening to live music and accepting your level of social involvement. I often leave events instead of mingling. I think hanging out with people doing things like listening to music, where the focus is on something rather than interaction between people…I think that IS a nonverbal way to connect with people. Not that it fills all needs for human contact. I just think there more ways to connect with people than direct interactions.

    Glad to hear more ease with your T. It does sound like he is trying. And good for you for making a specific request for his reflecting back to you what he hears is important to you. Making clear doable requests is something most people don’t do very often…and it’s a key to successful communication.

    I have a question about dissociation. Only if you feel like answering, no pressure. I’d like to understand and dissociation is not a term I’m familiar with…..When you switch out and the kid comes out, are you fully conscious of this and does your adult self hang out and ‘witness’ what is going on? I’m guessing yes since you are able to write about it later. Does your adult self (not sure what to call it), have choice about whether or not you switch out/in?

    I’ve not been diagnosed with dissociation. But I have times when I feel like I’m in two realities at once without a lot of control of it….I feel like i’m partly in a dream. It’s usually when I’m really stressed in social situations or triggered. I also recognize a sense of being at a child age/feeling state, even though I don’t speak like a child…it’s more an emotional age thing. I don’t mean to be asking for any diagnosis or anything, I’m just curious about what your experience is and trying to make more sense of what I experience.

    Cheers….glad it’s sunny there, it’s sunny here after many days of lots of rain.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Gel, I was pleased with myself for going. Often I sign up for things but cancel at the last minute, but this time, I went. I totally agree – it is something to share an experience with others without needing to talk. Going to coffee time would have been torture for me, so I gave myself a break.

      As to dissociation – first off I’m not an expert but happy to share what I know. First of all there are different kinds of it. Switching into parts is one kind, but there are more common kinds that are extremely difficult to deal with also. When the kid comes out in therapy, and I’m allowing it to happen, I’m completely conscious of it. It’s like stepping back and allowing a child to come forward. Then that child’s feelings kind of flood into my consciousness as well. When I do this more or less on purpose, I can usually switch back any time, unless the kid becomes overwhelmed, at which point I get stuck. I don’t always know what the kid will say, and I don’t directly influence that. Sometimes if I’m frightened / triggered I will switch into the kid by accident, and don’t have a choice. Very embarrassing for me.

      What you’re describing sounds like dissociation to me, but a somewhat different kind. The feeling like you’re in a dream could be you trying to distance yourself from a situation that is frightening or triggering. The emotional age feeling – that could also be a self-state, kind of a milder dissociation than a full on child part. To me these definitely sound like you’re experiencing dissociation. It’s self-protective, but the problem is that you can’t solve problems in the real world in that state. With me it also brings with it depression / exhaustion.

      I read a book recently on different levels of dissociation called The Myth of Sanity by Martha Stout – you might find that of interest. She describes all kinds of different dissociative experiences and how they can be caused.

      What I have is some kind of sub-set of DID – not as extreme as that. Seems to be caused by sexual abuse before a certain age. I really don’t know why that happens. I wish it hadn’t but at the same time it’s been enlightening to meet these other parts of myself. Sounds like that’s not exactly like you, but there are similarities.

      Take care now

      • Gel said:

        Thanks Ellen,
        I appreciate the extensive reply to my questions. It’s helpful and I plan to see if I can find that book.

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