Therapy Thursday

I had been leery of my session last week, but leeriness was not needed after all. It was one of those sessions where i left feeling calm and heard and nurtured. Doesn’t happen often. Mainly because we usually discuss upsetting things, and so I leave upset.

Ron started off in an honest way, by asking me about the email I sent after the previous session. I appreciated that. Mostly, emails I send don’t get discussed unless I bring them in. In this one, I’d been angry the session hadn’t seemed helpful. Then Ron did not reply. He asked me how I felt about that. I said I thought he’d maybe been angry with me for sending it. He asked if any part of me was able to think that maybe he was not angry. I said a part of me could see it was therapy after all, and probably it was OK. But another part thought he was angry.

He said he hadn’t replied because in the email, I’d complained about him asking endless questions, and when he got the email, he just had more questions. So he thought he’d be perpetuating a painful cycle by asking them. lol. I don’t actually totally believe this, but it’s OK. Ron rarely has much of a response to emails anyway – he might just say it sounds difficult, or that we should discuss it in person. He could have done that. But at this point, I can remember how angry I was, but I no longer feel that way. From where I was sitting now, the previous session seemed reasonable and I no longer really knew what my problem was.

Anyway, at least he brought it up. He wanted to know more about what had happened for me, but I didn’t remember.

I’d been to a family birthday, so I talked a bit about that. How no one seems to relax or laugh – I’m not the only one who is not that comfortable. There’s just a lot of expectation of performance, and people showing off, it’s not relaxed and homey.

Did I talk about loneliness? Probably. I remember clearly that I got onto the topic of my mother. That’s an important topic for therapy, yet I’ve rarely discussed my parents and what they were like. This is complaining, and I feel kind of bad about it, because there are other sides. But anyway. It’s therapy.

My mother is not a warm person. She doesn’t talk much. She is not the type to sit down with anyone and talk about life, or problems, or anything really. Ron comments that it sounds like she represses most things, and I guess that’s accurate. You’d never know, from growing up with my mother, that some people discuss things, that it helps to talk about things to sort things through. Anything really. It’s not even that she’s just uncomfortable with emotional subjects – she’s uncomfortable with talking about almost anything. Ron says she doesn’t connect with people, and I think that’s true.

Ron says something about talking to my mother about this – something like she doesn’t have to be so afraid of people….I reject that out of hand. How would that help? She’s not about to change. Ron thinks the point would be I’d be in a more honest relationship to her. Or something. I’m not going to do it. She wouldn’t understand what I mean. She’d just withdraw further.

Talking about this is depressing. I wish I’d had a mother who was more caring. Well, she does care, I tell Ron, somewhere back there. But she doesn’t express that in any way. If I mention something that has gone wrong, like me losing my job, she doesn’t sit down and want to hear about it. It’s as if there’s nothing more to say, once you have the bare fact of it.

I don’t say this in the session, but the fact is, my mother would sacrifice any of her children for my father. He always came first – his needs trumped our needs.

Ron says something about how my situation was extreme. I’m not sure that’s true really – I don’t think it was, compared to what others have gone through. But it was hurtful.

I can see that my difficulties connecting to people are related to the way my mother related to me as a child. But I do have a completely different personality. Where my mother completely shies away, I tend to attack, or to spill all. Or at times, I also take her path and shut down. I’m more of a mixed bag. It’s also not effective, because I’m usually not considering the other person much. Anyway, we didn’t get into this. I just know, you don’t get to be as isolated as I am without trouble with your upbringing.

I mention that I’ve been remembering a lot more about my childhood. That’s a good thing, Ron says. But, I’m remembering it as if it’s still taking place, and it’s confusing. It’s not a regular memory, because I think it’s parts that are remembering.

Ron asks me to tell him some things I remember. And I switch into a kid part for the rest of the session. This kid explains her house to Ron – what her bedroom was like, what the kitchen was like, what the front lawn and garden were like, about raking leaves, and how the streets had those little stones embedded in concrete, and the ditches where the raked leaves were left. It is so vivid as I’m describing it.

But it’s stupid. It’s not a real story, she says shyly.

No, Ron says. It’s important for us to speak so we can be known and appreciated.

So the kid gets right back to describing this house. Plus her two friends, their names, their families, plus she went to guides, and brownies, and swimming lessons. Plus piano.

I flip out of the kid part for a few minutes to discuss the piano. I tried so hard as a child. I practiced a lot. And I got very little praise. When I think back, I think, wow, I really did try. The family was perfectionist, so they rarely had much praise.

But people aren’t perfect, Ron says.

And the kid pops back out again. People aren’t perfect, right Ron? Right? No one’s perfect, are they? And Ron nods in agreement.

And so the session ends. I go home feeling calm and understood. It’s mysterious, how parts work, and that they would want to talk about such mundane things. Mundane things make up a kid’s life perhaps.

I know that there was bad stuff that happened, to cause these parts. However, this session wasn’t about those things. It feels so great to have Ron listen to parts tell their tale. Even if it’s not the complete story. It just feels like a warm bath, being held somehow.

The next two days though, I do feel emotional, sad, confused, and switching around quite a bit, if i can put it like that. So I guess though the kid who talked in therapy wasn’t upset, rather was really happy to have so much time with Ron, maybe those other feelings come along as a kind of package deal.

It’s all a bit mysterious to me.

  1. Ashana M said:

    I think this normal, mundane element of the parts is all part of integrating. The mundane is the top layer. It comes with the other stuff and they eventually fit together in some way. You eventually get a more textured picture of your own past. I don’t write about that much, but it happens for me too. It is like my post about Kamchatka, which was a really confusing memory, but in the end it seemed to be the memory of just looking at a map and having a conversation I didn’t understand much of. That was the top layer, and under it was the memory of being to feel trust for someone. There was no one to help you navigate even the normal ups and downs of childhood, and so even somewhat ordinary things end up dissociated. No emotion can be processed or understood at all. The only possible response in your family environment is to dissociate them.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting. Thanks for explaining this Ashana.

  2. Cat said:

    All very mysterious, but equally wonderful! It’s good to read of a better session with Ron.

    I first read this post last night, but needed time to digest because it is so spookily close to the stuff raised in my own therapy this week. As I’m currently learning, those early connections are vital.

    My parents would sacrifice both their children for each other, so I understand what you mean. I would tend to agree about not approaching your mother. I imagine it would be destructive and doubtful it would bring you closer together.

    It seems perfectly logical for a child part to start talking about every day trivialities.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting you are going through similar memories / issues Cat. Thanks.

  3. It is really complex how therapy actually works. I see myself switch from the adult to the kid and sometimes an infant. I love when I feel heard and listened to. It fills a void I had my whole life because my mother and family never really talked about any feelings we were having or struggling with. I had to start figuring out my feelings at the age of 44. Now at 55, I have become a compassionate nonjudgmental observer of my inner life. It is nice to give my own self a sense of being gently heard and understood.

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Janet – It seems we had a similar upbringing, plus we’re on similar timelines. I’m in my fifties, and I have only recently been able to deal with feelings also. I’d either be overwhelmed by feelings, or shut down entirely. I also had to learn to tolerate them. Therapy is great for that. Great to meet you! Thanks for commenting.

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