Therapy Saturday

I’ve been sick for the last two weeks. I needed five days off of work, plus a weekend, and am sadly still sick. But feeling emotionally well actually. When I was sick, I got really knocked over and needed to stay in bed for a few days. It actually felt like I was working through the work situation – with each coughing fit, I felt I was protesting the situation – the bosses confusing mixed messages, my anger, their anger, the worry, the sadness of being let go. So after all that, at this point, I feel better. I am glad this very confusing and painful situation is coming to a close, and I’ll get to rest for a week. Hopefully not too much more, as I need to find something else. Tomorrow is my last day.

Therapy on Saturday did not trigger me. Not only that, I felt calm and connected for most of the rest of Saturday and for most of today. As if a light got switched on internally, and I can feel some happiness again.

Which is ironic, since I now have no job and am also still sick, but there you go.

I can’t remember that much of the session. We were both a bit sick, with it seemed the same ailment, though I did not infect Ron, as I hadn’t seen him for two weeks. I tell Ron I’d find it hard to be a therapist with a cough, because I’d cough whenever I got anxious. But then, that’s just me, probably.

I stayed fairly adult this time, and felt no real pull to switch. I wonder if being half sick, and so aware of my body, grounds me somewhat. Could be. I tell Ron about work. I remember to keep labeling my feelings. It feels a bit artificial – oh yes, now I’m labelling this feeling – I’m feeling angry….but overall, it’s really really good. It feels a bit childish, and it is, because I was not taught to do this as a child. Feelings were really never ever discussed, even though they ruled our lives. Labeling them seems to give me some handle over them, so they don’t have to overwhelm me.

Ron doesn’t ask me to label feelings – it’s my idea, but he listens carefully.

I’m trying to work out what happened at work, because it’s hard to know. I float the theory that it’s partly my fault – if I had been less reactive, and less anxious, I would have made a better impression, and they wouldn’t have started to wonder if my work was any good. I tell Ron that in the future, I’m going to lie more. Even though that’s not what therapy is going to tell me to do. Ron says it depends what I mean. I mean, I don’t have to engage all the time. If I don’t agree, or if someone is getting something confused, I don’t have to jump in and correct them. It just gets them mad. If something is going wrong, I don’t have to try and save it. Just let it go….if it’s their idea, I won’t be blamed, and they’ll still like me.

We talk about how by ‘engaging’ I mean engaging negatively. I know a lot of people automatically shy away from engaging negatively, especially women, because we value connection and acceptance so much. For some reason, I easily confront and contradict, and it’s not doing my career any good. Ron says if by ‘lying’ I mean not saying something that the other person can’t hear anyway, then there’s no contradiction with therapy. But I could try engaging positively, looking for areas of agreement.

Whatever. Maybe. Each situation is so very different, but I’m going to try and keep this in mind.

I talk about wanting a social life, but how to get one? There’s meetups, but I did used to go occasionally, and never made a friend there. The people were always different. Then I feel shy at work….sometimes I don’t chat enough with people.

Of course, the talk turns to my childhood. I had best friends as a child, but then stuck with that one person or two people at most – I didn’t branch out. And….oh, my mother dressing me in odd clothes, so I didn’t fit in just from that aspect. She dressed my sister and me in my older cousins’ cast-offs. We lived in a wealthy suburb, so this was unusual behaviour. That, combined with my extreme shyness, and also the fact that I did very well in class, made me a bit of an outcast. Though I did have the best friend at least.

I talk a bit about my mother. She was not empathetic or emotionally attuned in any way – no one actually ever expressed interest in my feelings about things. I tell Ron this was the seventies after all – people were like that. Not all people, says Ron. Yeah, I agree. If your parents family’s were warm and connected, they passed that down to their kids. If not, then not. It happened like that for my mother, and it happened like that for me and my son.

I tell Ron that since my mother never was warm and connected, I didn’t really know what I was missing. Well, says Ron. If you’re missing vitamin C you still get scurvy, whether you know you’re missing it or not. Yeah, I agree. You mean connection is like a need. You need it whether you’ve gotten it ever or not.

Um. Writing about this is kind of upsetting me. Well. Writing about work doesn’t upset me, but writing about my childhood does.

Then one last thing happened. At some point, Ron was talking about something – mothers, or families, or some such. It was supportive and I agreed with it, but I also felt angry. So I went with the anger and told Ron about it. I know it’s not about what you’re saying, I tell him, because I agree with that. I just feel – angry. Like I’m being oppressed somehow. Like I have to fight back. Ron considers this. You don’t like being told what to do. No, I don’t. I don’t remember what else we say, but I strongly remember that feeling of anger. Maybe it was from remembering what it was like for me as a child. Or, maybe it is anger that pops up anytime a man starts talking…That’s a scary thought. I do feel angry very fast, though I don’t usually express it, as I know it’s not appropriate to the situation.

So I wish Ron a good recovery, and he wishes me the same, and I leave. The first few hours after, I feel kind of tired and confused. But once I snuggle down with my novel and relax, I start to feel really good – calm and warm, as if everything is OK and I am safe.

Not really sure how I got to this good feeling, but I’d really like to bottle it and keep it on hand for after every therapy session. Second session in a row where I haven’t suffered after therapy, and one of the few where I’ve actually felt better after going than I did before. Maybe it was not going into parts, yet still talking about things that seemed worthwhile. And maybe it was really nice to have Ron listen and accept my version of things. He can be very kind and supportive sometimes. I remember this feeling from when I first started going to him. He’s good at connecting and making you feel accepted. I’m rather licking my wounds at the moment, so it was nice.

  1. e.Nice said:

    So good to read that you are finding some happiness this week. Perhaps sessions also go better when you are feeling emotionally better? That is some interesting insight into what it means to engage with people/coworkers. It sounds like you are learning to decide which battles are important, and which to let go for the sake of the project, or relationship with the coworker. That is something that is hard to figure out. I like the vitamin C analogy. I hope you get to feeling better physically too!

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Nice. I actually have more problems keeping my thoughts to myself with bosses/management, rather than co-workers. Go figure. Much more dangerous. I definitely need to pick my battles more.

      • e.Nice said:

        Makes sense, the need to assert yourself, stand up to authority. Kind of like drawing boundaries with a manager so they know you aren’t to be messed with?

  2. leb105 said:

    Thanks for this, E, it was helpful. We’ve been talking in group about the desirability of being authentic only when it serves our purpose. I scratch my head… So, are we talking about lying? or, acting a part? I like the way Ron put it here, better – that you don’t always have to engage, correct, you don’t HAVE to raise your hand if you know the answer. EXCEPT it seems that we don’t really consider that we have a choice, we both seem compelled to speak up – even when (especially when) it would better serve us to watch and listen.
    I’m glad that you’re feeling so good!

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, to me it seems like lying also. By withholding my true thoughts/reactions, aren’t I trying to manipulate? But in work situations, that’s what you have to do. And maybe in personal situations also – I guess I have to consider people’s feelings more, sometimes. And I do seem to focus on the negative – I could focus on the positive instead. I guess. 🙂

      Kind of interesting we both have this sometimes problematic, if honest, quality. Thanks Laura.

      • leb105 said:

        My group-T suggested that to be able to lie is a milestone of development – that should happen around the age of 3 or 4 – young. I gather that it has something to do with separating from ones’ parents. Perhaps being able to distinguish ones’ own interests, from those of the parents/caretakers? I get that feeling about MY authenticity – that to hide my thoughts is separating myself from others, is disloyal, is an aggressive act that invites aggression, and it scares me – while authenticity is vulnerable, submissive, non-aggressive (everything aboveboard). As if I am more afraid of separateness, than I am of the negative attention I might receive by being open. Can you relate to that at all?

        • Ellen said:

          That is real interesting Laura. I haven’t heard of this before. So usually, I feel quite separate by voicing my dissenting opinion….after all, I’m not merged with the other person’s views. I do feel that hiding my thoughts is manipulative while speaking up is being honest and staying in relationship. I wonder if it is as your group T suggests. I do feel that there is something compulsive in my speaking up that I’m not comfortable with. I find your suggestion interesting and confusing. I meant to bring this up in my session today but forgot. Thanks!

          • leb105 said:

            yes! something compulsive! I squirm a little, to call it honesty. If you have found a way to feel separate and yet in relationship, that sounds like a great place to be both as a child with a domineering parent, and as an adult…. yet, other people (who don’t realize that they are bound to us by our transference) don’t seem to receive it that way – our speaking up can end relationships. Thanks, E!

  3. hi ellen, that sounds like a wonderful session, i am glad you felt so good afterwords. ron sounded like he really got it and got how you were and was just letting you be whatever way you were presenting in that moment. Thats really positive. XX

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, his acceptance meant a lot in this session. Thanks Many

  4. Rachel said:

    I was just thinking about you and wondering how you’ve been because you hadn’t posted in awhile. Glad you are feeling well. That work situation really got into some deep material, didn’t it? And in pushing through, it sounds like you released some burden from the past. Nice work.

    • Ellen said:

      Work did push a lot of my buttons, that’s for sure. Right now I feel squashed by it all again, but overall, I’m getting over it. I wish I could find work where I can feel as if I belong and that I have some value. Thanks Rachel.

      • Rachel said:

        I wish for that for you, too.

    • Ellen said:

      And I also wanted to say, if you feel as great after seeing your T as I did after seeing Ron this time, I can see how easily I could grow to depend on that feeling. It reminded me of your attachment to your T a bit. It’s a feeling of getting some comfort that goes right to a situation in my past, and it does feel wonderful.

      • Rachel said:

        I’m so glad you felt that warm connection with Ron, and let yourself go there. It is the reason why I put myself through all the anxiety, because it does feel worth it for the little parts of me to have that connection.

  5. I wanted to say I’m glad you shared about labeling feelings. It’s so simple, but it really helps me a lot and I hadn’t thought of doing that before.

    Yes, at work, it seems a professional veneer is called for. Not everyone wants or needs to hear your truth, and there are often people you’re working with that actually you would have no particular desire to connect with if you had other choices. You are really interested in having a good, usable product, but not everyone is. Some people are interested in feeling important, or looking intelligent, or posturing or whatever. It seems okay to just let them. At the same time there are diplomatic ways to say the end-user will be able to make better use of the document if we do it like this, but I am not in your field, so I don’t really know.

    I am silent a lot here, because I don’t know how to say difficult truths diplomatically. I do in the States, but not here. It’s okay. If there are good insights people are losing out on because I don’t share them, it’s fine. I am doing what they pay me to do, and people seem to muddle on without the contributions i could make if I knew how to say things well. Actually, I do know there are things i could say that would help. I am not belittling my potential. But good relationships are more important than my ideas, and it’s more important I focus on maintaining them.

    It seems like in your family, ideas were more important than relationships. If someone was right, they were expected to fight for their views regardless of the cost to the relationship.

    • Ellen said:

      I actually think I got the idea of labeling feelings from you Ash….hmm….It helps me both for giving parts words, and for myself also. Glad it was a good reminder then.

      Definitely – a professional veneer. There are definitely ways of saying things that are so much better than what I’m doing with my ‘honesty’. I like your philosophy of putting the relationship above the ideas. In my family, that would have been a completely foreign concept. Maybe in academics generally, it’s more accepted that you argue your corner – that’s part of the job. My parents’ adopted that as their philosophy even when it wasn’t appropriate, so I suppose that’s where this comes from for me. Interesting how your new culture highlights the challenges also.

      Thank you Ash

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