Very very hot day Friday. This therapy session I have more to say. Ron looks mournful today. Typically I worry about this. He really does look sad and distant.
R. What was it like coming to see me today?
E. Alright. I’m a little scared as usual.
We sit for a while. I straighten the kleenex box and re-arrange the cushions on the couch.
E. You look really sad. I feel like I should ask you what’s wrong, let you talk to me….It can’t be about me? Must be your life….
Ron’s eyes twinkle a bit when I say I feel I should let him talk to me about what’s bothering him.
R. (small voice) I’m here.
E. I thought we could talk more about the group. Why do you think I kept needing to leave and hide in the washroom?
R. How did you feel when you left?
E. So much better.
R. Better in what way?
E. Less anxious. Sometimes there’d be a voice shouting, so that stopped.
R. What did it say?
E. I can’t remember.
R. You had very strong feelings about me. That I had ‘bad energy’. That I didn’t like you.
E. Well, that’s true. I did feel like you didn’t like me often. But let’s not worry about the energy part. I just didn’t know what it meant. Anyway it only kicks in if I’m sitting next to you, so it doesn’t matter.
R. Your feelings towards me seem to shift a lot. My own towards you stay the same. I want to be helpful to you – including in the group.
E. I found the group difficult. And it didn’t seem to be clear what we were trying to do. If we were trying to give our honest reactions to people, or if we were trying to go deeply into our own issues, like in therapy. People in the group seemed to have different ideas about it. For instance A, when she said something like – she didn’t feel safe because I criticized E – well, I can see her point. If her idea is that the group is a safe space to explore issues, with other group members acting kind of like lesser therapists….well then I was doing the wrong thing.
I can’t remember how this conversation proceeded. Ron essentially did not agree with me about the group, without ever coming out and saying so. He felt the purpose was clear, and that my issues were my issues – personal to me.
E. And that second last session, I’d started, then you completely switched the focus to E. But I had issues I was trying to deal with. I don’t think you’d ever done that before, switched to a different person entirely. Even if they kept saying how much they didn’t want to talk, you’d keep encouraging them to talk. But for me – no.
R. But don’t you remember all the times I switched the group back to you, when you asked to talk?
E. Yes. Because I asked you to do that. I’m not saying you didn’t reach out to me – you did, and I appreciated that a lot. I remember lots of times you made a point of helping me.
R. (kind of annoyed now) So what are you saying then?
E. I’m just saying that that time, you acted in a way that wasn’t usual, and it upset me.
R. It’s as if you’re saying you were not important, that the authority figure in the group ignored you, but really…you were the most important.
Here Ron seems to be trying to flatter me or manage me or something, which annoys me. I know and I support that no one is ‘most important’ – we are all equal. I’m trying to explain how I felt, and he’s not really getting it.
E. And also, it seemed as if I was the only person who gave negative feedback. Well, except R. And R stays really calm when he does it, so it seems to go over better. Well, and A. But A only talked about people in the group when she was defending E – both to me and to R. She didn’t seem to talk about her own feelings, just criticized how we interacted with E.
R. A also talked to Y about how he was talking to R….
E. Oh. OK. I didn’t remember that. But I would never have said some of the things I said in a support group for instance. I mean, I told E she was mean, for goodness sake.
E. And for instance Z. Man, I got tired of her questions. No matter what was happening in the group, she’d ask the person who was talking another question. Never shared any thought of her own, any experience or opinion. It was irritating.
R. Yet you didn’t feel you could say that?
E. I felt as if I was already critical, I felt really exposed. I just didn’t want to go there as well. I felt like a scapegoat.
Ron actually seems to accept this. I really felt so much guilt whenever I said negative things, and in the context of this very ‘polite’ group, it made sense to venture a certain amount and then stop and re-group.
E. And I don’t understand the huge hostility I felt towards E. I mean, it was so bad it woke me up one night. It’s not as if she actually did anything to me.
R. I think that isn’t helpful, to put it that way – that she didn’t do anything to you. She did say some angry things to you.
E. Well…yeah. But I felt hostile to her apart from that. So why do you think that was? It was – projection? Something deep in me projected onto E?
Ron nods slightly.
R. You said E reminded you of your sister….
E. Yes. Though as I got to know her better, the resemblance wasn’t so strong. E is more assertive than my sister is. Well..hey…she has brown hair, she’s younger than I am – what more do I need to see her as my sister?
R. So the hair, the age….that’s enough? How do you feel when you think of her?
E. And you’re involved somehow. I feel like a train is bearing down on me – heading straight for me. It’s going to run me over.
R. And what’s my role?
E. You’re….your job is to pull me out of the way of the train!
R. So you feel as if you put yourself in front of a train in relationships – and you need someone to rescue you. Relationships must feel dangerous to you in that case. You put yourself in front of E like you’d stand in front of a train….
This seems completely wrong to me.
E. Well….that seems good on paper. I can see why you’d say that. But it’s completely wrong. It doesn’t feel right at all.
Ron looks put out. What can I do. I don’t think that’s the cause of my problem with E.
E. And the way R said E ‘missed him’? That was so true…I could see it happening, it was really clear. She missed me also. It was like I would trigger her issues, but she didn’t really respond or connect with me ever.
R. And what was that like?
E. It was an odd experience…like not being seen. But…that’s not my main issue with her I don’t think.
We never do figure this out.
E. You know, I’m having this experience a lot. It’s maybe a kind of dissociation. I feel like there’s a line across my body – usually just one. The location varies, it could be pelvis, belly button, heart, throat. Maybe it’s like chakras…maybe I should look into that. Anyway, when I feel like that, I can’t do things. I feel like that right now, which is why I’m mentioning it. Though there’s nothing to do, except talk to you.
R. Where is the line now?
E. Pelvis. So like last night for instance, this happened. I needed to go to the grocery store, and I just couldn’t do it. It was as if there was a wall in front of me I couldn’t get through. Then I took a xanax, and I got to the store, no problem.
R. And what did it feel like, before you took the xanax? Or now?
E. Well, it’s as if one part of my body is solid, but the other part is not, like it’s made of paper. Right now, the bottom half of me is not solid, but the top half is.
R. So you don’t feel grounded at the moment.
I smile at this. It’s so new agey and not really like Ron, and it’s not what I’m trying to get at. But maybe it’s true…I don’t really know.
R. What emotion is stopping you from doing things, what is making that wall.
I consider this. I feel very uncomfortable.
E. Well, I feel kind of a sadness. And some anger. And – some choking type feelings.
E. I just don’t want to do this. Why do I have to?
R. What part of you is saying that?
E. I don’t know….
Something has catapulted me back in time for a few minutes. I start speaking in a young voice.
E. So they don’t like me and I don’t know why they don’t like me because I’m nice.
R. How come they don’t like you do you think?
E. I don’t know….and….
I am suddenly remembering what it’s like to be in public school – the look of the desks, the big lined pieces of paper written on with marker, pinned to the cork boards on the walls…the other kids…recess…the immense feeling of being disliked.
E. I have braces. I have to go the the orthodontist in B….it’s stupid. It’s too far to go there. The other kids just go downtown.
R. Why did you go to B?
E. My dad used to work there, so he had to go back sometimes…so he took me with him to see the orthodontist.
I don’t talk a lot from this kid place. It’s kind of overwhelming me. So Ron sits and waits, but doesn’t really know what’s going on. Then I switch back out.
R. What age were you?
E. I don’t know – going to public school. Grade 4 – 6 maybe, somewhere in there….I had these braids then. I didn’t use to wash my hair very often….They’d get greasy, and the kids would make fun of me.
R. So people made fun of you, criticized you….and in the group, you were afraid that was happening again. You felt different from the other members.
This does seem valid to me, and I don’t say anything.
We talk a little more, back and forth. Ron asks me some question I can’t answer, so I look at the clock.
E. Oh – the session’s over.
R. Yes. So one more session, then I’ll be away for a week.
E. OK. I’m really glad I didn’t quit therapy and came back to see you.
Ron doesn’t say anything.
E. OK, thanks.
R. Take care.
For some hours I feel fine, then I’m hit with therapy aftermath and have to lie down. But Saturday, I can again function pretty well. When I’m thrown into a part, there always seems to be processing after a session. Even if it doesn’t seem traumatic, as in this case.
I can see how the school experiences would relate to my feelings about the group.
The relationship with Ron makes me anxious. It’s a little rocky at the moment. It seems to me as if I’m ‘getting to him’ to some extent, even while he is also attempting to be a good therapist. We do some decent therapy this time IMO, but the relationship feels precarious to me.