Don’t be shrinky

Monday morning. Halloween. I didn’t sleep much last night. I get up at 5:30, get myself ready and then wake Kat. We drive to school in silence, me downing coffee and Kat chugging hot chocolate. We arrive early, and so I sit in the backseat with Kat, coloring a picture and checking my emails, my facebook, my wordpress. The transition into school is smooth and easy. Kat says goodbye without a problem, and I head back out to the car to drive to therapy.

I arrive on time, and am happy to see that Bea has brought her dog with her. I haven’t been able to bring Hagrid with me because of the new schedule, and I miss having him to cuddle during hard sessions. I stop on the stairs to pet Astrid. 

“Good morning.” Bea walks out of her office to see whats going on in the stairway. 

I look up at her, and smile. “Astrid came right to me, to say hi.” 

We walk into Bea’s office together, and Bea nods. “She remembers you.” 

I get settled into my spot on the couch, and Bea sits down in her black chair that is on the blue rug. Astrid lays down on the rug by Bea’s feet. 

We talk about Kat, and how she was the last session, and Bea says that last session was the first time she felt like she wasn’t seeing anything that needed working through. “She was calm and centered and really positive. She seemed much more contained and happy. I think this move to a different school has really made a difference.” 

I agree, and our conversation slowly shifts to talking about me. 

“I never did get to ask about your birthday on Monday, and if you did anything,” Bea says. 

“We didn’t do a lot. Hubby had the day off, so he set up my ariel yoga trapeze, and later we all went to dinner at Olive Garden. We kept it simple and low key. We were all tired from the weekend.” I smile as I’m telling her this, because it was a good day. “I practiced Yoga that afternoon, and then watched a movie, so I got a lot of me time.” 

“That sounds really nice. I’m glad you had a good birthday.” 

“My Grandma called on Monday, and we were having a really good talk until Harley interrupted. It’s like he can’t stand not being the center of attention.” I sigh. 

“It sure sounds like it. It sounds like he has a big personality and likes to be noticed and enjoys telling dirty jokes and using innuendos to get attention.” 

“She’s a different person with him. She never used to put up with anything, if she didn’t like something she just changed it. She didn’t let people walk over her. And I know, every relationship is different, her marriage to my grandpa is different than what she has with Harley, but she’s not herself. I don’t know.” I shake my head. 

“I was wondering where you learned that it is okay to change things, and that you can do some thing to make things different than they are. You’ve taught Kat that, and it’s obvious that she has really internalized that. You should be proud that you taught her to hold that power. It’s a real credit to you. I wondered who taught you that.” 

“Probably my grandma.” I smile a little, thinking of how strong she is. 

“Did she talk about your grandpa, or no because Harley was there?” Bea asks. 

“She talked about him. She told me the story of my being born. Grandpa used to tell it. He got there before my grandma, and when she got to the hospital, he was holding me and he turned to her and said, ‘Look at my birthday present.’ And he always called me a gift after that.” Bea murmurs an “awe” and I continue, “He was the first person to hold me, you know, after my mom and dad.” 

Bea smiles. “Does that idea, knowing that, does it feel safe?” She is leaned back in her chair, and she looks peaceful. “I ask because it just seems fitting that he was the third person to hold you, because of your bond. It feels right that he was there from the very beginning. He made you feel safe from the get-go.” 

I nod, slowly. “It makes me sad, too. More sad today. Some days I feel better, and can be happier with the memories, other days I am sad and I cry.” 

“Yeah, it can feel very sad.” 

I don’t remember what we discussed next, but I know I said something about not sleeping well last night. 

“Speaking of not sleeping well, that reminds me that we were going to talk about your dream……” She speaks softly, and isn’t pushing, but it is a prompt for me to talk about the dream, or to tell her I don’t want to talk about it. 

“I tried to write it……but it’s just so….I mean, it’s not real, it’s so crazy and out there and it’s just a silly stupid dream.” At this point, even though I feel a little bit like I am no longer tethered to the earth, I’m still sitting up right, still looking at Bea. 

She seems to struggle with something, some internal debate. Finally she says, “I’ve been at SP (sensorimotor processing) training for the last three days. I’m….I feel like I want to ask a question, or make a contact statement that is a little more towards the SP side of things.” 

I go very still and very quiet. I’m not gone, but I’m in that sort of frozen alert state, waiting to see if the dangerous things are going to happen and if I should go far away. 

Bea pauses, and maybe she is waiting to see if I have anything to say. When I don’t say anything, she says, “Maybe it would be helpful for you to know what an SP sessions usually looks like, what happens, how things go. It might be less scary if you know what to expect.” 

I think I shrug, maybe not. Thinking back on it now, I notice that my reaction was almost simultaneous. As soon as Bea began to describe what happens in an SP session, I thought *I don’t want to talk about this* and at the same time the thought was entering my mind, I went far away. 

Bea describes an SP session to me. 

She says that sessions begin by just talking, I think she calls it cognitive awareness. “This is usually how we begin our sessions, just you and talking about normal everyday things. Then if something comes up, I encourage you to stay with it. Like right now, I could say *going a little farther away*. It’s called a contact statement. It lets you know I’m listening and that I see you, that I’m tuned in.” 

She’s not wrong, I am going farther away, I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want Bea to change. If she changes too much, I’ll have to leave because it won’t be okay. And that hurts. I can’t take it anymore, and I pull my legs to my chest and wrap my arms around my knees. I bury my face in my knees, and let the tears fall. I hide because I don’t want to be seen like this. I don’t want her to know how upset I am, because I can not bear to talk about it with her right now. 

Bea says “I like SP because SP looks at trauma reactions as just normal behavior, for the situations. It’s very nonpathologizimg, it’s like ‘oh of course you do xyz or feel abc, because this happened.’ It’s very non-judgemental. It makes it safe to explore feelings or reactions in that way.” 

I feel like she just pulled the rug out from under me. Hasn’t she always been like this? Hasn’t she always behaved as if the cutting and the eating disordered behaviors, and the wanting to disappear and the hiding and the dissociation and all of it were normal for me? She’s the first person in my life who explained all of it as a normal reaction to trauma and made me believe I wasn’t crazy. And if she is saying that she likes SP because of all this, then maybe she wasn’t feeling as non-judgmental or non-pathologizinf as I felt she was being. Maybe her experience in her head was different than how she acted towards me. “I thought you were…..always like that anyway. Before this.” The words come out, slowly, like molasses being poured from a big jar. 

“You did?” She is surprised, maybe. Her voice sounds surprised. Maybe she didn’t know that was how I experienced her reactions. Which would make sense if what was in her head wasn’t congruent with her outward expression. “Maybe I’m talking more about my experience, as the client in this training…..I hadn’t really broken it down. But yes, I think I’m talking more about my experience as client.” 

I hear what she is saying, but her voice is sort of muffled, as if her words are coming through thick cotton. I know that means I am really far away now. “I don’t like SP.” I whisper my words, and it sounds more like the snarky teen or the angry little girl talking, than me. 

 “That’s okay. I’m glad you can tell me that. It’s good that you can say so.”

I am so far away, that I have lost track of the point, so I ask “Why are we talking about this, again?” Even to my own ears, my voice sounds young and confused. 

She says it’s because she hasn’t changed as a person, but the classes and training may change the way she practices therapy and that she wanted to bring it into the room, because she knew any subtle small changes that she makes, even if she is not aware of it, not intentionally changing anything, I will be aware of it, and that is scary for me. 

“Okay.” That’s all I say. It’s all I can say. 

I spent a lot of time during this conversation just thinking “I should quit. I should just quit. I can’t do this. Why is she bringing this up? It’s not okay. This doesn’t feel okay. I should quit now. Because I can’t do SP, and she is going to turn into an SP therapist.” The fact I was thinking like this scares me. I don’t often think about quitting, and when I do, it usually has more to do with me being angry with Bea or trying to avoid feeling hurt. This….this feels different. It feels like I signed up with one therapist, and now I’m getting an SP therapist. Two years ago, I never would have signed up with a body based therapist, because body stuff scares me. While I’m a little further along than I was with that stuff because of yoga, it still scares me, and I’m not sure but I think I would actively avoid any SP or body therapies if I were looking for a new shrink. 

The whole way she described an SP session sounded so very….clinical to me. It seemed very much this one size fits all formula, super structured. It felt like okay, now you are making a “contact statement” because this formula tells you to, NOT because you can see I am having trouble finding my words and you want to let me know you get what I’m trying to say. I do not like this whole thing at all. 

I stayed curled into myself, hiding my face, tears running down my cheeks. 

Bea says that she isn’t trying to be shrinky, that she feels very present and grounded and this SP stuff is to help her be a better therapist. That’s when I realize it is the fact that SP feels very shrinky to me and I’m terrified I’m going to lose Bea, that she will be shrinky. “Please don’t turn shrinky,” I say. 

“I won’t. I don’t want to be shrinky. Shrinky is detached, and that is something I could never be with you.” 

We sit. And I cry. “Just please don’t be shrinky, okay?” 

“Okay. I won’t.”

To be continued……………

******I’m not sure where this leaves me. While I did end up opening up some, (which I will wrote about in my next post) I sort of just pushed the SP stuff aside. As I’m writing this, I’m sorting our my feelings around all the SP stuff and Bea changing and therapy. It’s left me feeling very unsettled. I have this urge to cry, and hide in my closet. I don’t want to lose Bea, but I feel like I might. 

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15 thoughts on “Don’t be shrinky

  1. Bea is still Bea, SP or no SP. Personally, I find contact statements very helpful as they reminds me of the attunement and therefore attachment whic is present, and helps me feel safe. That’s not in therapy though, just with a wonderful pastoral care/support person I see. It really sounds like Bea has been using contact statements for a long time, just without calling them that. I hope you’re ok 💗

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    • Yes, she is still Bea, which I think is what she is trying to get through to me. I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to handle this right now, or why it feels like everything is changing and I should just leave. She probably has been using “contact statements” since the beginning….but before, it just seemed natural, organic, and she was talking out of care and concern and wanting to support me and hold space for me. Now, it’s like this SP stuff says she HAS to use the statements so instead of just being there with me and her talking when uts natural and out of care, she is searching for the “right” contact statement and trying to say it at the “correct” time, and follow this SP formula. It feels as if it’s just this directed thing, a formula for a 60 minute therapy session and the therapist needs to hit on A, B, C, and D. I don’t know. It feels off, wrong. Ugh 😑. I’m mostly okay, a little sad and anxious, but still functioning.

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  2. I have this exact experience every time T goes to another training course. She always comes back full of different ideas and that scares me.

    I reassure myself by reminding myself that I also go on training courses for work, and come back with good ideas – but then after a few days back in the reality of my work, I’m just my normal self again, perhaps with one or two things added in. No great change is made. I’m still who I was before. This is the same for T and for Bea.

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    • I’m sorry you feel scared about trainings, too. Thanks for sharing this though. I do know, sort of, that Bea is Bea. But at the same time, I don’t know. Maybe it’s that parts of me don’t believe she is still Bea. I’m not sure. I can understand this in terms of when I used to do trainings for my job, too. But….it feels different. I don’t want therapy to be a system of rules and steps you have to follow. I don’t like that. I don’t want things to be so clinical or something. I like Bea as a therapist because she was never shrinky, she met me where I was at and it really felt like she was there, she was with me, and that is because she wasn’t following what some type of therapy says you have to do, she was following, i don’t know, her heart, her feelings, on what I needed and what she should say or do. At least, that’s how it used to feel. But SP is ruining that. Everything in me says quit now before she changes even more and you can’t deal with it. I’m not sure what is wrong with me that I’m freaking out like this over this stuff. 🙈

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      • Nothing is wrong with you. Change is scary and change in our primary attachment person who we want to do work with is even scarier. Change (at least for me) always meant I had to change too or things wouldn’t work anymore – and maybe this is that pattern surfacing. I hope you feel better soon.

        Also, I’m sorry for responding in this thread but I wanted to respond directly to your last comment

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      • PD, you can reply anywhere you want! This is absolutely fine. 😊

        What you said here, that change always meant you had to change too or things wouldn’t work, that is true for me, too. I just didn’t put that together until you wrote it here. Thank you.

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      • You’re welcome – it’s something I think about a lot lately – how I adjust my behaviour as others adjust theirs – it’s how we kept ourselves safe. So it’s only natural that a change in Bea would cause this panic in you.

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  3. I wonder how much of this is about anything that you feel is scary/change with her, not neccesarily the SP stuff. Like- reading this, it struck me as your side of things seemed much more an attachment/fear place than- she could have been talking about any kind of change, though one with trying body-based stuff is scarier, of course.

    Can you see that she is a person and not- going to be a set of rules and “have to”s? because you get that in training to be a therapist in all kind of ways and clearly that didn’t make her that way…

    i wonder what the underlying fear is with the wanting to quit (wanting to run away?) feeling. scared of you changing too? scared of losing her? it seems like there’s- more too it in a way.

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    • I think it is probably more abut the change than the SP stuff, the SP stuff just triggers more fear and anxiety because it is body stuff.

      I can and I can’t see that she is a person. I know that therapy always has theories and rules and how-to’s. I guess it’s just like….maybe I don’t like feeling those things, being aware of them because then therapy feels more like this forced environment, like it’s not really real or something. I don’t know how to really explain it. It just feels like the therapist is acting one way then to elicit a certain set of responses from the client, and it all becomes much more rigid and cold and clinical. It becomes shrinky. The part of me that is not so scared, however, can look at all this and be fascinated by my responses and feelings and that part knows that if Bea was going to be shrinky she would have been that way from thee beginning.

      I don’t want to lose her. I think that quitting feels safer than having her turn into a shrinky SP therapist and me not be able to do SP therapy, and be fired from her.

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      • I have lots more to say and will respond separately, but I wanted to assure you that I think that there is zero chance that Bea will fire you if you can’t do SP. She is committed to you and helping you. She hopes and thinks that SP may be a way to better help you in the end, although getting there may take a long time because it is so challenging for you.

        Hold on to that corner of yourself that knows that you can trust Bea to remain Bea!

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  4. Any time this stuff comes up, I internally yell “Bea, stop the SP stuff, she doesn’t like it! Stop it, Bea! Don’t go shrinky on Alice!” I have this visceral response, because I just know that feeling of not wanting the change and the clinical shit stirring up so much of the trauma activation. I get it, she wants to help and this is a sign of how much she cares and won’t just let you sit in a trauma response without trying to help you out of it, but in those moments, the fear is so strong. Hard to have that more adult perspective.

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    • Thank you Rachel. Your internal response….it’s just very validating to me. And you are right. It really is about fear that is so strong. Maybe one day the grown up will be able to hear the SP stuff and be the decider, but right now it’s the little girl in the drivers seat.

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  5. oh man! this sounds so hard and so painful. i’m sorry she brought that up and you got so upset, I think I would too if I was in your position. I like the term shrink. I hate clinical therapists. I think the fact that you were able to say it to be to not go shrink on you is a good thing. xxx

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