Trusting that someone will really be there is a challenge….

Where we left off: I had tearfully asked Bea,”Don’t be shrinky,” and she had replied that she wouldn’t be, that she didn’t want to be be shrinky. After that, no one said anything for a minute. 

Bea breaks the silence, saying, “I feel like a mom with an infant, a mom who really wants to know her baby, but then she can’t figure out what the baby needs or how to help the baby, but she cares so much about and wants to protect and help her baby, so she keeps trying to find what can help. I think that is why I keep going back to SP, or art, or other things we can try. But maybe the baby doesn’t know what she needs right now, and that is okay. Just like a mother who loves her infant, I’m going to patiently sit here with you and try to help you figure it out. We can make sense of all of this together. I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to turn into a shrinky shrink. I’m right here, and I’m still me.” 

I don’t reply because I’m too far away to talk. There are a million thoughts running through my mind, but I can’t seem to form any of them into words, or conversation. 

“I sometimes wonder……….. we got in the habit of just allowing you to collapse in on yourself and hide, so that you could talk…….. if that was the best thing. There is an SP exercise……you go from eye contact and connection to curling into yourself and hiding. It’s really hard to know someone is there for you when you are shut down and hiding. It’s amazing how making eye contact and having that connection really allows you to know that someone is there for you.” 

Bea is still talking and I’m freaking out inside. I can not do this. I don’t want to do this. It is not okay. I like hiding. I NEED to hide. Why is she talking about SP stuff again? I hate SP. 

“This isn’t anything I am expecting you to do. I know it wouldn’t feel safe to do an exercise like this right now. I’m telling you about it more so you might notice your experience right now. Maybe notice if it is hard to know I’m here, when you are so far away and closed off, when you can’t see me.” She talks about how it’s hard for me to reach out, to trust that someone is there, and how maybe it would be easier to reach out if I could see that she was physically there. 

At some point, something Bea says reminds me of couples therapy and I tell her that Kim wants me to talk to hubby. 

“In what way?” She asks. “About what?” 

“She said….if I can ask him or tell him what I need.” 

“Okay, so that is a good thing, because there is someone on your side, helping hubby to respond in ways that will make it safer for you to keep talking to him.” 

I shake my head. “I don’t think she is on my side.” I’m not sure whose side she is on, maybe on the side of my marriage being more than a surface relationship. I tell Bea “It’s is better to not ask for something than to ask for it and not…..be heard.” 

“That is an old belief. A really old belief, I think. At some point it became safer to not ask than risk being hurt.” 

“It’s hard to believe anyone is there. Because no one ever is. Everyone leaves.” The words are so silent, there is no weight to them at all, yet somehow they float between Bea and I and she hears them. 

“It is hard to believe someone is there for you. It’s hard to believe that when you reach out, someone will hear you and see you when you told adults in your life with everything but words what was happening with Kenny and no one was there, no one heard. You reached and no one was there. More fundamentally than that even, you couldn’t trust that the adults in your life would keep me safe. You didn’t get to have that safety in knowing someone was there and would keep you safe. Even developmentally, you learned that you couldn’t trust your mother to be there for you, you didn’t know if she would accept your feelings or fears or needs, or if she would reject them. That is a lot. It is no wonder it is hard for you to trust, to know that someone is there.”  

It makes sense, what she is saying. And I feel sad, that this is what my story is, that this is why it’s so hard for me to make connections and hold them, why it’s so hard for me to trust someone will be there. “That’s so much.” This time the weightless words don’t have enough substance to make it to Bea’s ears, and that is okay with me. I don’t repeat myself. 

Bea suggests that maybe we need to work on it being safe for me to really experience safety with another person. “Not just safety in talking to me, while you hide but safety in being able to reach for me and maintain the connection to really feel and know that I am here. Maybe we need to help establish safety in seeing me, while we talk about more uncomfortable things. I think you need to experience that, being able to see and deeply know someone is there for you.” 

I don’t love this idea, it feels very….vulnerable making. Not okay. I don’t say anything. I know this is probably some attachment stuff that needs working on. And that is uncomfortable for me. I hate attachment stuff. Hiding, not looking at someone when I talk, or sharing via email, it’s safer. It’s like that way if the person doesn’t respond, or isn’t there, it doesn’t hurt as much because I wasn’t really there either. On the flip side, that connection, seeing a person respond positively to me and really be there is just as scary. I don’t want to trust it, because as soon as I do, I have that much more to lose, there is that much more which can crush me. 

We go back to talking about couples therapy, and how all of this links back to that and the difficulty in me asking hubby for what I need or want. Bea asks questions and I answer them, haltingly. It’s a lot of starts and stops. Eventually I end up grabbing my iPad and pulling up what I had written about couples therapy (previously posted on the blog). In addition to that, I had written about the dream, but I told Bea I wasn’t sure I wanted her to read that part. 

She reads what I wrote about couple’s therapy. “You aren’t failing couples therapy!” And “it is a lot of risk for you to tell hubby what you need.” “Mmmmhmmm….so she did see that you maybe weren’t ready.” 

“Either that or she said it because I wasn’t talking.” 

Bea laughs, but it’s in that nice way she has, and she says, “I like to think she realized you weren’t ready. And it is okay that you aren’t ready. It is really okay.” 

“They both just think it’s so easy. But it’s not!” I shake my head and sigh. 

“I don’t think, well, I hope the therapist doesn’t think it’s so easy. I’d hope it would be obvious that if you are struggling with that, it isn’t easy for you. It is hard. And look at why. All the times you reached for help with the Kenny stuff and no one saw…..your mom stuff…..not being able to just trust that adults would keep you safe, how could you know that anyone was there? Right? It’s hard for you to even trust that I’m here, that I won’t leave, or turn shrinky, or just not be there.”

“It is hard to know that anyone is there.” I whisper. 

“I know. And so now we have this information that we didn’t have before. Now we know that really reaching for connection, and trusting that another will be there, is a big trigger. It triggered some trauma stuff, but also some developmental stuff, too. So that’s something we can work on– together, and slowly, at your pace.” Bea says.  

I shrug, and whisper, “Maybe.” 

“That’s a good place to start,” Bea says. “And I’m right here with you, even if you can’t see me right now.” 

(I’m going to write about the dream stuff in a separate post. We didn’t talk a lot about the dream, but agreed we could (maybe) start there on Wednesday.)

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10 thoughts on “Trusting that someone will really be there is a challenge….

  1. I see so many parallels here between my sessions and yours (not that we are the same but wanted to say I identify). I struggle SO much to look at A.. and I often feel so scared and vulnerable when I do.

    She will gently prompt me to come back and sometimes I close my eyes and pretend she isn’t there and bury my thoughts and feelings 100,000ft underground and then build a mental NYC on top of it.

    It is scary. It feels like someone can see directly inside of me. But it’s getting easier, slowly, the more I practice. It will be okay.

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  2. I can also really identify with what you’re describing about difficulty asking for and receiving emotional support. I never thought it would be scary or painful to get something you asked for. And as for eye contact, let’s just say that I’m getting very familiar with the texture of the carpet.

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    • It is so painful to get the emotional support that was asked for…..i think it is because it contrasts so sharply with childhood. I don’t know for sure though. I laughed at your carpet comment 🙂. I can describe Bea’s floor and anything on the floor in very good detail. The walls, things on shelves, anything that should be eye level? I barely remember, because I’m never looking at it. 🙈

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  3. Oh Alice, yes, trusting someone is really there is such a deep challenge. At times it just doesn’t feel possible. And there have been times in the past of feeling connected, so it gets confusing. I’m sending support. You are doing so well in navigating and working through your fears in session and expressing yourself. It is okay to not like SP, and to feel afraid. I’m glad you are sharing it with Bea, so she can support you in the ways that work best for you.

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  4. Hi Alice, it is indeed very risky to trust that someone is really there and will continue to be there. It makes you vulnerable, and having grown up learning it is not safe to be vulnerable, we try to avoid it. I can relate to this so much–it is an on-going challenge to learn to open up more to my very trustworthy husband. And I have struggled a lot this year to stay open to E and trust that she will still be there, even when we have misunderstandings. It is not easy and it doesn’t change quickly, but I think it’s very positive that you and Bea are talking about this. She very much seems like she wants to be deeply connected to you but won’t push you to do anything you don’t feel ready to do. You have time. Take it at your pace, and she’ll be there.

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    • Yes— it was never safe to be vulnerable. That makes so much sense. I understand how hard it is to open up to your hubby— you know I struggle with that, too. I think it’s good Bea and I talked about all this (that was a lot for me, just talking about it!) and maybe one day we will work on it more.

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