I walk into therapy, anxious and uncertain.
After writing on my blog about the SP stuff and feeling like Bea was being shrinky, I realized that I needed to tell her how I was feeling, or things would just get worse. So I emailed her. I sent one email, telling her how afraid I was to email or talk to her about Monday, but that I felt like I needed to because Monday felt bad to me. I said that I was having really strong negative feelings about SP and I was afraid to talk to her. She replied back that it was okay, that I didn’t need to be worried about hating SP or about liking things she liked. She said she thought I should send the other email so that she would know what was going on before we met the next day. So, I sent it. Bea replied and everything she said was understanding and caring. She explained somethings, telling me what she had been thinking, what her experience of things on Monday was. I wrote a response I didn’t intend to send, but when I got up at 4 am for the day, I decided to send it.
So, there were a lot of nervous, worried and scared feelings as I walked into her office. Bea is sitting in her chair, on the blue rug, just like always. She’s looking at two decks of cards, but when I walk in the doorway, she looks up at me and smiles.
“Hi,” she says softly, as I walk in and sit in my spot on the couch. “I was just looking at these meditation cards I just got. I got them for kids but I think they could be helpful for adults, too. But I was looking at them, and thinking about how I have been using them this last week. I’ve only pulled them out if they make sense for what the kid I’m with is playing out, or working through. I wouldn’t just stop a child in the middle of their play to do one a random mediation activity.”
I nod. I’m a little afraid she’s going to suggest we do one of the cards, but she doesn’t.
“I guess I was thinking about this today, and I’m talking about it now, because it is like the SP stuff. I shouldn’t be bringing it up or adding it in when it doesn’t make sense for what you are talking about or working through.”
“Okay…..” I whisper slowly.
After a pause, Bea gets up, put the cards away, and then sits back down. “We can start wherever you want to start today,” she tells me.
When I don’t say anything, she sits forward in her chair and looks at me. My gaze has been more towards the floor than anything since I got here, but I know she is looking at me because I can feel it.
“I wanted to give you a chance to start with whatever you need to talk about. I’m thinking we should talk about the relationship, about me feeling shrinky and distant last week.”
I feel tears start to form, and so I go even farther away than I was upon walking into the office. I want to leave. Maybe I should leave. I can not talk about this because I’m terrified she is going to get shrinky. I cover my face with my hands, and think that she is probably shrinking that movement right now. I just can’t handle this. I curl up, bury my face, and wrap my arms around legs, using my hands to cover my head.
“It’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling,” Bea reminds me. “I’m not going anywhere, I’m not going to turn into an SP therapist. I know it has to feel scary to be here today and to talk to me when things felt so off on Monday, when you really experienced me as gone. I know it’s going to be really hard to trust that I’m here today, and that’s okay. I’m not worried, because I know we can work through this together.”
I don’t say anything. Her words barely penetrate through the fog around me. I don’t believe her that she’s here, although her words tell me she is understanding exactly where I’m at right now. All I can think is that at least she knows she ruined everything.
“I’m glad you were able to email me. Should I get your emails or can we try to just talk now?”
I shrug. I don’t care. Just do whatever you want, I think.
“Why don’t we try to talk?” When I don’t respond, she continues, “I was wondering how things were feeling after we emailed, if you had anything more you wanted to say?”
I don’t say anything at all. I don’t know what else to say. She got shrinky, and I was afraid to tell her in the moment so I just shut down because nothing felt safe, and then later when I could think about it more, I realized how unsafe it all felt and how distant Bea seemed even after the fact and now scared I was she was going to be shrinky or that she didn’t really care and that this was all a clinical job to her and she was just really good at pretending to care and be there and that everything with her was all fake anyway, and I didn’t feel like I could dive into trauma stuff with her as things stood, and I couldn’t really go pretend things were fine, and everything was royally screwed up. But I didn’t need to say any of that, because it was all in my very long emails. So I just stayed silent.
“Do you know what you are feeling right now?” She asks gently.
It takes everything I have in me to come back a little bit from the far away, and to breathe and try to feel what I’m feeling. “Uncomfortable.”
“Uncomfortable. Yeah, I can see that this is feeling really uncomfortable to you. Do you know what part of this is the most uncomfortable?”
I’m silent, and so is Bea. I get the feeling she is going to wait me out this time. I sigh. I try to figure out what I am feeling. “It’s…relationships. Feelings. Attachment. Being alone. Trust. And SP and shrinky stuff. All rolled into one big ball. A big ball of yuck…..of uncomfortable that is smushing me.”
“That does sound uncomfortable. It’s all the things that are really hard for you to talk about.”
“I………..I think it’s not SP that I hate. Not really. It could be anything……..it’s change and you turning shrinky.”
“Ah-ha!” She says softly. “That makes a lot of sense. Change is very scary, and change that makes me feel far away and not there is really, really scary.”
“Shrinky,” I say. I am not going to let her make it sound less awful. Shrinky is the very worst thing a therapist can be. I want her to call it what it is.
“Shrinky,” she agrees. “Having me feel shrinky is really scary.”
I shrug. I can’t even admit to that, it’s too risky.
“I was thinking about this, and I think, usually, I am using the feeling part of my brain in therapy. The SP stuff, especially because it is new and I am still learning it, puts me very solidly in the thinking part of my brain. And it is really hard to connect with another person when you are only in the thinking part of your brain. I think that is where the misattunement with SP happens.”
That’s why there is such a noticeable difference when she is talking about SP, I think. It is also why she was the first therapist I felt like I could trust and really talk to; it’s because she is usually so focused on feeling with me, and being with me, and that is a right brain to right brain connection, and that wasn’t something I had felt before in my life, I didn’t get that type of attunement growing up. It’s why I felt such a difference when I told Bea my secrets. I can’t deal with this, though, the attachment talk, and attunement and care, I can’t do it.
I end up panicking, and wanting to run away. It’s too much. “I feel like I should just quit. That’s all I was thinking on Monday and it’s all I’m thinking now. I should just quit. You are going to turn into a shrinky SP therapist and I should just quit. I can’t dot it, I can’t. And you are going to be doing SP and I will get fired because I can’t do it. I should quit. I should just leave.”
“I’m not going to turn into an SP therapist. I know the body stuff is scary, I know having me feel shrinky is scary, I know this is hard. But I am not changing into an SP therapist. Just like you said, certain parts of the theory of SP don’t work for me. The idea that a transformation must happen every session, that doesn’t sit with me. That’s asking a lot of someone with a lot of trauma, with a lot to work through. Just like we talked about in email, all therapies have structure, and I like to take what works, leave what doesn’t and mush it all into one big Bea-style of therapy. And that means I do therapy different with each person.”
“I don’t like all the rules and expectations of SP! That makes it shrinky! I hate it, I just hate it!” I blurt out.
“The structure and theory feel shrinky and scary. All therapy has theories behind it. What we were doing before, that had theory behind it too. We just never talked about it.”
“I know, I know. I don’t want to talk about it!” It’s too painful. Talking theory turns people shrinky, and while I am okay with that in my friendships, and on my blog, I can not handle it from Bea.
“Okay. We don’t have to talk about it,” she says softly.
“Before worked.” I feel stubborn and hurt and sad. “It’s like you are saying everything before SP was bad. But before worked. And you keep saying you like SP because it is so non-pathlogizing, and then I wonder what that means for me. Because I NEVER experienced you as pathologizing before. So was it just pretend? Did you really think I was bad and crazy and every thing I was terrified of when I told you my secrets? And you were surprised when I said that before. So is it because you really thought I was crazy and you didn’t care and you were just pretending?” I’m crying, and it’s not pretty crying. It’s snotty, red faced sobs. I’m blurting everything out because I’m half gone, so far away it is like I am watching this session from behind myself. And it doesn’t matter, because the part of me that is numb and gone, she doesn’t care anymore and she is sure I am quitting, that this is it, that I’m never coming back. And so I need to know. I need to know if she ever even cared at all.
“Gosh no, I never pathologized you. I was surprised, I guess, because it’s hard for me to see myself objectively, and I guess I wasn’t sure if you were able to feel that from me. But no, I never pathologized you, Alice. Alice, I cared. I cared then, and I care now. I’m always doing what I do because I care. Yes, I have a responsibility to you because I am your therapist but I take that responsibility very seriously because I care. You are feeling This misattunement when I am talking about SP, and that is scary, but it is my job to fix that. And I believe it can be fixed.” Bea speaks slowly and carefully, and her voice is full of emotion. What, I’m not sure. I’m too far away to be able to figure it out.
“I don’t want therapy to be this system of rules and steps that you as my therapist have to follow!! I don’t like that. It’s clinical and fake and I can’t. I just can’t. I liked you as a therapist because you were real. It always felt like you were following what, I don’t know, what your heart said I needed, not what a theory of therapy said you should do. I can’t do this if you are just following rules. I can’t.”
“I get what you are saying, I hear you. And you are right. I’ve always been more intuitive as a therapist, not following a set system, even thought I do have a lot of different theories of therapy to draw from. The SP talk really derailed that. I’m not intuitive with the SP stuff yet. Its too new, and I have to think about it to know what to do. What’s missing with SP right now is attunement, is me being emotionally present. That is what you need from me, that is the most important thing. Being tunes into you is what is most important,” Bea says.
“Maybe. Maybe it can be okay,” I say softly. I’m calmer, because she heard me, but I’m still wary. Maybe I won’t quit right now. Maybe I’ll wait and see.
“It feels scary to trust me now, after feeling me turn shrinky the last time we met. That’s okay. I’m here, and I’m not leaving.” She sounds firm when she tells me this, and I feel a little bit safer, hearing that she is getting it.
I leave feeling sad and unsure, but better than I felt walking into her office. I’m not quitting today. Bea is maybe not going to turn shrinky. It might be okay.