Ms perfect emails will be italics. Bea’s emails will be in bold.
The challenge here is that you still want to talk face to face, and I really, really don’t.
You have said that you have had no problem containing everything, and that is probably true— for you. I do believe that you feel like you are containing all of it. I understand that none of this has felt like too much for you. That isn’t my experience though. For me, nothing feels safe or contained if you can not be emotionally present. I haven’t felt contained since that Wednesday, and it all feels like too much, and impossibly out of control.
You don’t feel comfortable tackling this by email, and I respect that. I don’t feel capable of tackling this face to face when you are in that shrinky space. I understand that you have made a choice to avoid the feelings, to not let my words land because you feel doing so will be unhealthy not just for you, but for us. I understand that, and I respect that, as well. On some level, I’m sure I am grateful that you are attempting (I assume) to protect the relationship. I can see that you are trying to make it possible to repair things between us, and I know that none of this is or has been about hurting me. But I can’t sit in your office and talk face to face when you can’t provide that emotionally safe container that makes it possible for me to talk.
How can we repair the relationship when we each have such strong feelings about how we can, or can not tackle the issues at hand?
How about if we try a combination of things? What if we do some shortish emails—in large part it’s logistics—I have three packed days before Monday, and obviously it’s not wise for me to do these emails on the fly. Then on Monday we could literally spend the session working on safety. You could spend some time figuring out what would actually increase your sense of safety in the room—the blanket, me out of the room, me on the floor by the closet, whatever. We could do all non-talking things if that’s easier. I think it’s important that you direct what we actually do, but that’s my thought as one option. Maybe you have others—we can be creative. Talk isn’t the only way to do therapy:)
I hesitate to go below because I have only five minutes before I have to leave. Then I’m busy till probably 8:00 tonight:( What I can say, though, is that I DO feel emotionally present in this current conversation. I feel like now you have given me something fair and manageable to work with. I will answer below when I get a chance, and maybe you can think about ideas for our session.
The teen read this, and all I could think is that it was only now that Ms. Perfect was running things and hiding away all the feelings of anger and hurt that Bea was able to come back and be emotionally present. Even though the teen was feeling angry and hurt, unseen and unwanted, Ms. Perfect pushed all that aside and responded logically and politely.
I really appreciate your suggestions of how to work on this and your willingness to do some shorter emails to talk about all this. It feels to me like I have said everything I needed to say— multiple times— and I’m not sure how helpful repeating myself is going to be for either of us.
I don’t feel all that mad or upset anymore. I’m not overly emotional any longer. You were right. I should have known you better by now and been able to realize you weren’t thinking the things I extrapolated from your words. Clearly, I was already triggered and emotional when I walked into your office that Wednesday, and I distorted everything that you said into this big awful mess. You chose to not allow my upset to land because it would not be healthy for us, and therefore couldn’t empathize with my feelings which just escalated my upset. We both understand what happened as best we can, and now that I am calm and not emotional, you are able to be emotionally present and connected again.
I don’t really know what else there is to say, and as I said, I’m not sure that repeating myself is going to be helpful at this point.
That is all fine—no need to whip a dead horse, as the saying goes. But what are your thoughts for our session? It seems like we should do some thinking about that, and I surely do want it to be collaborative.
I think—and I suspect you do too—that we’re far from done with the other stuff, but we have to trust that it will unfoldas it needs to.
I honestly don’t feel strongly one way or another. I suppose the biggest challenge at this point in time is that I don’t feel that I have anything more to say, so perhaps non-talking things would be the best.
If you think it would be best and most helpful to try some things you suggested in a previous email, like moving you or me around the room, using a blanket, and whatever else to see what feels safest, I think that is fine.
I’m open to other ideas as well. You stated earlier that talking isn’t the only way to do therapy. My assumption is that you are referring to art therapy and/or sensorimotor therapy. Is that correct?
I wasn’t thinking of anything else in particular—just whatever might be helpful. Sometimes it’s good to choose different objects to represent parts or emotions and place those in different areas of the room to see what might feel right. For example, you could choose some things to represent your anger, fear, lack of safety, etc. I could also choose things to represent empathy and boundaries. We could see what feels right in terms of where these things need to be placed in the room. We could see how moving one impacts what feels right with the others.
Whatever grows organically from what we want to do and feels helpful to you without needing discussion would work.
I can certainly see how this could be very helpful, but I’m feeling a bit hesitant towards this idea. I worry that it will be like silently repeating everything we have both reiterated these past few days. I’m afraid that in doing so, we could end up in the same place we were earlier this week. That doesn’t feel like a way forward to me, and I think we can both agree that going backwards will not be helpful at this point.
I realize that I have not offered up any ideas as to what may be helpful, and the truth is that I simply don’t have any sense of what will help us on Monday. I appreciate you giving me many suggestions as to what we could try, and I want to make sure you know I am willing to try something if you feel that is the best way forward, regardless of my apprehension.
I will think on this some more, and see if I can come up with something that feels right. Perhaps I will just bring a new coloring book, and we can sit and color, simply keeping any talking we do on the surface.
Coloring it is—great place to start. Thank you:)
Monday June 18
It was easy to walk into therapy, and easy to get out my coloring book and sit and color for the entire session, talking about surface things. Ms. Perfect was running things, and Bea didn’t even realize it. Ms. Perfect is such a good chameleon. She can read people so well, and she knows what behaviors, what speech patterns, what subjects cue others that the “real me” is there. Bea even thanked me for showing up to therapy. She said she was glad that it felt like the real me.had shown up and not Ms. Perfect (not that she doesn’t like Ms. Perfect).
Ms. Perfect found this amusing. The teen was disappointed that Bea didn’t see the facade. The little girl is worried this means Bea is too far away from her now to see or hear her. The adult is too overwhelmed to even think about this. .
Bea had asked that I email her to check in, to see how Monday’s session felt. Ms. Perfect and the teen wrote emails. The teen’s email was deleted and Ms. Perfect’s was sent.
You said that you would like for us to check in with each other about how today was. I thought today was fine. I’m assuming that you suggested choosing a picture based on our feelings and coloring the picture for each other to try to help us slowly start to work through the last few weeks, but I’m just not able to do anything more than show up right now. Coloring and keeping conversation more on the surface seemed to make today easier than it has been to be come to therapy. I’m not sure if there was something specific you were wanting me to speak to, but if there was, just let me know and I will try.
Thanks for the feedback—that was all I wanted.
And that’s it. That’s where things have been left until tomorrow morning, when I will see Bea again. I’m tired. I’m tired of all of it.