Boundaries 


A while ago, I posted about taking photos of SP worksheets, and offered to share them here if people were interested. This is the first chapter I’m going to share. The chapter deals with boundaries. This is a theme (boundaries and control) that tends to come up again and again for me, and has definitely come up in the last few weeks. 

The little girl 

On Wednesday, we talk for a few minutes about the little girl. She has been feeling so sad and so disconnected from Bea. I tell Bea that I’m not even sure what to do with her, because she is sad and lonely, but I don’t really want to deal with her. I wrote to Bea in my notebook:

It feels like the healthier I get, the farther away the little girl goes. It’s as if I’ve shipped her off to boarding school or something so I don’t have to deal with her. But we. It’s know that never works, so I want to talk about this far away feeling she has. It’s almost like she can’t find a way to come back and be here, and she hates feeling so far away fro you.”   

Bea reads and I cover my face. “We have been dealing with very grown up things,” she says. “We haven’t spoken directly to the little girl since I came back. And that can’t feel good. She isn’t forgotten, and she isn’t unwanted. She just needs to be patient sometimes. But I am always here for her. And I am really back.” 

I nod my head because words are hard to access right now. 

Bea continued reading. The little girl had written that things felt bad with Bea and she really needed to fix things, and that she knew how to fix it. She wrote that if she shared a memory with her grandparents that could be used for the SP exercise, then maybe Bea wouldn’t be upset and they would be on the same side again. 

“Are there parts that want to share this memory and test out an SP session?” She asked me. 

I’m quiet for a long time, feeling ashamed of my neediness and my wrongness. “Well…… it’s…..no…..but the little girl, she wants to fix things. Remember, it was me saying no to you over this exercise that set off the reaction and all of that. So she just wants to share the memory, do the exercise and have things be okay again.” 

“Then no,” Bea said adamantly. “There isn’t anything to fix. I am not mad with the little girl. Or with anyone else. It is okay. We aren’t doing something parts don’t want to do.” 

“Okay.” I whispered. 

Then we talked about SP a little bit, and because I was in a grown up detached headspace, I was able to talk to Bea about it, I even asked some questions. Bea shared that she liked the way SP works with boundaries, and she thought it might be helpful for me. 

She brought her SP book in on Wednesday afternoon and while Kat was in session, I flipped through it and took pictures of worksheets and parts of the book that may be relevant to me. She suggested that me reading and doing worksheets on my own, and then sharing what felt safe might be less triggering. 

{if anyone wants copies of the pictures I took of the SP stuff, let me know. I’m happy to share.}

The baby shower 

Kay is pregnant. I’m happy for her, but it’s strange for me, too. I’m not involved in knowing about this baby, not the way I would have been a year ago. An invitation arrived in the mail last week, and it hurt. I can’t explain it, but that invitation caused a lot of grief to come up, and I knew I could not attend that baby shower. I also knew that not attending could very well be the equivalent of drawing a line in the sand and that coils cost me what semblance of friendship I have left. 

So, Monday’s session started off very on the surface again. I didn’t want to bring up Kay and the baby shower. I knew Bea would see it as a big deal, and I wasn’t sure I wanted that validation. Part of me really wanted some one to tell me to suck it up, to be appropriate and attend the shower like a good girl. Eventually, though, I told Bea about the invite. 

“Well, the million dollar question is, of course, are you going to go?” She asked. 

I shrugged, looked down. “I don’t know. I just……not going is sort of drawing a line in the sand. But I don’t want to go.”

“Could you go, take Kat with you, and just be happy for Kay, celebrate the baby and stay focused on Kat?” Bea asked. 

“Sure, I could,” I said. “It’s just…..I don’t fit anywhere now. I would have been the one THROWING the shower. Now I’m not even really a friend. I just….it would be really uncomfortable and I don’t want to deal with it.”

“That’s understandable,” Bea agreed.

We talked about the friendship, and how my setting a boundary ended the friendship a while. We go through how Kay and I began talking again, and how Kay isn’t even really in my life now. She doesn’t know me. She isn’t a person I would call if I needed to talk. Bea suggests that maybe I am ready to let go of this friendship, that I have, in a sense, outgrown it. 

All week, even outside of therapy, I think about this. I start to see that I am beginning to know who I am, and who I am is a person who doesn’t want to pretend things are great and wonderful when they aren’t. I don’t want to pretend to be friends and be closer to someone than I’m not, and I don’t want to make excuses, either. I want to be real, I want to be authentic. 

“I used to be that person, the one who pretended everything was good and did whatever the other party needed or expected, but I’m not that girl anymore,” I said to Bea. 

“No, you sure aren’t. I think this whole week, here in therapy and in your writing, it’s been about finding out who you are,” she told me. 

I nodded. “With Kay…..I thought, in a perfect world, I would send a gift and then call her and explain why I can’t attend the shower, that this rupture between us being left umrepaired makes it awkward for me, and I am feeling very sad because the last baby shower she has, I threw it. I would explain to her that I am happy she is having a baby, and that is something to celebrate and I would not be very celebratory with how I am feeling, and it is important to me to be authentic and true to myself. And then we would talk and she would understand and I would attend or not, but I wouldn’t be faking my way through anything. But this isn’t a perfect world, and so of I send a gift and message her my regrets, I think it will cost me the friendship.” 

“That’s hard. That is the hard thing. But you do know what you want to do, what feels right. You really are developing a sense of self,” Bea said to me. She sounded happy, maybe even proud of me.

I talked about how losing her friendship at this point would be more about losing the memories or the possibility of things being fixed— although I don’t believe I’d ever trust her the way once did. I shared wit Bea that I am planning on sending a gift with a nice card, and sending Kay a message that says “I am sorry we can’t make it to the shower, I have a conflict, but I wish I could be there. I’m so happy for you guys.” That puts the ball in her court, and if she chooses do question the conflict, I can then choose to share with her the conflict I have with our not exactly real, very surface, no repairs made friendship. 

Bea agreed that made sense, and she seemed proud of me for making a choice that was right for me. 
.  

Defense and boundaries 

The rest of the week after Monday’s slightly odd session, I avoided thinking about much of anything. When I did stop for a minute and dig a little deeper, I thought about boundaries. I thought about how boundaries growing up in my family were very skewed. I never heard the word no. Seriously, my parents never said no to me. I think it was partly they sucked at setting boundaries, but also I knew what I could ask for and what wasn’t okay to ask for. I knew all the unspoken rules and nuances from a very young age. And I followed all the rules, because I didn’t want to be left. I don’t understand, how my parents could have such solid strict boundaries when it came to keeping out emotions and negative stuff and then have no boundaries in other ways. 

I realized that, for me, this idea Bea had when we had our most recent rupture, that we could disagree and still be on the same side was new to me. I hadn’t experienced that before. Where were the boundaries my parents were supposed to have to help me become myself? Where were boundaries that taught me it was okay to say no? Where were the boundaries that helped me learn where I ended and where others began? 

Therapy brought up discussion about which of the five F defenses do I default to. I didn’t know. It came up as Bea and I were discussing my behavior of running from Kay, and Bea wondered aloud which defense I used most. As we talked, she said she thought I used friendship/attachment cry the most. 

I laughed. Inside, I grimaced. “Nope. No way.”

“You don’t like to think that attachment is your defense. It is scary to think that,” Bea said.

I shook my head. “Yeah….but I don’t think that’s it.” The thing is, with Bea, it might be. But I have worked really hard to go against my instinct to run away from her. I want to heal. I want to grow and be healthier. I also know what *normal* looks like, and it’s not normal to run out of a therapy session or to run away from a new friend just because they have said or done something that was triggering. I say as much to Bea. 

“That makes sense. You can walk out here, if you need to. That is okay.” Bea says. She suggests that I might think about this defense stuff and boundaries and relationships this week. And so I do. 

I think and read a lot, and I decide that flight is my defense. The more I read about the five F’s the more I was sure flight is my primary defense. 

Flight is any means the individual uses to put space between themselves and the threat. It may involve sprinting away from the perceived danger, but is more likely exhibited as backing away or, particularly in children, as hiding. Avoidance is the go-to symptom of a flight response to uncomfortable feelings. Whether it be out of anxiety or acute stress, these are the people who are harder to connect with for many good reasons. They are the ones who try desperately to avoid any sort of intimacy or vulnerable moment with others by keeping many interactions at some surface level because that feels safest. Flight types appear as if their starter button is stuck in the “on” position. They are obsessively and compulsively driven by the unconscious belief that perfection will make them safe and loveable. As children, flight types respond to their family trauma somewhere along a hyperactive continuum that stretches between the extremes of the driven “A” student and the ADHD dropout running amok. They relentlessly flee the inner pain of their abandonment and lack of attachment with the symbolic flight of constant busyness. When the obsessive/compulsive flight type is not doing, she is worrying and planning about doing.
Going by that, even my dissociation is a type of flight. At first glance, it seems as if it is possibly a freeze response, but dissociation is my way of avoiding uncomfortable, scary situations. For me, it is all about going far away. It is about leaving and avoiding. I share this with Bea, and she finds it very interesting. She also agrees with me.  

The other interesting thing I found was a description of how these defenses work in a *normal* person. 

Walker (n.d.) outlines four basic defenses that most people use in life, but which in CPTSD become fixated and maladaptive due to ongoing trauma. These include the Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn and a number of hybrid types. 

When the Fight response is healthy an individual will have solid boundaries and the ability to be assertive when need be, whereas in CPTSD the person will become overly reactive and aggressive towards others.  

With a healthy Flight response, the individual is able to recognize when a situation or person is dangerous and withdraw or disengage whereas those with CPTSD will tend to isolate themselves socially to avoid threat. 

A healthy use of the Freeze response ensures that a person who is in a situation where further action will exacerbate things, stops and reassesses.  

And finally a Fawn response ensures that the individual listens and compromises with others, while someone with CPTSD will adopt a people pleasing approach to avoid conflict. 

I stayed pretty much on the surface, and In this more analytical mode. I think it felt safer, in some ways, just in case Bea wasn’t actually back. 

Friendship 

Monday’s session was much of the same as Thursday’s at the beginning and then we spent some time discussing a Kat and her weekend of meltdowns. I’m thankful she will see Bea this week. I wondered, but didn’t say, if maybe missing a week of therapy effects Kat more than we think it does. My thought process was along the lines of Bea providing some extra holding space and containment for Kat’s BIG feelings and BIG worries, because while I do my best, my container is sort of leaky, and I struggle to hold my own crap at times. Although, I do think I now have separate containers for myself and Kat, but both still have lots of holes. Which is where Bea comes in. She holds the stuff that leaks out. Maybe that theory is way off base. 

It was the end of the session that got interesting. Bea had asked before she left on vacation about friendships, and if I noticed friendships forming now that were maybe different from friendships that were formed when Ms. Perfect was running things. I didn’t really answer then, but I ended up writing about three woman who I think I may be forming friendships with. All three have kids that Kat is friends with, which is how we met, but they also seem very authentic and real, their parenting values are similar to mine, we each have a similar quality of quirkiness, of nerdiness. Two of these women I have spent time with outside of having our kids with us, and it was really nice to have grown up conversations, just someone to have girl talk with. I stayed me, most of the time, and I didn’t leave our outings feeling drained and in need of a lot of quiet, down time like I usually do after a social engagement. 

I’ve noticed that the more real and authentic I am being, the less exhausted I am. I’d written about this in my notebook, along with a lot of other things, but the friendship thing is something Bea was really interested in today. She asked a lot of questions about them, and I talked a bit, but I also felt a little embarrassed. Why am I, a grown woman, having to discuss new friendships and how to navigate those new friendships, with my therapist? I mean, I am very appropriate in social settings. I am competent and confident in speaking to anyone, really. Or at least Ms. Perfect is. She isn’t afraid of people. She doesn’t let them in, but she is great at focusing on a person, being polite, talking to anyone and everyone and getting along with all kinds of people. But me? I have no idea how to be that person. I’m okay in social settings, maybe a little awkward, maybe a little preoccupied with whether or not people are perceiving me as weird, or crazy, or needy, or annoying, or any other thing that would separate me from them. But navigating and building real friendships? Yeah, I’m lost and uncertain, like a middle school girl who doesn’t fit anywhere. 

Bea asked about close friendships, if I felt like any of the women were people who would end up as close friends. 
I smiled and shook my head. “I don’t do close friends.” 

Bea paused for a moment. “Maybe you do now.”

I shook my head. “Nope. I don’t have close friends. It’s not something I do. I do surface stuff. I prefer to play by myself in my sandbox.” I’m joking, but I’m also a little bit serious. After all, if I play alone in the sandbox, no one can mess up the design I have for the sandcastle, or think my idea is silly, no one can throw sand at me and hurt me, and no one can smash my castle. I’m safe in the sandbox all alone. 

Bea laughs, a small delighted laugh that says she enjoys my stubbornness, and my humor. In a silly voice she says, “Well, Alice, now, you are gonna make close friends.” We both crack up. 

In a small voice, I say, “I HAD a close friend. I HAD Kay. I don’t want close friends again.” 

Bea doesn’t respond right away. “You did have Kay. She was a very close friend. And maybe you really don’t want close friends. But I’m thinking there are all different kinds of friendships. Like my friend I walk with? I see her a lot and we do a lot together, we’ve already texted this morning about something, but things are sort of on the surface with her, she just doesn’t have the capacity to go to difficult places. But she is still a good friend. We have a lot in common. Then I have a friend who I see rarely, but when we do get together, there is a deeper connection, and time spent together feels much more meaningful. I have a younger friend, from my old job, who I have a lot of fun with, but we have a deeper friendship, too. Oh, and then my friend Julia, she’s weird. We have a lot of shared history, both of us have parents who passed away (I already knew Bea’s father had passed away, we discussed that when we worked through grief over my grandpa), and she can go to those grief filled places, but anything else, there is a wall and she will not go there. So, maybe there are all kinds of friendships. I think Kay was unusual; most friendships aren’t like that.”

“I know….I know it was maybe one sided in a lot of ways. But she did talk to me, too. Actually, she was quite the open book. But…..I don’t know.” I shake my head. 

“I wonder…I know her friendship was important, but I wonder if you were acting something out with her?” Bea is thinking out loud again. 
I groan. She’s heading into shrinky thinky territory, but as I’m not feeling very emotionally connected, I don’t really care. “I don’t….I mean…..well maybe.” I think for a bit. 
I think in my head, and Bea thinks out loud. “You were always shutting her out, disappearing. I wonder if you were acting something out with that.” 
“Well, it’s not like I shut her out for no reason. I mean…..well, like, if I was going to treat you like I did her……” I’m embarrassed to admit this, because there have been times where I have thought of running, of disappearing on Bea. “Like, when you brought up relationships in the past and talked about them even though you knew I did not want to discuss relationships— now it’s been okay— I would have just not come back. I’d have walked out and not looked back.” 
“But Kay, when you did that to her, she didn’t let you shut her out.” 
“Well. It’s like…….if something came up in conversations and upset me, she’d see it. Where I would be working to hide it, and others would not notice, or maybe they noticed and I am not so good at pretend as I think, and they ignored it. Kay would see it and she’d call me out on it. She wouldn’t let me pretend. She’d push to know what upset me.” I shrug. 
“Usually, I’d tell her and we would talk and then I would disappear for a few weeks.” 
“Boundaries……” Bea says slowly. “She wasn’t respecting your boundaries at all.” 

“Maybe…..” I say. I don’t want to agree with Bea right now. I can see where she is coming from, but I feel like that isn’t the whole story. “I mean, she put up with a lot from me…..I was a lot. So maybe she felt like she didn’t need to listen to any boundary I set.” I’m not sure.

“Well……..let’s say something comes up in conversation that upsets you, it’s touches on those vulnerable places. You don’t want to talk about it, so you pretend everything is okay. A friend who notices and asks you about it, they say something like ‘hey, did something just upset you? Are you okay?’ If you say you don’t want to talk about it, that is an authentic response, and a boundary. A healthy friendship would respect that boundary. If you say nothing is wrong, that is maybe coming more from Ms. Perfect, but still, a healthy friendship would respect that boundary.” 

I nod slowly. “That’s Reagan. She asks, but won’t continue to push or ask about it. She hears the boundary, I guess.” I don’t think I’ve ever thought of pretending to be okay as a boundary, as a choice, as a way of saying ‘no’. I’ve always thought of prefect as building a wall to keep people from knowing the real me that they would inevitably hate. 

“That is a healthy relationship.” Bea says.

We continue talking about friendship and boundaries, and when it’s time to leave, Bea says, “I think this is important. Maybe this is something to do some writing with, if you feel like it.” 

I nod. It might be. I’m not sure I want to talk about friendships. I’m not sure what I want to talk about, though. It seemed like so many big things were coming up before Bea’s week long break (to be fair, she was only gone for 4 days, it was just I saw her on a Wednesday and not again until Thursday), and they have just disappeared. I’ve detached from her and don’t really feel an emotional connection. Part of me wants to stay that way, talk about the shrinky side of things, because when I feel like this, I can. The other parts me are desperate to feel emotionally connected with Bea again. I don’t know which part of me is going to win.

Vacation before and after  

The session before Bea went on vacation was painful. I really don’t remember anything about it, other than Bea noticing right away that I wasn’t present at all, and my telling her (as I hid under my blanket) that it hurt too much to be present right now. She had said the session before that I could take something from her office to use as a transitional object, and I had sort of laughed it off. That last session though, she asked if I wanted to take some thing, and I nodded yes. The little girl really wanted a stuffed animal or something, something comforting so I could feel like Bea was there. The grown up part of me couldn’t even go there. Eventually, Bea and I settled on me taking her favorite pen, the one she keeps in her purse to always have with her. 

While she was gone, I kept a notebook and used her pen to write in it. I wrote a lot about attachment stuff, and tried very hard to make sense of and understand the attachment issues I had been experiencing. I also spent a lot of time filling the pages crying about her leaving, and my fears she wouldn’t come back or my worries that she was not going to be herself when she came back. I wrote that I hated her for making me trust her and then leaving me. It was a very long 8 days. The beginning was harder, it hurt more, but as the week went on, I could feel myself distancing from Bea and not really caring if she came back or not. I shut down those deeper places in myself, and stayed a bit more on the surface. That was almost a welcome relief. Of course, when Thursday rolled around, I was anxious all over again. 

Thursday’s session felt like a bit of a waste. I gave Bea the notebook I had kept while she was away. I saw that she was back. I didn’t feel like we connected, though. I felt very off, and was almost sad that I hadn’t cancelled. Sometimes it feels better to not reach out or show up at all, then to show up and not feel connected to. It felt a lot like Bea and I were in the same book, but on separate pages. I just didn’t feel that emotional connection. She was there, though, and she did show up, and when I was lost and had no words, she talked and I listened. It was really surface feeling, although we did talk a bit about relationships and attachment. I cant fully remember the session to be honest; I was pretty disconnected and fuzzy feeling. It was one definitely a *finding our rhythm after a break* type of session. 
Bea didn’t get a chance to go through and read my notebook, so she took it home to read. 

Burning down the house

My next few sessions, after I set a boundary by telling Bea ‘no’ were all about relational stuff. After that session where I said no, I was terrified Bea was angry with me. I was so afraid she was going to leave, I couldn’t email her. So, I wrote in my notebook. I wrote a lot in my notebook. I took my notebook with me to therapy that next session. 

When I arrived, I didn’t want to walk in to her office and look at her. So I didn’t. I walked in, staring at the floor. I couldn’t find any small talk, I couldn’t even manage to say hi. Where is Ms. Perfect when you need her? I sat down and pulled out my notebook, handing it to Bea while simultaneously curling into a ball and burying my face in my knees. 

“Did you want to start with your notebook?” Bea asked. 

I nodded. 

Bea didn’t say or do anything for a few moments. It was like she was trying to decide the best way to proceed. “I’m just going to get your blanket, just so you have it if you need it. It looks like you are needing to hide today.” 

She sets the blanket down next to me. I’m glad, because I really do want to hide. 
She starts reading my notebook, where I have basically freaked out over saying no to trying a memory exercise because it would be an SP thing, imagining all the awful things that will happen, that should happen. I wrote and wrote about how this was all because of SP, and SP was the worst thing ever, and I hated it and she was turning into an SP therapist. We had talked in a session previously where she had admitted that there were things from SP that just made sense to her, and felt natural and so they had become part of her way of doing therapy. She had said that she was always careful with me, to not do those things, but as they became more ingrained in how she practiced therapy, sometimes they slipped out. I had said I felt like this issue we were having, my freaking out, was an SP thing. Bea continued to insist that is was a relational thing. She said that SP was the thing that brought out these relationship issues, but if it hadn’t been SP and her changing, it would have been something else. 

“I want to say, before I start reading, that this feeling of being on opposite teams, it feels to me like it kind of another *all or nothing* thing, that we either have to believe exactly the same thing, or we are on opposition teams. I don’t see that. To me, we are on the same team, and we agree about most things, but as separate individuals naturally we don’t agree on everything. We are looking through different lenses so of course we see our own view, and even if we can understand the other’s view, we don’t have to share it to be on the same team.” 

Now, this was almost 4 weeks ago, and looking at this again, I’ve had a something click into place for me. This feels very much like mom stuff to me. I never got to be me with my mom, I never really got to be a separate individual. There was this unspoken rule that we had to like the same things, agree on everything, that there could be no differences. Even when I moved away to college, and wanted to put pink streaks in my hair, I called my mom to ask her opinion (or rather, get permission). She said she supposed doing something wild and crazy was do be expected of a college student, so to go ahead. 

I didn’t say anything in response to Bea’s words. I wanted to believe her, but what she was suggesting was really hard to believe. It wasn’t my experience. I felt alone, and hurt, and terrified. I started crying. 

“Alice, it’s going to be okay. I know it was hard to come back today, but it is going to be okay.” Bea says softly. 

I sob harder. “It’s. Not. Going. To. Be. Okay.”

“Are you firing me?” Bea asks. She is sort of serious, and she isn’t ignoring my tears or upset, but her voice has a playful quality to it.

“N-n-nooooooo,” I sob. 

“Okay. Then whatever it is, whatever Is written here, we can work through it. Okay? We can get through this.” Her tone says she is all serious now. 

“O-o-o-okay.” Shakily, I lift up the blanket, and throw it over my head. Unfortunately, I don’t unfold it al the way, in my rush to remain hidden, and so I have to fumble with it. I end up getting myself covered and hidden with some finagling. 

Bea reads.

I feel like you are on a separate side when it comes to SP, like you are always on a separate side. I hate this. It feels like everything I was afraid of happening with SP is happening. 




“I know. I know you really feel like we are on separate sides. We can disagree and still be on the same side. I really believe that.” 

I can’t do this. I can’t make you change your beliefs, and I would never ask you to. But I can’t work with you when it feels like we are on opposite sides. 




“Well, you aren’t asking me to change my beliefs. But if you are feeling like this– that we are on such opposite sides that you can’t work with me, then it is my job to step back and see how I can help you not just feel like, but know, that I am on your side. It is my job to fix this, okay? And I do believe we can fix it.” 

I really do hate this. It’s not okay. I don’t understand why you can’t be just regular, human, therapist Bea, and if new things you learned will work or be helpful, then use that piece of it and leave the rest. CBT always felt shrinky but you just use some parts of it, like feelings aren’t facts and reality checking. It didn’t mean you had to turn the session into a set in stone CBT session, you used the relevant parts and left the rest. 




“Well here….me being just regular Bea……this is what I was saying the last time, that I can be me and use SP techniques. I really think we are on the same page about this.”

I think with SP it feels like any response you have is forced or because SP says so. I can’t trust that. It turns you into shrinky Bea who is following a set format and whose responses aren’t real but are set out guidelines designed to elicit certain reactions with the end goal of the transformation piece. 




“Ahhhh…..it is feeling very manipulative. I imagine it is hard to trust what another is saying or doing when you are afraid of being manipulated. I’m not trying to trick you, or saying something just to get you to do something. I bring things up to get you to see patterns, to try to change things that might be adding to challenges. I know it’s hard to trust that, and only time and experiencing that as true can really help. And we have time.”

But you were different. You were real, just human, flawed Bea with real emotions and your responses felt like they were you sharing your genuine response with me, not a feeling or response being dictated by the therapist part of you. That’s why I trusted you when I never trusted any other therapist. It’s why when everything seemed completely screwed up, like when you had emailed with hubby, I still trusted your respect, words.  




She laughs. “Flawed. Yup. That’s me. Flawed and human, and bound to make mistakes.”

Inside I’m having a panic attack, but outside I’m frozen and calm, and gone. I can’t do this. I don’t think this can be fixed. 

“I really do believe that as long as you stay, and we work through this together, it can be fixed. It’s only when someone leaves, when they run away, that we don’t get a chance to fix things, and they can’t be fixed then.” 

Maybe I’m a broken trauma client. I know everything in SP says that separating the meaning making narrative from body sensations and feelings. focusing on the body, on the here and now, is less overwhelming, less scary for trauma clients. But for me, it’s this black hole of danger, a not okay, pit of terribleness, it’s not okay. This is a mess. 




“You aren’t broken. I think it’s just that you have dissociated feelings and body sensation and being present from yourself that it feels very unsafe to feel those things. You have to learn to tolerate it again, just like with yoga, you had to learn to tolerate having any focus on your body, being even a little more present. It’s a process, and every time we practice, we open that window a little more. But you aren’t broken, no matter how much that it feels that way.”

Maybe I should be done. I can’t keep doing this. I hate this. I’m not okay. This is destroying me. I feel like I’m going to end up losing you no matter what, so why prolong that? Why prolong this hurt? At the end of the day, you are an SP therapist and I am not an SP client. Better to quit now than end up more hurt because we can’t be on the same side and I can’t talk to you and I’m numb and alone and not really here anyway and all I want to do is go away. 




“It really must feel horrible and lonely to feel like I’m here but you can’t talk to me because we are on different sides. No wonder it was so scary to tell me no, to feel as if you were placing yourself on a separate side.”

I know we don’t have to believe the same things to be on the same side. But this feels bigger than that. It’s like a foundation or something. It’s like we had been building a house together. Your half was different than my half, and that was okay because we had the same foundation, we each used wood to build our house. But one day, you changed out your wooden foundation for bricks. Which meant you could add brick to the rest of your house, but my house can’t support the things your house can. Maybe my house isn’t strong enough to help support the things you have added and so my house is collapsing under the weight. So, it seems like the only thing to do is burn down my half, run away, and start over. 




“You don’t need to burn down your house. You just need someone to help you renovate. I’m here. We don’t need to burn the house down. Nothing is ruined. We don’t need to start over, we just work to build and renovate the house we already have. And we don’t have separate halves of the house, there is no line splitting the house, separating us.” Bea’s voice is sort of….insistent that I don’t burn down my half of the house. She’s insisting we rebuild together.    

Knowing you are there and would respond and care about me, that just hurts. I know, it’s crazy. It’s sort of like I feel as if I’m going to lose you, or feeling this divide between us, it hurts knowing you are there. Ugh. Being and sounding like a crazy person is awful. 
This all just feels unbearable. I’m embarrassed because I can’t even figure out how to explain what exactly is so upsetting, it’s like I know some thing is painful and bad, but I can’t put my finger on it, and so I’m embarrassed to be this upset over………what? Something I can’t name. 




“It’s okay. It makes sense to me. This…..relational stuff can be so painful. Unbearably painful at times. You don’t need to be embarrassed. Really. It’s okay. I get it.” And then, she proves to me that she gets it by sharing a story about herself and her own therapist, and some painful relational attachment stuff that cropped up a long time ago. She tells me about the feelings and her reactions, her behaviors (she doesn’t t share what the attachment challenges were, or what her ‘issues’ were). She gets it. “I don’t….it’s not like that for me, now. Whatever the relational stuff was, I eventually worked through it with my therapist and now, well now, I can take him or leave him. I don’t need him like I once did. It’s nice knowing he’s there, but it’s not that painfully attached feeling. I think that does happen, eventually, if things are worked through.” 

It’s not fair, Bea. A year ago, I was terrified you were turning into an SP therapist, and I thought I’d have to leave, you reassured me, you said *i have no intention of turning into an SP therapist.* AND THEN YOU DID IT ANYWAY. You said I had a choice about SP. But you changed everything. I didn’t get a choice to have my therapist turn into an SP shrink. That is most certainly a choice I did not make. So how do we get past that? 
I hate this. I hate SP. everything is all screwed up. I can’t fix it, I can’t be a good client, I can’t do this. I shouldn’t be here anymore, I just want to disappear. I’m sorry. I’m sorry you did this for me and I, and ungrateful, bratty drama queen, who just can’t be good. I feel like this won’t be okay. I just want things to feel safe again, I want to be able to talk to you. And I am not sure that will ever happen. This hurts. 




“I know this hurts. I can see that it is hard for you to be here right now, and I can tell there is a lot of pain and sadness around all of this. I don’t see you as bratty, I see you as scared, as terrified of these changes. I can see you hating SP because it was a catalyst of these changes and it feels like SP is the cause of this pain you feel between you and I. I know it feels like I am turning into an SP therapist. I’m not. I would not call myself am SP therapist. I am just me, just Bea who is flawed and human, and real. Sometimes I use CBT or DBT strategies in therapy sessions. Sometimes I use SP stuff. Sometimes I use developmental attachment stuff from my infant mental health training. I use lots of things to work with people. I could never give up the other methods I use. I think it is hard for you because you have been here as I learned SP, and as I was unskillfully working to integrate it into my regular style of therapy. Now it’s more integrated, and I try to be very conscious of that and not use it in your sessions, but it is more natural, more mixed into my therapy bag. You don’t need to leave, and I don’t need to leave. We both can stay and we can be on the same side. I’m just me. I’m not leaving or changing who I am at my center.”

“I don’t have to leave? You aren’t leaving?” My voice is tiny and tear filled. 
“No, you absolutely don’t need to leave. I’m not leaving— well, I am leaving for vacation in a week, but I am coming back.” She says. The added part about her vacation is reluctant. 

I sob harder. “You are leaving. You are leaving because of me.” Panic is erupting within me. Bea is leaving. I was bad, and she is leaving. 

“Nope. This isn’t because of you, or because of anyone. I’m leaving to take my son back to school and then to spend a few with my husband. That’s all. It’s not because of you, you could never make me leave.” 

“You’re coming back?” Tears are still running down may face and I feel a little numb. 

“Yes. I’m coming back. I’ll be leaving on Friday after work, and I’ll be back home on Wednesday afternoon.” She says calmly. 

My heart freezes. “I won’t see you all week?” 

“Not on Monday or Wednesday, I won’t be here. I could see you Thursday morning?” She is gentle and kind with me, her voice is soft. 

“Okay. Thursday morning.” I agrees, sadly.

“We still have next week Monday and Wednesday, and you can email me. I know it’s scary to email me when I’m not here, but you can email and I will answer and I will be real and not shrinky.” She reassures me as best she can. 

Then, because I’m hiding under the blanket and I’m a little bit far away, Bea asks me how I want to come back to the real world. 

“I don’t know.” I whisper.

“What do you need to feel safe to come back?” She asks. 

I honestly don’t know, and even if I did, I wouldn’t ask. I tell her that I truly don’t know. 

“Should I leave the room?” She asks. 

I have an immediate reaction to that, and so I shake my head. No, don’t leave the room. 

“Turn around and not look at you?”

I shake my head. That feels better than her leaving but it’s not okay either. 

“Do you want me to move my chair closer?”

I shake my head. No. 

Bea suggest a few more things, and an answer to her question begins to form in my mind. “Go away, bit don’t leave. That’s what I want. How crazy is that? It makes no sense. I can’t do this.” 

“It’s not crazy. It’s that push- pull dynamic. What if I turn to the side, so I’m not facing you, close my eyes, and keep a connection by talking with you?” She suggests. 

“Okay.” I agree, feeling lame, broken, defective. Why am I acting like this? It takes me a few minutes to pull the blanket off my head and sit up. I can’t look at Bea for a long time, but when I finally peek my eyes at her, I see she is sitting side ways and has her eyes closed. 

“Would it be okay if I opened my eyes? I won’t move, I won’t leave.” 

“Yeah. You can open your eyes.” Now that I’m more present, Bea’s closed eyes feel as if she is shutting me out, like maybe she doesn’t want to see me. 

Bea opens her eyes, and I feel a bit better. I slip on my shoes, gather my things, fold the blanket. I stand up, and walk to the door. Only then does Bea turn towards me. She smiles and wishes me a good weekend. I smile too, and wish her the same.