Will the real Lucy King please stand up…

When I started working with Anna, right at the start, maybe even the very first session, I told her, ‘I need really strict boundaries, I need you to tell me nothing about your life, I need you to keep you out of this room, I don’t want to know about who you live with, I don’t want to know about your family, I don’t want to know where you live, don’t tell me how old you are, don’t tell me when your birthday is, don’t tell me where you work… nothing… tell me nothing.’

So, at the time I understood this desire to keep her out of my therapy as a way to get her to assert boundaries that were lacking with Paul (my previous therapist). He told me a lot about his life. I know what his wife did, the names and ages of his kids, where they went to school, he told me when his wife was pregnant and how the pregnancy was going, plans for the labour, he told me his work history, where he’s lived in his life, what made him want to be a therapist, things that annoy him about people in his life, things he’s worked on himself, what he still needs to work on, he told me about past girlfriends, about where he currently lives… the list goes on and on… and also, there was my stalking… I looked him up online, I found out his favourite band, I found his reviews on Amazon and therefore saw things he’d bought, I found out books he’d read, films he’d watched… I found out a lot!! I interpreted this as my preoccupied attachment style running rings around me. I thought, ‘this is my history playing itself out in the room… this is just how I love people, from a distance obsessively’… and it hurt. It was the worst pain I’d ever experienced. I wanted Paul to be my daddy and my lover at different points through our work together. I touched on the fact that I felt jealous of his daughter who was twenty years younger than me. Initially he worked on this with me, telling me it made sense I would feel like that. Then he started to appear a little defensive. He would say things like, ‘it’s my fault you’re feeling like this, I have created this dependence by having a lack of boundaries, I’m going to make some changes to fix this…’ it made me feel so much shame… this was a bad thing that was his ‘fault’ that needed to be fixed?? I never saw it as a fault, I saw it as part of the work. Any time I brought my feelings for him into the room he became increasingly tense and then said things like, ‘you’re pushing me outside my level of expertise’ and ‘I don’t deal with transference, lets just focus on your real life stuff’ and my personal favourite ‘it’s just transference, its not real’… phew… that stuff hurt like hell. But because of my personal attachment issues I allowed this shame and sense of wrongness to be piled onto my shoulders. I felt like clearly this was my fault and I was doing therapy wrong. Don’t get me wrong, Paul was an amazing therapist in many ways and these statements and examples have been plucked randomly out of context, but in this area he did not help me. In fact, he retraumatised me. It made me certain that my feelings were not welcome and so I tried my best to numb them and focus on impressing him with my ability to intellectualise.

Back to Anna. I often forget that I have told her numerous times from the start that I want to know nothing about her. I forget it came from me and I say things like ‘Anna is very boundaried’ or ‘Anna works with the blank slate mentality’ or ‘Anna doesn’t bring any of her personal life into the room’ – when really I have no idea how she works when she hasn’t been given very strict instructions to never talk about her life I’m the room with me. She has only ever let a couple of things slip and each of those times I’ve brought it up with her as being a very painful experience. These have been minor. E.g. when she told me she couldn’t call me because she was in a car with her family all day driving to wherever they were going on holiday. Another time was when she said something about another client. Most of the time these slips make me feel intense jealousy, inadequacy and a fear of abandonment.

There was one time when she told me of a dream she had when she was a child. We were talking about a dream I had that left me feeling really emotional when I woke up and she was talking about how real dreams can feel. She never normally does this but on that occasion she related it to an experience she had herself. She said that when she was a child she never had a bike and really wanted a chopper. She had a dream that her friend had given her her bike and she was so excited only to wake up and realise it was all just a dream. I didn’t feel the same painful emotions as I did with the other disclosures. I guess because with this one it felt like her inner child sharing with my inner child. It felt intimate and special between us. It felt connecting.

During the phone session on Tuesday Anna told me that a number of her colleagues at the office had struggled to drive to work because of the weather and that was one reason she felt it necessary to not force either of us to meet at the therapy centre rather than just have a phone session. I found myself wanting to ask her what it actually is that she does for a day job. I have never, ever asked her a question about her life. I’m starting to notice a gentle curiosity. I am curious about how old she is. When her birthday is (so I can find out her star sign). I want to know what her day job is and how long she’s done it for. I would like to know what propelled her into training to become a therapist. I’ve wondered, I’ve fantasised about parts of her life and yes, I’ve looked her up online. But thankfully there is very little to find about her on the internet (compared to Paul at least). I have a slightly different attachment style with Anna than I did with Paul. More of my inner child is being worked on with Anna and I relate more to anxious avoidant/disorganised attachment descriptions. I think about her all the time, every day, I desperately want to be close to her but I’m also frightened by the idea of closeness. In fact on occasions the sense of close connection repulses me and simultaneously the sense of disconnection feels like it might kill me. It’s very contradictory and confusing.

One thing that has been amazing about working with Anna is that SHE DOES DEAL WITH TRANSFERENCE… woohoo! I mean, how can you be a therapist and NOT deal with transference? It’s basically just how past relationships have shaped how current relationships are played out. Also, she is happy to talk about our relationship in the room – THANK GOD! She is also wonderfully not defensive in the slightest. She doesn’t take anything I say personally, she sees it all as my shit that needs to be worked on. She is also very aware of her own shit and will not let it interfere with my work. She is also willing to reflect and adapt. She wants to help me in a way that works for me. She isn’t rigid in how she works, she will be flexible with me. I have so many examples of times I have tentatively told her something that didn’t work for me or didn’t feel right and she has heard me, talked it through, taken responsibility or apologised and made changes. She constantly asks me how I am experiencing her, whether the way we’re working is working for me. Also, when reflecting my need for boundaries and for her to not self disclose she has shown a huge amount of understanding. She has said to me, ‘its so important for you that I don’t talk about myself, you spent your whole life having your mum and other people dominating relationships, even Paul made sessions about himself… this hour is yours, it needs to be all about you!’ and I really understand this on a deep level. As a kid I listened to my mum talk about her life so much (including her childhood and teen years) that I find it hard to distinguish what are my real memories and what are her memories. Enmeshed doesn’t even come close to describing our relationship. I read a book recently which calls this type of relationship covert incest… it was an emotionally abusive relationship. I was used for her to get what she needed… and then Paul retraumatised me. Because it is built into the fibre of me to want to serve the needs of others I wilfully listened to him and talked about him because that felt like love to me. But an icky love.. like I was special but also something felt wrong about it.

I recently reflected on this very strong demand for boundaries that I made early on with Anna and had a bit of an epiphany. When I found things out about Paul I absorbed the information and made it about me. I found out the bands he’d loved since he was a teenager and bought a t-shirt with the band on the front to wear to therapy so he could see I liked them too. I bought the cds he had bought and listened to them over and over every minute of the day. I imagined teenage Paul listening to them 30 years ago. I bought the books he had bought and read them as if I was inside his head as he read them. I streetviewed the places he said he’d been to. I looked up the school his kids went to and read the whole website. I tried to enmesh myself… to find meaning in who I was… to find myself in the select crumbs of him I knew. I began to realise that I have done this my whole life. Changed my make up depending on the make up a particular friend wore. Adapted music choices to fit in with people. Picked up and dropped hobbies to try to mirror the people around me. I think people who know me might find this hard to believe because I appear to have a very strong sense of self and I think this is because largely these thoughts and feelings are internalised. I’m not a chameleon, I’m more of a kaleidoscope. I don’t change myself entirely to become a mirror image of them, what I have done is added to myself the things that other people present to me and focus completely on them and their likes rather than showing them my true self. Why..? Because I didn’t know who my true self was!!! You develop and grow your true self in childhood if you have the right loving, guiding, accepting environment. I didn’t, so my true self stayed in hiding. In fact she was never truly born in the first place.

So… when I started working with Anna, I guess in some strange unconscious wisdom, somewhere deep down inside, I knew that this time within this therapeutic relationship I wanted to find my authentic self. The ‘me’ that has never fully come into actuality. All of my life I had found myself in reflections of other people. This time I wanted to find me. And she has given me that space. Beautifully she has opened her arms to me willing me to find the seeds of myself amongst the rubble of broken pieces that other people forced into me. For the first time ever I’ve experienced someone respecting my boundaries. She has allowed me to fumble around in the pitch black wilderness of my soul attempting to find the bones of myself. So I can begin to build for the first time, my true self with no need to mirror myself against what I think she would like.

One of the reasons why I have never given Anna a gift (other than fearing the absolute carnage a rejection would cause) is that when I give gifts, my perfectionism goes into overdrive. I need to know about a person, know something very specific about them, then buy or make a gift that shows them I care, shows them I listened, shows them I know them. I want to give them something that says ‘I know who you are’. I’ve been reflecting on what I have given her… I have drawn her two Christmas cards, both of which had a drawing that related to the work we’re doing or something we talked about in session… I believed I couldn’t give her a gift because I don’t know anything about her… except I’m starting to realise that maybe what I can give to her is something of myself… she already knows about herself, she can already give herself things she likes, she has family, friends and loved ones who can give her things that are specific about her. But what does she not have anything else in her life like…? Me! Giving her my art is something only I can do. That’s special because it comes from the core of who I am.

So many times I have said that this journey feels like I am breaking. Now I realise, it is a breaking down of my hardened, brittle protective wall and a breaking down of all the versions of me that were built to serve others. The breaking down of all the many facets of mirror-me… the parts of me that were merged and mixed up with other peoples likes, dislikes, needs… breaking down my old beliefs in who I need to be for other people. That breaking is painful as fuck because those walls and mirrors kept me feeling safe. I could hide behind them. I could dissociate comfortably on autopilot while also being hyper-aroused in relationship. Watching and mirroring and not feeling.

So now… in this brand new type of relationship, where this amazing woman keeps herself out of the room by simultaneously having her fully present and dedicated self right there in front of or right next to me… it’s incredibly healing. She only bringing the parts of herself that can help and serve me… wow this is brand new! She is attachment focused, trauma informed, routinely works on herself in her own therapy and supervision… she does the work she expects others to do. So this is new for me… Aaaand it’s scary as fuck also because I don’t know how to make her love me if I can’t merge myself. I have to ‘be the real me’ whoever that is. I know for sure that she would say to me, ‘baby steps, Lucy… just like a baby learns to walk one shaky step at a time, go slow and purposefully with those baby steps towards finding the real Lucy.’

*I want to add a wee note here to say that this is just what I need… not what everyone needs. We are all on our own very unique journeys that are as specific and different as our fingertips. If your therapist shares parts of themself with you that doesn’t mean I think they are abusing you, only you will know what feels right. I am just speaking from my personal experience so please don’t think I’m judging you, your journey or your therapist if what you experience is something different. Also, Paul helped me enormously, so even though this part of his theraputic style wasn’t right for me in the end, we still healed massive aspects of the pain I brought to him. I will be forever grateful to him for what he did for me. This is all one massive learning curve and actually, his failing in this area has helped me learn something about myself. So even that was worth it!*

12 thoughts on “Will the real Lucy King please stand up…

  1. damn you posted this at a good time. I’m just on the train to Brighton. but i relate to so, so much of this post. and I love how you write and what you write. it’s so authentic and relatable genuinely. thanks so much for sharing. also I rmbr when we spoke about the whole band t shirts thing lmaoo omg. I also really get how both Paul and Anna served and are serving you in diff ways and we’ve spoken about that before too I know. such a long complex journey. but thank you for sharing xxxx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lol yeah the grateful dead t shirt 😂🙈 I might tell Anna about that actually. It’s funny but seriously so useful for me to figure this shit out. And this was my least overworked and procrastinated about blog post. I just sat typing my thoughts and posted it. So thanks for saying you like it coz I thought it was fairly unrefined and messy. 💕💕

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yeah do you know what… I think this is linked to me braking down the walls and finding the real me. The walls and versions of me are very much over considered, lots of over thinking. Editing and perfecting. Anna is always saying ‘don’t censor just talk freely’ and this is what I did in the post. ☺️

        Liked by 2 people

  2. slantgirl

    thanks so much for this post, Lucy — I am so glad that Anna shows up for you in the way that you need, and that you are able to receive it as a gift. And look at how she respects the boundaries that *you* set — you are truly an agent in all of this! And it’s getting you the support you need.

    My T is somewhere between Anna and Paul, likely more Paul than Anna (because I haven’t set that amazing boundary that you were able to – though I am thinking that I need to). How did you resolve that transference with Paul — did you? Or did it just end and you healed over time? This post cuts close to the gut because though I haven’t taken my T’s stuff on that much, I have certainly thought about it and have ok maybe a teeny bit. Did the healing that relationship just come from moving on with Anna with a better sense of what you needed? No need to answer if you don’t want to!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I really love the idea hat I set a boundary before I even really knew that’s what I was doing. I really felt at the time like I was telling on my diabolical teen self… give her boundaries or all hell will break loose… but yeah, I see that I was telling her what my boundary was! And that’s cool.

      How did I resolve my transference with Paul. I feel like I should write another post about this. It’s not resolved. I still love him and think of him occasionally. I looked him up recently and they changed his photo on the site and I cried when I saw how he’s changed. I was sad that I didn’t know that. That it’s been so long since I saw him. Our ending wasn’t within my control. I’ve worked on that with Anna. Part of the healing is been having a healthier attachment with Anna. Part of it has been talking about Paul’s lack of boundaries with Anna and her helping me find some anger and disappointment. It’s an interesting one… I’ll need to ponder it some more and write about it I think. I definitely am still grieving that relationship as I didn’t get to have an ending with him 💔 but Anna certainly is helping.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. This is such a beautiful post and one I relate to so much, especially the part about taking different parts of your identity from different people due to not having a strong sense of self. I’m so happy you have Anna and thank you for all you share xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’re welcome 💙 thank you for being here and for commenting. I can imagine the weak sense of self is fairly common and understandable amongst people with insecure attachment styles. It makes sense that we don’t know who we are… we spent so long trying to meet the needs of others!

      Liked by 2 people

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