I Want You to Notice Me
I said there were lots of things going around my mind. I’d planned on talking about things between me and Adam but now there was a lot of other stuff coming up for me. I told her I’d noticed that I didn’t talk about Anna at all on Wednesday and Linda asked me when I had noticed. I told her it came to me pretty much as soon as the video call ended and when I typed up the notes I’d reflected that I felt okay about it though I wanted to note that Anna was never far from my mind. Linda said, ‘The situation we talked about on Wednesday was very important to you and was a current thing happening in your life at that moment. Sometimes that will happen in therapy, other more historical things will be put to one side so you can focus on what is happening in the here and now. And we worked very deeply with what had come up and how it related to your relationship with your mum, so in a sense we did work on your deeper attachment stuff.’ I nodded and said that it was a very worthwhile session but it’s hard because there are so many things I want to cover and not enough time.’ She said, ‘I know you feel a sense of not having enough time to cover everything you want to work on. In those moments, all we can do is trust that what we do cover is all part of the process.’
At some point early on in the session I said I was annoyed at this pattern I was noticing of me talking too much in the sessions and that especially during the Wednesday session I talked for like 45 minutes and she spoke for about 5 minutes. I said, ‘I don’t know if it’s because Anna knew me better than you do and so I wouldn’t need to explain things so much for her to get it but I feel like I have to tell you the whole story and that uses up a lot of time. I wish I didn’t talk so much to give you a chance to actually do your job…’ Linda said, ‘this need to tell me the whole back story, I just wonder if I really need the whole back story?’ I said, ‘you do if I want the therapy to work!’ Linda said, ‘I’m holding that it’s true for you that I need the back story and I’m also holding my belief that I don’t need the whole back story for this to be therapeutic.’ I said, ‘but it’s bigger than that… I feel like you need to know me… and I’m nervous to say this… but it’s something about the difference between you and Anna or between counselling and therapy. I know it might just be an argument on semantics but for me counselling is a lighter, surface, specific thing and therapy is deeper and I want therapy. And… well I don’t know if it’s because you’ve been doing this full time for decades and you’re used to people coming and going or because you said you don’t write things down, there’s this sense of impermanence with you, like the work doesn’t impact you as much or doesn’t run as deep with you… whereas with Anna because she only had a handful of clients I feel like she dedicated more time to getting to know me more deeply and really knowing my life and how I process and what I need, maybe it was because I knew she wrote things down or because she was in advanced clinical training so she was dedicating more of herself to our sessions, investing more of herself in the relationship. Ironically, even though it ended up finishing anyway, the way she worked made me felt like there was more depth and it felt like it would be more long term… I don’t even know if I’m explaining this properly… I need more of you in the sessions but in order for that to happen I feel like you need to know more of me…’ I felt really uncomfortable saying all this and was shifting about and looking around a lot.
Linda took a minute to think about how she wanted to respond then said, ‘Our relationship is very important to me, Lucy. How we connect and communicate with each other is very important. I put as much effort and energy into you as I do all my clients you know, because it’s important… because I have to you know. You know… I have to.’ I noticed myself tighten up here and feel defensive. I know she meant, I have to treat you all the same in order for this work to work and because it’s ethical to do it that way. But two things came up for me, one was that my mum used to say, ‘I love you because I have to, but I don’t like you.’ And the other thing that came up was thinking, ‘even your clients you’ve worked with for years? Surely there is more for them than there is for me?’
She explained, ‘I haven’t been doing this full time for all those years, I stopped counselling full time and joined the cops in 2001 until… oooh… 2015? Then started doing this full time again. And yeah, this is the way I work, over the years I’ve developed this unique way of working and it is mine, so it’s bound to be different from the way Anna works. But you know with Anna you have thiiiis much (she motioned a large length of time with her hands) and with me you have this much (she held her thumb and forefinger an inch apart) and so it really is hard to compare. And I get what you’re saying.’ I said, ‘and I think I’m angry that I dedicated so much time and effort and energy to ‘this much’ and now I’ve been thrown back to ‘this much’ (copying her size comparions). I said, ‘it really is not fair… and it’s all very well saying I should trust the process but I’m 37 in a couple of weeks you know and I’ve already dedicated 7 years of my life to this and it’s a massive commitment and how many thousands of pounds and thousands of hours am I going to waste on meandering around trusting the process? It needs to work!’ Linda said she heard me and she noted my sense of urgency and anger. She said, ‘the thing with therapy and trusting the process is that if you try to push it, it won’t work… I wonder if you can let yourself relax a bit?’ I think I rolled my eyes here or laughed sarcastically at this because she sort of raised her eyebrows and asked if I was feeling noncommittal about trying to relax. I said it wasn’t that easy.
I went back to talking about noticing that we hadn’t talked about Anna in the session on Wednesday and I said, ‘last Saturday you said to me that you recognised that it was really important that I talk about Anna as much as I need to until I don’t feel the need anymore and it brings up this analogy that Anna used a lot when I was worried she’d be sick of me bringing up the same thing over and over. She would say that it’s like a young kid tugging at the bottom of your top saying, ‘mummy, mummy, mummy…’ and they won’t stop until you finally turn and look and give your full attention. Finally, their need to be seen will settle and they wont need to keep saying it any more. You telling me I could talk about Anna as much as I wanted, it’s like you told this deep unconscious part of me that you heard me and it was okay, so that part quietened down and I didn’t need to go on about her as much.’ Linda was smiling and nodding in agreement then we both confirmed that even when she crops up again in session we must trust that that’s the process.
I said, ‘I just wish I hadn’t wasted so much of my time with her. I wish I’d known that my time with her was limited. I wouldn’t have wasted a single second of our time together.’ Linda leaned forwards and with a deeply sympathetic tone said, ‘oh Lucy but why would you tell yourself that? That’s just so unkind. In what way do you feel that you wasted your time together?’ I started to well up which took me by surprise and I told her to stop being so compassionate coz it was upsetting me then said, through the tears, ‘Two and a half years sounds like such a long time and yet I felt like we were only just beginning.’ I was struggling to speak because I kept getting caught up with the tears. I tried to breathe through it and continued, ‘in many ways, the deeper work had only just started… it now feels like I’m having to box it up and put it away, that it’s never going to get worked on. Because it was Anna who helped me get to those parts… I mean, I was so resistant to even admit there were younger parts of myself let alone see them with anything other than complete contempt, and now they’re out and I don’t know what to do with them!’ Linda asked, ‘does it feel like panic?’ I said, ‘it feels like an empty hopelessness… because with her I felt this hope for the first time in my whole life, that things could get better…’ more crying, ‘and now she’s gone… she’s taken that hope with her. Parts of me only just learning to trust her then she got up and walked out the room. Closed the door and left me alone. It feels like what was once an open and willing door has just been closed in my face and I don’t know if I’ll ever have that again.’
I talked about feeling angry that after all the work I put in with Anna I now feel like I’ve taken a few steps backwards through this whole thing. Linda asked me to clarify and I explained, ‘with Anna we were in such a good place and it was working so well and it would have continued that way. Effectively the very deep therapeutic work we were doing has been put on hold for the past 4 months and that’s not fair, it was going so well and now even though the sessions we are having have been worthwhile it still feels like. It feels like I was on a train with her, going on the right journey with a lot of certainty on this track and then someone has flicked the switch and we’ve been separated and her carriage is going in one direction and I’m going in another and now you and I are on another track taking a really long detour!’ Linda was nodding and agreeing as I was talking then laughed at the end and said, ‘hopefully the detour isn’t going to be that long!’ I said, ‘but it is though, I don’t even know if I’ll get back onto the track I was on before. Because I have all this same stuff that I’ve already worked on with Anna and I’m going to need to go over it again with you. If I hadn’t taken so long in the first place to trust her and get moving with things then two and a half years might have been enough.’ She said, ‘oh but Lucy you are being so hard on yourself, can you see that..? Yeah..? So, so hard on yourself.’ She had such a compassionate tone and it touched something inside and made the crying start. I said, ‘I just feel defeated, like… how long is it going to take?’ Linda said, ‘I know… how long is it going to take… I guess I would suggest that no one can ever know the answer to that, even if you were working with Anna still… and that’s where I fully believe that we should trust the process, yeah? There really is no right journey.’ I remember reading about client centred therapy and how one of the fundamental beliefs that underpins the whole modality is a trust in the therapeutic process. I feel kind of sceptical about this… it sort of feels like a cop out. I mean, I know what she means about trusting the process and I would guess that Paul and Anna also felt the same, but equally you have to put effort into that… you can’t just sit back and let things unfold and say you’re just trusting that the client will bring what they need and to trust the process. I guess I feel like I want her to work harder or something. It feels like when my husband or someone responds to my anxieties with ‘it will be fine’ NO IT WON’T! It is only ever fine if I put in the effort and get it right. Things don’t just accidentally work out. I have never had stuff fall into my lap like that I’ve had to work bloody hard for everything. It will NOT be fine and I WILL NOT just trust the process. Too much is at stake.
At some point Linda said, ‘it’s really important that I understand you and so I will ask you, I will check on what you mean, I wont just say I get it when I don’t. Do you trust me? Do you trust that I will let you know when I don’t understand something you’ve said?’ I said, ‘I trust that you won’t bull shit me but its more that you won’t understand the deeper meaning behind certain things just because you don’t know me that well or maybe I don’t trust that you’ll notice when you haven’t understood something… I just miss this deeper sense of being known.’ Linda said, ‘I’m just thinking… and this could be way off and you need to tell me if it doesn’t resonate with you. Could it be that the way we work together is going to be very different? Could it be that our work will not at all look like the way you worked with Anna?’ I said, ‘but that is exactly the case, it is very different and I don’t know what to do with that because the way I was working with Anna WAS WORKING and it was what I needed and I am scared because I don’t know if your way will work for me… I need what Anna was giving me, I know that I said all that bullshit about me being the driver and her being the navigator or me being the engine or whatever I said but she was the driving force behind it all, she was taking me on this road I’d never been on before and without her I’m completely lost. I’m scared that I can’t do this without her.’ Linda looked solemn and nodded, quietly she spoke, ‘you’re scared that I’m not Anna.’ And we just looked at each other for a while. I said, ‘You are not.’ Some more crying. ‘I believe we’ve done good work together and will continue to but the type of work she was doing with me… I need that.’
I said, ‘I don’t even know where all this came from today. I was so set on talking about Adam, I didn’t know I had all this going on.’ Linda said, ‘and that is therapy right there. Going with exactly what is in the room at that moment.’ I said, ‘part of me feels scared I think because I feel a deeper connection with you today and I don’t even know how to put this into words but it’s also like I’m noticing that it’s you here… like sometimes I could be talking out into the atmosphere and I feel like I’m on my own but today I’m noticing that you, Linda, is there listening and responding.’ Linda was thinking and took a while to speak then she said, ‘I would like to share my experience of that because I think that’s an interesting thing you’ve said, however it’s really important that you listen to me and tell me what you hear when I say this. I’m going to tell you what is coming up for me… I want you to notice me. I don’t mean that in a NOTICE ME type way, I mean, notice ME. This session between you and me, it’s important that you notice ME.’ I said, ‘have you felt that I haven’t noticed you in sessions?’ Linda said, ‘I think that’s what happens in grief, you are so focused on that person you’ve lost that you don’t notice others… and that’s a natural part of the grieving process and something that needs to be worked through by allowing you to focus on and talk about her as much as you need to.’ I really don’t know how I feel about this… have I been spoiled by Anna who fully understood my need for the sessions to be about me. Maybe Linda needs to feel important in the session, maybe she experiences a counter transference of the isolation that I feel… or what I felt and still feel with my mother – that she could be talking to anyone when she was offloading onto me. I might bring this back up with her another time because it seems important.
I said, ‘I feel like that’s actually true of my earlier sessions when I started with Anna as well… like maybe grief in general including grief around losses in childhood… maybe it just makes me talk and not connect… I used to talk about a brick wall between me and Anna. Like maybe it just doesn’t feel safe to make a connection with people when you’ve been so hurt in childhood, or maybe you’re so certain of rejection that you reject the other person first. Because, why would I connect to you, open up and trust? It took so long to do that with Anna and then she left me and the openness and connection and love and then the space she left behind generated more pain than I’ve ever felt in my whole life, why would I allow myself to walk down that road again?’ Linda was nodding and saying it made sense. I complained about having spoken so much again and I referred to exactly how many minutes we had left and she made a comment about me holding myself so tightly to the minutes counting down. I changed the view on the screen so I could no longer see the time. I forgot during the session but I’m remembering now how Anna used to turn the clock away from me so that I would no longer clock watch… she knew that about me!
Linda said, ‘Lucy I want to get to know you. I want to learn about you and get to know you and it’s about trusting you and trusting the process. That whatever needs to come up will bring itself to the session.’ I said, ‘but there’s too much fear and resistance… I know that I can cope with these sessions. For example happened on Wednesday, I can get a lot out of the sessions with you, my adult can come and talk and process day to day stuff but there were sessions with Anna where stuff came out that I didn’t even know was there and we had sessions where I’d be crouched, curled on the floor and she’d ask me how old I was and I’d say 3 or something… I didn’t even know the answer until it came out my mouth and she would ask me if she could put her hand on my arm and it was so grounding, it really tethered me to the room with her, made me so very aware that she was here and that I wasn’t on my own.’ Linda was smiling and nodding. I said, ‘Anna brought those younger parts of me out, very slowly and gently… without her I feel like they’re hiding and why would they come out again? Why would I ever let myself trust anyone again… why would I trust that you will stick around?’ there was a pause and then I said, ‘…but there’s another voice saying, ‘please don’t build a wall around me again! Please don’t shut me off from that connection… what I built with Anna was so beautiful and healing and it didn’t end when she went away… please don’t build a wall around me again.’ Linda said, ‘who are you speaking to when you’re asking them not to wall you off?’ I said, ‘my protective parts.’ More silence and then some more crying.
Eventually Linda said, ‘So I have a really strong image of a child peeking round a door you know, and maybe they’re looking saying, ‘who is this woman, she’s not Anna… she looks different, she’s younger, she doesn’t talk the same, I don’t trust her!’ and so they’re keeping themselves hidden. And that’s okay. It will take time… and so adult Lucy comes to the sessions because she can deal with it, she knows she is safe. And the child parts are watching. Adult Lucy can cope with this, the adult can deal with talking to me and the child parts will be watching… does this match with your experience?’ I said, ‘YES! Spot on. This reminds me of what it was like when I first started with Anna in fact for probably a year I didn’t trust her. In fact about 18 months ago I drew a picture of a child peeking round the corner, child peeking round behind my legs… I felt like Anna wasn’t right for me, that she didn’t get me. Then you know, couple of years later and I’ve fallen in love with her and that child wants to climb up onto her lap! I know what I needed because I got it from her… then it was taken from me and I may never get it again.’
I’m contemplating Linda’s remark about needing to feel noticed by me and I’ve been aware of her saying something similar a few other times. There was the time she said, ‘your work with Anna has ended and you’re working with me now’ and this was the same session she told me that grief was selfish and described grief stricken people as having some sort of tunnel vision, unable to see others or reach out for connection. I guess this was our first rupture because I felt the things she was saying were so invalidating and gaslighting. In our repair session she reflected on her words as being ‘fucking brutal’. I wonder if Linda has felt invisible in our sessions or like she can’t live up to what Anna was to me. I’m guessing it’s not normal for someone to take on a client that has worked with a really good therapist beforehand. I’m guessing that normally if someone comes to a new therapist with previous therapy experience they usually have moved on because they needed more from the therapist than the previous one was giving them… so maybe Linda has never experienced working with a client who talks a lot in a very adoring way about their last therapist. Perhaps she feels inadequate or frustrated that I am not a blank slate, I come with experience and a clear sense of what I need. I also didn’t choose to come to her. I get the sense that she’s taken this to her own therapy or her supervisor and she’s reflected on it and they’ve helped her see that this is going to be the work that we do. She said last Saturday that she’s realised that it’s very important for the work that she and I do together that she lets me talk as much as I want about Anna. Which felt like a bit of a u-turn, as if she had talked it through and seen a new side to the issue. And today she is now talking about her need to feel seen in our relationship.
I pointed out the time again because I checked my phone and I told her that I hate the 50 minutes thing. I said, ‘I know it’s how you work but it’s yet another thing I’ve lost. The full hour makes a difference.’ Linda thanked me for telling her and said she hears that it’s another thing I’m grieving. I said I felt annoyed that I didn’t focus on Adam today and that there’s all these things I wanted to talk about. That I still didn’t feel completely resolved with what I spoke to her about on Wednesday, there’s loads to try to process with Adam and my brother is moving up from London on Monday and I have a massive amount I want to talk about with that but can’t because she doesn’t know anything about him or our relationship. I told her I could say one sentence to Anna and she’d get it but it’s going to take many sessions for Linda to get it and I’m stressed about my change of job next year and I want to make the most of all the sessions. Linda said, ‘I guess what I want to say to you is that I notice you being very rigid and unforgiving of yourself… I don’t want you to hear the word rigid and hear it as a criticism, it’s just an observation. It’s making me think of lesson plans! You know it makes sense, that’s part of who you are and of the way you’ve lived for years, you have to know where you’re going as a teacher, but I wonder if you can let yourself have a little more freedom with this. Trust yourself. It doesn’t matter if we don’t know where the track will lead us… can you allow yourself to relax a little?’ I said, ‘The voice is saying it’s not enough, it’s not good enough, I need to be more.’ Linda asked whose voice that was and I said, ‘it’s the part of me that was created to make me better so that they’d like me… it’s me but it’s the part of me that was acceptable to them… my parents, I guess.’
There were lots of quiet moments and I was feeling very raw and vulnerable but also was aware that Linda and I were connecting on a deeper level than before. Maybe seeing each other properly. I started to feel this pull inside me to have a hug from her… but not from her… I wanted Anna. I said, ‘This has felt like a really connecting session which is making me feel sad because at the end of a session like this Anna would give me a hug and it felt so grounding. It really helped with the connection. Because connecting with her would be scary sometimes and I’d often leave feeling certain that she hated me or was disgusted by me. But after we started hugging then I could always call the memory of that hug up in my mind and it would shut the inner critic up, ‘things are fine between us because she hugged me’.
Linda was smiling and I looked away and said, ‘Putting the stuff about the virus to one side. If things go back to some sort of normal and we’re allowed closer than 6 feet apart, is that something you would do? Like putting a hand on my arm or something… is touch part of the way you work?’ I could tell immediately that her gut response was no but she was thinking. She said, ‘Hmmm…. So, I’m not a touchy person Lucy. Not a huggy person. Not just in my work but in life in general. I’m just not a touchy person. But I’m willing to think about it and reflect on it and talk to you about it later.’ I said, ‘I might not even want it… we’ve never even sat in a room together… but it’s important that I know if it’s a possibility or not but the touch was really important in my sessions with Anna and there’s some transference stuff coming up for me right now, hearing you say you’re not a touchy person because you know my mum wasn’t a touchy person with me but she was with everyone else and it is bringing up a lot of stuff for me from my childhood… hugs not being allowed.’ She said, ‘yeah, I hear that and I will think about it. Does it help to hear that I’m not a huggy person even… well in all areas of my life? Not just work?’ I said, ‘I wish I’d started talking about this 50 minutes ago.’ Linda asked why and I said, ‘because this is another grief… that’s a big loss… you know?’ she nodded and said, ‘me not being a touchy huggy person is something that I work on in my own therapy.’ We said some more about that and then I noticed we had two minutes left.
Linda said, ‘I think you’ve brought a lot of important stuff to the session today. Be kind to yourself for the rest of the day. Be kind. I’d like you to notice what comes up for you after the session today. Don’t try to analyse it or overthink it or question it, just notice. You’ve talked a lot about Anna so expect things to come up.’ She put her hand over her chest to signify that I might find the grief come quite a lot
I just can’t stop thinking about Anna saying to me, ‘you can never have too many hugs’ and I think I just really need that. I need that energy from a therapist. Someone who is overflowing with it. Someone who has an abundance of it. More love and hugs than anyone could ever need. The energy I got from Anna was that she almost had to hold herself back from giving me too much and overwhelming my avoidant self, scaring the disorganised, untrusting parts. Anna was having to hold herself back from willing me to ask her for hugs for months. I need someone who is saying, ‘I am willing to give you anything you think will help you in this therapeutic relationship’ (obviously within ethical reason). Not someone who has to go away and think about possibly introducing touch in a session… so has she never done touch before in a session? I feel like with Linda I’m having to constantly reach out and tease these things out of her. Maybe when clients start working with Linda in the room they can tell she isn’t a touchy huggy person and so it’s never come up… I don’t understand how she can have experience working with trauma and never have come up against this before. I really miss Anna so much. I’m scared I’m never going to have anything like that again.
I have been absolutely exhausted all afternoon. My friend pointed out to me that I tend to fall asleep after really hard sessions and she noted that sleep is an extreme freeze response. Which makes so much sense to me. Also I remember reading that sleep is considered a less final option of escape than killing yourself but with a similar outcome – you can shut off from whatever emotional pain is so excruciating it’s making you want to end things. I often have to fight this strong pull to sleep straight after sessions (on the odd occasion the sensation has been there during sessions) and things like arguments, prolonged negativity and conflict in a relationship… just another thing to add to the list of things I’ll eventually explore in therapy.
This was our 20th session. Things feel so uncertain and I feel very much like I’m walking, stumbling through a thick forest at night. I’m feeling frightened and lost. I will keep working with Linda but I don’t know for how long. It feels like she’s only around when the sun comes up and then she’s gone again when I need her the most. I think its important to see how I feel with her in the room. But I don’t know if she is right for me long term, for the deep stuff. I just wish I could turn back time.