I’ve been reflecting on a couple of things that were said yesterday and I just felt the need to share my thoughts with you. I know you said I could bring any leftover stuff to the next session and I will do that, I guess I also just wanted to get it down ‘on paper’.
I want to start by saying that I felt the session was really connecting and ‘real’ and I really appreciate you bringing your authentic self to the sessions. I really heard you when you said you want to get to know me. I actually loved that you said that.
I imagine it’s a very unusual situation to inherit a client from a colleague under these circumstances. Maybe it’s more commonplace for a client to come to you because they were unable to work well with the previous therapist or their work had ended on bad terms. In this situation you have inherited a client who didn’t want to leave her previous therapist and who didn’t choose to specifically work with you. I imagine you’ve never experienced it before.
It really fascinates me, hearing you share your experience of me. Anna never brought these things into my sessions so it’s intriguing to be given this insight by you. Over the past few months there have been a few things you’ve said that have made me wonder if it’s actually quite difficult to be my ‘after Anna’ therapist. Most recently, yesterday you said that you want me to notice you. Notice that I am now working with you. I wonder if you feel that you will never live up to Anna or maybe you feel that I will never let you. I want to say two things about that. The first is that you won’t. She was the first woman who ever earned my trust and the only person who knew me as fully as she did. I really felt loved by her and more importantly I let her love me. There is no way anyone can compare to that because the work I did with her was so unique and like you have said before the connection we had was precious. The second thing I want to say is that you don’t have to live up to anything. You are fulfilling a different and incredibly important role in my current reality. And I do see you, Linda. I do notice you. I have a huge amount of respect and gratitude for you. You are the only person to have witnessed the full force of my grief. You are the only one who has witnessed my tears. You have consistently come to our sessions ready to hear me and see the loss. Despite the depth of work I did with Anna, I always struggled to cry with her. Somehow, from the start, you made it clear that I was safe enough to cry with you and that those feelings were welcome. I am so grateful for that. To have the freedom to cry openly. You have created a safe space for me to process this grief and there have been many times over the past nearly 6 weeks where the only thing keeping me going was counting down the days until my next session with you. Knowing that you, Linda, understand and see me. I am incredibly grateful for that.
Another thing that crossed my mind was wondering if you were experiencing some sort of countertransference with this feeling of not being noticed by me. It really resonated with me hearing you say those words ‘I want you to notice me’ because I have felt that so many times. The only person I felt completely noticed and seen by was Anna. When I say I want you to know the whole back story it’s actually that I want to be fully known by you like I was fully known by her. My parents never noticed me and never wanted to know me. I have this deep need to be known fully and have all parts of me seen and accepted. I experienced so many parts of my self coming into being through Anna’s gaze and without her those parts of me feel suspended in space again… not noticed, not seen. Yesterday, those parts of me lit up when you articulated that it makes sense to you that my adult feels safe showing up to the sessions and that the child parts are peeking round the door trying to suss you out. I liked hearing you explain it and you made me feel understood. It helped those parts of me feel seen.
The root of this is with my mother – she just wanted any attention from anyone as long as the person sat quietly and listened and gave their full uninterrupted attention. It didn’t matter who they were. So, if I was there she’d offload to me, if she had someone else to talk at (be it a new best friend, a new boyfriend, some random person in the post office) then I was of no use to her anymore and I’d be rejected. Hearing you say that you want me to notice you reminded me of how my mum used to make me feel… you put words to the feeling that my inner child has been screaming all her life – I wish she would notice me. The only time I got any positive attention from her was when I was meeting her emotional needs. I wonder if there is some unconscious repeating of the pattern between us, that I am unconsciously showing you what I experienced and felt growing up.
One final important thing I want to make a note of is the idea of touch and motherly nurturing in the therapeutic relationship. I did not experience nurturing, safe touch as a child. There was a deficit there that Anna was really keen to explore. And she was very slow and patient and always checked in on how I was feeling. But allowing her to put her hand on my arm and comfort me physically, asking her for a hug and relaxing into the hug and really feeling her hold me – these aspects of our work were so healing. They reached places inside me I think are unreachable with words alone. I remember telling Anna that my mum told me I needed too many hugs – she would push me away, get up and walk out the room if I sat next to her. Anna said to me, ‘I think you can never have too many hugs’. The energy that I got from Anna was almost like she had to hold herself back from giving too much affection and overwhelming or scaring my avoidant/disorganised parts. But letting her love me like that has helped me love my kids more freely, and love myself. Her demonstrating how freely and easily she could love me without feeling like I was depleting her resources or making her feel uncomfortable or used has helped me see that I too have an abundance of love that I can offer myself and my children. It literally changed the way I parent them, for the better. It was a fundamental part of my therapy and not something that I would choose to go without.
I understand and hear you when you say you are not a huggy/touchy person. Not just in your work but it’s just who you are. I hear you and I respect that. I hear that it’s not a rejection of me, it’s just part of who you are. It doesn’t feel good to imagine that me asking you may have made you feel uncomfortable. At the moment it will probably be months before anything close to physical contact could happen due to the restrictions protecting us from the spread of the virus and so it’s irrelevant in the current situation. I am also very aware that I have felt your support and connection through a computer screen, which is amazing. But I know that when we are in a room together there will be parts of me that believe the space between us illustrates how unlovable and disgusting they are. No amount of words, logic or reason can get through to those very young parts.
It intrigues me, the idea that you’ve never had a client ask you if you will introduce touch/hugs in the therapeutic setting. Maybe you have been asked before and it’s always been a solid ‘no’ but when I asked you, you decided to go and reflect on it. Maybe all your other clients have met you in person and can sense from the way you feel in the room that it’s not going to be an option. I can’t be the only client who’s ever felt the need for it… especially in the world of trauma work.
I think what I’m saying Linda is that I feel really supported by you, I like you and I am glad it is you that I am working with. You have helped me and I trust that you will continue to help me. I also like it when you explicitly refer to the younger parts of me. However, I do wonder if there will always be a part of me that needs the mothering/touch side of the work and I respect that I most likely won’t get that from you. I am focusing on the here and now at the moment and I’m also aware that I won’t know about these things until I’ve sat in a room with you.
I need to learn how to precise my writing… thank you for reading this email, Linda.
I know we will talk about this on Wednesday.
*second email sent a couple of hours later*
I’m now thinking that when you said, ‘I want you to notice me,’ you might have meant, ‘I want you to see that I’m here supporting you’ or something like that. Because you said it in response to me saying that I feel like I’m just noticing you, noticing that we are doing therapy in its own right separate from the grieving Anna type therapy we’ve been mainly focusing on.
You know how you encouraged me to just notice what comes up for me post-session? To not analyse it and just notice it..! I’m clearly not very good at that 😂
Gonna try to turn my brain off now! I promise I won’t email you again.
See you Wed.