Erotic Transference and Exploring it’s Meaning

*again some very sensitive bits have been taken out, I hope it still makes sense.

Before the session I imagined Linda telling me, ‘it’s important to focus on what’s coming up for you RIGHT NOW.’ Which is always quite difficult when you’re feeling fragmented. Because you could spend the whole week strongly feeling one thing and then the millisecond the screen flicks to her face the feeling could switch to something else or nothing at all…

What was coming up for me was that I was shattered. Really really fucking exhausted. I had my session at 4.30pm after a long hard day at work and basically it just feels like it’s been a long hard few months. I feel fatigued and broken in my bones. My whole body hurts and when I blink I feel like I could just keep my eyes closed and fall asleep!

Linda seemed warm and friendly when she logged on. She asked me how I’ve been coping with ‘all this rain’ and I had a moan about the kids being stuck in work ALL day because it was too wet to play outside. She then asked me what I wanted to focus on today and I told her that a huge amount of grief came up for me after our last session. I told her I was sick of hearing myself say it but also it needed to be said. I explained, again, that I spent my whole life not crying and so it’s really quite remarkable the amount of crying I’m doing these days.

‘I had a bath last night, I knew Adam and the kids were out and I just cried and cried. I cried so much that my head and eyes hurt this morning.’ She had a sad, sympathetic expression and I continued, ‘I don’t know if it’s masochistic or good that I’m doing all this thinking and crying. Last night I had this imaginary conversation in my head with Anna and it made me cry so much.’ Linda asked me if I’d like to share with her the conversation or did it need to stay private between me and Anna (which I thought was adorable because really it’s just all in my head!) I told her I was happy to tell her. I explained that I fantasised that I was meeting with her one last time somewhere in the future. One final session. In my mind I told Anna what the past few months have been like for me. I told her about the hollow, empty loneliness I’ve been experiencing and how it feels like I must have walked around with that particular aloneness my whole childhood. I said, ‘You know, it’s not about lack of support. I have you and friends and my family… it’s a specific pain… you can be in a room full of people and still be in pain with this all encompassing loneliness…’ Linda said, ‘yes, absolutely and it’s linked to the emotional neglect, that particular loneliness.’ I nodded, ‘it really is… and I told Anna that, in my mind, that her leaving has brought all of that out of me and that I’m beginning to understand, I think I spent most of my life imagining that hole wasn’t there, or imagining I could go back and fix it… now it really is sinking in, that it’s irreversible damage – just like Anna was irreplaceable. All I can do is grieve.’

I told Linda that I felt like I was being really self-obsessed and she asked in what way. I told her it was weird that I decided to have a bath, have a self-indulgent fake conversation in my head, cry my eyes out and then tell her all about it.’ Linda said, ‘I’m really not in the ‘self-obsessed’ gang… I’m more in the self-compassion gang… firstly, I asked you about it and I’m really glad you shared with me… and what I hear is that you have spent your whole life building this reservoir, pouring every single drop of your emotions into that reservoir. And you made a really strong dam and you held on to all of that pain. The reservoir held up all these years. And it sounds like very recently, all of a sudden, the dam burst and every so often, when you have the time and space, you’re letting yourself feel and let go of all that you’ve been holding onto for your whole life.’ I said, ‘that’s the exact analogy I I have always used for how I feel about my emotions. I remember telling Paul that I felt like I was struggling to support the dam and that it was threatening to burst. I felt like I was going to lose my mind, lose control and my whole life would be destroyed by all of my pain, if I was to let go of the control. All those years ago. But yeah, it was October/November sort of time that I really felt the emotions coming to the surface and I’m sure it was around then that I cried with Anna for the first time. But it was slow at first, really slow.’ Linda remarked on how recent that is and told me she really can see how important this work is. I told her I was sad that I hadn’t managed to do this work with Anna and she said she understood. I told her that losing Anna cracked my heart open and then ALL of the pain flooded out. She said, ‘I can absolutely understand the sadness about not being able to do this work with Anna, all of the work you’d done together to get to that point and then the thing that breaks open the grief is losing her, I really do get that. I just want to say now that I really admire how you’re doing this work, you aren’t letting the longing and grief around losing Anna ‘get in the way of’ your therapy and the fact that I’m not Anna, stop you from doing the work, you’re doing it… you know?’ I said, ‘I really feel like she would be proud of me.’ Linda smiled and nodded. I said, ‘so you really don’t think I’m being self-indulgent?’ Linda said, ‘no, not at all, I think you are trusting the process and allowing yourself the space and time to grieve, which is such powerful work.’

There was a lull in the chat and I said, ‘I just want to say that you really helped me reframe two things in the last session that have been around for me since… the first one is the idea that I can hold both being there for Grace and support her emotionally while also feeling the grief of my longing. That was really helpful to see it that way, that both can coexist. And the other thing that’s stayed with me is the sense of seeing things through the lens of my emotional neglect, rather than turning my focus towards trying to understand my mum and dad, I’m now trying to understand myself.’ Linda smiled and nodded and we talked those things through a bit.

There was a really funny moment when Linda took a drink of what looked like wine and I laughed outloud and asked if she was drinking on the job. She laughed and told me it was irn bru which made me laugh even more… the idea of her drinking irn bru out of a wine glass during my therapy session… it was just so stereo-typically Scottish.

Then I said I had something very important to talk about that I’ve never talked about before and I really wasn’t sure if I’d be able to talk about it. I started about ten different sentences and shifted about and felt very uncomfortable. After what felt like hours but was probably about two minutes I said, ‘oh my god I feel like I’m going to be sick, my hearts racing and my tummy feels nervous.’ Linda said, ‘I can see this is really difficult for you and also sense that it is important to you, that you are both reluctant and eager to talk about this.’ I said, ‘I know that rationally this is the purpose for therapy – something important is dragging at your heels, keeps coming up in your daily life… therapy is there to really dig into that and help you find meaning, yes?’ Linda nodded, I continued, ‘but it’s incredibly embarrassing and I can’t imagine even saying the words… it’s so fucking weird and cringy. I don’t even know where to start… I mean I kind of knew I’d try to talk about this especially after the weekend, but I don’t know… I don’t have a script or anything I’ve no idea where to start.’ Linda said it sounded like I had taken myself by surprise by bringing this up and I told her that’s exactly how it feels because I’ve been at work and busy for the past few days so haven’t had to overthink or prepare.

There was a hell of a lot of uming and ahing. I started to lose grip on the connection between us and Linda said, ‘would it help for you to orient, to ground yourself?’ I nodded but really had no sense of how I could do that. I just sat there and she said, ‘how would you feel about taking some intentional breaths. Whatever feels right for you?’ I nodded again. Still unable to do anything. Then Linda spontaneously started a mindful breathing exercise with me (we’d talked before about what helps me ground and I told her that breathing with Anna had really helped). ‘Lets breathe together Lucy, you can stop any time but it might help you to get some oxygen in your system. So follow me and focus on letting the air fill your body, fill your belly and in…..’ then she breathed in audibly and then she breathed out audibly, slowly, while I followed her. I watched her on the screen as I copied her breathing pattern and I started to feel connected to her. It began to feel very intimate and I told her that. She smiled and continued breathing while I breathed. She closed her eyes at one point and I can’t even put into words how beautiful it felt. I’ve never sat in a room with this woman but I felt as if I was in the room with her. It was so lovely. I said, ‘I just suddenly realised you are a human being sitting in your house listening to and talking to me right now in this very moment.’ She said she knew that it meant a lot to me. She asked if it would help me if we did this every so often in the sessions when I’m struggling with feeling the connection or when I’m feeling spacey. She said, ‘We could spend some time breathing together? It only takes a minute but can be quite grounding, what do you think?’ I said I’d really like that.

Linda asked me if I was scared to talk about this thing because it would be hard to put into words or because I was worried how she would react. I said, ‘No I totally think you’ll be fine! You’ll be totally okay with this… I’m just mortified. I mean, judging by the stuff that’s on your website I definitely know you will be able to handle this!’ she laughed and I said, ‘I am trying to give it a title and I can’t even do that.’ Linda asked what the subtitle would be and after a while I said, ‘my fear of intimacy seeps into every single area of my life.’ She repeated that back to me and said, ‘I was going to suggest an alternative subtitle… ‘this is about sex.’ I burst out laughing, not looking at her and nodded theatrically. She said, ‘okay… so lets talk about sex… take your time and try not to censor yourself.’

I told her that it’s always been hard for me to be present when I’ve been intimate with Adam. That it’s much easier for me to be some place else in my head with someone else and I am always someone else in my fantasies as well. I said, ‘How can you avoid intimacy while having sex with someone? Don’t engage mentally with what’s happening to your body!’ she was really connecting to what I was saying and asked me if I had ever talked to Anna about this. I said that I hadn’t talked about this because it’s mortifying and it’s about her and then I nervously burst out laughing again. I quickly moved on and gave a sort of background.

I explained, ‘so yeah sex was always quite triggering for me and then when we started trying for a baby it changed things, it became a really beautiful, bonding, exciting thing and I really loved it… then things became difficult again when I had post natal depression but then Paul came along and well… so basically I had pretty standard erotic transference with him and I HavE nEVeR SaID thAt OUtLoUd BefORe!’ I freaked out and Linda calmly said, ‘Lucy, when people come to therapy, especially when they go as deeply as you are going in therapy, it changes every area of their lives. It changes their sex lives. How could it not? Therapy is about connection and intamcy. Sex is about connection and intimacy. The two are connected and almost everyone who goes to therapy experiences this change in their sex lives even if they don’t ever talk about sex in therapy. Does that resonate with what you’re saying?’ I nodded and told her that sex became very exciting once I had Paul to fantasise about. There was some very deep therapy stuff playing out in my transference. I found him really sexy and my fantasies were always very graphic and often involved strong desire and force.

I took a deep breath and cringed outwardly exclaiming that I couldn’t believe I was gonna tell her this, especially as she knows Anna! I said, ‘the thing is, the transference wasn’t as overtly sexual with Anna, I didn’t want to have sex with her, it wasn’t sexy and exciting, the fantasies… it was different.’ Linda was making a lot of very deliberate agreeing noises as if she knew what I was saying and so I continued, all the while feeling very very embarrassed, my cheeks were flushed red and I said a couple of times that I wished she couldn’t see me. I said, ‘when I had really connecting sessions with Anna, I had the best sex ever. Like, powerful amazing sex. And through the last couple of years working with her I could happily have had sex every day, usually I did actually… I fucking loved it! Then she left and I was so depressed and on the diazepam which killed my libido but also I just felt destroyed, I didn’t want to do anything with my body, I wanted nothing to do with him and couldn’t face being intimate at all. We’ve had sex a handful of times since she left and really they were more like duty sex sessions,’ Linda made a noise when I said this and I continued, ‘I just don’t want my relationship to be damaged because of my weird quirks with sex like what am I gonna say… sorry darling husband I can’t have sex with you coz I’ve lost my therapeutic aphrodisiac!? Hmmm… but also… ohmygod I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this. I’m a complete fucking weirdo but… well… I mean, it happened by chance, we were having sex and then I imagined Anna writing my name at the top of the therapy notes and it made me, you know… and I mean I was not sexually attracted to her, I absolutely wanted her to be my mummy, not my lover – but something about her seeing me or connecting to me, it did something to me, and so I would fantasise about sessions where she’d really understood me while I had sex. It made sex so incredibly powerful. Basically this weekend I read over session notes from the first very connecting session I’d had with her back in November 2018, not in some weird therapy porn way, I just was curious to recall this particular session and anyway, we had the best sex we’ve had in like three months that night. And I feel like a depraved freak! So there it is.’

Linda said, ‘Well, none of that sounds depraved and I don’t think you’re a freak, AT ALL! In fact, it all makes perfect sense to me. Anna saw parts of you that had laid dormant your whole life – she led you back to parts of yourself who had been in hiding. She connected you to yourself and that helped you connect to your pleasure. When she stopped working with you, you felt as though you’d lost that part of yourself. When you lost her, you also lost you. Reading over the notes reminded you of that connection with yourself. It all makes so much sense to me. Does that sound right to you?’ I was really stunned and said it made so much sense and was an amazing way of looking at it. I told her that Anna really did see me like noone else had and I really missed being seen like that by someone.

Linda said, ‘Sex is all about energy and connection, so is therapy… we are really confronted with ourselves when we have sex… and in therapy!’ I said, ‘yeah and I think the more therapy I have, the less I’m able to betray my body by abandoning it…’ Linda said, ‘yes absolutely and you said yourself its impossible to want to be physically intimate with someone you’re angry with and you have been angry with Adam quite a lot recently.’ I said, ‘well yeah, and the thing is it’s easy to have sex with anyone when you stay in your head, you don’t need to think about who you’re with or what you’re doing, you just do it and get whatever you need to get out of it… but the more I worked on myself the less appealing that is. I want to heal that part of me… I’ve known for a while that this is not healthy. I want to connect to my body, I want to have those feelings of intimacy and connection with myself and with Adam without needing it from therapy! For fuck sake I want to be able to have sex with my husband while thinking about my husband!’

Linda said, ‘when was the last time you were able to do that? Think of him and be present while having sex.’ I quietly said, ‘I don’t think I ever have.’ Linda’s voice changed and she softened. She said, ‘okay, hmmm… thank you for telling me that. That sounds very personal and important… I was really moved by what you said about sex changing when you were planning for a baby, as if having sex to make a baby, having that purpose changed the sex.’ I said, ‘yeah it definitely did… and my perfection kicked in and I made damn sure we made that baby… I made sure we had sex every day and we got pregnant the first month. I lost that baby, then we got pregnant the next month and that was Grace…’ Linda said, ‘I’m really sorry to hear you lost your first baby, I’m sorry I didn’t know that.’ I nodded and felt awkward and uncomfortable that she’d focused on that. I said, ‘well there it is… all that’s out there now!’

Linda said, ‘All of this is so important. The connecting to yourself and staying in your body while having sex. That’s something we can go back to, that’s very important. Working on connecting with your body, staying in your body. And your baby and the pregnancies… all of that, it’s all been so important. Thank you for sharing all of that with me Lucy.’ I nodded.

We planned the next session at an earlier time of 9am. We joked about how early it was and I said it was great neither of us had to commute very far (she works from her home office and I have my sessions in my bedroom). I then laughed and said, ‘In fact I’ll already be in bed, I just need to sit up and turn the laptop on for 9am!’ we laughed about that which felt really nice after such an intense session. Linda asked me how I was feeling and I said I actually felt liberated. That I survived talking about this thing that I’d felt a lot of shame about for a very long time and I didn’t implode… She thanked me again for being so open and so willing to ‘do the work’ and I thanked her and that was the end of the session.

And honestly… I feel amazing. There was obviously more to the session than this but even what I’ve included here was a huge breakthrough. To be able to share this and not have her reject or shame me. It feels very important and I am hopeful we will do some good work around all of this. This is core wound stuff right here… learning to inhabit my body! Allowing myself to connect to my feelings.

9 thoughts on “Erotic Transference and Exploring it’s Meaning

  1. LovingSummer

    I’ve talked to Guy about some of this too (not the transference bit, though that’s so understandable, but the bit about going off somewhere else in your head during sex) – it helps that he is a sex therapist as well as trauma therapist etc, and that he sometimes asks blunt questions about sex, very naturally, almost making you feel that everyone should be talking about it! So you’re definitely not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you LS. Yeah Linda has a huge list of sex related things in her website that make me pretty certain she’s heard it all 😂 judging by the messages I’ve been receiving today, what I’ve written about is massively common amongst therapy goers!! I’m really so glad I’ve opened the conversation with Linda and shared it here.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for the bits about sex because I have sexual dysfunction issues from trauma and I’ve had a fantasy of my therapist cheering me on while I have sex with my partner! Because part of our work is also about my hope of eventually being able to have the sex I want from my loving and safe partner.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome! Your fantasy makes so so SO much sense to me! I mean, your therapist has cheered you on in every other area of your life, why won’t also with sex and physical intimacy! 🙌💕

      Liked by 1 person

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