Mark started by telling me that if I want to have a second session on Mondays, he’s made a space available for me and I immediately said yes. I told him I had planned on asking him about that and he said, ‘ahh, beat you to it,’ and smiled kindly. I told him it felt good to have that in place and that I’d benefited a lot from having fewer days between sessions. I said it was good to feel connected with him and said, ‘I have missed that level of attunement, I used to have it with Anna and I didn’t with Linda and I think I should have trusted my gut. I kidded myself into thinking we would get there but we never did and really I knew from the beginning.’ Mark said, ‘You’ve probably got a good gut sense and like all of us we don’t always listen to it as much as we could. You put your good faith there and maybe it wasn’t a good fit. For other people she might be brilliant but for you she wasn’t quite what you needed and there’s learning in that isn’t there.’ I said, ‘yeah and the Anna stuff got in the way quite a lot.’
I then told Mark that I had emailed Linda last week as a follow up from our ending and she never replied. I told him a bit more about how shit the last session had been, that she didn’t really have much to say to me and that she told me that normally people just email to end their work, they don’t have an ending session and that even she has ended therapeutic relationships as a client by email. Mark said, ‘you didn’t body swerve the final session and I’m glad Linda noticed that, it takes a certain amount of courage to rock up and say ‘I’m not getting what I need from you and that’s why I’m leaving’ which is the short way of saying what you were doing. So it does take a certain amount of guts.’ I laughed at the idea of this effectively being what I did and said, ‘it felt really important to do it you know, I think there’s this naivety about me where I believe that the therapist is always going to have the clients best interests in mind and I don’t think she did all the time or maybe her intention was to do that but she struggled with it because I know that it was really important for me to have a last session and I’m angry that she couldn’t bring anything to the table for it. She didn’t have anything to say.’ I told Mark that Linda had teased me saying I could have one last email and it had taken me a couple of weeks to figure out if I wanted to say anything and eventually I did email her and she hasn’t replied. Mark asked, ‘how does that leave you?’ and I said, ‘it’s really disappointing that she couldn’t… part of me feels ashamed and embarrassed that I sent the email like I opened myself again to a rejection and that’s the naivety,’ Mark asked, ‘does that feel familiar?’ and I said, ‘yeah the one making the effort, the one trying to build a bridge or reaching out. I wanted it to end on good terms you know? And really how much effort would it take her to email me, even fucking lying and saying, ‘I enjoyed working with you, it was nice to meet you, I wish you well’… how much effort does that take? But by not emailing me back it either shows that she really didn’t get to know me, over the 38 sessions we had, or she did know me and there’s some sort of anger in her that’s making her not want to give me what she knows I need. Maybe she felt rejected.’ Mark said, ‘hmmm she knows it would be important for you to try to end well,’ I said, ‘especially with what happened with Anna!’ Mark said, ‘that’s what I was thinking… you cam with a difficult ending. The endings were around from the beginning. Just like they are here. It’s partly what’s alive for you.’ I said, ‘yeah and you said in the last session right at the end, ‘I’m liking getting to know you’ and that really touched me and I felt… like I believed you. That is the work for me, learning to connect, trusting and staying connected, being in a relationship, a real one that both the therapist and the client are in this real relationship where it needs to matter to both of them and it did with Anna and it didn’t with Linda. I think I described it to you before like this, it felt like a drive through therapy with Linda, she didn’t invest anything in the relationship so she was really useful in certain capacities if I brought a day to day problem to her she would help me work through it.’ Mark said, ‘if it was away from your relationship,’ I nodded and said, ‘the fact that she would have been quite happy if I had emailed to end our work, she didn’t care, its not like she would miss me or…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘I’d feel upset if you did that to me, I would,’ he laughed and continued, ‘it’s not good I think people who end by text, I don’t get that a lot actually but I feel sad for the person when it does happen because it shows that they’re not ready to end, if you can’t show up, like you did with her…’ I said, ‘exactly, I know its not my job to analyse her but I don’t think she’s finished doing her own work, I don’t think she was able to be vulnerable or emotionally intimate in the relationship. She kept herself at a distance the whole entire time and when I kept trying to pull her into it (because that’s what I need to work on) she became defensive or would subtly gaslight me or tease me. She couldn’t see it. There were times when I would say something and she’d say it was a nervous laugh because what I described sounded horrific or whatever and I’d realise that she would make it about herself rather than seeing what I needed. Like, ‘this is MY therapy’, you know? ‘You go to your own therapy and figure that out but I need to deal with this in my therapy’. And I think coz I really wanted it to work I kept going through it and it was quite painful. And there were so many red flags. Like her saying she’d never had a client come twice a week, she’d never talked about the therapeutic relationship with clients… and I’d think ‘how can you work with people with developmental trauma/attachment stuff and not have the relationship come up? There are so many parts of this relationship that re-enact and mirror and bring up painful grief from things you lacked growing up, how can you not talk about the relationship. It was as if I was speaking a different language to her. She totally didn’t get it.’ Mark said, ‘and did that feel familiar to you? That dynamic? what does that remind you of?’ I said, ‘yeah my mum!’ and took three or four big breaths in and out. I said, ‘its really hard to talk to somebody who… it’s a lack of self awareness actually and I find it hard to tolerate. Which I know is a flaw in myself but I find it hard to tolerate people who lack that self awareness where they don’t realise the things they need to work on. So all I wanted was for Linda to say ‘I hear you and that’s som….’ oh well I guess she did say she was gonna take some of the things I said to supervision but, em, with my mum it was as if I grew up past her when I was quite young and she stayed at a maturity level… some of the ways she behaved it was as if she was the child in the relationship with me and her, very little self-awareness and no awareness of how or why her behaviour impacted me, also not taking responsibility for yourself.’ Mark said, ‘if I rewind slightly, you started saying maybe you should grow a tolerance and actually I think your system knows what you need and you know what it feels like when you get it and you weren’t getting it and its fair to expect therapists to own their part in something or come forward with these things and not put it all on you and leave you as the bad person,’ I said, ‘yeah so I think what I mean is that this is a thing that triggers me in my husband, his lack of self-awareness and I would like to be more tolerant in that relationship, I agree it’s the therapists role… yeah. I think there was some sort of insecurity with her, where she felt threatened by me sometimes, like if I quoted something psychology related she would tease me or question my need to do that, and it made me think that there’s something underneath her need to tease me, she’s not comfortable with me knowing things. She quite likes being the one who knows everything and having the person on this side not knowing things and I do know stuff I’ve read things. What I need is for somebody to be willing to go right down into the deep vulnerable intimate stuff. Coz I can have the cognitive conversations about things, but she wasn’t willing to go deeper…’ I trailed off.
I then said, ‘och I don’t know, I’m getting annoyed talking about this coz I’m like this is a waste of time and I already wasted 6 months with her…’ Mark said, ‘well that’s a theme isn’t it, with you, this sort of ‘waste of time’ thing comes up a lot. What I’m appreciating actually is that you certainly didn’t give over your power to her and you were able to clock when you were coming up against her defences and maybe asking her to show up more than she was comfortable with which does take a lot of courage. You’re right to do that with people and I’d hope you would do it with me, at some point I’m bound to disappoint you or piss you off, it’s just human relationships and I’d hope that you could tell me and I’d hope that I wouldn’t be overly defensive. In a sense I hear you having to do another difficult ending in a very different way. With Anna you got what you needed and then you didn’t and it leaves you with a whole lot of feelings that we’re learning from.’ I said, ‘wow yeah. I feel like I did give away my power by sending the email and I’m annoyed about that. I don’t know what it is with me and emails. I don’t know why I feel like I have to… why I even wanted to send it. I wanted it nicely tied off and it wasn.t the session was so awkward Mark I don’t even know how to describe it. Its like as soon as I said, ‘the conversation with Mark went well and I think that might be the direction I should go down,’ she was like ‘we’re done here’, you know? Rather than what I wanted to do was explore it and maybe reflect on the work we’d done but she just sat back and let the minutes go on. And then at like 35 minutes I checked how long we had left… she did the 50 minute hour which was another red flag for me coz how can you work with dissociative clients in 50 minutes that’s no time, that extra 10 minutes matters… if you’re really struggling you’ve got to finish 15 or 20 minutes before the end to ground and get back to reality so you’ve got this tiny sliver of time in the middle of the session where you’ve gone into something and then you’ve got to come out of it again. Anyway… I so she told me we had ages left of the session and is aid ‘actually this is excruciating, I’m happy for it to end now’ and she was like, ‘alright, well, good luck. Wish you well!’ and that was it… it was horrible!’ Mark said, ‘she didn’t support you to stay til the end and check in with what was excruciating, she wasn’t willing to meet you in it.’ I said, ‘ahh no… she never asked those kind of curious questions to try to investigate what was going on. Never took things further… ummm yeah… so there’s the part of me that feels angry about that, I wanted her to be more… and the other part of me is like ‘well who do you think you are? Wanting more! She is what she is and you know… and then but then I also feel like she said right at the start she doesn’t tend to do long term stuff, she tends to do 6, 8 sessions with people. Um… I mean right at the start I was like, really?? And I said to her, I need deep work, I’m probably gonna get attached to you, its gonna be the relationship I need to focus on and she was like ‘I can handle that’ but I think if she’s never experienced it or maybe if she’s never been the client experiencing it then maybe she wouldn’t know even that it exists or what it feels like. Ummm…’ there was a pause and then I said, ‘and again I feel like I’m wasting my time talking about this!’ Mark said, ‘I thought you might come in with that I was kind of thinking I bet that’s the next thing she’ll say!’ I laughed and he said, ‘Yeah, I mean, we can have a little laugh about it… yeah…’ I said, ‘yeah coz it’s only an hour and I want it to matter and why am I talking about this fucking woman I already wasted time on her you know? It was hard work I put in a lot of hard work and it wasn’t therapy, it didn’t feel like therapy for a lot of the time. And there’s a time investment, there’s a financial investment, there’s an emotional investment to all of that and she’s just kinda like walked away. And see at the start I asked her if she wanted to take a note of any of my details or take notes and or whatever and she said she didn’t do that… that was another red flag – there’s no relationship for her, its just work, someone shows up for the session or they don’t. she deals with that current thing and they might never come back… whereas Anna wrote loads of notes until I asked her to stop and she took notes between the sessions and she would bring her reflections to me. The relationship mattered to Anna but it didn’t impact Linda at all and I think it needs to be, for me, the relationship needs to matter to both of us. You know?’ Mark said, ‘Yes that makes sense. How are you feeling towards her as you speak? Can you just notice what’s there for you?’ There was a long pause and then I pondered what the feelings were. I wondered if it was resentment. I said, ‘its so fuzzy. Its like its behind frosted glass what I feel. um. I mean there’s a phrase in my head that I’m reluctant to say coz it sounds really arrogant. Ehhh…. but I feel like I could do a better job than she did and that annoys me and I know that’s probably ridiculous because I’m not a therapist. But you know, I can sit and give people space and be compassionate and empathetic and I feel like I know how to be far more emotionally intimate in relationships than she was able to be and that fucking annoys me.’ Mark said, ‘yeah there’s clearly anger there and in a way you’re just talking about human qualities and I imagine there must be a fair bit of disappointment because you do invest in relationships and certainly in your therapy you want to bring your whole self and have it met in other words you invest in this thing. And that’s great, I hear it as great because otherwise the thing doesn’t work you know, and you didn’t feel that coming back to you so I imagine that to be a huge disappointment.’
I said, ‘okay so that’s completely summed up what my relationship with my mum is.’ Mark said, ‘yeah so its also a re-enactment,’ I said, ‘she’s nothing like my mum so its really weird… a lot of mum stuff came up with Anna in a different way because she offered me things that my mother was never able to give me so there was a lot of loss and grief there but with Linda… so my mum is the sort of person where its like ’out of sight out of mind’ so if she doesn’t need something from me ill not hear from her for months. She’s not interested in maintaining a close relationship. Well she’d have to start one first before maintaining it.’ Mark said, ‘and how is that for you that she’s like that? Big question I know.’ There was a long pause and I said, ‘cognitively I know that it’s painful but I’m not feeling pain. It is disappointing. There’s a fucking massive amount of wasted time and emotional investment there, I mean the amount of effort that I put in to that relationship. To try and bend and mould myself to be the type of person that she might want to have around. ‘ Mark said, ‘well children do don’t they, we do with our parents and knocking on the door that can’t open til your knuckles bleed.’ I was quiet for a while and he said, ‘sorry that was a strong metaphor’ and I told him it was accurate. I said, ‘I constantly felt like she did not notice me at all and as if she was forever faced in the other direction, preoccupied with her relationships. Whether it was with my dad or after they split up it would be one of the many boyfriends she had. She was so obsessively focused on these very unhealthy relationships and I would be sort of tugging at her sleeve so to speak and she wouldn’t notice unless I was able to support her in some way. So maybe listening to her talking about it or accompanying her if she felt lonely but then she’d drop me if she managed to get a date. It was a very one sided relationship.’ Mark said, ‘yeah.’ And there was some time.
He then said, ‘So who was there for you?’ and I thought for a long time. I told him I had some good relationships with my teachers. I told him I didn’t remember ever going to anyone for comfort or anything as a young child. He said, ‘you sort of held it on your own?’ I said, ‘I had a really vivid inner world and would just go inside quite a lot. Ehhh…. that feels like too much.’ Mark said, ‘okay so we’ll pause there.’ I felt horrible and very spacy and I curled up with a pillow hugged to my chest. Mark said, ‘maybe sort of come out a little bit and take me in or maybe you could keep a small part of yourself here with me… it felt to me that you were going way back in time or away almost, way back inside and then you clocked that and it felt too much and you noticed the spaceyness and now I feel you slowly coming back to me and now I feel you sort of taking me in and the connecting with me and yeah, I am here with you and we can move things on and in a way, I hope this is okay, in sense I was pushing in to things a little bit to check out who you’ve had around for you, when you would fall who would catch you. And we’ll leave that to one side just now. But yeah…’ I said, ‘I was desperate for attention and care and found various ways to get that attention. Normally by just being very good and meeting all the needs of the grown ups. It was mainly teachers.’ Mark said, ‘school was very different from home, and you are a teacher now which is significant. There’s something in that, you provide that for other children now.’ I told him that when school stopped it was probably at the worst part of my life. I lost all the support and structure that I had in my life and the start of lockdown felt the same. That mini community and all the things you have just ends. Out-with your control. He said, ‘the bottom fell out your world.’ I talked some more about how chaotic family life was like and that losing school was awful and how the lockdown reminded me of that even though my home life now is not chaotic at all.
I suddenly said, ‘I feel weird,’ and put my head in my hands. Mark said, ‘let’s pause and notice what’s telling you that you feel really weird, let’s just feel it for maybe about 5 seconds…’ I said, ‘I feel sick and spacey,’ Mark leaned in and in a super soft, gentle voice said, ‘Hear me here with you. We’ll just sort of rest a little bit. There’s a kind of intensity here and a part of you is looking after you by going a little bit spacey. No rush.’ I drank some water and he said, ‘waters good! were meant to drink gallons of the stuff aren’t we…’ and he took a drink too which made me laugh. I said, ‘I get really frustrated with myself. Everything takes so long. This is the sort of thing where… if there were a million things that I would deal with in therapy I touched on a handful with Anna and it took so long because I slowed everything down so much and it really fucking annoys me that I cant just… I don’t wanna feel like that I just want to focus on things and talk about them and get them done! And then move on to the next thing.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah of course you do and we will. There’s a fight part on you isn’t there, it comes out in relationship to your own process ‘I just want to get things done’ which maybe doesn’t allow things to be and have a little bit of space around them. And what we took there in slowing down and having a drink of water, it might not feel like much is getting done, in getting through the list of things to talk about, but there is something about sort of riding that level of activation where we space out and come back and in that a lot is done actually, a lot is done even if there isn’t a story about it a lot is done. I don’t know if this makes sense to you or what you’re making of what I’ve said. And I’m not trying to discount what you’d like to get done.’ I said, ‘what I’m making of what you’re saying is that you understand this process and that makes me feel safe actually.’ He said, ‘and what does safe feel like right here and now?’ I said, ‘I want to answer that and then I hear ‘that’s the wrong answer, don’t say that, that sounds stupid’…’ Mark said, ‘it’s a bit like when I said the stuff about the body before and you said in your email to me that you were worried about being wrong, ‘not enough not enough not enough’ in some way… so I felt slightly hesitant but you do know actually because you just told me and I know I’ve thrown you back on yourself to sort of colour it in a little bit, and you might feel like the kid at school who didn’t know the answer but it’s all fine and…’ I interrupted and said, ‘I feel like if I say something you’re going to say it’s the wrong things to say.’ He said, ‘isn’t that interesting!’ I said, ‘I feel that in so many areas of my life like… this is a really stupid example but I feel lit when I’m at the optician, you know? When they’re changing the various lenses and asking, ‘any better now’… ‘a or b’? and I’m like, ‘you tell me! I don’t know what’s right!’ Mark laughed spontaneously which was lovely to hear and so did I. He said, ‘actually I was at the opticians yesterday and I was steaming up coz of the mask and couldn’t see the fucking letters!’ I burst out laughing, it was honestly very funny. I continued, ‘I know its ludicrous coz its my body, my eye sight… even when I’m at the doctor or osteopath or whatever I’m thinking they’re gonna tell me that what I say is wrong. Is this how I feel? Is that where the pain is? So youre asking me what feeling safe feels like, it feels like ‘oh phew he’s not gonna ridicule me’ I think that’s what safety here feels like. So when you were saying it might feel like we’re not doing a lot in that moment but we are, whereas someone who doesn’t understand the process might want me to hurry up and speak. You know that all of this is important.’ Mark said, ‘Absolutely, especially when we go a bit spacey. I want you back in the room with me but something has triggered that need to leave.’
I said, ‘I don’t think I ever had an emotionally safe intimate relationship growing up, with anyone. And it’s really terrifying… it’s like touching fire but you want to touch it.’ Mark said, ‘course you do, you long for that and you’re scared shitless of it.’ That totally stopped me and I just sat nodding looking at him feeling completely understood. I said, ‘yeah… I really want this thing, it feels good, I want him to know me, I want to invest in this , I want to be open, I really wanna talk about all these things and feel it and all of that and then I get a tiny touch of it and its like ‘fuuuccckkk’ it’s too much but not consciously and then it goes and it’s like I’m drowning and I don’t even know what I was talking about and I’m not feeling anything and there’s a complete disconnect and I don’t even know where I am or where you are and that feels just as scary as it did to connect and then I get frustrated because this is what slows everything down.’ Mark said, ‘and you’re wasting time or something like that,’ and I laughed and said, ‘exactly that… not something like that’ and laughed. ‘fucking wasting time staring out the goddam window when I should be focusing on this work that I wanna do!’ Mark said, ‘but in a sense you very articulately led me through what goes on for you and that is the work, that’s part of your process, that you do that… and for good historical reason. You know, it’s how you managed things when you were young. With all that longing for connection and it not being met and somehow you had to manage the unbearable. So I think your psyche has been quite clever at supporting you in coming through. And now we have the opportunity to take little pieces of the sequence of that and bring some curiosity and interest and say ‘well this is what happens for me and then that happens and before I know it I’m in this place,’ and over time something will come together with that, something in you will relax and come back quicker or not need to do that or only do it when you really need to do it or you’ll have some choice in when you do it rather than now when it happens to you.’ I said, ‘and it gets in the way of my relationships,’ he said, ‘it’ll have an impact for sure,’ and I said, ‘it really gets in the way, with my kids as well. Which really I feel so awful about, quite often they can be my biggest triggers especially in happy times which is so shit because like if were having fun together and I get a sense of connection with one of them, especially Grace, then this spaceyness kicks in… either I feel really disconnected… what happens is I feel like… uh… like this! Why cant I think of the fucking sentence!’ Mark said, ‘yeah you kinda get the brain fog, something in you… your articulateness that we were talking about before and I was appreciating does a bunk and is not there for you, you’re in a different space, a spacey space. Which is a sign that somethings been touched in you that’s difficult for you to be with so you sort of ping out in a way. There’s something protective in that and then you get frustrated to fuck about it happening and probably tighten a bit more I would guess,’ I said, ‘I literally cant even remember what I was gonna say! I really wanna try and remember what I was gonna say,’ I sat with my head in my hands and eyes closed and he told me there was no rush and I swore a few times in frustration. I said, ‘imagine trying to be a competent, present, attuned parent and feeling like this, it’s a fucking failure.’ He said, ‘there’s so much pain in that for you,’ I said, ‘I don’t wanna let them down like this…’ then suddenly ‘I’ came back online and it all was very clear again. I exclaimed ‘oh that’s what I was going to say!’ and sort of thanked the universe and continued, ‘It’s like being an observer. So, I go for being in the moment with her to then feeling like I’m watching us playing and I’m not part of it, or I’m watching them all playing together – Adam and the kids and I might as well not be there, and I get visions of me not being there and them being perfectly happy without me and this all happens in a split second and I get really upset and I have to go away because I don’t wanna ruin the moment for them,’ Mark said, ‘that’s really painful, some part of you comes in there,’ I said, ‘I feel totally fine now, I can talk about it when I’m not feeling it, it’s like I’m talking about somebody else.’ Mark said, ‘and there’s what you feel towards the part of you that does that,’ I said, ‘I hate it.’ He repeated that to me with total gravity. ‘You hate it. Yeah. Something in you gets triggered and goes off and doesn’t feel you can join in, you’re sort of outside the city walls… I’m not in this family.’ This phrase made me well up… I’m not in this family. That’s what I felt growing up all the time. I’m not in this family. He said, ‘but of course that’s not where you wanna be, the bigger part of you so wants to be in your family and connecting and responsive and there as a full open being but something happens for you that’s i a way I imagine something touches a memory in you and off you go, and a bit of you is trying to manage your experience,’ I said, ‘it’s all those different parts of me, you know like I’ll hear… for example one of the things that used to upset me a lot was playing with Grace’s hair, brushing her hair, plaiting it, getting her ready for school, and I’ll hear ‘no one ever did this for me’… and you know its painful, its almost like there’s a kid looking out of my eyes at this situation feeling really hurt watching this thing happening for someone else, again!’ Mark was making very compassionate noises while I explained this and said, ‘and that makes complete sense. Yeah. Nobody did that for you and how lovely that would feel as a child.’ There was some quiet as I sat with that and then Mark quietly said (as he motioned a cupped hand to his right), ‘I’m going to keep that one there, bookmark that, because that’s big, it speaks of a mountain of grief behind it. I really want to take our last five minutes just to sort of be together and perhaps even waste time together or for you to be able to say how its been or whatever you might need to do to sort of come out gently.’ I smiled and breathed deeply and said, ‘this feels like the fastest hour!’ I was going to continue but to my surprise Mark said, ‘it does feel fast, it feels fast to me!’ I said, ‘wow okay that’s not coz I’m just fucking weird,’ and he said, ‘well no it’s nothing to do with you being weird or not its time… time is very interesting. Psychological time can last ages or compress. I take it that I’ve been engaged that’s what I’m reading from it.’ I said, ‘oh okay, well the spaceyness steals time from me you know, I don’t always notice how much time has passed and then I get panicky and think I wasted all that time,’ I laughed and Mark smiled and said, ‘ahhh yeah this is really important isn’t it, when you get spacey you lose sense of time or maybe you spent quite a bit of your life feeling spacey,’ I interrupted and said, ‘hours and hours and hours every day,’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah so that’s why its so big for you. That’s why it’s so big.’ I breathed audibly and Mark said, ‘big outbreath of recognition there.’ I said, ‘you know, I don’t notice my kids ever doing that. They’re so engaged and playful or talking all the time or interacting in some way. Its really interesting to watch how much kids talk and interact and move and are expressive when they’re relaxed and happy, you know?’ Mark said, ‘yeah, and another word for that is when they’re feeling safe. And what you’ve done is enabled them to feel safe. So they can be happy and relaxed and engaged and that’s great it shows you’re doing a bloody good job but its also painful because it didn’t happen for you so there’s grief there I imagine. And I’ll be with you in that to work through that I really want you to hear that before we stop. However long it takes and whether we feel like we’re wasting it or not.’ I said, ‘well you’re gonna need to look after yourself for the next however many years then so that you don’t fucking leave me!’ and laughed and he said, ‘I’m very good at looking after myself.’ I said, ‘good. that was nice to hear thank you.’
We clarified that we’d do half four on Mondays and I said, ‘I’m so glad that you’re able to do that, it really makes a big different. Thank you!’ and he said, ‘yes I am too, I wanted to and circumstances… well it just worked and sometimes thing shine…’ I said that the planets have aligned, and he smiled. We wished each other a good weekend and said goodbye.