Connection and Attunement

I’m getting there!

I’ve been thinking about my first session with Mark and how quickly I felt a strong connection with him. I’m going to attempt to put into words something I was talking to my friend about the other day… this notion of connection and attunement… what does it mean and what do we need for it to happen?

My first thoughts are that we need a level of trust. I spent my whole life trusting no one, least of all myself. I couldn’t trust my own judgement, I was either numb and dissociative or hyperaroused and hypervigilant. I couldn’t trust any in built intuition or gut feelings I might have about people or situations as my body was in a constant state of outdated trauma response. For a good year / year and a half I didn’t trust Anna. I remember speaking to my brother on the phone countless times in that first 18 months lamenting to him that I didn’t think Anna could help me, she didn’t understand me, she wasn’t the right therapist for me. I would sit in the room with her and hold almost all of myself back and then I’d be left in agony as soon as I walked out the door. But it wasn’t deliberate, it seemed to be the only way I could operate. I couldn’t even conjure up an image in my imagination of me letting her in, I didn’t know what that would look or feel like. The one thing that kept me going back was this awareness that I had never in my life trusted a woman… so this was bound to be part of my work.

I guess like the slow and gradual movement of sand through a timer, my trust for her grew. So slowly that I didn’t notice it until I realised that I was now able to ask her to sit next to me, or let her sit with me (looking away upon my request) as I cried silently into my hoodie. Although she and I worked closely with each other building that trust together, the trust was inside me. It was a tiny seed that lay dormant for so long. Then it grew a tentative tiny shoot, then we nurtured it together until it grew roots that strengthened and bright green spindling stems of trust reaching outwards from my once caged off heart. It was in my ability to hold the anxiety and potential disappointment if she answered in a way that might upset me. It was in my ability to express when something didn’t feel right. I learned to trust that she would respond in an honest and authentic way but also I began to trust that I was going to be okay regardless… that I was able to stick up for myself. She fostered all of this, she planted the seed and tended to it gently… but the magic was in my allowing her. The lowering of the guard, the opening of the doors and windows, the curiosity of what it might be to let her in, the willingness to give it a go.

In our final phone call Anna said to me – we have built strong foundations, that doesn’t just disappear now that I’m leaving, it will be in you forever and you can build on those foundations with someone else. Don’t let this be the end of your therapeutic journey. It didn’t feel like that was possible in the months that followed. For a long time it felt like the foundations had been flooded by the swelling tides of grief; anything that had previously been built appeared to disintegrate in the swamp of my overwhelm. But as the deluge gradually pulled back and with support from Linda, I gathered the pieces of myself back up. I can clearly see now that it has not all been washed away. There is a very strong structure still there deep inside me. It’s weathered and worn but it still stands. Linda wasn’t able to build on it with me but she was able to clear the debris and destruction left behind by the terror and abandonment pain. I didn’t have to stand, knee deep in it all, alone.

When I began the search for a new therapist, I felt completely exhausted with the whole notion that I would have to start again. I felt as if whoever I worked with would have to know this whole catalogue of events or at least some sort of backstory to understand ‘why I’m like this’ and affectively be able to help me ‘be better’. I imagined all of the endless time I would need to dedicate to retelling my story, how exhausting and emotionally demoralising it feels to imagine I’d lost all the hard work and I was having to start from scratch… but that’s not been the case. What I’ve noticed is that as long as I hold on to the awareness of my foundations and what I have already worked on, then I’m half way there… and as long as my therapist understands and has experience working with the kind of deep attachment / developmental trauma work I need to do… then that’s the other half of the journey met. With Linda, I immediately felt a level of trust because Anna had left me in her capable hands, I was also pretty lost and in need of any life-raft… the day after my phone call with Anna, there was Linda. That definitely helped me open my heart to her rather than going back to hiding and locking myself away like I had with Anna in the early days. Linda was then able to see me and support the raw emotions that surfaced early on. As I began to stabilize and my life became a bit more recognisable to the life I had before lockdown I was able to feel with a bit more clarity that Linda wasn’t going to be able to do the deeper work with me. I toyed with this notion for over a month. I took it to her, we talked it through, I journaled and shared thoughts and listened to friends. Finally, when Linda admitted that she too believed she was holding a lot, ‘possibly too much’, I took a leap of faith and met with Mark.

I worried that I would have to talk and talk and talk to explain everything to Mark in order for him to understand what I needed… as if to catch him up to speed, bring him to the juncture I was standing in when Anna told me to go on without her… but really, he already knew. He knew because this is what he does for a living. He knew because this is his life’s work. He knew because he is trained in and deeply understands the type of therapy I need and want. So… he knew I needed active listening, compassion, validation, gentle presence, a witness. He knew (because I’d previously discussed my desire to work on developmental trauma and attachment wounds) that my child would need space and a welcome receiver should she (or ‘any one of them’) decide to show up. He knew that losing Anna was huge for me, that it was the biggest loss of my lifetime… in his words. He really understood the gravity of all that I brought with me and he told me there was no rush in telling him everything, that the stories will tell themselves in time.

Having my first session with Mark knowing and believing that he actually wants to do the deep work (in fact knowing he chose to work with me *because* I want to do the in-depth work) has made it a million times easier to open up. There’s something quite magical about him being able to meet me in the depths and knowing that he’s able and willing to do that. I knew, even from reading Linda’s profile online in the early days that she wasn’t the right person but I was so desperate to make that puzzle piece fit that I stayed until even the most frightened and unstable parts of me were ready to let go. Equally I knew, when I read Mark’s profile that he was the right person to move on-wards with.

What I’m learning is that I built the foundations with Anna which enabled me to go straight in to the deep work with Mark. I’ve been thinking about my early obsessive desire to purge all of my life story to Paul and Anna. I wonder if the focus on the narrative and the telling of the stories with Paul and Anna actually kept me in my head. I didn’t have any access to my feelings for so much of the work I did with them and I was under the illusion that I’d be able to reach the feelings if only I told my story over and over again. But I’m learning that the feelings will only come when I’m ready to process them and when the circumstances and environment are right. I’m now able to go in to the sessions and bring the real grief I’m working through in real time. Just 16 minutes in to the first session with Mark and I’m crying! That’s astounding to me and I never thought it possible! Hours and hours I sat with Anna, desperately wanting to cry. Mark says he trusts the biology and ancient evolution of our emotions. That they know what to do… and I have to say I believe he’s right. We just seem to do everything in our power to get in the way of them (for good reason).

On the subject of emotions and particularly this idea of overwhelming negative emotions. When I worked with Paul I had this idea that if I worked hard enough, he’d find a way to fix me and I’d no longer feel so broken. That I’d know when I’m finished because I won’t have any problems anymore. I’d be perfect… and happy… this illusive, temporary state of being that I so desperately wanted to inhabit all day every day.

What I’ve realised more recently is that I’m not ever going to be ‘finished’ or have no problems and absolutely never will I be ‘perfect’ – what even is that? What is more likely to happen is that my capacity to hold all of the many varied emotions is going to expand… it has already grown exponentially. Now I’m able to feel feelings I could never feel before and survive them and keep on keeping on. Holding all of that inside me, bearing witness to it, letting it move through me… that is the key. So interestingly this brings me to something that Linda always used to say… and every therapist has their own way of saying this… the key, really, is to trust the process. To trust ones own ability to heal. To trust that with the will and desire, I will get there. As Mark said, I already am getting there.

My First Session with Mark

A whole hour of glorious attunement and empathy

After the initial admin Mark handed the session over to me and I really had no idea where to start, which I said to him. He suggested I let things settle a bit, which I did. I said, ‘this morning has been weird, quite intense feelings coming up for me. I think… the past 6 months have been so crazy for me, I wish you just knew it all so I could then get on with the work but I guess the work is exactly that, it’s in the telling. And finishing with Linda on Monday was quite weird, and awkward and maybe a bit of a let down actually. So then this morning noticing the feelings come up of starting my work with you opened another layer of the grief of leaving Anna. There was a lot of crying and really feeling it all… which I wasn’t expecting.’ He said he was aware that it was all ‘up here’ for me just now and held his hand to his chest which felt very affirming. I told him I didn’t know what would be the best way to use the session, whether it would be a good idea to try to explain to him what the past 6 months have been like for me or if I should tell him more about who I am, details of my life. I told him I’m aware that I can talk too much and not leave space for the therapist, that Anna always encouraged me to slow down and pace myself rather than going too fast and retraumatise myself. He said, ‘I think I’ll come in there and respond to that. I think often slower is definitely the better way and it helps to slow down just to feel into the words that we’re saying. Sometimes I might interrupt you to do that and you’re free to tell me you wish to carry on but yeah, sometimes it’s important to slow down and tune in to whatever is going on in the body as we speak of things.’ He said some more things about that then said, ‘where I’m coming from is that there is no rush, it may feel different from your side… and I’m very curious and interested about the last 6 months or whatever else you want to bring. But I think it’s important to bring it at a pace that’s right for you. I know some people do history taking and all that sort of stuff but I believe it will arrive in its own time. But I do want to know your history when it’s ready to be said, you know? I trust that it will just come forward.’

I struggled to put what I was feeling into words and eventually said, ‘There’s this sense inside me of having to start again.’ I started to feel the pain rising and I continued, ‘it is grief.’ He said, ‘of course.’ I said, ‘I stand by what I said at the end of the last time we spoke, I feel really hopeful and excited and pleased to have connected with you and this feels good… it’s really showing me that it just wasn’t a good match with Linda you know? Having said that there’s this real sadness that I’m having to start again and that I’ve done this… I did it with Paul and I did it with Anna and I did it with Linda…’ I was aware of the emotions swelling in my chest and burning my throat. ‘…and I’ve got this awareness of that it was so many layers of the work, it wasn’t the same work repeated and it was different with each of them, deeper and deeper especially with Anna but there’s still this… I don’t know what the feeling is…’ my voice started to shake and Mark gently said, ‘yeah, lets just make some room for all of that just to be felt and I’m here to support you with it.’ I started to cry a little and said, ‘It’s a ‘not fair’ feeling, it’s not fair! That this has happened over and over and over again and frustration, maybe anger at them leaving you know?’ I really felt Mark’s presence and interestingly as I remember it in my mind it feels as if we were in the same room, amazingly. I continued, ‘but then there are so many different parts of me because I’m aware that this in itself is progress, I couldn’t express my emotions in front of Anna for the first two years of our work, I’m a completely different person to who I was when I walked into her office a few years ago.’ He said, ‘that’s fantastic actually isn’t it, you can see the progress you’re made and that’s good but right now it doesn’t wholly feel good because there’s this place in you… it’s not fair and there are some mixed and painful feelings about that. It makes sense to me… you had things that were good and you’ve lost them.’ I was very tearful as he was speaking and his words felt like a blanket of validation or a bandage, gently covering the open wounds. I said, ‘it was so good, and I miss her a lot.’ I cried some more and he said, ‘make room for that.’

Eventually I said, ‘I started to feel like Linda was frustrated that I was still feeling like this. It was fine to work on the day to day stuff but every so often the grief would come up and I don’t think she got it. She didn’t really understand the deep attachment stuff. I described Anna as being my therapy mum… she was more of a mum to me than my mum ever was.’ Mark said, ‘that’s it isn’t it, yeah.’ I continued, ‘and the grief that I felt over losing Anna I can imagine is more powerful than if I lost my own parents… which I feel ashamed to admit but it’s true, I’m not close to them like that.’ Mark said, ‘I understood you, she was really there for you and then she wasn’t. that’s traumatic. It sounds like Linda couldn’t fully receive that in a way that was okay for you.’ I explained to Mark that moving away from Linda felt like cutting the last tie from Anna and he made a pained noise in response to that. I explained that I imagined if it ever got back to Anna that I had stopped working with Linda that Anna would think I had let go of her and I didn’t want her to think that. I wanted her to know I would go back to her immediately if she started up her practice again. ‘So I guess this feels like a commitment to letting her go and I described it to Linda as being as if I’ve been standing at Anna’s grave every day for the past 6 months, mourning her, but I’ve finally decided to turn around and walk away and get on with the rest of my life basically, and Linda said ‘you’ve always used the language of grief when talking about Anna as if she doesn’t get this at all.’ Mark said, ‘it is a grief. And your metaphor there is really powerful, isn’t it. Its like standing at a grave every day for months and now a part of you is ready to walk away. And its painful walking away. It feels sore, it feels raw. And that’s what you’re with at the moment. It’s not all that you’re with but that’s there and just be open to that as it is.’ I was quite tearful again and said, ‘Linda said, ‘she’s not dead though, is she?’’ and Mark interrupted and said, ‘She is dead to you! You KNOW she’s not dead but she feels dead to you, it’s as if she has died.’ Fucking hell that validation nearly bowled me over. I told Mark that it felt easy for Linda to tell me Anna’s not dead as she still sees her and can speak to her every day but for me I went from having all this constant contact to nothing. I said I felt it was difficult for Linda to empathise with me.

Mark said, ‘it’s very traumatic, you were dropped at a time you weren’t ready to let go.’ I said, ‘it was just as painful for Anna, I know that I meant a lot to her. She knew that with my abandonment wounds and fears of being too much, she knew the gravity of what was happening. In our last phone call she told me to remember that she wasn’t rejecting me and that I was never too much for her. It’s like it took that for me to finally believe her, that last ohone call, I finally let that in.’ Mark asked what it was like when I let it in. I said it was agony. I said, ‘it was like love and grief pouring in and out. Going from being quite numb most of the time to feeling it all.’

I then explained a bit more. ‘The lockdown started for me when the schools were closed in the middle of march and I hadn’t seen her since February 29th because I’d been ill. We’d been in touch though. Then we had a couple of phone sessions which were really derailing, I could sense there was something wrong with her, she said she was fine but it was really unsettling I kept telling her I felt she was going to leave me or that she was going to die, although she reassured me she was fine I just had this really strong feeling that I’d never see her again. She kept telling me we’d get through it together. But then before the next session she text me saying she was unwell and didn’t know when she’d be better and she put me in touch with her colleague because we’d previously discussed this plan. So I saw Linda 6 sessions across those three weeks and in that time Linda described it as me jumping in with both feet. I really let out all the feelings. It was like a shock I guess. A lot of crying. And Anna had said I could text her which I did. Then she was well enough to start back up again and we had three sessions together. Which were the most open conversations, both ways, that we’d ever had. She talked about how hard it’d been for her, that she’d taken her feelings of jealousy and other things to supervision, it was a really powerful conversation. She told me that it was really severe asthma which was causing these long term problems. And she didn’t say this but my guess is that the covid stuff was probably causing a lot of anxiety spiralling you know, anxiety and asthma can go hand in hand…’ Mick said, ‘hard not to be really hard with that mix!’ I said, ‘and having to shield… I cant imagine having to hold space for clients when you’re in that position, you know, shielding, not seeing your family or friends, all areas of your life suddenly vanishing, struggling with asthma, possibly anxiety… I can see that all of that was a really bad mix for her. Then she said she was ill again and I felt more able to hold on to things so I didn’t go back to Linda immediately. I did eventually go back to Linda. I then got this message from Anna in the morning of the 19th of May asking if she could phone me. I knew immediately she was going to tell me she had to stop working with me. So we had this phone call…’ I lost my train of thought and um’d and ah’d a bit and Mark said, ‘lets just have a little pause there, eh.’ I think I was holding myself quite tightly because he encouraged me to breath through my mouth.

I said, ‘I struggled a lot with my attachment stuff being triggered a lot with Anna, disorganised attachment stuff. Really wanting her but pushing her away, needing the connection and pushing it away. And the minute I saw that she was leaving, all of that went away and it’s like I was finally ready to take it all in and she was going.’ Mark said, ‘yeah, yeah what a moment.’ I said, ‘she said some lovely things to me, she said she was really proud of me and spoke directly to my child and said…’ I started to cry and Mark quietly said, ‘No rush. Lots of space for what’s coming up for you right now.’ I had my face in both my hands crying heavily and he gently continued, ‘just to let you know I’m right her with you.’ Which actually felt lovely. I cried for a couple of minutes like that and then took some deep breaths and blew my nose. Mark said, ‘it’s huge for you, huge.’ I said, ‘she was upset in the call as well, I could hear it was a really big deal for her too. I think by this point I was the last client she had left. She only had a handful of clients because she was part time and when the lockdown started I think they all stopped and it was just me and her and…’ Mark said, ‘you really mattered to each other and you felt that, together.’ I said, ‘I had never felt feelings like that before, it felt like I was breaking. Also this was in the middle of lockdown and the lockdown itself I felt quite retraumatising it brought up a lot of stuff from my childhood of being completely powerless and having my life cut back and being trapped in this house and not being able to do any of the things in my life that brought me joy. My life had gone from being full of all the things I’d made the effort to bring into my life, to being a very small box and then I lost her too.’ Mark said, ‘so it brought up some very intense feelings into something that was contracted anyway.’

I said, ‘yeah so despite it being the lockdown, after the phone call I couldn’t even speak to Adam, I text him from the bedroom telling him what happened and that I was going out. I walked down the stairs and out the house and drove to her office and sat in my car and cried for hours. Which was breaking all of the lockdown rules but I…’ Mark said, ‘you went to the place that connected you.’ I said, ‘yeah I didn’t know what to do with myself, it’s like a goldfish bowl living here with my husband and kids, all eyes on me all the time, I just needed to be by myself and to go to the only physical place that connected us.’ Mark said, ‘it makes perfect sense to me.’ (I already feel like this is going to by my favourite catch phrase of his.) I continued, ‘at some point that day I spoke to the doctor and they gave me diazepam and something else… I felt, to be honest I was having very powerful suicidal feelings coming up and I guess I needed something to help me not be completely drowned by all of that. All of the negative feelings I’d ever supressed were coming up for me. It was massive.’ Mark said, ‘what helped you through that? Coz you have come through that.’ I said, ‘um… well I wrote her an email, stayed up all night writing it and finished it at about 3 in the morning. Sent it to her and she replied. Writing really helps me.’ Mark said, ‘I’m glad to hear that.’ I said, ‘in the email I shared lots of memories from powerful or memorable sessions and how she’s impacted my life and how she will continue to impact my life and how I’ll never forget her and that I love her though I never had the guts to tell her face to face. She replied saying that she would never forget me and that she learned a lot from working with me and that my words meant a lot to her and she signed it with ‘love Anna’ – it was a really nice final communication.’ Mark asked, ‘did you feel calmed by that or… I don’t know the word… that piece was important and you’d got each other, you were separate but still with each other?’ I said, ‘yeah exactly that. That this thing was happening out with our control that neither of us wanted and that we both felt really regretful and sad about it… you know… no bad feelings. It was just, in terms of… I want nothing but happiness and health for her I just really wish things were different.’ Mark said, ‘there’s real love there, is what I’m hearing. There’s something beautiful about it and also something very painful. It’s the loss of something that was very good for both of you.’

Mark said, ‘just to check in with how it is to be talking about it now with me?’ I said, ‘it’s good to talk about it. I hadn’t realised that I was really supressing all of this because I got the sense that Linda had ran out of patience for it and in the second last session with her she said to me that she had to hold a lot every time she met with me and maybe she was holding too much. I respect her for saying it but that ‘too much’ phrase is really painful for me… but it gave me the push that I needed because I’d felt that from her for a while although she would constantly say she was fine and it was okay but this time she finally admitted that it was a lot for her. I really feel like it was her responsibility, it’s like a boundary thing, I guess she’s never been in this position before but I don’t think I should have been working wither. I think it was contaminated or something, because she was friends with Anna it was complicated you know?’ Mark said, ‘yes I absolutely get it. Yes you needed a cleaner boundary of somebody that didn’t know Anna. She couldn’t hold it, it wasn’t a clean clear space for her. And actually you picked up that it was too much for her and maybe there’s a bit of relief when she finally said it, your instincts were right.’ I said, ‘I really wanted it to work and I wanted it to work partly for the wrong reasons, partly because she knows Anna. I found it easy enough to talk to Linda I just didn’t get back what I needed.’

I went on to reflect on how he had responded to me sharing that it brought up the fears of being too much when I didn’t get a response to the initial email I sent him and said that if I had that same conversation to Linda she would have just said ‘oh I didn’t get it’ and we’d look no further into it. He said, ‘yeah looking at the stuff it triggers inside you is really the work isn’t it.’ I agreed and explained that Linda was good at the counselling side of things but not the therapy. As long as I didn’t go deeper into things she was find. ‘I found my defence mechanisms of intellectualising and reading and researching kicked into overdrive as if I was trying to look for validation in these books to confirm that what I wanted actually existed because she was not giving it to me and whenever I would bring something like that to her she would get defensive and I felt like we were constantly going through these cycles of me saying ‘this is how I’m experiencing you’ and her saying ‘that’s not what I meant’ and me feeling almost gaslit like ‘I feel this and its real’. Mark said, ‘it sounds like there wasn’t the space for that to be looked into and felt…’ I interrupted and said, ‘also, maybe she unconsciously or was aware of the fact that this wasn’t going to work and didn’t really know how to end it without abandoning me so unconsciously or not, didn’t really dive into the work almost to make it my decision to walk away… I dunno I’m analysing her now!’ Mark said, ‘well you do have a good capacity to do that and it’s an important one. I was touched earlier when you were talking about Anna and how difficult it would be for Anna. So you know your strong adult had reached into her world and if she’s asthmatic and there’s covid and all the things you said, which were all very true. It’s a big piece of you. And so that part of you is trying to make sense of Linda, and it’s a good part of you but its not the part of you that needed to be met, it’s the side of you that was missed that needed to be seen. I feel sad for you actually because you had this catastrophic loss and then Linda couldn’t hold it for you. I do feel being close friends with Anna, it would be really muddy for her wouldn’t it. That would have been between you.’

I said, ‘you know that phrase ‘what’s stands in the way becomes the way’… that’s become a bit like my mantra of mine… what happened with Anna completely obliterated my plans, completely removed me from the journey I was on… but then this thing that has obstructed my journey, that then becomes the journey. So the grief of losing Anna, navigating my relationship with Linda, figuring out what my next step was, that stood in the way but now this is the way… as much as its agony and sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it, I do have this other perspective that I’ll make this work for me!’ I laughed and said I wasn’t sure if that came across right and he said it makes perfect sense. He said, ‘it lands with me, it’s fabulous to hear. What I hear you saying is that it’s workable. This is what I have to deal with and I’m willing to deal with it. And my thought to some extent is that loss is such an integral part of life and loss can be obviously triggering depending on whatever losses we’ve experienced in our lives and whoever has helped us hold that through it. And well you’ve just had an experience of a huge loss, perhaps the biggest loss of your life. The gravity of it comes across. And it wasn’t able to be held. On the back of what you just said there’s obviously an opportunity because if we can meet and grieve and make those emotions less scary and digest them then you’re in a better place to meet life with its inevitable losses.’

I said, ‘I really struggled to get in touch with any younger grief with Anna, the childhood grief… and in the weeks following her leaving I would go for walks through nature round here and I would cry while walking or sit by the river and cry and really feel it all. It sounds kind of cheesy but it really felt like I was honouring all the work Anna and I had ever done but feeling it all and not blocking any of it. It felt like I was loving her and respecting our relationship and honouring our work together by doing exactly what the work was about which was me feeling. And it also unlocked all this other grief. So crying about Anna brings up all these other losses and I get images and thoughts and feelings come up from childhood while I’m crying for her. Its like it unlocked a door that I couldn’t get through with her, its only from losing her that the doors been opened and I’ve been able to access it all.’ Mark said, ‘yeah and in a way isn’t that both deeply sore but wonderful too… you could have shut that door, you could have shut down. That wouldn’t have been good, to shut your heart around it all, in an attempt to protect yourself. What I’m hearing is that you opened your heart and it’s a bit of a washing machine spin cycle and you might feel a bit overwhelmed, all over the place, but actually you’ve not closed off, you’ve opened up.’ I said, ‘for the first time in my whole life.’ He said, ‘and I’m hearing that is wonderful… though it might not feel like that.’ I said, ‘no you’re right there is a duality there, you can’t live your life never feeling things it comes up in other ways. And it had come up in other ways my whole life. And as much as its agony… I know what it feels like to be completely numb… that doesn’t feel there’s no feelings, numbness is a horrible place to be when you know there’s an ocean of feelings but instead all you have is numbness.  I never want to go back to that… so being in the place where I’m feeling the most physically painful feelings, I’d rather that than nothing. I’d rather feel all the feelings, than be numb.’ Mark said, ‘I’m really glad to hear that of course. And the numbness was there for a reason, it was a way of helping you manage the feelings that were unbearable perhaps but that’s not where you are right now. Your capacity for feeling has grown enormously through your work with Anna. Really tragic that it was caught short in a way but it’s also an opportunity to widen it because when you’re numb you’re living in a very small space inside yourself. There’s lots of unlived life. You’re feeling much more the depth of feelings that was held back or held in or held down. Numbness is a useful defence at times but that is what it is.’

I really loved this reframe and said, ‘Yeah that’s really true, the numbness was there for a reason, I wasn’t able to hold the feelings back then, I guess we really strengthened that part of me in my work with Anna. Because before it would feel like… I remember when I would say to her in sessions that I couldn’t cry but I wanted to, it felt like my whole body was crying apart from the parts that do the crying, I would say to her that I was worried id cry for ever and it would never stop or that it would kill me if I let the feelings be felt. It was like a damn holding this massive body of water that would have drowned me if the damn broke… and I’ve learned over the past few months… its actually amazing how your system does just let you… its like a drip feeding of overwhelm, well its not overwhelm but like… sobbing this morning for a period of time and then you go wash your face and you get some breakfast and then you today a bit and you have a session and you cry some more and you do just keep being alive, you know? It doesn’t overwhelm you..?’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah we keep on keeping on don’t we? I’d just like to say this little bit before I check in with you… when I think about it we’ve got millions of years of evolution involved in our emotional lives and the emotions know how to move through. You know, they know how to do themselves and we often get in their way, for good reason, often because were afraid of them, but actually the stuff on the other side of them… there is a growing trust I hear in you an we can grow that together too.’ I loved that so much.

With a few minutes to go Mark said, ‘How are you left? I want to see how it’s been for you, our first session?’

I said, ‘ummm…’ for ages and then went quiet to try to check in with myself. I finally said, ‘it feels like, so an analogy came up, you know when you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle and you’re trying to make a piece go in where it doesn’t fit? That’s what it felt like with Linda, I really wanted that puzzle piece to fit and it didn’t. Whereas this session has felt like it’s just clicked into place. It feels like… you know what it is actually? The biggest grief, selfishly, that I felt when Anna left, is that I miss how she made me feel when I was with her. I miss the part of me that was seen by her, hasn’t been seen for months and I felt it the last time we spoke and I felt it today. That is really massive.’ Mark said, ‘yeah yeah, take a moment to just sense that in your body. That click or whatever it is that tells you that, just let yourself have that as a way of just come forward. It seems like a good way of honouring what’s come forward between us.’ I took some big deep breaths and said, ‘There’s a lot of gratitude actually.’ He said, ‘ah well that’s lovely to hear. It’s a good feeling, gratitude. And you’ve had so many difficult feelings. So sit with the gratitude.’

I then said, ‘I sort of feel like I want to check in with you, which is ridiculous!’ and I laughed. He smiled and said, ‘well no its not ridiculous it comes from somewhere! What do you need to know?’ I said, ‘the fearful child part is like, ‘do you still want to work with me after I cried in front of you?’ he said, ‘yes I do! Yeah yeah yeah you’re absolutely fine. And I did clock when you were crying, I wondered how it was for you to be seen crying because I noticed you covered your face up, I was fine with it but I wondered whether you felt uncomfortable. Wondered if you felt something about the fact that I might see your tears.’ I said, ‘yeah it’s a work in progress… the only time I ever cried with Anna I had my jumper pulled up over my head so this is progress!’ he said, ‘yeah great so that’s a good little… that helps me because I’m fine with your tears but I’m aware you might not be fine, just let me know… to me it’s good because I’ve got such a strong faith in emotions and the million years worth of tears… you know, it’s your biology working that’s where I am!’ I said, yeah ill get there I’m sure.’ Mark said, ‘yes you will you absolutely will, well you are getting there you were getting there today because you let yourself cry, in spite of any possible feelings about the crying… and its fine. I hope that reassures you.’

We ended withing each other a good weekend and again he let me end the session. I forgot to turn the recording off immediately after the session and I can hear myself get up and walk to the bathroom. I can hear myself singing all the way there and all the way back… and that pretty much sums up how I felt after the session. Lighter, freer, more openhearted, seen, understood, not alone… it felt really good.

Goodbye Linda and Thank you

Our final session and the lessons I’ve learned in this ending.

Approaching this session with Linda I was still uncertain whether it would be my last meeting with her or not. I knew in my heart that finishing our work together was the right thing to do but I didn’t know how I was going to do that. As the session progressed it became clear to me that the most authentic and appropriate thing to do was let this be our final session. Normally I write up my notes the day of the session and I really enjoy processing in that way. I recorded the session again this time and I felt enormous resistance to listen back to it last night. Today I am sitting, ready to listen and type and again I’m feeling resistance… I think I’m disappointed in how lackluster it was and the thought of listening to a cringy and awkward, drawn out ‘goodbye’ is making me feel uncomfortable. It was really clear to me that Linda didn’t know how to play a role in this final session which solidified my confidence that I was making the right decision. I am very sentimental and like to reflect and find meaning. Even in the 14 minute phone call I had with Anna that provided a rushed ‘ending’ she crammed more sentiment and meaning in than Linda managed in the 40 minute session… yes forty minutes… I ended it early because there really wasn’t anything else to say.

As soon as Linda clicked on and very quickly said, ‘Hello Lucy, how are YOU?’ I knew she was having to force interest and connection. I have invalidated my intuition all my life but I really am very in tune with people and I know when someone feels uncomfortable. I can hear subtle changes in their voice or shifts in body language. I can tell Linda has increasingly found the dynamic between us challenging for a few reasons. One is that I am constantly trying to guide our work to a deeper level that she isn’t able to work in and another is that I need to work out my feelings about Anna – her friend. The more I think about this the more in tune I am with an anger that this has even happened. I don’t think Linda should have agreed to work with me long term after Anna closed her practice. She supported me in the gap and she could have been there at the initial shock of ending but there is a real concern around the boundaries of how I can work with someone who is friends with my old therapist. It should always have been understood that she would support me in until I found another therapist… it feels like I was put in an awkward situation by her because she wasn’t willing to be truthful with herself about how difficult the situation was. And I want to make it clear that this doesn’t discount the really valuable, impactful work I did with Linda, there are many facets to this… it was great to have immediate support in the first few months of Anna being ill and then losing her, but we should never have committed to Linda being my therapist long term. But regardless of that being true, what has happened is that I have made that decision myself and I feel I have a sense of power in my own therapeutic journey because of that. So, in that case, this has been a good learning curve… just a very challenging and painful one (aren’t they all?).

I spent some time explaining to Linda that I was stressed because of everything that was going on in the house five minutes before the session. As I listen to this recording I feel a really unsettled discomfort in the pit of my stomach. It’s screamingly obvious to me now that she wasn’t the right therapist for me long term… I was forever feeling this deep disappointment that I’d lost something so precious that I had with Anna that I couldn’t get with Linda. I’ve only had one meeting with Mark and it wasn’t even a session but I know on a very deep level that he will be able to provide what I need. Linda falls into this pattern of platitudes sometimes when I think she doesn’t fully engage with me or understand me. She repeats words like, ‘my goodness,’ or, ‘ahhhh I see,’ in a banal tone that just feels as if she is saying things to give a response, any response. I’m thinking about an analogy here… my husband has this incredible work ethic… he has a low paid ‘unskilled’ job that he does to the absolute best of his ability every single day. He believes that no matter what our job is we should do it as if it’s the most important job in the world, put all our effort in and pay attention to the details of the job… Anna was like that, she poured her heart and soul into her role as a therapist that was her second job. Linda on the other hand, I get the sense that she likes to do as little as possible. Where Anna would constantly evolve and she would read and study and work hard at furthering herself in her profession, I get the feeling that Linda feels that she’s good enough just as she is and all she needs to do is turn up to the sessions. This conflicts with my values and I think this is one of the reasons we struggled to meet each other on a deep level.

I’ve read a wee bit about how psychotherapeutic relationships can be ended in a positive way… especially as both of my long term therapy relationships ended outwith my control, it felt important to me that this was done ‘right’… Mark understood this immediately but I got the sense that Linda really didn’t. I read that ending sessions, ‘may involve a sort of encapsulating the months (or years) of therapy spent together, and ensuring the client is ready to move on in his or her life. Especially long-term or close therapeutic relationships may end with tears and a hug (if both parties agree).’ This was NOT my experience with Linda. If I could give an overview of our final session it would be to say that I spoke for 90% of the time and she gave very brief one word answers with a few sentences in between. She was not fully invested in this process and actually I think she was uncomfortable with it.

I wasn’t sure how to word things at the start of the session. I meandered around the subject for a five awkward minutes. I felt very nervous and eventually I launched in with, ‘obviously in the last session we talked quite a lot about how we’re both feeling and so I imagine you know what today’s session is going to be about… I had my meeting with Mark and I’ve not really thought about anything other than our session and the stuff that came up, particularly hearing that we were experiencing the same thing in terms of you holding a lot every session and Anna being very present between us and it kind of getting in the way of the therapy… and so… this is hard! I think it’s probably best that we don’t work together any more.’ Linda said, ‘okaaay,’ in an, ‘oh this is what you’re getting at’ kind of way, like she wasn’t expecting it. I said, ‘I have thought and thought about this. Gone over all of our work. When I take Anna out of the situation, I really feel like we did a lot of great work together… but she’s very much a part of me and will always be…’ Linda said, ‘okay’ abruptly, I continued, ‘and she’s very much a part of your life,’ Linda said, ‘yes she is, absolutely,’ – this makes me realise that I often felt like an outsider in this strange triangle… like there was Linda and Anna behind this wall and me on the other side desperately wanting to penetrate it. I said, ‘What I experienced with Mark was that giving him an overview of what I’ve experienced the past 6 months, I didn’t have any hesitations when telling him how I was feeling about Anna which made me realise that more recently I have found it hard to tell you how I’ve been feeling. It wasn’t always like that – at the start it was very easy to just let everything out and grieve with you but as time went on I found it increasingly more difficult and my focus was more on how you were experiencing it than what I needed. Obviously Mark doesn’t know Anna so I didn’t feel that at all with him.’ I laughed nervously because she was literally only saying, ‘okay’ every so often. I said, ‘I’m finding this really fucking hard, I don’t really wanna say goodbye to you but I think I’m going to have to purely because…’ she interrupted and said, ‘Lucy, I really respect this. I really really appreciate the amount of obviously thinking and just the energy you’ve given this. I think it’s really important to acknowledge that, okay… okay.’ I thanked her and explained that this is the first time I’ve ever been able to end a relationship. I said, ‘this is hard… so weird.’

Linda said, ‘it’s hard, it’s weird, it’s new but its also a chance to model how it can be done Lucy.’ I laughed and said, ‘by bumbling my way through it all?’ she laughed and said, ‘by just doing it you know and having a good ending whatever that means, as a posed to a bad ending.’ For some reason that made me cry and I told her I was feeling really emotional. I think it caught me in that moment that this really was an ending and I was not going to speak to her again after this. That she can go off and live her life and continue seeing Anna and I am really closing a door on it all. But I also realised that staying in contact with Linda was making the wound of Anna not being in my life even more irritated. It wasn’t allowing it to heal.

I said, ‘I feel sad that this has to happen, I’ve got quite fond of you over the last few months and it’s confusing… I wish that none of this had ever happened and that I could still work with Anna.’ Linda said, ‘sure, but it did happen, it did.’ I talked to her about how I can see that this is part of my journey. That I don’t believe in silver linings but the phrase, ‘what stands in the way becomes the way’ resonates. That I never wanted any of this to happen but it did happen and this is part of my journey… ‘and this ending we’re having is also part of my journey.’ She said, ‘absolutely, aabssolutely.’ I’m aware that I’m over analysing her but she really did appear to be feigning interest in this. Stretching out and repeating inanities… pat responses.

She said, ‘you’ve done the preparation, you’ve looked at therapists… if you don’t mind me asking have you agreed to work with Mark?’ I told her yes and she said, ‘okay so you did the preparation, you had that discussion and it feels right? Does it feel right?’ I said, ‘yeah 100%… with him. I feel weird about ending things with you though I wanna keep you both going!’ we both laughed… there was a lot of nervous laughter. I think I felt the need to keep it going because I sensed an uneasiness in her and wanted to make that feel better by continuously telling her I wanted to stay but couldn’t make it work. I told her that my conversation with Mark felt good. There were some big silences. I told her my head was filled with things I wanted to say but didn’t know if there was any point. I reminded her that the last time we spoke I told her I wouldn’t make the decision to end things over night and I haven’t, a lot of thought has gone into it but I wasn’t sure how many session I wanted to use to have a ‘good ending’. She reassured me a ‘good ending’ doesn’t need to have lots of sessions and again I feel like this was to ease her discomfort rather than what would be good for me. She completely missed the significance of me not being able to have any kind of substantial ending with Anna. I told her I felt like I was dragging it out just for the sake of dragging it out and Linda said, ‘There’s no rule or template, as long as it’s organic and authentic. Yeah?’ again I felt a wave of feelings, emotions coming up.

Linda asked me what I felt I needed to say today, ‘use the session for doing that at least!’ she said. (this was 11 minutes in and already I was feeling like I wanted the session to end, I had no idea how I was going to fill the remaining time.)

I said, ‘Earlier today when I was thinking about this session, I thought about how you would be relieved. I felt certain that you would be relieved to hear me saying I felt we should stop working with you.’ She said, ‘Lucy, that’s very unkind.’ This is an example of how she doesn’t know how to go deeply into things, she just takes things at face value. Why do I feel like she would be relieved? What does that tell me about my self-worth or my pattern of relationships in the past? What does it show us about the beliefs I held of myself growing up? She said, ‘that’s not the case, that’s not the case, alright?’ I said, ‘even with all the stuff you felt you had to hold with the Anna stuff?’ she said, ‘it has been hard but that doesn’t mean this is a relief. You know, it’s really important that you get the therapy you need right now Lucy, and that might not be with me. But its about self determination and making the decision that’s right for you. And I respect the fact that we’re having this conversation because most of the time it’s just an email. I’ve finished with a therapist with an email before, I’ve done that. So I really respect that we’re having this session to talk about this.’ I said, ‘Well it was really important to me.’ Then there was a long silence.

I talked about how things feel very different now than they did in March. I told her that things with Adam feel so much better, I feel closer to him and talk more openly with him now. I also have talked to some friends about what the lockdown was really like for me and losing Anna. I talked about the fact that in March she was the only one I could share my pain with but it doesn’t feel like that anymore. I said, ‘I’m really grateful to you for doing that with me, I think you were exactly what I needed at that time.’ She quickly said, ‘okay thank you,’ and I continued, ‘you were non judgmental and you let me express all of the things I was feeling and I appreciate a lot that you were able to let me do that. Even if we don’t talk about Anna, she’s in my mind when I’m talking to you. I’m wondering if you’ve talked to her this week or whatever, it’s there all the time. And it feels healthier to let that go. It’s the last thing to let go of. That wasn’t what a lot of the work we did was about but knowing that the connection is there, it’s always going to be there for me.’

Linda said, ‘and a lot of the time there were three people in the room or three people involved in the process, you know. Because I think there was for you… Anna was always around even if she wasn’t explicitly around she was implicitly there with you.’ At this moment I realised that this has felt somewhat threatening or frustrating for Linda. Rather than her seeing this as being something understandable that I really needed to work on, she sees it as something that was getting in the way of her and I doing the work her way. I said, ‘I think that’s the purpose of therapy isn’t it, to internalise the therapist…’ she smiled at this and I continued, ‘it becomes complicated when there is premature ending and when your current therapist knows the previous therapist.’ She said, ‘okay.’ I said, ‘it’s not necessarily a bad thing but becomes complicated in this situation.’ She said, ‘I think maybe in another context this might have been discussed and talked about at the start but it might have faded a bit. And I think it has faded a bit for you from the start but she’s still there.’ Again this confirms what I suspected, that Linda really thought I’d be over her by now despite her saying it takes as long as it takes. I don’t think she has worked with anyone either as a therapist or a client herself to the depth that Anna and I worked or maybe not on an attachment level. She really just doesn’t understand how deep my connection with Anna was and why it impacted me so profoundly. If my mother had died she wouldn’t be saying to me that there were three people in the room… she really never fully understood it.

I said, ‘the thing is, because I didn’t leave her I didn’t stop working with her and there’s a part of me that still hasn’t stopped working with her and I think moving on to working with somebody else feels like accepting that me and her have stopped. Which is horrible but… it’s like standing at someone’s grave every day, they don’t want you to hang on to them in death every day. And she said that it was really important for me to continue with my therapeutic journey, ‘don’t wait for me’ kind of thing.’ Linda said, ‘yep and the language that you have always used is the language of grief, that’s exactly what people say when they talk about somebody that has actually gone.’ I said, ‘because that’s exactly what it’s like, she completely vanished from my life!’ I felt annoyed at this and it solidified once again that she didn’t get it.

I said, ‘what exactly are endings meant to be like?’ she laughed and said, ‘I think they’re just meant to be a chance for you to say anything else that needs to be said,’ I said, ‘so is this going to be it then? This is our last session?’ she said, ‘well what feels right for you? And also when are you starting with Mark?’ I told her he’s left it up to me and that he’s leaving the space available for when I’m ready. She seemed surprised and intrigued by this and said, ‘I could start this week if I wanted to…’ and then talked about possibly having a break between. She told me that it is believed to be good practice to have a break between therapists to let things process and settle. She worked for assessments for EAP on the phone and discussed that it helps with ‘contamination’. She told me her explanation was really simplistic and it made me wonder if she had a deeper understanding of it. She talked about creating space, ‘things can flourish in space, when you give yourself space and time things can settle and grow… I’m not talking about forever just a short period of time.’ I laughed and said, ‘four days enough?’ and she laughed.

At one point I said, ‘I’m gonna miss talking to you actually.’ She said, ‘and I’m gonna miss working with you too Lucy, you know its been twice a week for a number of months. And I really mean that I’m not bullshitting you.’ I said, ‘even though I forced you to do the twice a week thing!?’ she said, ‘but the important thing was that it was what you needed.’ I said, ‘the sessions really felt like they were the glue that were holding me together back then.’ She said, ‘I know part of it was that you needed something, but you did jump in as well with both feet and I think I did as well, you needed to… you needed something like a life raft or something coz the grief was so raw for you.’ I said, ‘yeah it’s nice to hear your perspective! I remember the first few sessions really clearly, right at the start of lockdown… I remember you saying that at the time. I really wanted to make it work for me.’ She said, ‘yup!’ and I got a big sense that she was just as awkward as me. I jokingly said, ‘any more reflections?’ and she laughed and said, ‘well have you got any more reflections?’ I said, ‘I wanna hear you talk about me!’ and she gave a genuine laugh. I said, ‘its weird to just say BYE at the end of this. Weird that we’ve never sat in a room together – forever my lockdown zoom therapist! I haven’t really got my head around all of that actually.’

I said, ‘I’ve been thinking about what it’s gonna feel like to do all of this again! To have to work on getting to know another new therapist. How much of the back story does he need to know? What stuff do I still need to cover? When I first started working with Paul I had this mindset that I needed to tell him everything about me so that he knew me fully and could then work his magic on fixing me. With Anna I tried to do that but she slowed me down and tuned me in to my feelings so much that it was far more painful but far more healing. With you it’s been interesting to work on day to day stuff and see that I can actually heal things without necessarily going back decades for some things…’ she said, ‘yes and that will continue to happen Lucy, it will always be different.’ I said, ‘yeah Mark will be very different to what I’ve experienced before.’ she agreed and pondered what it will feel like to actually sit in a room with him rather than working by video. We talked about the various ways people have been working around the restrictions. Walking therapy, garden therapy, phone, video sessions. She shared her thoughts on these things and joked about how she wasn’t really able to do outdoors therapy in the middle of the city. She said, ‘if people want to have a lovely wander through the less salubrious parts of the city then they’re more than welcome to but I’m not sure how therapeutic it would be.’ I said on a more serious note that I personally would find it hard to be completely open with my emotions in a public space and that I imagined it wouldn’t feel as containing or holding for me. That I’m just so grateful we are living in the age of video calls and wifi!

I asked how long we had and she said fifteen minutes. She encouraged me to ‘give it a go’ and talk about what I feel we ‘should’ be talking about. I said, ‘I’m just going to be saying the same thing over and over again, that I’m gonna miss talking to you, that I’m sad I’m having to end things, that therapeutic relationships are weird,’ she said, ‘yes to all of the above.’ I said, ‘you very suddenly start something very intimate, and one way all the way through, then suddenly stop it. And now I’ve added somebody else to miss… hopefully Mark can teach me how to be more mindful and not dwell on and be preoccupied with in my mind.’ She said, ‘that sounds like a pretty amazing opportunity to do that kinda stuff with him.’

I said, ‘see if I was saying goodbye to you in person, I’d have asked for a hug but you don’t do hugs.’ She said, ‘that would have been fine, I’m not like ‘keep away everybody, keep away the whole world!’ I said, ‘except for when it comes to covid19 and then we definitely want everybody to keep away! Okay then I can imagine we hugged saying goodbye.’ She said, ‘absolutely.’ I said I had no idea what the time was and she said, ‘it’s okay we have plenty of time,’ and I said, ‘but I just want to say goodbye now this is excruciation.’ She laughed and said, ‘well, do you know what Lucy, we can. That’s okay my goodness, alright…. emm… I wish you all the best and I really mean that I wish you all the best with the next chapter of your journey. It will be different but go with it and give yourself permission to go with it. You’re gonna be doing different stuff with Mark and those neural pathways might be a bit resistant to change but despite that… that’s the whole point, seriously! Okay… so see what happens.’ I said, ‘thank you for agreeing to do this with me despite it being tricky at times. I really appreciate that you showed up every time and all the behind the scenes stuff that you will have done to try and be there for me in the sessions, I really appreciate it.’ She said, ‘okay, thank you for saying that and I hear that. Alright… all the very best… and I will say this… if you want to send me one email, you can!’ I said, thank you and you can go back to Anna being your friend now and not someone that I lament after twice a week at you.’ She said, ‘yeah, okay, I hear that. Listen, seriously all the best, take care of yourself and go with it. Do the work with Mark.’ I said thank you very much and she thanked me. And we said, ‘see you later’ and she clicked ‘leave meeting’ at the 42 minute mark.

So, this whole thing has validated my decision beyond words. I feel an ocean of processing beneath the surface and a whole lot of faith in myself and Mark that we will get to it… we will work on it. I emailed him explaining that I had decided to finish with Linda and he responded in a couple of hours offering me a time on Friday for our first session and I CAN NOT WAIT!

I’m not feeling anger or resentment towards Linda. There is some frustration and possibly anger about the whole boundary issue (with regards to her being friends with Anna) however I am not angry WITH her. I don’t feel like she, ‘did me wrong’ and I don’t feel like she withheld or deliberately didn’t give me what I needed. What I do feel is that she *couldn’t* give me what I needed. I don’t think she’s gone there herself. So, she literally doesn’t know what’s missing. The work I did with Anna was on a completely different plane to what Linda had to offer. When I would say to Linda that I didn’t feel I would get what I wanted from our work she would say things like, ‘you never know which direction the work will take us’ as if it was only a matter of time rather than the reality which was that within each session I could FEEL I wasn’t getting what I needed CURRENTLY. But I couldn’t put my finger on it until I felt it with Mark! I instantly felt like I used to feel with Anna… I know in my bones that this is the right move. While reflecting on how I feel about Linda it has made me aware of a growing acceptance of the fact that people can’t consistently be what we want or need them to be. We can learn to accept the ebb and flow of relationships and we can learn to lean in and let go of people as and when it feels right for us. Our partners can’t mind-read and instantly know what we aren’t saying to them. Our friends can’t constantly be available and willing to drop everything for us at any moment. Anna couldn’t stay being my therapy mum for life, Linda couldn’t be any sort of substitute for Anna… my mum couldn’t be the mother I needed and deserved. But what is within my power? I can continue to listen to the parts of myself that give me very clear guidance on what I need and whether something feels right or not… then I can go about finding it.

The next step of my journey has just come into sight…

Meeting Mark

We clicked on to the zoom session and simultaneously announced to each other that we were going to get rid of our self-view. He remarked that it was an odd way of meeting someone for the first time and asked if I could hear him. Checked we could both hear and see each other. He said it was a very clear picture of me and clear audio which is good. His audio to me kept fading in and out which was annoying, I don’t know if that’s a problem with his Wifi connection or mine.

Once we’d got the initial greetings out the way there was a slight pause and I said, ‘I’m just going to start by saying that I’m really nervous,’ Mark was calm, he sat cross legged on his sofa with some plants and soft furnishings around him. He smiled in an understanding way and said, ‘Oh yeah, okay, well that’s not unusual… let’s sort of allow that nervousness to be here, just take a minute with yourself to let that be there.’ I was immediately struck by how calming I found him and how despite this being a ‘chat’ and not a therapy session, he was being very therapeutic. I then said I wanted to apologise for the emails. I said, ‘I felt like I was nit picky and critical and picking you apart in the emails and I didn’t just stick to organising the details of this meeting and I apologise for that basically.’ He said, ‘well you know actually I’m quite grateful because the website you went on is relatively new and I had some teething problems that I thought were taken care of and so thank you for that because it let me know there’s an issue. And the other site, I must have signed that up years ago and didn’t even know it was still active so actually I’m grateful for you letting me know. So interestingly, I didn’t experience it like that. I apologise to you actually that you had that difficulty in contacting me. You had your own feelings towards it which is valid, but I didn’t feel you needed to apologise.’ I joked about my internet stalking abilities meaning I had found everything he’s ever put on the internet and then explained that my tendency to be a bit unforgiving of things and when I reflected on it I was aware I had been a bit like that with him but it was nice to hear his perspective. He said, ‘and I appreciate you clocking that… this was helpful for me, a little bit of a burden for you having to navigate all this just to get me to respond to an email but yeah, it was helpful for me and I appreciate you exploring your process… that feels good to me because we had an unusual start and it feels good to explore the way we both experienced it.’ I agreed and he asked how my nervousness was. I laughed and said, ‘it’s gone now!’ he said, ‘great! Well, take a moment just to feel that outbreath and feeling that little bit lighter.’ I did just that and it felt lovely.

Mark then explained the plan of this discussion, that it’s not a therapy session as such, that unfortunately we aren’t sitting together in person but we can try to get a sense of each other through the screen. He said it was helpful that I’d explained a little bit about what’s brought me to him in the email, he was glad I’d done that and he said, ‘you might want to say a bit more and then I will explain a little about how I tend to organise things and then you might want to ask questions and it will be about 40 minutes… okay?’ I agreed, he said, ‘I got from your email that you’ve done therapy and actually it sounds really sad that your therapist, your transactional analysist, through no fault of theirs had to stop working, that can be quite traumatic…’

I said, ‘Yeah it’s been very very difficult. Both of my long term therapeutic relationships ended out with my control. Paul, who I was working with first, I took some time away because I was pregnant and wanted to spend time with my son and couldn’t afford sessions while on maternity leave, when I went back to him I discovered that he had closed his practice and moved city. I wanted to have a proper ending with him but wasn’t able to have that. I also got into debt paying for his sessions as he was £80 an hour… my need for the therapy outweighed my need for financial stability at the time but when I returned to my therapeutic journey I wanted more of a balance. So, then I found Anna. There was a massive difference between the way she worked to the way Paul worked. It was exactly what I needed and it was going really well… and I did a lot of really valuable work with her and feel like I’ve changed a lot because of the work I did with her.’ Mark was saying, ‘lovely’ and ‘fabulous’ in this really warm, genuine tone. I continued, ‘then the pandemic happened and she became very ill and there was a break for a bit when I worked with Linda and then went back to Anna briefly and then she became very ill again and suddenly decided she had to close her practice so I basically had a 14 minute phone conversation with her where she told me the news and that was it… which to be honest… I’ve worked a lot on it with Linda… I felt like it broke me open, any barriers I had to my grief or any childhood stuff just completely shattered and it was like this damn burst and all these feelings I was holding just poured out of me.’ Mark said, ‘cor, yeah…’ there was a pause and he said, ‘Are you doing okay talking about this? I just want to check with you coz yeah, I can see that you’re pretty grounded as you talk about it but I am aware it can be upsetting to bring that up so just…’ I said, ‘yeah I know, it’s constantly with me, it doesn’t feel like I’m bringing it up, it’s already up here and I had a session this morning so I’ve been sort of talking about this and writing about it all day…’ I continued, ‘so I had described the past four or five months as being the most difficult period of my adult life, really so hard, but also as much as I would not wish that on myself, it’s provided a sort of awakening in me where I felt things I never felt before, I got in touch with something I couldn’t get in touch with before…’ he said, ‘yeah, there’s something good that has come out of it,’ I said, ‘I really used to struggle to cry and even found it hard to cry with Anna… I mean, I’ve cried every day since she left and it feels you know healing, actually, as much as it’s really painful.’ Mark said, ‘that’s good to hear.’

I said, ‘so the place I’m at now is that Linda and I have been talking a lot about my longer term goals in therapy, we talked about it again this morning. I really like her, I like the way she works on some areas of the stuff I bring to her… when I’m talking about day to day stuff. But there’s this gap, of something I’m not getting with Linda that I got with Anna. This desire to work on things within the therapeutic relationship, so stuff comes up for me within the relationship,’ he said, ‘of course yeah,’ and I said, ‘with Linda, the understanding I have is that she doesn’t want to work on it… I told her I felt that she was defensive.’ I explained a bit about what I had discussed with Linda in the session and Mark said, ‘yes this makes a lot of sense, the way we started today in fact was you bringing your feelings about the email and we touched on how I received it and without going too deeply, it’s that sort of thing that happens in relationship. It’s often a really helpful thread to follow these threads, I mean I firmly believe in that. In some ways it happens between you and in some ways it’s the relationship, so it’s not one person it’s both and you need to explore what happened for you and what that triggered and to sort of be able to speak about it freely. And if you can’t do that with someone and work in the present with what you’re experiencing, that’s not helpful.’ I said, ‘as soon as we had that brief conversation about the emails I was thinking ‘he gets it’ that is exactly the kind of conversation I mean. I mean I could spend a whole session talking about why it was important to me that I noticed differences amongst your websites and for you to not take it personally but to help me explore what it is for me and why I look for perfection… when I was looking at your website, the way you describe yourself and what you wrote really resonated with me because you seem to also value looking closely at the therapeutic relationship and looking closely at things and working on deeper levels or spiritual levels and lots of different stuff and not just the surface level conversation that we’re having.’ Mark said, ‘indeed, there’s a lot more going on… the in-between what happens relationally is gold dust, it’s not the only avenue of therapy there’s lots of them but I think if that’s missed out you’re missing some important things that are going on.’ I said, ‘so the dilemma, I guess, is that I have this need for something else which is why I’m talking to you, and also I have this reluctance to let her go, because she’s my last connection with Anna because also she’s friends with Anna.’ Mark said, ‘so there’s a boundary thing there in a sense I’m thinking because… hard for her to have space around that if you’re mourning the loss of one of her friends that’s sort of between you isn’t it and you know she’s her friend so I’m just getting a number of what I’m imagining to be quite tight corners for you to move in.’ I said, ‘yes, its been nuts!’ I laughed. I explained to him that I shared this with her and she was honest with me and told me she felt she was holding a lot and that it’s been challenging for her. That we both feel that it’s getting in the way of the therapy. Which is the important thing. I said, ‘we’re having to use sessions talking about that rather than talking about what I need for my therapy, if you know what I mean.’ He said, ‘I do know what you mean, yes. It’s very much in the way and it’s very charged between you, not very helpful. And you’ve fully named it and you’ve had the courage and the solidarity with your own process to say that ‘this is what’s happening for me’ and she’s acknowledged that this is huge for her too.’

I said, ‘So, my gut feeling here actually is… I feel that it would be right to move away from her and I know it’s only been twenty minutes but I am curious about starting work with you actually, but I’m thinking about timing and… so with Anna and Paul the power was taken away from me in terms of ending the therapeutic relationship and you know for ‘ancient history’ reasons it’s really important that I have the power to do this and to end it the way I want to do it.’ Mark sort of talked over me and said, ‘absolutely I’m 100% behind you!’ (which felt lovely) I said, ‘so I’m not left again, basically…’ he said, ‘yeah so you have control of the ending and do it as far as you can that’s right for you, because before it was something that happened to you rather than something you initiated. That’s very important, big piece of work.’ I said, ‘yeah so I go slowly with things and I process slowly and on a really deep level so I write and journal and think deeply about things… which is another reason why I want to work with someone who is experienced in mindfulness and meditation because I’m really crap at that and everything that’s going on with me is there with me all the time, in my head, conversations in my head all the time, Anna is always here, Linda is always here… it’s exhausting… anyway that’s a round about way of me saying I can’t do this overnight, I can’t just immediately stop this and obviously there are professional logistical things here, I don’t expect you to wait forever and we would want a time frame of sorts… it might take a few weeks… I don’t know how long it would take to wind things down with Linda,’ Mark said, ‘no sure, it sounds very important that you do that in a way that is as right for you as you can make it, you’ve just said that and I would encourage that I really would encourage that, you want as good an ending as you can get in these times and maybe even some space between that whether it is me or someone else, whatever is right. I certainly wouldn’t be pushing in any way for you to stop and start something in a hurry. It needs to be worked through a little bit. Where I’m at is, I’m not in a rush for new clients, if anything I’m shutting up shop a bit… I felt from your email that you wanted to work at a bit of depth so it sort of attracted me in some sense because I think it’s a much more rewarding thing for me if I can put myself out there like that. So, I thought it would be good to meet and discuss it, because I’m very interested in the deep work. So, no rush. I’m not in a rush to fill a slot or whatever. The space is there for you, I’d encourage you to take your time with it. There’s a couple of weeks when I’m away in October anyway. So I guess where we’re at is that you need to come to a place in your current therapy that feels good enough to end so you actually have an ending that you have initiated that hasn’t happened to you. And you may or may not need some space around that, so just sit with yourself and let that bit of work do it’s thing.’

I asked if I could share my thoughts on that and he said, ‘course you can.’ I said, ‘I’m not great with breaks… I think its because of how unsettled I felt when Anna left. I have done breaks, there were two years between me stopping with Paul and starting with Anna so I can do it… but when I get attached to the therapist all this other stuff happens. So, the cognitive adult is totally fine and hearing all this saying it sounds great but the child is like ‘oh my god he’s gonna take two weeks holiday I can’t cope with that!’ so already I’m aware that there’s gonna be these things that come up within the therapy. So, I’m thinking, how can I make it so there’s no gap…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘but you can.’ And I said, ‘but also maybe I need a break… so I’m going to need to contemplate that.’ He said, ‘sure, take your time to think about it, it’s important you do what feels right for you.’ I said, ‘I mean, I know on a cognitive level I’d be fine, I’m a teacher a mum, a coping adult but other stuff goes on in therapy.’ I was gesturing to my stomach and he mimicked that gesture and said, ‘and that’s the important thing to let that speak and be received and make sure that part can come in and be met in a way that feels right and I think it’s important that if there’s parts of you that have spoken and it feels like the break could be wrong then we will listen to those parts concerns… that was just a suggestion… and I do tend to announce breaks because I understand it can be difficult. As you just did, you were transparent enough to voice that emotional response to that, which we know in the work I would let that part speak but yeah I always announce breaks so that people have warning… I’m rarely ill but that sort of thing you never know, but I try to let people know well in advance.’ I said, ‘yeah that was a challenge with Anna because she was frequently ill which was a shame,’ he said, ‘yes it would be.’

I said, ‘I feel like I should have lots of questions… I mean this conversation has felt good actually, I’ve felt understood by you which is nice.’ He said, ‘That’s great, I’m glad you can talk about how it’s landed with you. You felt good and understood…’ I said, ‘There’s been a lot of me feeling like I have to over explain myself with Linda which has been quite hard and maybe it’s personality types, she’s very straight talking… I appreciate honesty and openness but sometimes straight talking can feel harsh which is difficult when you’re working with really raw vulnerable parts,’ Mark said, ‘Yeah if your young parts are up they might need a different voice or something, yeah..?’ I said, ‘Exactly! I mean this is already feeling so good, Linda doesn’t talk about young parts like that and Anna did and being a transactional analysist she talked a lot directly to my child and that was so healing and so therapeutic because it taught me how to speak to myself like that and be compassionate with myself and you know yeah this is just really showing me that I’m holding on to Linda for the wrong reasons.’ It felt amazing to hear him talking about the young parts… I can not wait to start that work with him!

I said, ‘It’s such a weird time just now with the lockdown and the way we’re living… I mean, I imagine most people who are free to choose, won’t start working face to face with people for a long time… parts of the work I’m curious about like Somatic Experiencing, I’m curious to know how that works through video… I know it can work remotely but I also feel like so much of the work is in the room. And also there was a lot of the work I did with Anna that I really felt I needed and was so powerful but Linda wouldn’t do it. I’m curious to see if you would. So things like moving around the room, and specific prediscussed touch, like a hand on the arm or something… Linda was dead against touch this but it was so important and impacted my healing in such a deep way. I mean I haven’t even sat in a room with Linda but she said she’s not a touchy/huggy person and doesn’t do that sort of thing. It really felt like a closed door when there’s something really powerful about it. Anna and I talked about it for a year before we brought touch into our work. In terms of her sitting beside me and putting a hand on my arm. And it was very professional and boundaried and everything,’ all this time Mark was nodding and saying, ‘yeah’ periodically… I continued, ‘I feel like with Linda it was a dead no and it’s a shame when the therapy is going in that direction to just close the door on it and not even consider it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.’

Mark said, ‘I’ll speak hopefully very directly and stop me at any point if you want to ask anything. Speaking to the zoom points initially, I’ve been ambivalent about offering in person sessions, I haven’t returned to my office in town, just not had a green light from the inside about that,’ he had his hand on his stomach and I was agreeing with him. He said, ‘I imagined at some point offering a hybrid so for people who are happy to work remotely they can continue doing that, as I say I haven’t made that choice yet. I’ve actually been surprised with how effective this medium can be. I was a bit thumbs-downy about it at the start but actually I’ve had to change my views on things. Including somatic things. There is the option to move around the room and use the space creatively. And in terms of the SE stuff, the way I tend to work is quite organic but I do like to include the body because that’s where things come up and we tend to feel things quite intensely and I will point things out if things are happening. And ask them to explore it. So there’s that way of working. And I guess people start to connect with deeper parts of themselves. And obviously touch is impossible in this medium. It can be a very therapeutic way of working because were not just sort of brains on sticks with our thinking mind and feeling someone’s touch and support sometimes we take that in in ways we cant take words in and it can be very powerful. You can feel something from the inside that you can kind of ground, bookmark if you like, carry with you… so um… I have worked in that way, not heaps, I largely work very relationally,’ I asked if I could give an example and he encouraged me on. I said, ‘so there have been some times when I could get quite dissociative if we were exploring particular topics deeply and there were times when Anna and I felt a complete disconnect and she couldn’t reach me and I couldn’t even feel she was in the room. We explored that a lot and talked about what might be helpful and we came to the agreement that if I asked for it she would pull her chair round to be beside me and she would put her hand on my arm and something really deep inside me would wake up to the fact that she was actually there and then I could take in her care and connection. So, I’d go from feeling completely alone and then the touch would connect me back to her and bring me back to the room.’ Mark said, ‘yeah that makes complete sense.’ I said, ‘so when I explored that with Linda, using the words Anna would use as a transactional analysist, my child felt like Linda was closing a door to my child by saying ‘no I don’t do that’ because that was the only way me or Anna could access her. And I spent a good year and a half denying any existence of parts and being dead from the neck down and not feeling any emotions and being very cognitive and intellectualising. So,  Anna worked really hard to connect me to any feelings at all. So, it felt like hitting a brick wall, losing Anna and then working with someone who then said ‘I won’t work with you like that’. It felt devastating to feel that this amazing thing that I’d only just found was taken away from me and I’m never going to be able to have it again.’ Mark said, ‘more loss, yeah more loss.’

I said, ‘and then when I was searching for another therapist, it’s such a black hole searching for a therapist online, especially when it’s not counselling you want, it’s therapy, you want to do attachment work and all the things you were talking about developmental trauma, first 18 months of life… all this stuff I was like ‘yes’ because I haven’t read that in other profiles, you know and I had been narrowing my search down to only women and I realised last week that I was just looking for Anna in all the profiles and I realised I wasn’t going to find her so I lifted all the restrictions and searched again and found you. I felt that you sounded interesting… so that’s that!’ He said, ‘yeah yeah I really appreciate it’s a strange thing to trail through profiles to try to get a sense of someone, I’m glad my words, as far as I could put myself out there, landed with you in a certain way. I offer this meeting and I don’t charge for it because I think it is important to meet people and have a sense of how it is to sit with and speak to the person. It’s whether our vulnerable or young parts feel that it’s okay to speak as well. My sense is that you are feeling quite free in speaking but how is it, how has it been to speak for these parts?’ (I really loved that he said this).

I said, ‘yeah it feels like I’m being heard and understood, it feels good, you know. I mean, I’m not new to therapy…’ he said, ‘no I get that,’ I continued, ‘so I’m used to having to make the most of the hour or however long, um… but I know now what it feels like to be out of alignment with someone or in alignment.’ He said, ‘and right now, with me?’ I said, ‘I feel in alignment with you I feel like you understand me. Actually, you saying to me that you were interested in the fact that I wanted to deep work, that excites me because that is how I feel and I always feel like I’m too much, and that people are frightened off by that. And when you didn’t reply to the initial email that you didn’t even get…’ he spoke over me and said, ‘oh God, right, oh no!’ I continued, ‘all those stories were going round in my head, I should never have told him all that history I should have just stuck to the basics and left it at that, you know, so it’s actually really reassuring to hear you say that actually that’s the thing that interested you because I always have this story that I’m too intense, I’m too much, people don’t want to go so deeply in to things, they want it to be easy, you know all that sort of stuff, so thanks for saying that!’ he said, ‘well that’s brilliant then because you bumped into your assumption and I kind of undid it, didn’t I. and that’s lovely coz it’s a relational experience different from what you imagine is going to come your way.’ I said, ‘and you said it without me asking, usually if I say I feel like I’m too much and the therapist says I’m not I don’t believe them but I didn’t ask you, you just volunteered how you felt… when my attachment stuff is triggered I find it hard to believe what people say, I feel like they say it coz its their job.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I get that and I just happily volunteered that. And I do just bring stuff forward. The main thing for me is that we process the impact of that, of what I say or what you say, how we’re left. Which is partly what were doing now were going back and saying well it impacted in a good way, with you. Now I know that, with the back story of what you imagined. When you didn’t get an email back. So there’s a whole piece there for us to bring forward. Its only if you talk about what happens between you that you get that gold!’ I said, ‘yessss and I really value that work and you know (I know were gonna wind things up)… Linda keeps using this word critiquing, she feels like I’m critiquing her when I’m not, what I’m doing is wanting to have that kind of conversation with her. I want to explore why these things are important to me. I’m not critiquing her but she’s taking it personally. This whole thing is reinforcing that this was the right decision. I’m really glad that we had this conversation today.’

Mark said, ‘okay shall I just say a few things? I mean, you’re quite experienced in therapy so I don’t think I need to say much about it but basically in a nuts and bolts kind of thing… I tend to say lets have 6 sessions, and then we can see how that goes if it feels right for you. What you’re saying is you’re interested in longer term work and so we know that from the get go. I tend to work woth people for as long as they want to come. ive never had to stop someone prematurely or moved away. I have no plans of going anywhere. So it would be your space and the ending would be your control, all things being equal you know, if a bus ran over me or something… but you know, so I offer it in a deep way, the sessions are an hour long and usually once a week. I don’t like to work with lesser frequency than that coz I don’t think its that affective. I think weekly contact is important. Um… what else? Probably that’s about it. Every now and again we’d have a review, have a check in about how were doing together. That tends to happen organically and I can tell it would happen organically with you, but it’s worth sometimes to have a formal 10 minutes looking back. See how its going. There’s a way, I call it ‘house keeping the work’ my way of making sure its effective…. so, is that maybe enough for now? Is there anything you want to ask? How are you left… from today? How do you feel?’

I said, ‘ehhh…. I’m feeling excited actually.’ He said, ‘excited! That sounds good! It’s nice to hear that you’re excited. I like that.’ I said, ‘yeah especially knowing where I’ve been the past few months. Its really nice to feel hopeful.’ Mark said, ‘it’s good to feel hopeful, that’s important.’ I said, ‘yeah I would like to work with you, em…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘oh I’d like to work with you, it’s immediate, I always say to people go away and sleep on it don’t rush to do anything but eh, I’m glad you’ve said that and it’s felt very organic and eh… well sorry, I’ve just spoken over you I guess I’m excited too!’ he was smiling and moving around a wee bit. I said, ‘aww that’s nice, that’s nice… that’s so nice! Coz I reckon Linda and I didn’t have a choice, we ended up working together by default so its really nice to feel like we’re both on the same page with this. So… basically I think then what I’ll do is… I’m having twice a week sessions with Linda which I had started to do with Anna a year ago when a lot of developmental, preverbal stuff was coming up that was really hard to hold for a while week emm…’ he said, ‘yeah that makes sense,’ I said, ‘then it continued with Linda because basically I had a complete breakdown when Anna left and I couldn’t go more than a few days without talking to someone about it…. so I had thought about moving down to once a week with Linda just to try to centre myself into a shift, so what I could do is… I’ll be seeing Linda again on Monday and talking to her about how I’m feeling about all of this and the teacher in me wants to have a big forward plan but that’s not helpful. But I could email you and let you know a sort of rough idea… I’m 100% certain I would like to work with you I just don’t know when that’s going to start and how many sessions… I mean I might feel after speaking to Linda that I’m happy just with another week and that’s it… you’ve said you’re away for a couple of weeks in October so it might make sense to wait until after that. Wait til November… but I could maybe email you and let you know my thoughts on that?’ he said, ‘yes its good to keep me in the loop yeah, and we don’t need to be bound in concrete as you have another ending process… yes do that and get back to me. At the moment, it might change but I am open to twice weekly but at the moment we’d struggle to find the time for that but its not out the question just to let you know.’ I said, ‘okay we could talk about that then, I work Mon, Tue, Wed so at the moment I see Linda Monday early evening and Friday morning… so you and I could move to once a week on a Friday and play things by ear.’ He said, ‘yeah I’m pretty confident we can work something out.’

Mark said, ‘good to uh… I’m glad we’ve managed to meet in this mad medium and um… yeah just let me know what’s happening. Whenever you’re ready whenever feels right.’ I said, ‘okay thank you Mark I will do.’ He said, ‘yeah okay and uh… symbolic of being in control of the ending I’ll let you do the leave meeting button.’ I said, ‘okay great, well thanks very much, it was good to meet with you and I’ll email you next week.’ He said, ‘grand, thank you.’ And he stayed sitting crossed legged while I leaned towards the computer. I said, ‘okay have a good weekend,’ he said, ‘and you, bye for now,’ and I said, ‘bye Mark, bye.’ And that was that!

So… I’ve since emailed him asking when he would be able to start. I’ve been reflecting a lot and I’ve listened again to both my session with Linda and this conversation with Mark. The contrast is stark. Linda hasn’t been able to hold all my stuff and isn’t able to take me where I want to go… I have a very strong feeling that Mark may very well be my next step.

It’s Too Much for Her to Hold

Apologies this is so long… those of you who have been following along with me recently, I’d really love you to stick this out and share your thoughts. This is a major crossroads for me and I benefit greatly from the dialogue from those of you who regularly comment and private message me. So, thanks in advance for that. I recorded this session (first time I’ve ever done that) so this is completely accurate and not just my memory of the session.

I just jumped straight into it. I reminded Linda of the session when we talked about what I feel I need from therapy and how Anna worked and how Linda works and doesn’t work and what I felt I was getting from our therapy. I reminded her that she had even suggested different types of therapeutic approach and recommended a couple of different therapists to me. I said, ‘I had already started putting feelers out and looking… I’m so anxious talking about this which is ridiculous… I really wanna keep working with you but also there’s this other thing that I’m not gonna get working with you… but anyway, at some point I did get in touch with someone else and I’m speaking to them this afternoon, I just wanted to let you know.’ She said, ‘aahhhh okay, okay.’ In a very interested, curious tone. I told her I felt weird about it all because it’s important to me that I am very open and honest and didn’t want to keep it from her. She thanked me and said it was appreciated. I told her that I was confused about what was going to happen and I’ve made it clear with this person as well as hopefully communicating to her that this is just an initial conversation, that I’m not desperate to stop working with Linda and immediately start with this other person. ‘This week I’ve been wondering what I want to do, there’s lots of things that I specifically want to work on with you that I don’t think I would want to work on with them but then I don’t even know them.’ Linda said, ‘okay, do you mind me asking what approach they are?’ I said, ‘so… his name is Mark and… I’m not sure what modality he specifies, there’s all these things he talks about on his website that I’m really interested in like Somatic Experiencing, he did specific training on developmental trauma – on the first 18 years of life. I’m really interested in that. Also there is a spiritual element of his work and he’s a Buddhist and I’m really curious about that. Even though I’ve never talked to you about that before and for all I know you might also be a Buddhist!’ we laughed.

I told her that it is difficult to put into words what I feel like I want and need I’m not getting from Linda. She was making agreeing noises and I explained, ‘I’m getting different things from you that I didn’t get from Anna that I also value, I know that I don’t need to say this as you’re perfectly secure in your own self but it’s not about you not being good enough for me it’s about this thing that I can’t even put words to. Even though I feel like we have talked a bit about this and I felt like you understood me.’ Linda said, ‘I suppose my response to this so far, Lucy is that I don’t think it will do you any harm, to have a conversation with him. You know? I don’t know him but I do know the name. The thing I remember about him is the Buddhist bit. So once again, it won’t do you any harm just to see how it feels.’

I explained that since we started working together, across the 37 sessions there have maybe been like 5 sessions where there’s been this real lack in whatever this thing is that I want and it’s been painful and I’ve gone away and felt that it’s really agony but then there’s always been a reconnection in the next session and so I’m like maybe this is part of my work anyway, maybe it would be here regardless, maybe it’s coz I’m not sitting in the room with her, maybe it’s the grief of not having Anna because that’s obviously a specific person that I connected with… I dunno but in those moments of disconnect I guess my reflex has been to go and look at other therapists and I’ve always narrowed the search down so much that it’s like 10 people left. And anyway I realised I was just looking for Anna in all of these searches…’ Linda was nodding and said, ‘ahh okay,’ in a sympathetic tone. I continued, ‘it is impossible to find her in someone else… and so the last time I looked I took all the filters off and I sat mindfully and said to myself that what’s for me will come to me, whether it’s working with Linda or working with someone else, it will work out in time. And then I searched again and this guys name popped up, despite thinking I didn’t want to work with a man again… I felt that the work I wanted to do had to be with a woman but I dunno now because the only thing that’s putting me off him is that he’s a guy, everything else on the profile sounds like what I want. Maybe I could just talk to him… but then there’s also this uhhh… I feel very conflicted about it all because I want to keep working with you.’

She said, ‘What’s the expectation, for both of you in terms of the conversation today? Have you discussed that?’ I said, ‘so it’s not a session and therefore you don’t pay for it, it’s a 40 minute conversation where we get to talk about what brings me to messaging him and I guess ask any questions. So I’ll be curious to see how I feel talking to him today… but I’m glad I told you I was feeling weird about it.’ Linda said, ‘No, thank you. I really appreciate that, okay, again that’s you bringing it into the room and bringing it to the session and that’s appreciated, okay. But what I would say is trust yourself. I think this is part of your process Lucy, it’s about listening to yourself and trusting yourself about what you need right now. Or, actually you might not need it right now but you might need it in the future.’

She then said, ‘I just want to pick up on one thing that you said 5 minutes ago. You’ve said this quite a few times and it really intrigues me. That is about something that you know you’re not going to get from me or you think you’re not going to get from me and I’m really curious about that because I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know what’s going to happen with anybody that I work with, yeah? That’s the whole point of therapy. So actually I’m just going to gently challenge that because I’m not quite sure you can know things like that.’ (On reflection, I don’t think she really understands what is lacking. I’m not sure she’s had the desire to do the deeper work that I want to do so she really doesn’t know that it’s not there).

I said, ‘so that makes me feel like cancelling this afternoon because it makes me feel like ‘okay there’s an open door where I thought there was a closed door!’ Linda said, ‘okay but you had closed the door Lucy.’ I said, ‘well I actually felt that you had though.’ She laughed. I said, ‘because I felt like we were butting heads on some very important things or misunderstanding each other but on really big things,’ Linda was saying, ‘okay,’ actively listening through this. I said, ‘you know, early on I was very sensitive because I was right in the middle of the grief stuff, so I had this lost this thing and then you were saying ‘well I’m not gonna give it to you’ obviously because you’re not Anna but it felt painful, it felt like a closed door rather than ‘that’s a possibility’… I wish I had a bullet point list of specifics, it is a felt sense thing, I really feel like you need to be in the room to feel that with someone but also even if and when we end up in a room together I imagine it’s going to be at a distance. You know, life is weird at the moment, it’s not going to go back to normal… I fully expect for you to probably not see clients face to face until well into 2021, I understand that, it could be fucking forever away!’ she said, ‘that’s probably a good guess Lucy, especially the way things are this week with more local lockdowns,’

I then decided to focus on the actual specifics and she agreed it would be important to revisit it now. I said, ‘I feel scared to go into it because my perception is that on occasion you’ve taken things personally, things I’ve said, and I know that might not be the reality or your experience but that is how I’ve felt sometimes when I’ve said this thing. I feel like I have been quite careful in not comparing you but then I’m bound to because I literally fell out of Anna and into you.’ Linda said, ‘yeah, sure, sure…’ I said, ‘and because I felt like Anna and I were in a place where we had worked together for so long and we really gelled and so the way that I was used to working with her (and again it’s not right or wrong it’s just different) it was never about her perception of things. So, say I said to her ‘in the last session you said to me that I appeared to be sensitive about a particular thing’ and I told her I didn’t like being called sensitive because it reminded me of being called overly sensitive my whole life, she would explore my experience of what it was like to hear her calling me sensitive, she would maybe apologise or whatever and trace back to times in my life when I was called sensitive and really feel into the pain of that. Whereas I feel like in the past if I’ve said something similar to you, you’ve said, ‘well that’s not what I meant, what did I actually say’ and so I feel like I’m then having to tune in to you and your experience of it rather than you seeing what my experience is. And I also understand that what you’re doing is getting me to actually listen to you. Am I explaining the difference right? Do you hear the difference?’ In a thoughtful way Linda said, ‘yeeeaahh… and there’s a number of different things going on for me when I am listening to you today, Lucy. I think the first thing is that clarifying can be really important actually, because that’s a big part of how I work. So if I say something, if it’s not right or not what you mean then it’s about saying ‘actually, that’s not what I meant’. To help me understand, because I might be way off base, you know? So there’s that… but there’s also the thing about congruence. The type of therapist I am, I’m not going to sit on something if it doesn’t feel right. If it’s appropriate I will bring it up. I really want to say and put out there the thing, rather than it sitting in my head or body. But you don’t need to take it. I use this analogy a lot about a table. Me putting things on the table and you lifting them off the table and looking at them, but putting them back if you need to, you know?’

I said, ‘so I think the difference then would be that… so imagine you put something on the table and I looked at it and I told you how I interpreted it and then you helped me explore why I interpreted it that way and how it felt to interpret it that way. That’s one way of working, that’s how Anna worked. Your way of working is putting something on the table, me interpreting it and you saying, ‘no that’s not what I mean,’ (she laughed at this point) ‘and so me then having to turn my attention to you and then feeling like an idiot and feeling ashamed because I always twist things and turn things around.  I feel like it becomes me having to work hard at understanding you rather than you joining me in being curious and exploring why I look at things that way.’ Linda said, ‘okay, and I mean I’m horrified, you know I’m laughing coz that was a nervous laugh coz I’m thinking ‘oh shit that sounds awful,’ if that’s been your experience Lucy and I’m sorry that’s been your experience. Because it’s not about correcting you, um, but I need to make sure as well that… I know I can be clumsy because I’m not perfect and I know I can be more direct and more abrupt as compared to Anna, um… because we’re very different people. So, I’m sorry if that’s been your experience sometimes, cos that has got in the way. Yup. And I will take that on board, and I will look at that in my supervision.’ I was aware of feeling really sorry for her here. She seemed vulnerable and it made me want to reassure her.

I said, ‘yeah, thanks for that response, that was nice…’ Linda said, ‘I don’t think it matters how long I’ve been practicing for, life happens to us all and sometimes I think you need to be aware and you need to listen to the feedback like that, because that might have meant that life got in the room that day or something might have happened, but I need to be careful and boundary that off because it’s not about me.’ I said, ‘yeah this is really really helpful, coz one of the things that I had thought was getting in the way was that you know Anna. And that must be difficult, that’s challenging.’ Linda said, ‘it has been, it has been.’ With a very serious voice that actually took me by surprise a bit. I said, ‘so I’ve been mindful of this thing where yes I’m the client in this relationship but I’m also you know a fairly aware, intelligent person and I can tell that you’re a human being and you know Anna and it’s a complicated, strange situation and I don’t wanna hurt your feelings by every day saying ‘that’s not the way Anna did it, I need you to be more like Anna…’ so there was that awareness, there was this notion that maybe I do need to look for someone else, not because you’re lacking but because you know Anna and it makes me hold back sometimes. So, I think also the co-dependency, the people pleasery part of me… it might surprise you but I do have a people pleasery side to me! That part of me is like constantly thinking that if I perceive the tiniest bit of defensiveness in you then it makes me stop and think ‘I can’t explore this any further because she’s gonna say it’s too hard to work with me because it’s triggering stuff in her so I need to not go there’. I was just really aware that if that’s happening a lot for me then that’s not therapy.’ Linda said, ‘yeah it’s not helpful, absolutely.’ I said, ‘but when I talk about other stuff with you, that’s not to do with the therapeutic relationship, its fucking brilliant… so then I think maybe I’ll just talk about all the other stuff but then every so often it IS important, something does come up and then rather than going away from those sessions thinking you heard me I go away thinking I had to really pay attention to how you were feeling, but anyway… you know when you made the comment about me critiquing the sessions, I found that word really painful because that’s not what I was doing in my head, but that tuned me in to how you were feeling again, it made me think, do you feel defensive when I want to go over past sessions, because that’s never what I meant. What I mean when I go back over sessions is that I constantly want to find out why the fuck I’m like this, you know? And in the room between you and me, I can try to find out why I’m like this in relationships. Just like I was doing with Anna. And if you wanna use that word, I critiqued her loads! But I felt like she would constantly bring that back to me, she’d be like, ‘what does that remind you of? Do you remember the earliest time you felt like that?’ so I never went away thinking ‘I really offended her’ but I have felt like that sometimes with you. And so rather than thinking that’s because you can’t do your job, I’ve thought the type of therapy you do, I’m too sensitive for, you know? I find it really painful. I really hope this is making sense.’

Linda said, ‘no it absolutely is, Lucy. I think today it’s really clarifying for me. This is the first time that I’ve ever been in this situation. In terms of we met because of the situation between you and Anna. And it has been and it continues to be incredibly tricky, for me. Yeah, so it’s always difficult when this kind of thing happens. It does affect the therapy because it’s always in the room. It’s always with you AND because I know Anna… I am holding an awful lot of stuff, every time I see you. And I think maybe we need to look at that, or make a decision about that because maybe it is too much for me to hold, actually. And that’s me being really congruent and honest with you. I am holding a lot. And maybe it is too much. And maybe that’s my issue, because I don’t want that to impinge or affect or get in the way of your therapy. Because that’s not right and it’s not fair. And maybe, I know you’ve used the word defensive a few times and I’ve been a bit ‘ooh ouch’ about that, but maybe that’s part of it as well. Because I don’t want to interfere with your therapy. However, I’m also aware that there’s an aspect you quite like about the fact that I know Anna, I know you’ve said before there’s something almost comforting in a way.’

I said, ‘if I was to write a list of all the reasons to stay and the reasons to find someone else, on the reasons to stay one of them is that you are a connection to Anna…’ she nodded and I continued, ‘but that’s on the other side as well.’ She said, ‘course it is, yep,’ I continued, ‘and I journaled about this the other day because I had this constant sense that you’re my last connection with Anna like once that’s gone then that’s a whole other grief but then I worked my way through it and realised that’s not actually true. You’re not actually a connection to Anna because you don’t ever tell me anything about her (annoyingly) and I can’t send her messages through you and in a way it’s painful the stories I make up in my head about the fact that you chat to her… and actually my connection to her is my relationship with her and that’s separate from you and… there’s this weird sense that if I was to stop working with you and if that was to get back to her somehow, she would think, ‘Lucy’s really cut all ties now and she’s going to commit to working with somebody else’ and so if Anna ever started up her practice again she wouldn’t get in touch with me like she said that she would because she would think I had moved on with somebody else. So, there’s like a grief there as well. And this need in me to message her to tell her… and also you might know in your head that’s never going to be a possibility and she will never start up again, I don’t fucking know… but because in the last interaction we had she said she would get in touch with me if she ever did set up again, I still feel like I would go back to her. It’s complicated, it wasn’t ever finished off. I didn’t get the rounding off of the sessions that I really wanted and needed to have. And there’s almost a denial there when I think, ‘maybe I’ll have it one day even if it’s in two years time, I’ll have the ending sessions I need.’ There’s a self-protection in believing that, but also its like holding back the full force of the healing powers of feeling grief of it all. I almost feel like if I just had a definite no, then I could really try to close that.’ Linda said, ‘Yeah okay so what I think I heard there is that you’re still waiting for her. And if that’s still around for you then that will be in the room between us.’

I said, ‘Yep. I’m still waiting for her. Because we started working together as an inbetweeny thing, when she was off the first time, there’s still a part of me, a young part of me, that feels like I’m just being looked after by you, by my aunty, until I get to go back home to mum… it feels like I can tolerate being away from her as long as there’s this part of me holding on to the fact that I’ll go back to her to have these final imaginary conversations with her. It’s really hard to figure that out because I don’t know what happened to her, really. This is an example of what you were just describing that I’ve been fully aware of and have been aware of all along, that you are holding a lot… you know what happened and it’s really really difficult because I feel like I’m choosing my words carefully to make it easier for you, even though you’ve never asked me to do that. And I feel like there’s like this sort of badly behaved kid in me who wants to beg you to tell me. I want to be like, ‘just fucking tell me, tell me what happened to her. Please tell her how I’m feeling. Tell her that I only want to speak to her once, just one hour, or half an hour…’ to beg you and like shake you and be like ‘can’t you see how tortuous this is for me? I want you to tell her that I need to speak to her!’ You know? Surely she can have a phone conversation for Christ sake?

Linda was listening intently but also I noticed something quite vulnerable in her. She said, ‘yeah absolutely. Um… I don’t quite know what the answer is then Lucy, what I would do is encourage you to speak to Mark this afternoon and just see how it feels.’ I said, ‘I really hope you’re not hurt by any of the things I’ve said or offended by anything I’ve said. that’s really important to me.’ She said, ‘I’m not feeling hurt or defensive but I am aware that there’s something about this that is really important, Lucy. Because this is your therapy. So it is important and I’m really glad that we’re talking about this today. To try and help you figure this out. Because if the odds are too much stacked against this being the best place for you, in terms of me and you. I know that’s difficult but it might be about acknowledging that, because I want you to get the most out of your sessions, yeah? It is important to acknowledge and to say these things and bring them out.’

I said, ‘if I did decide that I was going to move on to somebody else, whether it be Mark or someone else, I wouldn’t want it to just be like right this is our last session, bye… I would want to do some work on an ending… don’t get ill and take that away from me! I feel like the power has been taken from me and I’m desperate to have the opportunity to confront this really difficult thing which is ending something properly,’  Linda said, ‘the way that you want, the way that it hasn’t happened before.’ We made agreeing noises. Linda said, ‘thank you for that, I appreciate that and I know that’s the way you would want to end things, that you’re not just gonna say, ‘let’s cancel all the sessions we had in the diary’. I laughed and agreed I’m definitely not like that.

I said, ‘this whole thing has been so weird… this whole year so far. And today I feel like I had the chance to stand still. I’ve been running on survival mode since mid-march and I realised today how different I feel. Everything that I lost through the lockdown was so painful… and now I’m back at work and it feels okay and life feels a little more manageable. Today was the first day by myself. I have a tendency to fill my time with doing stuff but today I just had some peace and realised I’m still standing, I’m okay!’ We talked about that a bit more and then Linda held up a book that she had looked out to recommend for me called, ‘The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.’ She said she’d been thinking about me and felt it would help. It’s written by a Buddhist monk. It was so apt that she brough this book to me today and I have just bought it and look forward to reading it. She reflected to me how different the session felt to her today. That I wasn’t checking the time loads, I was going with the process. It all felt very very important. I told her that the therapeutic relationship to me feels like this sacred thing where you share things openly and honestly and you don’t hold back. So to have come to the session and not told her I was talking to someone else this afternoon would have felt deceitful, like a betrayal of her or me or the process. She thanked me for being so honest and she reiterated that it’s very important.

I said, ‘what I’m taking away from this is a real willingness from you to be completely honest and open with me within the boundaries and to hear me and not be defensive… all the things I want from a therapist… I felt understood… but also the acknowledgement that you’ve said it’s been a lot for you to hold and the fact that you know Anna. I feel like I’m resigned to knowing what needs to happen. I like working with you but we can’t just erase the fact that you know Anna. That’s always going to be there with us. And… even if we both were constantly completely aware that that’s always going to be in the room, I still think that it could swallow up session after session rather than me focusing on my ‘life things’ that I need therapy for. And you don’t want to be spending every supervisory session talking about me and Anna!’ Linda said, ‘I’m wondering what it would be like for you to actually start a fresh with a therapist who doesn’t have anything to do with this. His responses will be completely different to you about this stuff and that in itself will be valuable.’ I thanked her again and she thanked me as well. We wound things up and I’ll be able to follow this up with her on Monday.

This whole thing felt very grounded and adult and open and exactly the conversation I needed to have with her.

And now… on to my conversation with Mark.

New Therapist…?

So, I sent another email today to this new therapist… I’d not received a reply to my msg I sent on Sunday and it was stressing me out. I felt rejected by the guy before he’d even spoken to me. After a friend had a word with me and brought my adult back on board I realised I was overthinking things and making problems where there were none. I looked online and found a different email address for him on another website and forwarded the message on to that. I decided if I didn’t have a reply by next Monday then I’d bite the bullet and phone him (which terrifies me). As it happens he replied within a couple of hours saying he didn’t receive the first message at all. We had some back and forths and we’ve arranged a ‘conversation’ via zoom on Friday afternoon. I went though a rollercoaster of emotions through the hours it took to send messages to each other. From hating his communication style, being very unforgiving of the mistakes in punctuation and grammar, nit picking the errors on his website (and telling him about them all in an email!!!!)… to loving his final email. So… it would appear some sort of attachment wound is activated already!!

Weird thing is… I have a session with Linda on Friday morning and I haven’t told her about any of this yet!! Aaarghhhh.

Anyway… I’ve been researching one of the therapies he talks about on his website… focusing. Here’s what I’ve been pondering.

Reflecting on being ‘in my body’. I’ve been thinking about each of my therapists attempts to ground me in my skin. Mindfulness, quiet contemplation, tuning in to sensations. I’ve been reading about FOCUSING. It’s a skill used in therapy that I’m familiar with but haven’t closely studied before and didn’t know what it was called. I’m curious so I’ve spent some time reading about it and watching Eugene Gendlin give lectures and hold sessions. It’s fascinating.

Some notes I’ve made.
Focusing – the process of going within, tuning in to how we really feel, deep inside the body. We look closer, it’s like standing in front of a grey wall and somebody asking you what you see… you think you see nothing. Look closer, be patient. It’s like going in to a piece of wood. At first it’s impossible and then a few seconds later ‘oh yeah, there’s all this intricacy there!’ That’s focusing.

Another thing that is focusing is to welcome and acknowledge all the feelings. To be next to them. Rumi is the poet who described feelings as being like guests. You can welcome the guests, let them stay, ask them what they offer us and what they need. You are not the guest, you own the house. You are the constant. You welcome the feelings and emotions, you acknowledge them, you touch them. Then when you’ve done that, go to the ‘murky edge’ – the place that is not so easy to focus on – the blur. Which house guest hasn’t made it to the front door yet? The ‘I don’t know’. You sit next to the feelings you do not identify with the feelings. You don’t get swallowed up by them, you allow them to be there.
That is focusing.

On the fear of opening up and voicing how we really feel… discovering and bringing into the light all the awful, painful, shameful feelings and thoughts and the fear that we won’t be able to survive it’s disclosure… ‘What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn’t make it worse. Not being open about it doesn’t make it go away. And because it’s true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn’t there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.’ Eugene Gendlin