You’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work.

I came to Monday’s session with one intention and told Mark straight away that my only agenda was to be in my body, connected with myself and to feel a connection with him. That was it. I told him that after listening to and reflecting on my last few sessions I could hear that he has been gently encouraging me to go slowly and connect with him and I’ve been rushing. Mark said, ‘Okay, lets hold that as an intention and see where we go…’ he then asked me if I needed him to sort of disappear into the background a bit so that I could connect with myself more and I panicked and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this by myself, I don’t want you to disappear into the background.’ Quite firmly he said, ‘No, I’m not going to disappear, sorry, what I meant was, let your awareness of me drop away slightly. What happens when you draw attention to yourself and let me fall away a bit? It might not be the right way of doing it, you might need to connect with me first.’ I told him I definitely needed to connect with him. ‘I want to talk mindfully, in connection with you and myself.’

Mark slowed his voice down and gently suggested, ‘Let’s have a little pause then just now and see what it’s like to take a breath and feel yourself supported by what’s underneath you and just have a moment to settle. Together.’ I must have looked really unsettled because he asked inquisitively, ‘What comes forward as I say all that?’ and I told him I was really uncomfortable and he laughed in a kind way and said he sensed that. He asked if we could make a little bit of room for what’s uncomfortable to have a voice, ‘I’m wondering, can you speak from it? If the uncomfortable could talk what would it say?’ I said, ‘I want to hide.’ Mark repeated that back to me and I said it was a tight ball in my stomach, ‘a heavy ball and there’s tension all around it… it’s making me wish I could cover my whole self up so you can only see my eyes.’ I laughed and Mark suggested we get curious with that desire. He asked if I wanted to pull my duvet over me or something and I cringed. I talked about how hard it is to go deeply into the work when I’m sitting on my bed. ‘I think I’m actually just done with all this you know? This whole having therapy in my bedroom shit. I miss having a therapy room that I can go to deal with this stuff and then leave it all in the room.’ Mark said, ‘That makes so much sense, you’re certainly not alone in feeling that. Normally you have a safe and boundaried space for therapy and then your home is just your home. It is harder to manage and it can be harder to feel the connection, hold the space.’ I agreed and said it did feel less safe having my sessions in my home with the kids downstairs. Mark said, ‘Yes it is unboundaried in a sense, less safe, harder to separate from once the session is over and harder to bring yourself fully to the session because you are always conscious of your family life around you.’ We felt into that frustration a little and I tried to speak from the place of frustration which seemed to emanate from my throat and chest.

A little later I told Mark that I was feeling concerned that I hadn’t shared many memories with him yet. I told him that by this point with my previous therapists they already knew so much about me. On the one hand I was critical of myself for this. On the other hand, I’ve gone deeper into my emotions with him than with anyone else. Including Anna. Mark listened carefully and made his usual encouraging, empathic grunts every so often. I said, ‘I realised something last night that really upset me. The temptation is to overanalyse this and say that it’s a result of growing up with a narcissistic mother who didn’t see me, but there’s this part of me that feels like I don’t exist if I’m not known very deeply and very well by someone. And the thing I realised is that Anna knew me better than anyone, but she doesn’t know who I am now. If we were to meet again now, we wouldn’t align, she’d have to learn who I am now. I’ve changed so much since the last time she saw me in February. And you and I haven’t been working together long enough yet to have reached that deep knowing you get from years of this kind of work… it makes me sad… it’s a panicky feeling that no one knows me that well any more. No one knows me that intimately. I want to hurry up and get to the place where I’m known very well.’ There was a pause and I panicked and blurted out that when he is quiet I assume he thinks I’m an idiot and that he doesn’t get what I’m talking about. Mark said, ‘Yes, you convince yourself, in my pauses, that I think you’re stupid and whatever else. You give yourself a thumbs down… I want you to know that I don’t think that at all… in fact I think what you’re saying is very important. There’s something in you that longs to be deeply known. You want to be seen and known intimately. And there’s a part of you that wants to push that quickly. It’s a sort of, ‘I need to speed it up, get to that point of being very well known or else I’ll drop out the universe and no one will have known me’ or something?’ I was silent for a while and then I said, ‘Exactly that yeah, well I want to hurry up and get to the point where I’ve shared everything with you, all the things that I think will make you leave me. And you’re still here. I want to hurry up and get to that bit.’ Mark sounded more energised and said, ‘Ahhh yesss. So, let’s have a little play with that. Imagine we’ve got there. Imagine you’ve given me all the details, all the memories, all parts have shared, we’ve worked through and touched in to all parts of your life. I know it all and I’m still here and you’re still there and we’re still together and you feel known. What would that be like? Can you imagine?’ I started to get upset and said it feels too risky to imagine. ‘It would be great, but I don’t feel like I can trust it.’ Mark said, ‘Yes it feels risky, you got to a place of feeling known with Anna and then you were left. Alone. There’s a very real fear that could happen again… what happens inside as I say that?’ I said I could feel the panic in my chest getting bigger, the pain. He said, ‘Could we hold that painful panic together now? Maybe just for 30 seconds and then we can move away from it, just notice it, the panic and the pain, feel it there and notice any other sensations that are around it.’ It’s hard to articulate what happens in these moments when Mark is really encouraging me to sit with the feelings while being connected with him. It’s incredibly intense and unlike anything I’ve experienced in therapy before.

We talked a bit more about my reservations around sharing more of my history and I said, ‘I wonder if I’m angry that I have to go over all of this again… I’m frustrated to be back at the start.’ Mark said, ‘You’re not back at the start, you’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work. I might not know your biographical history, I haven’t read your memoirs, I’ve not got that piece… It will come forward in it’s own time and when it does it will be different because you’ve not said it to me. It will be a different process. I know you have this worry that you’re wasting time and you’re pressuring yourself, why haven’t I covered all this by now... it’s another way for you to make yourself wrong. Rather than trusting that something below the radar is organically doing what it needs to do in order to connect and speak from where you are.’ I liked that a lot and he asked me what inside tells me I like it. I said it calmed something inside me, it felt safe and soothing. We felt into the safe, comforting feeling in my chest, knowing that he was in no rush and that he understood my journey and my process. I asked him to say it again, ‘you’re not back at the start, you’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work.’ I liked that a lot. I said, ‘so maybe it’s not all been a waste of time then, maybe the work I did then was what I needed then and the work I need now is what I’m doing now?’ and we breathed in to that together.

Anna came up a few times conversationally and Mark asked me, with a curious tone, what it was like to talk about her. I told him it was nice to talk about her again, that it’s not often I talk about her these days but I think about her every day. He leaned forwards a little and said, ‘And what happens inside as we talk of her?’ I said it was upsetting and that I felt sad and he said, ‘Yeah… a sadness… yeah I can feel that, just go very gently with yourself, slowly.’ I told him a few of the things I miss about Anna and that it’s hard to be going through this grieving process mostly alone. He told me he knew it was deeply painful and hugely significant, that it is a real loss and he understands. I ended up reading some of mine and Anna’s final messages we sent to each other through the months leading up to our last session which really brought it alive. I remembered how much love I had and still have for her and how much love I felt from her. I explained to Mark that Anna worked hard to encourage me to acknowledge my young parts despite a huge amount of resistance and denial from me. I told him about the session where I finally admitted that I felt the youngest part, Four. That I hated her. Didn’t want her anywhere near me. I said, ‘I felt like she was dirty and gross and I felt ashamed for feeling like this about a child but Anna helped me through those feelings.’ I told him that Anna had said she wanted to scoop that little girl up and give her a big hug which was really powerful to hear. I said, ‘I told Anna that I could just about imagine her being kind to Four. I couldn’t do it myself but the closest I got to being nice to her was letting Anna do it.’

Mark had been making these, ‘mmm’ noises that seem to push these pain buttons in my chest, every time he does it it’s like pushing further in to the feelings. It’s a deep listening and deep empathy. He finally said, ‘Yes I understand, she was able to do what you couldn’t, that rejecting, shaming energy was quite strong in you. Which is hard to feel because you know it’s the last thing you’d want to do to a child but you’re sort of doing what was done to you aren’t you, that relationship that you’ve got inside… it replicates what was done to you when you were a small child.’ I was nodding and looking down and he said, ‘What happens when you hear me say that? Listen inside.’ I said, ‘um, I’m relieved that you get it and you don’t think it sounds silly. Also… I still feel that rejection part, I still feel the hating.’ Mark said, ‘Yeah and that’s okay. I know on some levels you’re saying it’s not okay but I’m glad you’re able to have that come forward.’ I talked more about the hatred I felt for Four and then said, ‘but then I started to get these images in my mind every so often, of Anna holding Four’s hand and it sort of made me feel reassured, connected me a bit more to the possibility of being less rejecting of that part of me.’ Mark made another pained noise and then said, ‘Would it be okay to let that image form now? You can say no, I would realise why, could you form the image of Anna holding her hand?’ there was a lot of silence then a small voice, ‘but she left, she’s gone.’ Mark said, ‘mmm yes, you had your hand held and then it was dropped and you were left alone. I know I’m knocking on something that carries so much pain. She offered something and it was withdrawn, it was taken away.’ I then leant in to talking about this feeling of Anna just playing the therapy game, that it’s all fake. It didn’t mean as much to her as it did to me. Mark listened and helped me feel in to that fear and sadness and the painful rejection.

Quite organically I ended up talking about Luna and how Anna encouraged me to connect to my child through drawing and soft toys and the time when I asked for Anna to bring her perfume in to a session and the very intense session I had when I cried inside my hoodie and Anna sat with me, next to me, her hand on me. That was our last session together. As I spoke of this I started to feel very floaty and Mark said, ‘Notice the floaty feelings. Maybe you could sort of connect with me a little bit as you notice the floating, could we come together? Can you find yourself here with me?’ I took a big breath and he gently said, ‘What’s happening inside?’ there was a big long silence and eventually I said very flatly, ‘I’m not inside. There’s nothing inside. There’s just spaceyness.’ He said, ‘Yes, you’re spacey, there’s more floatiness than insideness.’ Still pretty monotone I said, ‘I feel like I could burst into tears but there are no feelings inside.’ There was some quiet and then I said, ‘I want to share this stuff with you about Anna but…’ and he said, ‘it’s delicate and personal.’ I nodded. I said, ‘I was a fucking idiot to fall for her niceness, it’s over now and the exact same thing could happen to us and you’re encouraging me to connect back with you but that’s risky!’ he said, ‘yeah I get it, it’s really difficult because a part of you really wants to and longs for the connection but you did that before and look what happened. There’s a push pull around it. And that does make sense.’ I had a shaky voice when I said, ‘I’m scared that I’ll share this and get even the tiniest hint that you think that what me and Anna had was wrong or bad or weird.’ Mark said, ‘I’m not thinking that at all. I think it was what you needed and I’m deeply moved by your journey actually. You swam against the tide in yourself to reach something you knew you needed.’ I said, ‘yeah. I’m feeling more in myself now.’ Mark asked me, ‘whats that like? What tells you that?’ I held one hand over my face and one over my chest and said, ‘I just feel here again, you know? Not here.’ And waved a rainbow above my head. He said, ‘yeah, you’ve come down. There was a place up here that you went to protect something and now you’re down here.’ He mirrored my motions. Then he said, ‘What else do you notice as you notice being here?’ I said, ‘You are here with me! I can feel you here.’ He said, ‘Yeah, great, that sounds really good!’ and I told him the things in the room I was aware of. He said, ‘yeah I think you just moved through a whole wad of anxiety and fear, you went away because things went too painful or you felt threatened and you’ve let things settle and come back down into yourself… it’s one of the things that you said at the start you wanted to feel in yourself and connected with me.’ This felt really powerful and Mark said that. He said that talking about Anna and the work I did with her was alive and really strong. He pondered whether it would be a good idea to come away from that piece and save it for another time as I looked down at my phone to share some more texts. We talked about that and I said I wanted to share one more memory and he said, ‘Yeah, you want to complete something, that’s important… I guess my intention is to look after you while you do that.’ And this seriously felt like being held. It felt so safe and holding and lovely. And we felt into that warm, comforting feeling of being genuinely looked after.

I read to Mark the message that I sent Anna on International Woman’s Day and he said, ‘Wow. Gosh… yes… you let her know, you said all these important things, you expressed your deep gratitude and she received it.’ I said, ‘I do still feel all of that… it’s not a game. Whatever part of me said that, that’s not how I really feel… I’m glad I was able to have all of this before my work with her had to end.’ I talked to Mark about how grateful I was to feel him with me today and that it’s scary and horrible when I don’t feel him. I said it was nice to have the space to talk about Anna again and thanked him for helping me come back into my body. I told him it takes me some time to process the sessions and we talked about how that feels. That things are in transit, moving through my body. ‘An analogy I’ve used before, these sessions are like shaking up a snow globe… it’s painful and unnerving and unsettling but at least it’s alive.’ Mark said, ‘Yes. It is very much alive. Not resting at the bottom unnoticed. It feels very alive.’

11 thoughts on “You’re standing on the shoulders of your previous work.

  1. LovingSummer

    You and Mark seem so attuned to each other, and it seems like it’s been like that right from the start, like you both naturally clicked into place with each other and got to work straight away! Quite incredible really.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do really feel like he’s able to meet me exactly where I’m at. Today’s session was so hard LS. I’ve really been going through it but he worked hard to connect with me. I’ve never cried this much in my life. From someone who could never cry! I mean I can not believe I’m crying in therapy. It’s horrific but I know this is exactly where I need to be. And after months of Linda not being able to meet me where I’m at, and after losing Anna… honestly this is an enormous relief. Thank you for pointing this out because it’s so important. 💕

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LovingSummer

        I can’t imagine getting to the point you are in, but I can hear how amazing it is for you to have this release. One thing N said to me was that not crying isn’t normal; we’re built to cry. It wasn’t very PACE but I do think it’s true, and clearly it’s releasing something for you for the first time. Freedom is great! I’m so pleased for your progress.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Honestly LS I spent 7 years in therapy not crying. Wanting to but not being able to. It has been thousands of tiny steps to get to this point. And it still feels fragile and delicate. But it’s possible… it really is. N is right and Mark said similar. He said we have millions of years of evolution working in our favour when we let our feelings be expressed. That crying is the body’s natural healing response. 💕

        Liked by 1 person

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