Yesterday’s session centred around feeling into the discomfort of breaks. And now he is gone for two weeks. It took me 57 minutes of resistance to get to the following analogy in the session. 57 minutes of rejecting and suppressing the desire to ask him not to go. To tell him I’ll miss him. To say I’m scared he’ll leave me forever. And of course he told me it all made sense. In fact he told me that my fear of abandonment made all the sense in the world. Not only because of my childhood but most recently the actual abandonment of my therapist. Though we both acknowledged that she didn’t plan or want to leave… she did leave… and in that there was obviously a huge feeling of abandonment. I survived but not unscathed.
At the end of the session I said that it feels like Anna left a hole inside me when she went away and that Mark’s presence makes that hole less apparent. When he’s away there’s nothing filling the hole and I become more aware of the longing and the unprocessed grief.
When reflecting on this, an image of a jigsaw came to mind. It feels like we come into the world with a box of puzzle pieces. In our earliest years, each piece is slotted into place when a basic need is consistently met. As adults we get good at hiding any gaps in our puzzles but when people get close enough to us the gaps become more obvious. Some people go their whole lives never letting anyone get close enough to see the full picture. Some don’t even really know the gaps in their own.
No matter how hard I try to hide my puzzle away, in shame and pain, this young part of me shouts loudly for my attention. Her gaps are like hungry longings that can’t be ignored. She wants the unmet needs to be witnessed and tended to, she needs help putting the puzzle together. Like Mark said, ‘people need people’. We weren’t designed to do this whole ‘building a person’ thing by ourselves.
In therapy, I get a sense of what it feels like to have the pieces guided into place. Over time Anna and I worked hard looking for the gaps and slowly finding each piece, but she left me before we could finish it. There’s this growing sense of urgency to complete the puzzle and finally feel whole. There’s a fear that I’ll forever feel broken.
In the quiet moments (between sessions) I can’t escape the ache. It seems to scream at me with insistence that I feel it. I become so aware of how broken and abandoned that young part feels and I can’t seem to get away from her pain. There are so many ways I try to suppress and silence her… I want to learn how to be more with her in it but I can’t do that alone.
In the gaps between sessions, it’s harder to tolerate the empty spaces inside me. Especially the spaces that Anna used to fill.
We discovered in the session that silences can feel abandoning. Mark helped me feel into the sensations that come up when he gives me space to speak compared to how it feels when he talks more. I felt around the edges of it and realised that I’ve experienced so much of my own voice in an empty space with so little of someone talking back that I need to feel an active, energetic presence of someone with me to feel connected and safe. It needs to feel very obvious that Mark is there with me or I lose him and can even lose myself. He said he’s often noticed that there are moments where I silently panic in the long silences and then a part of me flicks a switch and I’m gone. We talked about what’s going on internally in those moments.
Putting words to these feelings is like shining a light on the next puzzle piece. It’s becoming more clear to me why there is this recurring sense of wasting time. It makes sense that I panic when there are silences. I am beginning to understand why therapy breaks (and sometimes even the few days between sessions) can feel so intolerable. And perhaps with these realisations, I am slowly putting my hands on another piece of the puzzle.