Since our first in person session, Mark and I have worked at feeling present with each other in both forms of therapy… it was like a violent disruption to the calm rhythm we’d created together, the first in person meeting. And it’s taken time to process and work through that. Working towards a new rhythm. One that swings from one side to the other. In the room therapy on a Monday, zoom therapy on a Friday. It has felt like pendulating between two energies. Connection and disconnection. Trust and defence. Self-consciousness and openness. Comfortable and tentative. Familiar and new. Contraction and expansion. Talking in detail about our experiences with each, slowly letting the experiences become more conscious. From the beginning, Mark found it a delight to be working in person with me, while the initial meeting for me was disregulating and triggered a huge array of confusing feelings. That misalignment needed time to work through.
Last Monday during our fifth in person session, in the last 15 minutes, I finally managed to move my body to the floor… where I’ve wanted to be since our first meeting but was always too frozen to move. I talked a lot about moving but could never move a muscle. Instead of forcing the movement, we spent a lot of time consciously tightening the muscles that were holding tension, following the desire to hide more. Hiding. Tightening. Turning away. Gripping the seat. Folding my arms. Hide. Push away. Shut out. Build the wall. Close my eyes. Say no. Say it louder. Shout ‘stop looking at me’. Letting the protective parts do what they felt the need to do. Then all of a sudden, on Monday, I said ‘I’m going to sit over there, stop looking at me while I move’ and he did, and I moved. It felt good. On the floor, leaning against one of Mark’s beautiful bright red floor cushions, I asked him to join me, and so he pulled a meditation pillow over and sat in front of me. We played with distance and it felt connecting and relaxed and lovely. He told me he really enjoyed having me in his space and that however I want to be, I would always be welcome. We talked about babies and toddlers and proximity and the need for space and the need for closeness and the need to be seen and the need to feel safe. The behaviours present in secure children and the behaviours present when a child does not feel connected.
As has been the pattern recently, the session on Friday was a breaking down of how it feels to sit in the room with him, we tend to process together, we take a few steps forward and then psychologically retrace those steps and feel in to what comes up or root down into any kickback I experienced post session.
I’ve been struggling massively with being seen by him and at the same time wanting to be physically as close as I can be. I often ask him to stop looking at me but I crave sitting closer to him. I talked about how I witnessed my babies play, how they experimented with proximity, how they knew in their bodies what felt safe. I questioned what life must have been like when I was just months old. Who held me? For how long was I left alone? Was I held but not safe? Did they ever see me and see something they could love? How could I have grown so fearful of being seen?
We’ve had a similar conversation before but I think I was able to take it in a little bit more this time. I told Mark that I wished I could be as comfortable with him in the room as I am on the screen… I told him I think I’m getting there but it still feels so overwhelming. I asked him what he noticed about in person compared to zoom.
He said, ‘I see more of your soul when we’re working in person… and it’s beautiful. Your living, breathing personhood, your energy breathing into the room. We can learn to dance with the intensity and feel it, which we do already when we’re together… and that way you can learn to grow your capacity to feel the intensity of being deeply seen and witnessed by me. As I see more of you and you begin to tolerate and maybe even grow to love that closeness. We can stand in solidarity with the need to contract when it feels too much and we can roll out the red carpet for all that unfolds as you expand into new spaces. And I’m right here, taking you in and supporting all parts of you, no one left behind, you’re not alone in this.’
I can hardly bear it. It sounds beautiful but I rolled my eyes half way through his poetic speech and he laughed and told me he knew it was a risk to he so honest… ‘but you did ask me about my experience of sitting with you and this is it,’ he said. I can hardly tolerate being in the room, but I do feel reassured by his words… when I let them touch me.
He reminds me that we found safety through zoom sessions and we’ll slowly find safety in the room.
I’m actually looking forward to being in the room with him tomorrow. I want to really feel his calming, connected presence. On Friday I told him that Thursday mornings are always torture for me because usually it’s when I’m on my own for the first time all week and despite wishing to have time by myself all week, when it finally comes it’s intolerable and I’m flooded. Rather than reminding me of my list of ‘tools’ like my first therapist did or ask me what I might need in that moment like Anna would say. Mark said, ‘it’s so useful for me to know that Thursdays are hard for you. I hate the thought of you being alone with those intolerable feelings, flooded but them. That’s a repeat of what life was like for you when you were very young and we want to undo those patterns not repeat them. So I’m really glad you told me and now I know, Thursdays are not always easy for you.’ It reminded me that he isn’t afraid of my need for closeness. He isn’t overwhelmed by my distress. He wants to support me in my suffering. Any time I’ve reached out to him asking for help, if he’s been free and able to, he’s helped me. And I’m reminded that if I feel the need for support again, I can ask him for it.
I’m doing something I’ve never done before this coming week. After my session I’m driving a few hours into the highlands by myself and I’m staying in a cottage, intentionally seeking solitude. I’ve never spent time truly by myself and I believe that if something so ‘normal’ and ‘every day’ like being by myself scares me this much, then it’s something I desperately need to do. So… I’ve written my list, packed my hiking boots, got my drawing pencils, sketch pad, journal and a couple of psych-books and I’m all set.
My trip is sandwiched between two sessions… thank goodness! I think I’m gonna need it.
See you on the other side!