Tonight I had an 1.5 hour session with M. He asked me if I could come an hour earlier tonight because he had a cancellation and I agreed and asked if we could have a longer session. I was sure he would say no but he said we could. Instantly I felt anxious, what if it was one of those sessions where I couldn’t speak? How long would it feel? How much crying could I take? I had a lot to talk about.
I saw a webinar by Dr. Janina Fisher on Shame and Self-Loathing in the Treatment of Trauma last week that gave me lots to think about. I had tried to talk to M about it and eventually asked if he would watch it. He suggested we watch it together and then discuss it which felt too difficult. There was a lot of things she suggested in the video that are very different from how M does therapy. I think the approach she discussed would be helpful but it seems wrong to ask M to change how he does things so it felt difficult to watch the video with him. Even so I went tonight with my laptop which has the webinar stored on it in case we decided to watch it. I also spent a couple hours making notes from the 50 minute presentation and summarizing them in an easy to read format so we could discuss what I found interesting. I always prepare for my sessions which doesn’t seem to matter when I sit down and find myself confused and frozen, struggling to say anything at all.
After a difficult start in which I told him I didn’t know if I wanted to watch the video and I didn’t know what to talk about. Finally I asked M what he thought I should talk about which caused him to laugh out loud because there is no shortage of things to talk about and I know he won’t choose a topic for me. Eventually M told me that I have been stuck in the same place for awhile. I can’t seem to talk about anything that is important to me except to mention it. I am frequently frustrated with him, how he responds, or what he does. I keep telling him that therapy is too hard for me, that it is torturous and I need to find a way to make it more manageable. Finally he said what I’ve been dreading even while I’ve been marshaling the arguments to support it. He said if there was something about him, how he thought or spoke, or that he couldn’t give me the support I wanted and needed, then I should find someone else to work with because I shouldn’t be muzzled.
We kept talking. I asked if he had made a decision about stopping therapy and he said NO he hadn’t. I asked him why he asked to watch the video if he was going to talk about me finding a new therapist. He said that this was my agenda and he was talking about it because I had been talking about it or around it for months. He is right I have been but I kept hoping that he would be able to help me through this impasse and being angry at him that he couldn’t. We discussed how much I prepare because I’m trying to do therapy right so he won’t leave me and how scared I am that I’m failing. As gently as he could he told me that I couldn’t actually control what would happen in a session by preparing and planning for it. He said therapy, like life is something that can’t be controlled and that trying to control it and failing left me feeling more vulnerable.
We agreed that when we met next Monday we would talk more about how and why I try to control and contain things (him, my emotions, my speech, my reactions) in therapy. I don’t know if I can and what if I try, really try and still can’t?