Editor’s Note: This is part 6 of Marie’s story.
Today was therapy session day – my second session with Carl. I’ve recreated key parts of our conversation the best I can:
Carl: So . . . I read the status report you emailed to me last week. Do you want to talk about it? [Marie had written an email to me following our first session expressing her appreciation and her struggles in the session. ]
Let me start with the part about me getting triggered by you moving in your chair. My biggest concern is that you feel attacked or that you think I’m accusing you of doing something. I am clear you did nothing inappropriate, that it was all about me being triggered by a body memory. But, I’m concerned you will take it as a personal attack.
Carl: I’m really glad you told me. And, no, I don’t at all feel accused or attacked. That type of information helps me know how to help you. It helps me better understand what is going on internally for you. I want that kind of feedback from you. If something similar happens in the future, I hope you continue to feel comfortable enough to tell me. I want to know. I’m really glad you told me. Does that address your concern about me feeling accused or attacked?
Me: Yes, it does. Thank you!
Carl: I want to make sure you feel safe here, in therapy. To help with that, I will ask permission before I move much in my chair. However, I have one caveat. I tend to automatically lean forward in my chair when I am interested in what someone is saying. It is part of my natural body language; it is something I tend to do without forethought.
I am concerned I might fail to remember to ask permission. I will do my best to remember, but I am concerned I might not always remember. If that happens, please know I did it in error, and I encourage you to be quick to remind me.
Will that work for you?
Me: That is a very workable solution. I really appreciate how careful you are being about my triggers.
Carl: You’re welcome!
(At this point, he sat quietly and looked at me. I wasn’t sure what he was waiting for. It seemed to me we had completed that part of the conversation. I was waiting for him to move onto the next topic, but he didn’t seem to be in a hurry to move on. I sat there for a little bit longer . . . then . . . )
Me: Okay, let me ask you something. There are times when I’m finished with – well, feeling complete about – the topic at hand and I’m waiting for you to move onto something else. But, you seem to be waiting for me to say something more.
How do I let you know I’m ready to move on to a new topic? I don’t want us to waste time sitting here looking at each other when we are both ready to move onto something new.
Carl: You can tell me just like you did now. That was perfect!
Me: Oh, okay! (little laugh) I’m glad you are comfortable with me speaking up about the pace of our conversation! Thank you!
Carl: I am comfortable with that. So . . . let’s move on!
Would you be willing to tell me about your relationship with your parents when you were a kid?
Me: Sure . . . basically, there were a lot of restrictions and a lot of rules. I had a hard time keeping track of all of them. When I didn’t obey all the rules, I got punished.
When I got older, like maybe when I was 15 or 16, I started being very angry about all the restrictions. There was no consideration for the fact I was a well-behaved kid. I deserved some freedom, but I never got it. No matter how well I behaved, I could never earn freedom from extreme restrictions. So, I started fighting back.
Carl: In what ways did you fight back?
Me: When I was 16, I started dating a 23-year-old guy, Alan, whom I met in church. Dad didn’t want me dating him, but I snuck around and dated him anyway. Dad told me he would have Alan thrown in jail and he would ship me off to military school if we didn’t stop seeing each other.
I consulted an attorney. The attorney asked me if Alan and I had had sex. (No) He asked if Alan had taken me over state lines. (No) He asked if Alan had provided alcohol or drugs for me. (No) The attorney said Dad had no grounds for an arrest and I could probably successfully fight having to go to military school.
The next time Dad threatened such action, I passed along the information from the attorney. That shut Dad up for a while. However, Alan broke up with me after only a few weeks, so the whole issue became moot.
When I was 17, I was sneaking off campus during school sporting events – I was required to stay at the school and in the gymnasium or in the football stands. I was not allowed to stand out in the lobby or in the yard of the school – Dad said that, if I was there to watch the event, I’d better be watching the event. But, I rarely followed orders and Dad had caught me in the lobby or in the yard a few times. He never did catch me off-campus, thank goodness!
Anyway, he also didn’t like my collection of music cassettes because it included non-Christian music like “Air Supply”. He wanted me to get rid of my collection, but I thought that was ridiculous. So, I hid my collection at my best friend’s house. When I defied his order to destroy my cassette tapes, he got very angry.
Dad got increasingly angry at my continued violations of his rules. He told me he was going to kick me out of the house – and he was going to disown me and my children and my grandchildren. He dared me to see if I could survive on my own, if I could handle not having a family anymore.
So, I went to auctions and garage sales and started buying household goods – furniture, dishes, appliances, etc. (I already had income flowing in from my own child/yard/house/pet care business.) I arranged for a place to live with the family of a classmate – her parents were outraged by my dad’s strictness and they told me I was welcome to live with them.
One day, when I was 17, Dad threatened to kick me out. I told him I would be glad to leave – I could be moved out within 24 hours. That threw him for a loop. He backed down and never threatened to kick me out again. I told him some things would have to change if I was going to stay . . . he would have to let me have some freedom. He agreed. I left home a few months later, on my 18th birthday.
Carl: How did all that conflict make you feel?
Me: I remember feeling lonely . . . I spent a lot of time in my room because my family seemed to appreciate my absence more than my presence. I remember my parents being busy and tired and not really wanting to deal with me. It was simpler to just stay in my room. I created fewer problems if I stayed in my room.
Carl: Ouch! (Again, hand on his heart) How painful to feel your absence was more appreciated than your presence. That must have been a very lonely feeling!
[Continued in the next post . . . ]
Other posts in Marie’s series:
- Part 1: My Therapist Stinks… I’m Searching for a New One
- Part 2: Choosing A Therapist… and Breathing Again
- Part 3: I Have Always Had to Keep the “Real Me” In Hiding…
- Part 4: My First Therapy Session with Carl
- Part 5: An Email I Sent to Carl After Our First Session
- Part 6: Dad Threatened to Kick Me Out, So I Planned Accordingly…
- Part 7: Do You Feel You Have Intrinsic Value as a Person?
- Part 8: I Am Learning Not to Fight the Tears
- Part 9: It’s About How I Have Violent Fantasies