Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of Marie’s story.
Today was my first therapy session with Carl . . .
I thought it would be a fairly clinical session . . . intake forms, general history . . . nothing very emotional. So, I wasn’t prepared for what it turned out to be.
We spent a few minutes on some basic biographical bits of information including about my life and my family.
Then, we reviewed the main focus of our work together . . .
I have always had to keep the “real me” in hiding and only show a fake persona with almost everyone in order to remain in the family, in the community, etc. That is a very lonely existence.
Carl and I agreed that our goal is for me (the real me) to be able to exist in the open. We plan to cause that to happen by first healing the wounds of the past. I am sure there are steps beyond that, but I don’t know what they are right now.
Carl pointed out that my blog is a way I have chosen to anonymously share the “real me” with the world. He sees it as a positive step in a healthy direction – a practice run, of sorts.
When we were talking about how I have had to hide the real me, I started tearing up. As I paused to wipe my tears, I heard him say, “Ouch.” I looked up, concerned . . . I thought maybe he had bitten his tongue or something. I saw that he had his hand on his heart . . . I wondered if it was something more serious . . .
Then, it dawned on me . . . he was demonstrating his empathy for my pain. When I figured it out, I almost laughed out loud at my mistake . . . until a second realization washed over me . . . he was showing that he really cares about my pain . . . he was taking a moment of out of his life to make sure I know he really cares.
That made me catch my breath . . . more tears . . .
I realized I was already releasing long-held emotions . . . and we were only five minutes into our first session.
Wow . . . what a new experience for me . . .
We took a moment to talk about how things ended with Mark, my previous therapist. I told Carl I had printed out the key conversations that occurred between Mark and me during the more tense times of our therapeutic relationship (32 pages worth).
I told him I believe the collection of conversations could be useful in seeing how I operate during times of conflict – especially because Mark is so much like my dad so the conflicts I had with Mark mirror many of the conflicts I had with my dad. I wanted him to keep them on hand as reference material.
Carl seemed very interested in the collection of writing . . . really interested, not just patronizingly interested. I expected him to say, “Thank you” and then politely slide it under a pile of stuff he’s never going to look at again.
But, no, he showed great interest. Is it really possible that I’m looking at someone who is really interested in what I want to share . . . ?? This is so new to me . . .
Before I went too far with the discussion about Mark, I asked Carl if he was comfortable talking about Mark’s behavior. He said, “Yes, of course.”
Then, he gently asked, “Let’s take a second to look at why you asked that question – why do you think I might be uncomfortable talking about him?”
“Because you might not want to talk badly about another therapist behind his back – that might be unprofessional.”
“If I refuse to talk about his behavior with you, what would I be doing?”
“You would be protecting him.”
“So, I would be abandoning you to protect him.”
“Marie, I won’t do that to you. I am here for you.”
(Pause for more tears . . . I start looking, in earnest now, for his box of tissues . . . he points them out to me and brings the trashcan over to me.)
“So, Marie, how do you feel about that?”
“I feel protected.”
Yup . . . a new experience for me.
We talked about how I felt so enmeshed with Mark – how his way of being is so familiar to me. Carl suggested that I selected Mark when I first started therapy because I “know what to do” in that situation . . . I only had to do what I have already been doing for a lifetime. I agree.
I noted that I’m not feeling that sense of enmeshment with Carl . . . that today, in our first session, I feel like a separate and individual person with clear boundaries – I don’t feel emotionally entangled with him – and that seems to be a good thing!
We talked a bit about the switch in my way of being with Mark that occurred when I stopped trying to protect his feelings and started speaking my truth. Carl suggested that the “extreme manager” part of me is maybe a facade while the “healer” part of me is the real me. So, instead of a switch in personalities, maybe I was setting aside the façade.
That could be true . . . the “manager” is driven by fear while the “healer” is driven by passion . . . so, he could be right!
I think the “manager” embodies a skill set that can be valuable to me if used in a passionate way rather than a fearful way . . . something worth keeping in mind.
Carl asked me to describe my dad. I described him as a good, ethical, moral man, doing the best he knew to do to keep us kids out of trouble while fighting his own demons. He didn’t say much in response; he just listened.
Then, he then asked me if I could tell him a bit about the sexual abuse I’d mentioned in passing earlier in our session . . .
[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