Editor’s Note: This is part 8 of Marie’s story.
(This is a private journal entry written following my second session with Carl)
I’m sitting here reflecting on yesterday’s session . . .
It is a very strange experience for me to have someone sit with me, listen to my story, and say “Ouch!” while putting his hand on his heart. I guess I’ve not had much experience with pure empathy. It is such a new experience – it often catches me off guard. It brings me to tears, over and over. I guess I need that.
I have caught on that, once I walk in the door and sit on the couch, I know it is going to be just a few minutes before I’ll be in tears. I am learning to not fight the tears and to simply surrender to the flood of emotions that come as I’m telling my story. Carl listens, asks questions, empathizes. His quiet voice and calm demeanor are very comforting . . . all the poisonous, pent-up emotion is effortlessly flowing out of me – and he welcomes it.
There is no conflict. There is no argument. There is no drama boiling up between us.
This soft-spoken, quirky, thoughtful man is really hearing me – and really understanding me. This is what I have needed all along. I feel myself starting to come to life. I feel my protective outer shell starting to melt.
I was caught off guard when he suggested it must have been painful to feel my absence was more appreciated than my presence in my family. I guess I have never thought about that–it is just the way it was. I never considered it could or should have been a different way; I never considered it was painful. It just was. A suggestion of a different way of looking at this is shocking to my system.
I also have been pondering the triggering I experienced in our first session when Carl moved in his chair when I was talking about sexual stuff. I know he is intending to be careful about doing that in the future so he doesn’t trigger me again accidentally. However, I don’t think it will be an issue for me going forward. I’m already beginning to feel much more comfortable with him. I think my hyperawareness around his physical movement will fade quickly.
And, I have been thinking about the triggering I experienced in yesterday’s session when Carl suggested I push against the back of the couch. In the past, when I have been triggered like that, I have been so frozen I couldn’t move or talk. I couldn’t indicate to another person I was in crisis.
But, yesterday, it was different. I was able to tell Carl while I was still in the middle of the frozen/panic state. He was able to guide me through it, I was able to put language to it . . . and I have come away from the experience feeling safer with Carl than I felt going in. It even feels like the power of the trigger has been reduced to some extent.
One thing I really like is that I don’t feel pressure from Carl to avoid or stop the triggering from happening. In fact, he creates space so when it does happen, it is welcome. I have “permission” to have a meltdown and to look at the anxiety and pain so I can gain a better understanding. There is no pressure to “get over it.” I know I can have as many meltdowns as I need to have, and each one will be welcomed.
I think it is amazing we have made that much progress in only two sessions.
I think I may have found someone who can really help me find my way through this.
If all goes as planned, I will send Carl a status report in three weeks from now, in advance of our session scheduled for four weeks from now.
I don’t want to wait three weeks to give him some indication I am grateful for the progress we have made so far. So, I sent him an email today:
Hi, Carl –
I’ll send an update the week before our next session . . . but, I wanted to drop a note to you sooner than that . . .
I came out of yesterday’s session feeling very heard and understood . . . and so very relieved to finally have that experience with a therapist. I really appreciate the calm and safety I’m feeling while working with you . . . thank you.
I’m tickled to have found you.
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