I was angered recently on behalf of a fellow blogger who was, in my opinion wronged very badly by her therapist. I won’t say who, as it’s not my place, but they had what seemed to be a close therapeutic relationship and this was very out of left field.
Reading about what happened conjured up quite an emotional response internally for us, aside from the obvious empathy for our friends situation, and right now I’m trying to sift through and cross examine the way it’s effecting us. They say Anger is a secondary emotion, one that stems from underlying hurt or fear. I suspect the culprit here for me personally is fear.
What if M got hurt or angry at us? Would she talk about it with us openly to repair the rupture or would she become suddenly cold and hostile like our friends therapist did? I couldn’t imagine her being that way, but my friend couldn’t imagine that from her therapist either. What if M decided not to work with us anymore?
Cue over thinking and abandonment issues.
We have had, in my opinion, a close therapeutic relationship with M, just like our blogging friend had with their therapist. Recently however, our relationship with M has felt very distanced. We have not been able to see her in person for a month now due to the Covid situation where we live and while we’ve had longer gaps between sessions, because of issues with closed state borders, it could realistically be several more months before we can physically see her again.
Our efforts to speak with her via Telehealth a few weeks ago had failed as I had forgotten to remind her ahead of time that she’d need to call my landline as my mobile reception doesn’t work at home. I realised about 5 minutes after the session was due to start and sent an email to ring the other number but she didn’t see the email so we missed the session. While those things can’t be helped and she apologised for not reading the email until it was too late, essentially this means we have been without therapy and that is hard.
Now, it wasn’t intentional at all, logically I know this was not an abandonment. It was however incredibly disappointing to unexpectedly miss the session and that kinda has the same overall feeling.
So, we obviously have insecure attachment issues as a system and as such we each react somewhat unhealthily to that feeling of perceived abandonment. Our attachment style seems to vary but I’d say it is some sort of complicated mix between preoccupied and avoidant. Personally, I’m on the preoccupied end. We’re pretty much always scared of being yelled at, judged or rejected really but we don’t really dwell on what people think of us when we aren’t specifically triggered, or at least I don’t. I do dwell like crazy when I am triggered.
If a situation activates our fight/flight response then our go to reactions seem to vary depending on the alter present and the situation. We don’t tend to react outwardly if we are angry (unless you are a misbehaving piece of technology) so we aren’t likely to defensively yell at you if you’ve upset us (unless perhaps, you are unfortunate enough work at Telstra).
But inwardly when there’s an external relational conflict we can feel in turmoil on the inside.
Trying to smooth things out with the person/ persons involved in a relationship rupture tends to be the first go to move for most of us, I know it is for me and it happens so quickly that it’s completely subconscious. I always need to fix the problem somehow and this is approached from a state of fear rather than a state of calm desire for resolution. I’ll give in, give up, say yes when I mean no, agree and people please. Whatever it takes to prevent them from being angry or disappointed in me and in turn, prevent me feeling disappointed in me and reaffirming the schema that I’m unlovable.
I gain an illusion of control by pandering to someone else’s needs. If they’re not upset I’m less likely to be yelled at, belittled, rejected or lose the relationship entirely. Early in childhood I learned that any relationship was better than no relationship and so I learned to put my own needs last in favour of any sense of connection, even if that connection was unhealthy and detrimental to my psyche.
This is why the others nicknamed me Fawn.
In regards to this missed phone appointment with M, it was a very little thing in the scheme of things, but it still activated our fight/flight response. But unlike 90% of my life to date, I noticed it as it happened. Several things occurred in that moment with a few of us present at once. V actually reacted initially in anger at M, ‘M knew we had dodgy service, wouldn’t she think to call the landline?’ I refuted immediately with something along the lines of ‘she’s probably working from home & can’t access our landline number anyway’.
Someone else, I think it was Kate stated that it didn’t matter anyway because phone appointments are pointless as we have a lot of people in the house and there’s no privacy to do any meaningful work anyway. Catherine said we don’t need therapy, we can therapise ourselves. One of the little ones just wanted to hear her voice and was very sad when they realised that wasn’t going to happen and two weeks until the next appointment felt like an eternity.
Shortly after the appointment would have been due to end we got an email reply from M apologising for missing us and seeing our email too late. Someone other than me responded to that rather curtly which upset me when I saw it. I would have been a lot more likely to lead with the whole ‘no need to apologise I should have reminded you blah blah’ because it felt like we had been rude and now this was some sort of accidental rupture and the need to fawn my way through it emerged as I didn’t want her to think we were silly enough to be affected by this, let alone that V was upset at her and then for M in turn to get frustrated with or upset at us and potentially reject us. 🎻
After an internal discussion about M being a big girl who is able to manage her own feelings quite well thank you very much, I refrained from sending an apology laden “please don’t hate me” follow up reply and left it alone. Parts of us had catastrophised the situation and essentially decided at that point that we were never going to see her again and that as such, we had to move on emotionally as a form of self preservation.
It must have been hours later, I’m not sure what was happening in between, but I saw a text from a friend asking how my appointment had gone and I was suddenly aware that I couldn’t remember M. Like I knew the storyline of missing the phone call but there was zero feelings of hurt, anger or any connection at all for that matter. M was now a part of my history and I felt completely indifferent to that fact.
Considering we’ve been seeing her fortnightly for six years and after all we’d been through you’d think that the impression she was now gone from our lives forever would make me upset or there’d be some sort of grief there wouldn’t you? Nope, complete acceptance, well I should probably call it numbness. From me, the chronic over feeler.
I’ll overthink feelings or overthink the lack of feelings. Good to know either way I’m still overthinking 🙄
We have quite the talent for compartmentalising, in case you are unaware, and so I guess in our brains typical fashion, once we realised this lack of access to therapy could be ongoing, we subconsciously walled feelings related to M off in our mind and she went from an integral part of our life to a long lost memory in a finger click.
Because our mind is a curious thing and parts of us can apparently be a tad impulsive, the day after the phone call that didn’t happen, I received an email, which was in fact a reply from a different therapist “I” had apparently contacted in regards to starting treatment.
Oh. My. God.
That obviously wasn’t a well thought out plan, putting the fact that we already have M aside completely for a minute, this therapist is based in the city like M is so they would be equally as inaccessible right now due to Covid anyway. We also haven’t got money to be chasing down extra therapy.
I’m not entirely sure why part of us had really reached out to this other therapist, the email wasn’t overly clear. It could have been a combination of things. There has been some inner frustration about our painfully dramatic life getting in the way of healing old wounds. Parts have stated that they want therapy that doesn’t get hijacked by our current life situations, some want to concentrate on specific pervasive issues and others are more inclined to focus on the present. It seems like someone may have thought they’d sort it out by getting a second therapist or maybe they just thought M was now out of the picture but hadn’t stopped to realise that it was only due to Covid restrictions. Maybe they were mixing up our reactions to our fellow bloggers situation with our own?
This whole thing is weird and has turned into a bit of a thing that feels like it was entirely avoidable. Even though we couldn’t connect emotionally to M, I knew we certainly didn’t want to stop seeing her or at least I didn’t and if the others didn’t want to see her they could just not come to sessions.
So after some deep consideration, I replied back to this therapist while backpedaling in such a way that he hopefully wouldn’t think we’re completely mad. We’ve had a few back and forth’s since and honestly he seems quite lovely. I neglected to mention the DID factor which probably makes things more confusing from his angle, but there’s now at least a plan in place with that whole thing that I now need to get the courage up to discuss with M.