It’s time for a therapy break – again. But along with the usual feelings of loss and separation, this particular time of year heightens the feelings of being excluded. My therapist is not just on a break – she is spending time, as so many people do over Christmas, with family. She will be surrounded by the people she loves; she will be engaged in family traditions that bind them all together as a unit. They will talk, laugh, remember, and sit close. And I will think about them doing that, as I have been thinking about the prospect of it already, and it will be painful – very, very painful. Of course I want all manner of good things for her – including opportunities to rest and spend time with her children! But what hurts is the fact that that is a part of her life that I will never have access to, and that not being a family member, friend, or even a casual acquaintance, there are certain types of access I will never have to her.
I described that pain of feeling excluded a few months ago, in my post ‘Being excluded from your therapist’s life: you’ve read the reasons – this is how it feels’, which you can find here:
I think that at this time of year, exclusion feels heightened because it is so much easier to make comparisons with others and therefore to focus not just on what I can’t have, but on what others have instead. And as my therapist has pointed out, the unspoken (and for me, barely realised) undertone of that comparison, is a belief that I compare unfavourably with those who have what I desire. That somehow the reason for that insufficiency, is my insufficiency. That I am less acceptable, less worthy, less deserving.
In my post on feeling excluded, I spoke about being a ‘therapy daughter’ – a wonderful phrase my therapist sometimes uses to describe my relationship to her. But at this time of year, my identity as a therapy daughter can feel less like a special bond, and more like a differentiator between me and her ‘biological daughter’; a painful reminder of everything that she (her biological daughter) has access to, that I do not. For a number of reasons, I have been thinking a great deal about that comparison this week, and having sessions in my therapist’s home makes it easier to indulge in imaginings about what Christmas will be like in her house, with her daughter; and that includes imaginings about the details of what I will be ‘missing out on’.
You see, when it comes to being a therapy daughter rather than a biological daughter, it’s hard in so many ways. It’s hard being in that house when I know it’s not my space – even if a bit of it is my space for an hour, here and there – but it is and has been her space all along. It’s hard to know that the arms that she will be drawn close by, are the ones that I will never feel around me, and that the kisses in her hair, softly planted, will be, for me, only imagined or dreamed of. It’s hard to know that when I leave for the ‘therapy break’, she will be there even when she isn’t – because they are a part of each other. It’s hard to know that I am kept in mind during that break, but she is always kept in body, heart and soul; hard that I can be known, but she can really know. Hard that she can only ever be beautiful, because of how she is seen; whereas I constantly fear that my ugliness will betray me. It’s hard that she is a daughter, while I am only playing the part. Hard that, save ultimately, they never have to be parted; whereas for me, parting is not just something that takes place over Christmas – it is the end that was there from the beginning and that haunts every hello and goodbye.
I feel that lack of what I don’t have, particularly this Christmas time. And yet – I have the most wonderful therapist in the world, for me. Why do I say that? Because of this: “The reality is that difference, or not being my biological daughter, is no barrier to being connected, accepted or significant“. I can say without doubt that that sentence, and everything it means, is the best Christmas present I will have this year.
December 21, 2015 at 2:07 am
So painful. I completely understand that sadness and loss.
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December 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm
I just want to say thank you for your honesty and bravery… Not just for this post but many which I find a piece of myself in. Thank you for saying that which I cannot say aloud, even to myself at times. My break with my therapist at Christmas becomes more painful as time goes on… I cannot tell how much it hurts just seeing the Christmas tree in her house and how this represents something I can not be part of… How can a relationship feel so so real but that which represents which you don’t have
Warm wishes for you
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January 10, 2016 at 10:03 pm
I’m so sorry for my long delay in replying! Thank you so much for your lovely comment and I’m glad my posts resonate with you and express something that you feel…..I know what you mean – I feel breaks are meant to get easier but in a way they get harder. I think it’s because as I trust my therapist more and get even closer to her, it hurts more to be apart. But I guess the idea is at some point things will start to turn a corner and we will find ourselves better able to manage and to internalise them when we’re apart…..I want to hug you reading this again because I know exactly how painful this is, and ‘looking in’ to their house/life and knowing you can’t be part of it but desperately want to. One thing I would say which is _some_ comfort though it does not lessen the pain, is that the relationship _is_ real. There may be a lot of transference stuff going on but that is not the whole of your relationship and your experience of her. She is a real person and you are getting to see ‘the real her’, albeit a particular part of her. But it’s not a front and your interactions are genuine and you do have a real living breathing important relationship, but of a very particular kind – a kind that is hard to bear, and often painful, but most certainly real. It may represent a past relationship or something you didn’t have, but it’s also real in itself, in the bits that aren’t about ‘representation’. Take care….
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August 1, 2016 at 5:52 am
Oh damn… It’s almost Christmas (okay, well in a few months time) and I’m already dreading it. I’ve never actually thought that far ahead, but I most certainly am now. How the hell will I survive? I hate the holidays enough as it is… Thanks for this. Maybe I can prepare myself better now.
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August 17, 2016 at 7:58 pm
Almost Christmas?! Don’t, you’ll make me panic! 🙂 We will survive together and through encouraging each other and others. And I think you’re right, fore-warned is fore-armed and thinking about it in advance will hopefully mean you can put some ‘strategies’ or ideas in place….
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August 17, 2016 at 8:19 pm
Oh yes! I better get some strategies! We’ll survive. ❤