Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org under the name Clara Bridges.


Leave a comment

Twitter chat: #therapybreak – what does it mean to you?

Only a few hours to go! Please do join me and psychotherapist Alison Crosthwait for a Twitter chat today 25 April at 9pm BST/4pm EST, on the subject of therapy breaks. Use hashtag #therapybreak – see you there!

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

I am very excited about the fact that Alison Crosthwait (from ‘The Good Therapists‘) and I will be hosting a Twitter chat next Monday 25 April, at 9pm BST/4pm EST, on the subject of therapy breaks, and we would love it if you could join us – whether you are a therapist, a therapy client, both or neither! The hashtag we will be using for the chat is #therapybreak (nothing beats obvious!).

We chose the subject of therapy breaks for a number of reasons, including the fact that many people will recently have experienced such a break over the Easter holidays. We were looking for a subject that would be of interest both to therapists and clients, and was broad enough to allow discussion to range over a number of different themes. We thought about our most popular blog posts, which for Alison centre around change

View original post 393 more words


5 Comments

Struggling to write

I’m struggling to write.

I’m even struggling to write about the fact that I’m struggling to write. I’m sure there is a name for that. Very struggling – no, not that, that doesn’t even make grammatical sense. See – I’m struggling to write.

I think it’s been getting worse over a period of months. Like a dull ache or pain you really don’t want or can’t be bothered to take to the doctor, it’s now getting to the point where it’s harder to ignore. Though what I’m finding it hard to ignore is the absence of something – of the motivation, the ease of expression, the anticipation, the satisfaction, the catharsis.

It used to be the case that I would feel anticipation during the week as I wondered what I would write about on a Friday or Saturday night. With one therapy session early in the week, it often took a few days of ‘processing’ in the background for an idea to ‘grab me’ and when it did, it was a surprise and it was exciting to sit down and see what transpired when I started typing. At first there was pleasure simply in the writing and in the spontaneity. Later, though the writing was often harder and sometimes there was less spontaneity and more ‘planning’, there was also pleasure in the editing, the ‘crafting’ and  in the creation of a narrative.

It threw me a little when I went from one to two therapy sessions a week. The pace changed, and there were no longer a few ‘clear days’ of processing in between a therapy session and writing. My first few months of blogging felt as though they were about getting to grips with BPD and how its symptoms manifested in my life, and about trying to better understand the therapeutic process. Each week the ‘topic’ was different – a different BPD symptom to explore, a different snapshot of therapy. With two sessions a week, deeper work was being done. Work that was harder to write about – more work than it was even possible to write about. Work that often needed to be pondered for much longer than a week, before it could be written about. It felt as though I was writing much more about therapy, or about how BPD manifested within the therapeutic relationship, than about BPD symptoms themselves. Rather than the topic being different every week, it felt as though there was more continuity between what was being written – evidence, perhaps, of me starting to tie things together, to see connections, to link the past to the present. Evidence, perhaps, of starting to use the power of narrative not just in telling a story, but in unfolding and moulding a life.

When I went to three sessions a week last September, things changed again. What was true of the change from one to two sessions, was even more true this time. As time went on, writing captured only a fraction of what was happening in session and in my head. The interweave of thoughts, feelings, ideas, connections to the past, analogies, metaphors, often took weeks if not months to be processed and understood sufficiently to end up on the page. One ‘idea’ for a post would turn into several installments due to the volume of material to write about. But then, as with therapy, something would happen, some event would take place and cut across that train of thought and I would have to leave it, incomplete, until it could be picked up again in future. I have a long long list of posts now, still to be written  – some of which are part of what I might have considered a ‘series’, had not other events and emotions intervened.

Over the last few months I have sensed that my writing keeps coming back again and again to many of the same themes. Sometimes it all feels a little repetitive. There are no longer ‘surprises’ in what I might write about – there is simply an overwhelmingly long list of possibilities. And it has always been the case that some of the most precious and personal moments in therapy are not written about at all – they are kept in the closest part of my heart, almost too private and intimate to share. Sometimes, many months later, they feel okay to bring into the light of day – but not always. And the more time has gone on, the more of these moments – or even prolonged episodes – there have been.

Part of me wonders whether my relationship with my writing is simply undergoing the same sad fate that some of my other relationships have suffered. After eighteen months to two years a certain boredom sets in, and a lack of excitement. Maybe I just need to fall in love with writing again. Not an infatuated, obsessional kind of love, but a quieter, more enduring and more truly connected kind (with a complete and healthy disregard for blog statistics – that would be good!). Perhaps progress means the ability to stick with something, and maybe writing and I can find a way to better satisfy each other again, to deepen our relationship, and to re-introduce some spark and spontaneity.

If one is having trouble with one’s relationship, one can go to therapy. Luckily I’m in therapy – and so perhaps I need to talk, in therapy, about this relationship that I have with writing about therapy. And then I can write about it. Maybe. Or write, full stop. Or maybe, stop. Which is right? Who knows?

I’m struggling to write.

 

 


3 Comments

Twitter chat: #therapybreak – what does it mean to you?

I am very excited about the fact that Alison Crosthwait (from ‘The Good Therapists‘) and I will be hosting a Twitter chat next Monday 25 April, at 9pm BST/4pm EST, on the subject of therapy breaks, and we would love it if you could join us – whether you are a therapist, a therapy client, both or neither! The hashtag we will be using for the chat is #therapybreak (nothing beats obvious!).

We chose the subject of therapy breaks for a number of reasons, including the fact that many people will recently have experienced such a break over the Easter holidays. We were looking for a subject that would be of interest both to therapists and clients, and was broad enough to allow discussion to range over a number of different themes. We thought about our most popular blog posts, which for Alison centre around change, and for me centre around attachment, including attachment to a therapist. We realised that thinking about therapy breaks provided the perfect opportunity to explore both areas, as such breaks can be the cause of considerable distress for clients who may experience feelings of loss, abandonment, or exclusion; but they can also be very powerful opportunities for reflection, consolidation, and change. Speaking personally, as a client, I have experienced both these aspects of a therapy break and I am intrigued to hear what Alison has to say on the subject, both from a therapist’s perspective, but also as a client herself. Other than agreeing the subject of the chat, Alison and I have decided to keep each other in the dark regarding the questions we would like to raise – we thought it would be more interesting and spontaneous that way (and I quite like the idea of us surprising each other!). And of course it would be great to be surprised by all the questions you might bring as well, if you are able to join us.

Alison and I discovered that we enjoyed each other’s writing and that our interests are complementary – and I think it’s fair to say that as therapist and client respectively, we share an interest in hearing ‘the other perspective’ in writing – though I tend to feel that often as ex-clients themselves, therapists have rather an advantage here, in terms of understanding how it feels to sit in the ‘other chair’…..

We are greatly looking forward to this ‘little experiment’, and have a couple of other ideas up our sleeve if it goes well. If you have an interest in the topic and would like to chat, please do join us! I’ll be online with a cup of tea and a comfy cushion, fervently crossing my fingers that the kids stay soundly asleep in bed……!

 

[For any novices at Twitter chats, don’t do what I did during my first ever Twitter chat – I spent half the chat in conversation with a lovely Twitter user, which was really interesting, but I didn’t realise that I was actually on my ‘Notifications’ page rather than on the main page containing all the tweets for the hashtag. I was therefore completely oblivious to the chat that was happening all around me!]

 

 

 

 

 

 


12 Comments

Recovery – the battle inside my head

One of the hardest parts of my recovery from BPD is enduring the battleground in my head. The constant, ceaseless, unremitting war of words, its assault deafening my thinking space, and its fallout poisoning the air around my heart. I suspect this is true of many with a mental health condition, irrespective of their diagnosis.

It is exhausting to be fighting with myself; or, as sometimes happens, to feel like an observer of a fight between parts of myself. To be under attack and have to constantly try and defend, push back, stave off, but also rationalise, encourage, remember. To try to summon up words both to retaliate against the offensive and to build up and strengthen the defense.

Sometimes I tell myself – at least there is a battleground. At least it is a fight rather than a walkover. Because it wouldn’t be recovery without the battle. In the past, the emotions I was feeling and the words that I was hearing in my head, would have felt like the only possibility and the only reality. They would have been experienced as fact, without question. I wouldn’t have fought an attack from my own thoughts, I would have been at their mercy. Worse, I wouldn’t even have realised I was an occupied country; that I had been both ransacked and overthrown. The battleground means that resistance is alive – on both sides. Resistance to the self-sabotaging parts of myself and the negative thoughts and emotions; but also resistance to any positive external or internal influence that tries to show me that I have choices, and that all is not as it seems. The battleground means that I’m not just accepting what my inner thoughts are telling me; that I’m not just absorbing every emotion that wants to carry me away. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve exchanged the emotional exhaustion of the rollercoaster of intense and changeable feelings, for the mental exhaustion of being aware of the rollercoaster and trying to persuade myself not to get on it.

***

The war is fought on a number of fronts, but there are some areas where it is particularly well entrenched. My marriage is a key one, and involves trying to manage being triggered by seeing my husband as a parental figure, and trying to resist reacting to him as I would have reacted to my mother. There is also the war with helplessness, hopelessness, desperation, self-criticism and ultimately with the desire to die. I remind myself that I have been here before, that I will see beyond this. But my biggest ally in these times tends to be not words, but waiting; hanging on for dear life until I can once again see that life is dear, or at least liveable with.

And then there’s one of the biggest, most difficult warzones – encompassing any and all ground in some way or other related to therapy and my therapist. It encompasses the fight against black and white thinking (or splitting); the struggle to maintain object constancy and continue to feel connected to her; the difficulty of continuing to trust and reminding myself of everything she has done for me, even at times of uncertainty or fear. It encompasses the fight against the desire to please and the need to do things ‘the right way’; the attempts to sit with emotions rather than act impulsively or react negatively; and the struggle to remember that a boundary can be loving rather than rejecting.

***

I walk around in an ordinary way, doing ordinary things; but I am the walking wounded, only half alive because so much energy is being drained away, dealing with what is happening inside.

I meet every attack with a riposte; every pessimistic comment with a different reading; every negative interpretation with a reminder of a past positive event or word; every urge to self-destruct with a suggestion for an alternative course of action. Every barb must be dealt with; every challenge, challenged-back – if not, the words settle in, start to sink below the surface, and start to infect other parts of me.

Ten days into my most recent therapy break, and my defenses were still holding, in large part due to the wonderful sense of connectedness I had felt in the last few sessions before the break. I still felt connected and cared for, and was managing to maintain a greater than usual degree of self-awareness and self-control, including around my thoughts. But it was getting harder, almost by the hour. The ‘attacking’ voices were getting louder, gaining more ‘credence’ the longer I didn’t hear from my therapist by email (though for a large part of the break she was out of email contact, which I knew). The thoughts suggested to me that I wasn’t a priority, or that she didn’t care very much, or that it was okay to feel resentful and ignored and less connected. Instead, I reminded myself of all the things she had said or done that showed her caring; of the fact that there were plenty of factors contributing to how available she was over email, and that she would reply when she had the chance.

Early in the therapy break I had felt somewhat stoic – I knew what needed to be done, and I almost felt brave and confident. But this is a war of attrition, and it wears you down. Eventually, ten days into the break, my stoicism, courage, and whatever respect for self this battle represented, were almost gone. I ended up no longer fighting, but pleading, though I’m not sure with who. “Please don’t do this, please. Please don’t undermine all those wonderful feelings, and that sense of connection. Please don’t take them away from me. Please don’t ruin how well things are going this time.” I think the attacker sensed at least temporary defeat when I did indeed receive an email from my therapist, which gave me the encouragement I needed. But even then, there was the constant taunting from that voice, whoever it belonged to: “Even if you do manage to push me away now, I can make sure that you bring me into that very first post-break therapy session with you. You might remain connected during the break, but you’re weaker, and I can change how the break ends…..”

***

Sometimes, though, the battle eases. Sometimes there is a ceasefire. Sometimes it goes underground and then re-surfaces later in an explosion of injury-causing debris. Sometimes, as now, there is a strange sort of watching and waiting. I have this image of two copies of me standing apart, facing each other, almost as if they are trying to out-stare each other. One part wants to pull closer to my therapist and regain that pre-break connection; one part wants to push away. No one is speaking. No one is doing. But this isn’t stalemate – while inaction continues, the one who wants to push away is winning. She doesn’t have to fight a war of words this time; she knows the other part is lost. She wants to find her way back to a previous state of being, but doesn’t know how. She is lost in no-man’s land – an easy target, but while lost, not really a threat.

***

But who knows? This situation may yet unfold in a surprising way. Because sometimes there is peace – the lion and the lamb do lie down together. Many months ago I had a dream in which my double was trying to kill me. Armed with a bayonet we both moved around in the dark, me the hunted, she the hunter. All of a sudden we realised we were face to face, but instead of stabbing each other through and through, we dropped to the floor and fell asleep, entwined together in an embrace. Sometimes my warring parts embrace, and enjoy each other for a while. And then…….?

This video of ‘Elastic Heart’ by Sia has been on my mind a great deal recently. This time last year, her video for ‘Chandelier’ had a huge impact on me, and now ‘Elastic Heart’, the second in this trilogy of videos with a similar theme (the third being the video for ‘Big Girls Cry’), seems to visually capture a number of issues I’m struggling with. The video was controversial, and if you haven’t seen it but have suffered trauma or abuse as a child, I would urge you to read about it first (for example, here) before choosing whether to watch. Sia’s reply to criticism was that she did not wish to trigger or cause upset, but sought only to create emotional content through the interaction of two warring ‘Sia self states’, represented by the two actors/dancers, a man and a girl. The video’s director commented that the cage in which the two characters play out their dance, is a bit like a skull.

As I have been thinking about this post and about the video, the battle within my head and the dance within the cage have seemed like helpful representations of each other. But as with any artistic creation, the more we look the more we find and what we find depends on our point of view. I can see ways in which the video represents a number of different aspects of my struggles in therapy – the subject of another post, perhaps. But in the meantime, what got me thinking, was this. The analogy of the cage as a skull, doesn’t quite work for me. It is almost too literal – and it doesn’t explain how the child is able to slip in and out of the cage. The cage is a boundary – but thinking of it as a physical boundary is too restrictive. When we start to think of all the other boundaries that trouble us – including those of time and personhood – a whole new range of interpretations and analogies may start to open up…..


7 Comments

Why there are no easy answers

[In this post I do not mean in any way to disparage the idea or value of self-help books or of giving advice or suggestions on how to improve wellbeing and mental health. Clearly, there are numerous occasions and circumstances in which this is helpful – I benefit just as much as anyone from trying to remember things for which I am grateful, or from doing breathing exercises when I am anxious (for example). However, I think that there are circumstances, life-stories, and also mental health disorders (personality disorders being a good example), that are complex and long-standing and give rise to difficulties that can be particularly entrenched and challenging to overcome. I believe that they can be overcome, and that therapy is a huge part of how that happens. In that context, I think that ‘solutions’ that are aimed at alleviating a symptom rather than addressing its root cause, are often sticking plasters, allowing a wound to to be covered over for a while, but leaving it ripe for re-opening when a new and different challenge comes along. Sometimes it’s not just a case of trying to feel better (which is of course very important), but of trying to be different. That, fundamentally, is what I am focusing on in this post.]

A few weeks ago, ‘BPD Pieces of Me’ published a link to my post ‘Waiting to fall – BPD and obsessive attachments’ on Facebook. There were a number of comments on the post, one of which made the following statement: “But what it doesn’t say is how to stop doing this”.

The comment reminded me of one of my own worries, in my first few months of blogging. I realised I was writing a great deal about my own experiences and my own understanding of what I was going through, but I was  offering no ‘solutions’ to those in similar predicaments. Indeed, I had no solutions to offer – at that stage I was on a quest to understand, but understanding in and of itself was not necessarily bringing about a change in my feelings or behaviour. I didn’t even see how my growing self-awareness was going to bring about such change  – how ‘head knowledge’ would somehow turn itself into ‘heart knowledge’ and become firmly lodged in the core of my being so that I felt it to be true.

I used to wonder if those who read my posts felt a little cheated – in today’s culture of self-help books and internet articles giving you hints or tips on how to achieve x, y or z , it felt somehow inadequate to present my understanding of a problem but not offer up at least a couple of ways of dealing with it. (Gone are the days when people used to aim for ‘tidy’ numbers of ‘tips’, like 5 or 10 – these days if one can think of 13 or 29, that’s what goes in the title!).

But the longer I have been writing and the longer I have been in therapy, the more I am coming to believe that I am not cheating anyone of an answer, and that what I am doing may have value, in and of itself. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s possible to give ‘an answer’ to the questions or difficulties that are described in my posts; to the many painful behaviours associated with BPD, or to the many conundrums of therapy.

The reason is that the answers will be as individual as we are, and not just that; they will be as individual as we and our circumstances are now, and as we and our circumstances were in the past. They will be as individual as the song that happened to be playing on the radio when you were thinking about your last therapy session and suddenly the words seemed particularly pertinent and helped to open up a whole new angle that you hadn’t seen before. They will be as individual as that moment of pure joy when you were seven and you opened up a Christmas present of a pack of colouring pencils; so simple, but a feeling you’ve been chasing ever since. And they will be as individual as every single moment that makes up each of our lives, the power or ordinariness of which is unknown to any of us, before it happens.

I can’t give you an answer – the most that I can do is try and describe to you, as best I can, what my  own answer is – once I have found one – and part of how I arrived at it. But there will always be an element of that answer that I myself will never understand, and therefore cannot convey. It will not be possible to subject my answer to scientific or logical proof – and what I can never either describe or demonstrate to you is why my answer is persuasive to me in a way that lodges itself in my being and changes me from the inside out.

Because that, surely, is the type of answer that the questioner who commented on my post, was talking about. Frustrated (I presume) by a repeated pattern of behaving in a particular way, she wanted to know how she could put an end to that pattern, once and for all. Hints and tips are well and good, but if one tries to apply them indiscriminately with no attempt at self-discovery and working through the problem, and therefore no understanding of if or why those tips might work, any success is equivalent to putting on a garment which may fit more or less well, but which may not stand the test of time or the elements. Only a new skin will do, to hold us together, and it is a painful process growing into it, and shedding the old one.

Finding an answer implies making a discovery – acquiring a piece of knowledge that you did not possess before. And yet when it comes to ‘solving’ many of the difficulties that we struggle with, particularly when it comes to BPD, that is often not the sort of answer we need. The point is made beautifully in these two quotes:

little gidding

wittgenstein ladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ‘knowledge’ is not new, though we may be ‘seeing things anew’. Very often, an answer consists in viewing the place where we stand, differently. There are no shortcuts to this vista  – you cannot just put on a new pair of glasses. You have to travel somewhere, you must go through something, in order to get back to where you started and to see and feel something different, to what you saw and felt before. That is another reason why my answer cannot be your answer – only you can occupy the place where you stand, at any point in time. We can have a mutual appreciation of your journey, by standing very close together (as your therapist may do) – I don’t mean to imply a belief in solipsism, in which your experience would be utterly unknowable to anyone else (should they even exist). But the patch of grass under your feet is not the same at each interval of time as the grass under mine – it may tickle less, or more – and that can make all the difference.

Arriving where we started after such a process of exploration is not a wasted journey – it is the trip of a lifetime. So many journeys in our lives are repeated – the school run, the long drive to go on holiday, the trip to see the parents-in-law. They may achieve an aim but they may not teach us very much, and they have to be repeated. Things that happen on those journeys happen to us; they don’t happen in us. Whereas when you arrive at where you started after such a process of exploration, the ‘answer’ that you find has grown within you and has become a part of you.

In time, you will find that though you no longer remember exactly how you got back to where you started, or the details of the journey that were so persuasive, the ‘answer’ is as deeply rooted in you as ever. That’s not to say you won’t continue sometimes to have real struggles or doubts, or that there is nothing further to learn or ‘see’ about that particular subject. But you will not need to take that same trip again; you can remind yourself that you took it – and the ground on which you stand will be discernibly firm beneath your feet, even if you find yourself on a rockier patch than before.

A few weeks ago I told my therapist that I was thinking of buying a book containing stories of psychotherapy clients and their difficulties with intimacy. On occasion she herself suggests books I might find helpful, but this time she seemed hesitant to give encouragement. She said that these were other people’s stories, and there was nothing wrong in reading about them; but she wondered whether I was trying either to find someone else’s ‘answer’ to my own story, or divert myself from the painful work of thinking about my own difficulties. I think she was asking me  – rightly – to be on guard against the possibility of trying to seek certainty and an answer, even if it was a short-cut and a quick fix.

And yet – I wanted to end by coming back to my starting point with this post, and the legitimacy and value (or otherwise) of what I offer in this blog. A reader was kind enough to comment on my most recent post, that my “essays often do a great service to those who wish to find more fulfilment in their lives. They are an act of kindness.” That is a wonderful compliment, but also, I think, a helpful way of looking at what I write. I offer a kindness – take from it what you will. But only you have the answer to your dilemma, and I wish you safe travels, should  you wish to find it….


7 Comments

Getting the most out of therapy

I am a big fan of welldoing.org, an “independent psychotherapist and counsellor directory and information resource for people who want to enhance their health and wellbeing“. I wish I had known about them when I was first looking to start therapy and had no idea what the (sometimes subtle) differences were between the numerous different types of therapy. I wish I had known about them in the early months when the process of open-ended psychoanalytic therapy made little sense and was not quite what I had expected. However, better late than never, as they say! I am now a follower and regular reader and gain a great deal from the varied and interesting articles by therapists from different ‘traditions’ as well as by clients facing particular difficulties or dilemmas. I was fortunate enough to have received referrals to three potential therapists (of which my current therapist is one) from my ex-therapist, just before we finished our sessions together. However, for those who have made the difficult decision to enter therapy but do not know how to find a therapist or what type of therapist they should be looking for, welldoing.org can get you started by matching you with someone, based on a short questionnaire.

This week, I wanted to share the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of an excellent article on welldoing.org by therapist Joshua Miles, called ‘How to get the most out of therapy‘. These are easily amongst my favourite posts on the site; they are helpful now, and I know that they would have been even more so had I come across them in the early stages of my therapy. I think that there are numerous misconceptions about therapy ‘out there’ amongst those who have never taken part in the process; as well as simply a lack of information about what it is really like, and about how ‘change happens’. As Joshua Miles points out, it is not always about giant discoveries. As he also points out, the process is not simple or easy, and although the benefits are enormous and the process can be beautiful and fulfilling, it can also involve “a great deal of upheaval and change”. I have been in therapy for three years now, and try as I might to address his misconceptions, my husband still tends to think of my therapy evening as a ‘night out’ and is surprised when I don’t always come home feeling better and happier!

Joshua Miles’s excellent post covers some key components of therapy which, if understood and taken on board, can really help clients to ‘get the most out of therapy’. In Part 1 he addresses the vital area of trust: in our therapist, in the therapeutic process, and in ourselves; and he also talks about the importance of prioritising therapy, and of using the time between sessions to ‘process’ the material. In Part 2 he discusses another vital area and what some might say is the key agent of change in therapy – the therapeutic relationship. He also talks more broadly about the importance of communication, and being as open and honest as possible.

I can highly recommend both parts of this article for anyone looking for an excellent summary of the key components of the process of therapy, and how to get the most out of it. I think it is helpful not just for clients (particularly in the first few months), but also for those (such as my husband!) who are not in therapy but who may be interested in finding out more, or in supporting someone who has taken the courageous and important step to commit to this difficult but exhilarating journey…..

 


5 Comments

Memory Monday – “Sexual feelings for your therapist – and what they can tell you”

This week’s Memory Monday is one of my most-viewed posts, and it was also one of the hardest for me to write. I first started it nine months before I finally had the guts to finish and publish it, in August 2015.

Many people I’ve come across who are in therapy, experience a range of feelings for their therapists; but perhaps some of the hardest feelings to deal with are sexual ones, particularly if you are already in a committed relationship, or if the gender of your therapist is not the gender you are most frequently attracted to. The feelings are difficult for a number of reasons, including the sense of shame they can engender and the sense that they are ‘wrong’ and that you are ‘bad’ for having them. They can also be incredibly confusing, as often they can be juxtaposed with other feelings (such as feeling childlike or also viewing your therapist as a parent figure), and that juxtaposition in itself can lead to further shame.

What I finally realised after many months of agonising over these feelings and images, is that as with dreams and fantasies, they are multi-layered and can be incredibly revealing of one’s inner psychological state and preoccupations. And I also realised that rather than feeling ashamed or trying to shy away from the emotions, it can be very helpful to ask two key questions: what are these feelings or images trying to tell me; and why are they particularly prevalent at this time. Examining the feelings in this way can also, to a large degree, help to take the ‘sting’ out of how ‘wrong’ they feel, as other meanings are revealed. If this seems strange or unlikely, I hope that my post helps to explain how this can work, and how it has worked (and continues to work) for me:

https://lifeinabind.com/2015/08/08/sexual-feelings-for-your-therapist-and-what-they-can-tell-you/

The reason I am using this post for Memory Monday now, is that I am coming to the end of a two week therapy break, and sexual feelings for my therapist have resurfaced, after many many months of being absent. As noted in my post above, I used to find that such feelings and images used to come to the fore prior to a ‘reunion’ with my therapist, and it seemed to make sense that the sexual images of merger were anticipating that reunion and the desire never to be ‘abandoned’ again. When those feelings and images were absent for many months, I put that down to an increasing confidence and trust in my therapist; the ability to keep her more in mind during therapy breaks; and the ability to hold on to the fact that we were still connected, despite being apart – she had not abandoned me.

And so at first I found the reappearance of these feelings disturbing – as if they were a retrograde step. But when I gave myself permission to really think about them (and the accompanying images), and to let them run their course in my mind, they became much less disturbing because the puzzle pieces started to fall into place a little bit. The fantasy in my head involved me, my therapist, and one other person. Thinking about the positioning of the three ‘characters’ in this scenario, and how this changed as the story unfolded; and thinking about how I felt in each section of the ‘play’, really helped me to get a sense of what the fantasy may be about. In the end, I think the three characters are all different parts of me, and the story that plays out reveals not just how I currently think about the physical act of sex, and about emotional intimacy (I have never been able to successfully marry the two together); but it also reveals my desire for the ‘ideal’ linkage of the two aspects into a single whole, as well as the belief that I will never be able to achieve that ideal.

I would very much like to repeat the message I tried to give at the end of my post above; a message of encouragement to dare to face these feelings not just for yourself, but to dare to face them and reveal them, when you are ready, to your therapist. Realising what the sexual feelings mean is one thing, and it can be an incredibly illuminating and instructive experience; but having those feelings accepted by the person they are focused on, is another thing entirely, and it can be a feeling of powerful ‘absolution’ from any sense of shame or guilt about those experiences. It may take many months, as it did in my case – but if you can bring yourself to discuss these matters with your therapist, it could end up being one of the best decisions you make in therapy.