I wrote these words, and placed them on this image, during the winter of 2014. I think it may have been shortly after writing ‘My borderline mind‘, which itself was written following some very emotionally challenging and intense therapy sessions. They were sessions in which I was testing my therapist, in which I was agonising over seeing everything through the lens of ‘obsessional attachment’, and in which I was despairing over ever being able to ‘do therapy right’. But they were also the sessions that culminated in the wonderful and precious occasion, described in ‘Waiting revisited‘, when my therapist mentioned her caring for me – something I was so desperate for and had doubted so often.
Though I don’t remember the details of the sessions that followed, I wrote the following to a friend of mine, very shortly after that occasion: “What I am finding really interesting at the moment (and I think it is really important) is the fact that she didn’t realise she’d said something that was that huge for me. Or rather, she didn’t remember exactly what she’s said, and that really does show me that she’s not in my head (!) and I think, eventually, it’s going to teach me something about people’s ‘otherness’ and freedom to be authentically themselves while still being able to be there for me…..but that’s a long way from being internalised or even properly accepted.“
Those sessions were indeed the start of a lesson about the possibility of being cared for and caring for someone else deeply, while remaining separate people, and without the need for the complete ‘merger’ that I had always longer for. This lesson continued to be cultivated and embedded over many many months of sessions, and different experiences of conflict and misunderstading, caring and ‘repair’, with my therapist. Around eight months later, I wrote the following, as part of a different post: “I used to want so much to merge indivisibly with Jane, my ex-therapist. But it occurs to me now that if I’m swallowed up by my therapist, I cannot see her – and I really, really want to see her. And to be seen. And that’s only possible if we do not occupy the same space.”
The truth that began to dawn on me in December 2014 is now much more an accepted and lived out part of my life. I still have a deep and intense hunger and need to be loved, but that’s no longer associated with merger with another person, in the way that it used to be. It feels okay, even desirable, for that love to exist between two independent people who can truly see each other and have the freedom to care for each other because of their separateness, and not in spite of it. When it comes to my feelings for my therapist, I love her and I want to be loved by her; I want to walk alongside her and be with her, as we work together. And I want to be part of her in so far as I want her to keep me in mind and to remember me, and I want to be a significant part of her experience and her memories, just as she is, for me. But I don’t feel the need for the kind of ‘metaphysical’ merger that I used to crave; a merger that involved some kind of mingling of our atoms and a complete absorption of me into everything that she is. I used to want to lose myself in people; but now it strikes me that that defeats the point of wanting to be loved. I want to be found, seen, accepted and loved as a separate and special person, and I want to return the same feelings – and that requires separateness, and the freedom to be authentically ourselves.