I have been letting things percolate.
Saturday was therapy. Nine a.m.. I am never actually on time. I have come to understand this is about sensitivity and, with it, impulsivity when it comes time for approaches. This might sound different than what I mean.
What I mean is the uncertainty of approaches raises my level of alertness to stimuli. More things seem potentially important and in need of my attention, which makes it harder to organize my actions or decide priorities. I don’t notice this as indecisiveness although someone else might feel that way in that situation. What I notice is I find myself making up the bed or picking up that stray sock I dropped on the way to the washing machine yesterday when maybe I ought to let that go.
A Freudian would say I am avoiding going. I think my ability to process and organize is overwhelmed and that makes it harder to reach my goal of leaving on time. Maybe my house needs to be clean, maybe I need to dress better, maybe I need to get that email sent off. It is too many things. I see too many things that need to be done. There are too many possible perspectives to consider. And that’s because uncertainty is making me alert, and my alertness makes stimuli stronger, and too many stimuli are making demands on my attention. Freud would see a goal. I see it as difficulty in organizing myself to achieve a goal.
So I was 2 minutes late. Not more than that. I am generally 2 to 3 minutes late to therapy.
I got there and no one was there, so I sat down and began to write my check. I had gotten as far as the date–so not long–when Therapist arrived. Her babysitter had been late. She apologized, and I said truthfully that I had been literally waiting 30 seconds and not to worry about it–she hadn’t inconvenienced me in the slightest. Of course, it crossed my mind that she also might become disorganized as approaches loom and might also be picking up stray socks when it’s time to pick up the car keys, and that in itself can feel shameful. I can’t get it together is how it feels, and there is a sense of your competence mysteriously evaporating.
This may or may not have any bearing on our session–this matter of being late.
After the formalities (check, receipt, how have you been?) I began by telling her an observation I had made about a teacher/pupil interaction. The student was struggling and I more or less forced him to stay with his difficult emotions while trying to problem-solve. His teacher rushed in to set a boundary on one occasion and to help on another. She had a sense of franticness about her: I cannot let this go on. And I speculated it might be because she couldn’t bear whatever emotion this sparked for her. It seemed likely.
I had not told her one of my mental occupations is to practice mentalizing and to try to imagine people’s inner lives. This helps me make sense of their behavior as well as my own: we aren’t utterly unique and there are times I might occupy later precisely the same mental space as I have seen someone else occupy in the past. If I have thought it through ahead of time because I saw someone else experiencing it, it becomes easier to process in the moment, when I need to respond quickly. When I am watching someone else and imagining their mental state, I don’t need to act. I can think through what they might be feeling or thinking at my leisure, because it’s not my life and I don’t need to do anything.
She said right away, “I am going to challenge you.”
I know my heart sank. I didn’t understand the need for conflict. I often don’t. I think I probably need to be able to understand why people do seek out conflict, but so far I have not had much luck. There is an emotional rush involved in trying to win at something that I don’t enjoy, but some people do.
She asked then, “Do you think that’s always the case?” Something like that.
Well, I didn’t quite know how to answer that. Why would that matter. I was talking about approximately 3 minutes in time, and what might have been happening in those 3 minutes. I am sure what happened within those 3 minutes also happens at other points of time, and the points of time when the same dynamic is going on probably look much the same as this one.
I said, “In situations like that, yes.”
I mean, it’s kind of like saying do you think all birds are birds. We could discuss when is it a bird and when is it a feathered dinosaur with wings, but I am talking about birds right now. Birds interest me.
She said, “Don’t you think there are times when that isn’t going on?” Or something like that.
I said no. Birds are birds. I am not at this moment terrifically interested in things that appear to be birds but are, in fact, not birds. I suspect a part of me is irritatingly literal. She asked me what I thought. No, I don’t think that. I am telling you what I think, and I didn’t say that.
She asked this three more times. A question asked once is a question. A question asked more than that is a demand with a mask over its face. She said something about distortions at some point, that she was challenging my black and white thinking.
I kept saying no. I finally said, “No. Full stop.”
I cannot actually fathom her motives for any of this. I suspect it has something to do with things that are unspeakable. We cannot speak about people silencing the emotional experiences of others because those experiences are too painful to witness. Saying cold-blooded animal with wings are sometimes dinosaurs and not birds is like saying since it is not always a bird and we cannot be certain about this, we cannot speak about birds. The existence of birds becomes unknowable and unspeakable. We become stalled in debating the very existence of birds.
And yet I think it is knowable and speakable. At the very least, it’s interesting to talk about birds and to think about them.
It’s Friday. Our appointment is tomorrow. I have no idea what to say to her. I think we need to be able to talk about birds. We need to be able to say there are times when people silence the emotional experiences of others because they are too painful to themselves. This cannot be something she cannot bear. And yet saying birds exist, I believe they exist, I believe we can know when it’s a bird and when it’s something merely birdlike and you have to be able to deal with that reality does not make her able to deal with that reality.
I feel the need to figure this out because when I don’t have a plan in mind we end up talking about topics that bore the life out of me. We talk about whether I meditate or go to the gym (no and no) and things of that nature, and I feel like I am talking to someone on the Autism Spectrum and the pain of keeping my attention on something that holds no interest for me for 50 minutes just to be polite makes me want to cry.