The good news (in my mind) is that in spite of my intensely unpleasant reaction to Monday’s therapy session, my brain seems to continue to chug along, integrating as I am hoping it will.
This morning, I began to think I might be able to guess at the therapist’s perspective, and it was adequately explanatory. I didn’t, with this hypothesis in mind, feel befuddled by her responses to me or some of the decisions she made.
It has to do with what aspects of the self seem to be “I.”
If you take the Apparently Normal part as “I,” then washes of intense emotions will seem to be intrusions of someone who is not the self.
Go back a step. If the Apparently Normal part was formed by authority figures who lacked empathy and did not model an awareness or responsiveness to feelings–either their own or the child’s–then one’s developing sense of self is likely to be minus emotions. Either minus all emotion, or minus emotions deemed to be too intense or minus unacceptable emotions. Competent adults don’t have those emotions, and they cannot be included as elements of the self. Children might have those emotions, but adults don’t. You learn to disavow them and when they come sneaking back, you might consider them to be childish leftovers. Because they have not been integrated into your present, adult view of yourself, they will come heavily linked to unprocessed childhood events when they were most intensely activated.
The person who disavows these experiences and emotions will seem to be the “self.” The disavowed emotions and experiences will be seen to belong to some other “self.” Past selves or child selves.
You won’t, in that case, see that the feeling of loss experienced when you dropped your freshly brewed cup of coffee was the same loss you felt when your mother, for example, took all your toys away and burned them. (Didn’t happen to me, but this does happen.) You won’t see that loss feels like loss, and dropping your coffee as an adult evokes some of the same emotions as your mother’s unresponsive, heartless abuse. Adults experience loss as well as abused children.
You might be surprised by the intensity of your reaction to the dropped cup of coffee, which could be more intense because you have disowned it: why should you try to regulate it? It isn’t your emotion. It belongs to this troublesome, unwanted child within you who persists in trying to point out that, while your mother might not be part of your life, you continue to experience feelings of loss and it could, potentially, be useful to consider how your mother intentionally or negligently pushed you into situations where you felt it with painful intensity.
I presume I saw things this way once. I didn’t always see my felt emotions as part of being alive. I saw them as intrusive elements of the past I needed to expunge. Seeing things in that way did help me, I would imagine, to get through life, hold down a job, and stay focused on present-day goals rather than find myself dysregulated and overwhelmed by all the linkages I might need to make to pain.
At the current moment, I don’t feel that way. I think felt emotions are part of being authentically myself. They aren’t always pleasant, but they are real, and they do tell me things about the present as well as the past which are information if, at times, confusing and unclear. I think Apparently Normal is something I do when I feel too frightened or ashamed to be authentic. It is a retreat from life.
But if my therapist, whom I am prepared to meet again on Monday in order to be sure it really is not going to work out with her, is of the mindset that Apparently Normal is me, and my washes of intense emotions are dissociative states, which are not me–if somehow, she believes I cannot be washed in fear of Yuri and simultaneously be located firmly in the room and aware I am with her and reporting on the state of my own mind to her, then she will be alarmed that I sobbed and alarmed that I took a minute to digest surprise what fear feels like and also that I feel it so intensely for Yuri, and she will try to keep that from happening.
Which makes her acceptance of me in what felt (to me) to be a checked-out, numb state make sense, and her alarm in moments when I felt authentically connected to myself–emotional, but still able to think and reflect (my criteria).
Integration is an interesting process.