Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mudslide


For most of my life, I have assiduously avoided "muddy" murky feelings. A huge part of the work I did in therapy was to develop a curiosity about strong feelings, develop strategies to explore rather than avoid them (especially with food), and get myself to a point where I could live comfortably with complexity.

Therapy, in fact, is a good example of my progress in this area. I had three terrific years with my therapist... and then it ended badly.

At the time, I was devastated. But I quickly set to work: calling on those dearest to me for support; consulting another therapist to help me identify the factors at play; working through all the feelings that arose subsequently.

Looking back, I am proud with the way I dealt with it. And I remain comfortable with my feelings about my former therapist and the way our relationship ended. I only occasionally think of her these days. Sometimes, I recall something she said that I found particularly helpful. Other times, I remember how she acted like a total douche the last time I saw her and shake my head in WTF wonder.

This morning, I learned that she wished to make contact with me via snail mail.

It was completely out of the blue and my first impulse was to resist. During our last conversation, she stated explicitly that she had no intention of "chasing me" should I decide against continuing our relationship. She also made it clear that her conscience was clear, that she had apologised to the extent she felt necessary but that, otherwise, every fault was mine. I couldn't see any reason in opening myself up to more of this sort of tirade.

Then, my curiosity got the better of me. So I assented.

The experience of receiving this information and processing it was curious. But once I waded my way through muddy waters, I saw that this was the golden gleaming truth:

My experience was mine. I am the only one who understands it. And my feelings about it are the only ones that are relevant.

I do not need to justify having complex feelings about my former therapist. In fact, their mere existence is evidence of just how far I have come.

Pretending that I am "cool with it all" or automatically open to what she has to say just because we had three good years or because she has maintained good relationships with other people that I know would actually be a retrograde step for me.

As I said at the outset, I have spent a lifetime avoiding "muddy" murky feelings. I've a finely honed aversion to complexity. I have also been strongly programmed to absorb other people's feelings at the expense of my own.

The process of therapy helped me push past these ancient programs and that's where I stand today. I'm perfectly comfortable with the anger and sadness and fear that arose at the mere mention of my former therapist's request. It feels reasonable and logical to me, and not something to be repressed or overblown. I'm bigger than those feelings.

And they are what they are because what happened, happened. They don't keep me awake at night or niggle me with unresolved conversations. They don't cause me to act out in ways I'm not proud of. They sit perfectly comfortably next to all the good feelings I have about her and me and us.

The clear truth is: my teflon coat is getting more durable every day.

Or maybe it's that box of Bandaids Darth Vader gave me when I was nine, to protect me while I "searched my feelings". Hah.

I am responding here to the twelfth prompt from #reverb13. You are warmly invited to share your own response below, if you did not have the opportunity to do so in December. Thank you for sharing the journey with me. x

PS If you're curious about the back story between Lord Vader and me, check out item number two in this list of gratefuls.


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