“When someone won’t let you in, eventually you stop knocking.”
― Ransom Riggs,
I had therapy again last night. The above quote was sort of the theme for the session, if therapy sessions had themes. Well, actually the theme would be boundaries, as it seems C is now on this boundary kick. But, the quote does relate to the notion of boundaries. For some of us–those who have endured a lot of trauma (or even those who’ve endured any sort of loss or heartache)–we’ve built walls around our hearts. It may be lonely but it is safer to keep the heart walled off than it is to let people in and risk finding out too late that they aren’t the “good” we ought to be letting in, but rather, they are the very monsters we’ve been trying so hard to fight.
The difficult thing about that is, we don’t often know which is which until it’s too late, because they all just look like people. Humans. Fallible. Messy. Perfectly ordinary in all that peculiarity. Looks, however, can be deceiving, so for those of us who have experience deep pain, we hear people knocking at the wall around our hearts, we may even peak out the blinds to catch a glimpse of who it may be, but we don’t answer. Perhaps, for some of us, there isn’t even a door there anymore. Maybe our hearts have become desolate, boarded up, hollowed out, phantoms of what once loved and longed and lusted.
That’s the peculiarity of boundaries though, there can’t be any healing without any doors. And, that’s a risk, to unboard the doors to our hearts. But, which is the greater risk? To keep the heart boarded up, to keep people knocking, or to be alone, to be lonely for eternity? Yes, yes, I’m employing the use of hyperbole. None of us is really that alone or lonely. It can certainly feel that way, though, right? So, what do we do? Where does that leave us?
“Sometimes you just need to go through a door.”
― Ransom Riggs,
Love me, no give me space:
Last night, I was wearing a shirt that had an astronaut on it that said, “I need more space.” And I was wearing pants that had “love” stitched around the waistband. The irony was not lost on me, nor on C. We had a wee snicker at how my attire mimicked my attitude toward people: the push-pull. The, I want you to come close but I also don’t want you close enough to hurt me. But that wasn’t really the primary topic of therapy last night. Last night we talked more about how I need to learn how to assert my needs. And we talked about how I am either submissive or aggressive. We talked about my fear that if I invest myself in therapy, then I will be abandoned. We talked about how maybe that’s part of why I pick apart the therapy process (though I stand by the fact that she dealt with the changing of boundaries in an entirely insensitive manner; I will continue to stand by that). We talked about how the very things I do to protect myself are often the very things that make people stop knocking at the door. So, I need to learn to have a better relationship with myself. And then, I need to pick a damn door and go through it. But, only after.
Being in relationship with myself:
This is where boundaries really come in and this is where we see a bit more of my ambivalence. Apparently part of having a solid relationship with myself is having boundaries, having needs and expressing those needs and asserting those boundaries in a healthy way (i.e. not a way in which my therapist deems aggressive. I say she only found my words aggressive because she was on the defense but that’s just me being stubborn and sassy; it happens). So, we practiced this last night. I asked her if she would sit closer; that didn’t happen. We talked about it, she would have, but only if she could stay in the chair where she felt comfortable. This left us with these alternatives:
- move the heavy coffee table between us (which I’ve felt has acted as a barrier since day 1) and she move her chair closer to the couch.
- I move from the couch to the other chair where I would have felt uncomfortable.
- Neither of us move and I ignore the need.
Can you guess which one was chosen? Option 3. It seemed like an inconvenience to move the table. Obviously, my moving from couch to chair would have been counterproductive because I still would have been uncomfortable and probably would have checked out even more. So, 3 seemed the easiest. Except, 3 led to some discomfort.
On the note of discomfort, when C saw that I was reaching a point of being dysregulated, she tried to insist that I assert myself, to just say, “I don’t want to talk right now because it makes me too uncomfortable.” I couldn’t even freaking do that. The voice in my head got so angry and critical. It was all “don’t bother, you’re going to be horrible at this boundary stuff and this assertive stuff anyway.” That was probably the nicest of the things the voice said. So, I started really, really checking out.
We paused for a mindfulness activity. C gave some suggestions. I said no to all of them because they were too active and my stomach hurt. So, she asked me to make a suggestion. I said, “no” because I just knew if she wasn’t willing to move from her chair then she certainly wasn’t going to do what I would have asked. When I feel like I’m starting to drift, I like to lie on the floor on my back, and listen to music. But, no way was I going to do that alone in her office while she just chilled in her chair. Too much power differential. So, we threw a pillow and did some observation thing. One other time before I left she tried to get me to assert a boundary. I didn’t. I’m letting the cruel voice win right now.
I’m knocking on my own door and not letting my self in… so, that’s where I am… parsing out the peculiarities of boundaries, therapy, and my damn self.