I Know What She Said and What I Felt Are Not The Same Thing

On Saturday morning, I woke up struggling with a range of emotions. The third grader in me felt vulnerable and needy and frightened after last week’s therapy session. She was hurt that E had forgotten what happened to her. She was shocked at how hot and electric and alive the memory felt for her when it came up in the session. Her head was full of “I’m so bad…” She wanted to reach for E but at the same time wasn’t sure if that was a safe thing to do.

I tried to call up what E and I had talked about the day before, what we had talked about a hundred times before. I am not only that third grader. I am also the Wise Woman, who is capable of caring for the girl and willing to do it.

So what would the Wise Woman do?

Well, who know if this is actually something wise to do, but this is what the Wise Woman did. She texted E, who she knew was at the beach with her husband for the weekend.

Hi.  I hope the beach is wonderful. I’m feeling a bit guilty to disturb you. And yet… 

Some young part of me has become very unsettled about Wednesday’s session. “Why wouldn’t she remember? Doesn’t it matter? Maybe I don’t matter. I don’t matter to E. I’m not important. Of course i’m not important, because after all, I’m dirty and bad and unbearable…” etc.

Wise Woman comes, hand on her heart, “Oh little one, it is so scary and painful to feel you don’t matter, to feel someone you love doesn’t care for you. I can tell you it isn’t true.  But I can see you doubt me too. Shall I ask E for some reassurance? Yes, it’s risky–but I trust her, and I’ll take that risk. Yes, it’s interrupting her weekend at the beach. We can apologize for that and trust that she meant it when she said we could text, when she said she wanted to help in the moment.”

“Dear little one, I see how you feel scared and wounded. And it sucks, I know. Let’s have some tea, and I’ll text E. And I’ll hod you close to me, caring for you, knowing she may not be checking her phone and that a delayed response doesn’t mean anything either way.”

Phew! World’s longest text.

I received a reply about an hour later.

Dear Wise Woman, Thank you so much for  caring so gently and respectfully for that scared little one. I like how trusting she is of you by sharing her stories of distrust and fear. Looks like she is fully trusting you these days. You’re a good mom to her.

Of course I care deeply for that girl, too. I want her to know I adore her and do not see her as dirty. Never have. Never will. She is precious, even in her fear and distrust. She longs to be loved. I’m glad she has both of us reassuring her of her value. Hold her tight.

emoticon20n-1-web

Future apology accepted.

It’s a kind message, loving, but I can’t take it in. All I can feel is the “future apology accepted.” And even though it’s sent with an emoticon, and even though I know she is trying for a light touch at the end, and even though I know tone in texting is a bitch, what I feel is:

  • Yes, you definitely owe me an apology.
  • Because you are disturbing me.
  • Because for god’s sake, I am not at your beck and call.
  • You are being insufferable.
  • Can you just lighten up a bit and get over yourself?!?

It’s hard to look at those statements, to know they are irrational and not what she said, and yet to admit: that’s what I feel she was communicating. I know that’s part of the conversation we’ll need to have this evening (Monday).

I didn’t answer her text, not even with the short thank-you it deserved. If I answered, I’d need to say, no, that doesn’t feel right. And I didn’t want to increase the need to apologize by really getting into it by text. It would set us both up for frustration. It needs to wait for an in-person conversation. One that I’m not sure how to start. One that I’m afraid to start. But I will, I will do it somehow. That’s the Wise Woman’s obligation to the girl.

 

 

15 thoughts on “I Know What She Said and What I Felt Are Not The Same Thing

  1. to the wise woman, you are doing everything to care for the little girl, so well done. I know this will be a tough conversation, but I’m sure you can sort things out with E. Therapy work is hard sometimes, but just be honest, tel her how it is for you, how it felt in the moment for you. That’s all you can do. love, Carol anne xoxo

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  2. The first thing I thought when I read her response was that she did NOT address your concerns or what happened during the session. And then when I got to the last part I was appalled! HER accepting YOUR apology? Excuse me? Where was her apology to you for wounding you? Where was her apology for brushing aside your wounded and horrified heart? You are very wise to try to wait for an in person conversation. My thoughts are with you.

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  3. I need to apologize for my previous comment. Although I do think she missed your heart and missed the mark on her reply….I became especially angry and I am thinking now that was misdirected and I overlooked an opportunity to support you. I am sorry for that. I spent two years under an emotionally abusive counselor and I think your counselors “chipper” reply obviously brought up some unresolved anger I still have. I do think your conclusions are wise to meet with her about this situation. How did her reply make you feel?

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    • No, no, you don’t need to apologize at all. I think you captured, across your two comments, exactly how I was feeling. Part of me felt, “What? Wait. You didn’t hear my main point. And although I am sorry to interrupt you, your acceptance actually stings because it underscores that I am wrong to reach out.” And then I think that I (perhaps like you, though for different reason) went looking for something to hurt me that wasn’t really there.

      An abusive counselor! Such a violation of trust and need! It’s horrible.

      I’m working on writing about events since going to see her yesterday, so more to come… Thanks for your kind responses.

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  4. Hugs once more xxx i know i would have seen the same things you did, in your position. And i know from the title of your post, that Wise Woman has a good perspective on this xx i don’t know if it will help, but could i tell you what i saw? Though admittedly it was on my second reading, as my initial reaction was similar to yours! Reading back your text it almost feels as though you made a bargain with yourself – that you would let yourself text because you would apologize later. That somehow apologising later would make the texting okay. And so perhaps what she was saying is that it IS okay, anyway. Her offer was unconditional. You don’t need to bargain with yourself, or with her. She is removing the need to apologise later. You might say she could have said ‘there is no need to apologise ‘ – but if you’re anything like me, you would have done it anyway, and i sometimes feel that being told i don’t need to apologise invalidates my very real and sometimes distressing feeling, that i do. So she is accepting you feel you need to apologise – while gently reassuring you that she doesn’t need an apology to ‘make up for’ anything. I suspect this probably is no more helpful than your own knowledge that what you feel isn’t what she said, and please feel free to ignore if that’s the case! I will be thinking of you in your session and i know you can both work this out xxxx

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    • I do think I would have responded better to “No need to apologize,” but yes, exactly, she was at the beach, busy with other things, trying to respond to the different components of my text. She was fine, and I was touchy. I’m allowed to be touchy sometimes. I have reason for it. I wish she didn’t have to bear the brunt of it.

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      • You’re always allowed to be you, whoever that is at any one time, I’m sorry if my comment implied otherwise xx As for bearing the brunt…..She loves you, and moreover in you she has someone who is incredibly self aware and reflective and understands herself and the process, very well. I think ‘bearing the brunt’ must be seen in that context , and even in what you may consider to be your touchiest moments, I am sure she will still believe it is a privilege to know you and love you and be alongside you in this journey xxx

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  5. “that’s the wise woman’s obligation to the girl”. Yes, I may carry that one with me. I hope that meeting with her helped resolve all of these things, and I think you did so well in the moment, to text and have the wise woman hold the child. It was beautiful to read.

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    • I’m real up and down with the wisdom piece (as you’ll see when I write up the icky next episode). But yes, I don’t think I was wrong to text as I did on Saturday, and despite the hiccup with the “apology” shit, she saw how hard I was trying and responded with kindness and encouragement.

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  6. I had much the same reaction to her words – it didn’t feel quite right. It doesn’t acknowledge that the little one’s current fear and distrust stem from E’s own actions and makes it sound a bit like she’s saying “I’ve already reassured you, I’m not going to say the words again, you’ll just have to remember what I’ve already said. Soothe yourself”. And I didn’t like that bit about “future apology accepted”. Why does she need to accept an apology for your taking up something she offered you in the first place? What you probably needed to hear was more along the lines of “I understand your urge to apologise, it’s sweet of you to be so considerate, but you do not need to apologise for accepting something I’ve offered.”

    I know it is hard for therapists to get it perfect, and that texting is fraught with the possibility of misunderstanding, but it is ok to know all of that AND to still feel upset with her for not getting it right.

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  7. No, that doesn’t feel right at all – it could be because she’s distracted at the beach and not in her “therapist mind.” The one thing she is right about is that you are being a good mom to the third grader. ❤
    Also, I am confused. "Future apology accepted?" What does that mean? It sounds like she's expecting you to apologize to her, when really she needs to be apologizing to you. This makes no sense. It hurt me on your behalf as I read it.
    Sending a hug to that third grader xoxo

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    • Yes, I’m seeing that a therapist can have all the kindest intentions and still I can go looking to find something hurtful in it. And even though I’ve gone looking, that hurt is REAL. It might be old hurt, and it might not really be her fault, but it still hurts.

      Her “soothe yourself” doesn’t sound as bad to me as you might think because she has sent me many, many texts before this one. We’ve also worked in session a lot about drawing on the wise woman’s capacity to understand and soothe. So in that context, I don’t experience it as a brush-off (though possibly I did earlier on).

      Anyway, I appreciate the reminder that it is okay to recognize my reaction is irrational and yet still valid. Not valid in the sense that I need to pick a fight with her, but valid in the sense that we feel what we feel, not what we think we “should” feel. That’s a hard thing to learn.

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      • Oops, that was really meant to be the response to DV, who captured so well the ambivalence and complication of the thoughts and emotions.

        And to Lily, a big thank you for the love and warmth you show that third grader. In the midst of all this, I almost overlook her, but you see right away who really needs attention and care. xxoo

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