I was off that evening, off in a way that felt shameful and grubby (and here perhaps I have already revealed too much). My job was to understand the barriers, the projections, the undigested dreck getting in the way. But all I could see were my own struggles. I don’t know how someone could tug both on the here and now and the there and then, but this someone, in that moment, did.
Writing about my work is risky business. I deal with the private lives of others. No one I work with should recognize themselves directly in my writing. But I also write to work through, to play out what is going on inside. An inevitable part of being a therapist is the way the people I accompany through the murk of emotion and personal history often touch the unsolved within me. It’s the unexamined stuff within that is the most dangerous. Like family secrets, it holds the power to obscure truth and mangle thinking. The unthought, the suppressed, muddies my vision and stunts my voice.
I thought this inability to see things clearly that evening was related to memory, to what I remembered too well and what I could no longer bring to life. My experiences with trauma and abandonment overlaid the gaps and obscured the differences between us. Then there is the boy, now entering the dangerous and creative time of becoming, his shift from child to proto-adult foreshadowing an independent life. Take one child in the in-between, others in the fertile pulse-thrumming headiness of change, and an adult with childhood and adolescent trauma constantly and consistently tugged upon… It’s too much to carry without help.
There are other interactions that wrap me in swirls of grief, both the clients’ and my own, the melancholia of time passed and gone, the people missing who can no longer share in the conversation. When the grief comes in session, I necessarily increase the space between me and the client, occupying the territory of observer more completely than usual. This place is dangerous, too, if I don’t return to myself. This was the territory I occupied that evening and much of the next day, a desolate landscape of strangulated grief and an overwhelm of fear, confusion, and self-blame.
It is through writing that I return to myself. And therapy. And in allowing room to make mistakes, to acknowledge that I am robust enough to understand and communicate the truth.
Here I am.