I was going through my dream journal and decided to share my first ever dream, which happened three years ago, when I began therapy for the second time. The dream was very short, but massively vivid and powerful; The dream took place after therapy one night.
I suddenly found myself in the bath with my analyst. At first, we smiled at each other in a surprised and innocent way. Straight after this exchange my analyst reached down below and started to touch me under the water. I refused the advances and my analyst began to paddy, thumping his hands and feet ferociously on the floor like a child. It was extremely disturbing and vivid and I remember thinking that I was more mature than him.
I knew from having therapy before that the dream had to be ‘aired and shared’ and I found myself laughing as I recounted the dream during our next session. We talked about the dream for most of the session and together we unpacked some possible meanings and realisations.
We discussed the meaning of the bath itself, which may be interpreted as a place where one literally washed oneself clean internally, shedding old ideas, opinions and negative patterns. We were in a tight place together where we could possibly remain stuck for some time. The initial smile we shared could be our true selves meeting for the first time. We discussed going to new places that are below the surface. Places we shouldn’t go. Down below; Should not be touched down there. Touching the darker shadow self would cause a huge paddy, huge resistance and the new beginnings of re-living a battle of previously held opinions and beliefs. Who knows more than who has been in control for so long. Of course ‘I’ am more mature.
The bravest thing I have ever done is to withdraw many of my projections. Through analysis, I have done this gradually which leaves me conscious of a pretty thick intensified shadow. I have saddled myself with new conflicts, once hidden, but I do believe that this is my only chance to live fully. Once you have had a glimpse deep inside you can never return to innocence. You could say that I have now become a serious problem for myself which is why I sometimes leave therapy sideways, I almost fall out of it onto the pavement. I no longer have such fixed views on things; he is wrong, or things should be done this way or that. Anything that happens in this world lives within me and it is my responsibility to this world and humankind to address myself fully. You think too much, is something I hear quite often or you’re too deep.
I am trying to find a way so my true self can live with this shadow, moment to moment, however frightening the experience. I feel that I am in the middle of myself listening out to my two sides and it is exhausting. Breathing into the confusion and paradox helps, and I strongly believe, although the two sides of me will never fundamentally change, that the intensity will eventually melt down into a more positive realisation and peaceful surrender to what is.
I am unable to do all of this while carrying on with more social scenarios as I cannot fully laugh knowing what is behind my laughter. I seek fellow travellers and comrades with a vengeance, usually online, so that wounds feel like they are shared. There is one part of me that I am reticent to change and that is my business head. I don’t know why I am able to run my company well and deal with problems as they arise, but for now, I need to hold onto that. Its quite bizarre listening to people nowadays. I can hear their darker self being complimentary to me, whilst having an unconscious dig, to enhance their own sense of self or visa versa. Transparency rings in my ears. Is this my paranoia or my truth? I don’t know, but I march on.
By a divine paradox, wherever there is one slave there are two ~ Edwin Markham
One of the things that is hard to accept during therapy is the realisation that the childhood, we once thought of as perfect, was not. I love my parents very much, but that does not mean that they were perfect parents, as there is no such thing. Externally I was dressed well, our frequent family outings were exiting and camping holidays were spontaneous and playful. Arguments were a rare occurrence in our home, there was little alcohol present, and my parents did as much as they could to nurture us all. Part of the difficulty in accepting our not so perfect childhood’s is because it’s not the ‘right thing’ to blame your parents. This conditioning initiated as a survival mechanism. We had to believe our parents were perfect or good enough otherwise with nobody to look after us, we would die.
As a child, I had Separation Anxiety Disorder, I was vehemently opposed to separating from my Mother, my primary caregiver or attachment figure. I was convinced that something bad would happen to her during the time that we were separated. As a child, I had convolutions or fits, which I believe, were caused by literally overheating or childhood panic attacks. Often in therapy we try to find the ‘one thing’ from our past that caused our problems. My view is that it is many things ranging from inheritance, neurological pathways and genetics but most of all very early nurturing. Not all children are the same but if we are soothed and nurtured in the areas that, we need to be, we can slowly internalise this for ourselves.
Many of us find it impossible to remember specific periods in childhood where our caregivers were unable to nurture us in the way we needed to be. Therefore, all we are left with, is our current relationships we have with others, which can hold some golden keys into becoming fully human. We need to fully work through these relationships and bear in mind our parents were the first people we loved deeply. Our first loves often leave us with the wounds that we carry with us for the rest of our lives and at the core of all intimacy issues is the fear of loss. Problems arise when we are either too close or too distant from our parents. Im my case it was the former. As I was so engulfed I found it hard to find my own psychological space and I developed a controlling fear of loosing myself.
Childhood is a promise that is never kept ~ Ken Hill
For three long years, from the age of nine until eleven, I was totally and utterly in love. In romantic agony, I cried at night, and watched her beauty swirl around me during the day. I had swallowed her love potion and I loved her more than life itself. On our last day at school she played Spanish guitar and my heart left me to dance away into another land where my passions would never be equalled. My long sulken walk home after school was heart wrenching as I would never see her again. I arrived home to find a letter from her, which spoke of the same love for me. She had felt the same as me all this time! It was at that moment that I bolted like a stallion and ran, never to lay eyes on her again.
Since then I have slowly developed a tendency of isolating myself from women, especially powerful women who scare me. Do I not feel ripened as a man, or am I a perpetual adolescent, what the Jungians would call an eternal boy. Like Don Juan, occasionally flitting like a bee from flower to flower. Will I ripen as a man by being with other men, like my therapist. Through this on going committed relationship will the ‘flying boy’ or Peter Pan be able to find a relationship with a woman that is rooted to the earth. “When a man stands up to the domineering witch in a woman, he frees the Princess from her spell, and she can then become his Queen.”
In tribal cultures men would take the boy from his mother at the time of puberty. They would tell him stories, they would engage the boy in trials until his masculine wisdom was excepted. I have the overwhelming sense that I should be living more with my heart than my head, but feel unable to tap into that region. Past conditioning has distorted my free spirit where male and female energies would dance together for the sake of the dance, blissfully unaware of their sexes.
I am fascinated in the relationship Jung and Freud had, from their closeness to their bitter separation. Concealed in their letters to each other there is an undertone of power and righteous ownership bathed in hermeneutics. I imagine a fight to the death and winners and losers. An evil cock fight wherein the bloody struggle is fought in the basement, while up on the roof and out in the open, theories fly proud like flags. Everything seemed to be at stake, as each man’s questioning of the others views called into doubt the others explanation of his whole life.
I notice this juxtaposition or power struggle with my analyst, when theory is thrown at each other, or should I say, when I throw theory back at him. I have found that I tend do this after an episode where my true self has opened up. I may have cried and felt hopeless and vulnerable during a previous session. When I have shown him my underbelly I feel like the powerless underdog, who is unbalanced, so I try to regain control through theory and debate. I wonder who taught me to compete this way and why I feel the need to compete and to win and what indeed was the prize? For whom is the battle being rein-acted for.
For me, I have made most of my important gains, and losses, where no theory exists. When our relationship is paramount and we share special moments, thats when the sparks fly. Rare and heartfelt admissions, on my analysts behalf, seem to rebalance our relationship and enable tenderness. It allows me a sense that we are together on this journey, and that it’s our journey, not just my own personal gravel path. In fact when my own analyst qualified, his analyst said to him; now forget all you have been taught and throw all theory out of the window. Perhaps he is my Grandfather.
Three years ago I entered therapy again for the second time. I arrived wearing a smart jacket, and I was ready to do business. I had 5 years of therapy in my twenties so I was there for some CBT. Six sessions or so and this anxiety would vanish, there was no need to dig deeper, I had done that before. Resistance ran high when my therapist stated he did not practice CBT. I pressed, and asked for two sessions a week, like I had last time. I could do this for a while and then I would be sorted. My therapist cleverly recommended that we should start with one session and I reluctantly agreed.
I can see now that from the very start I was trying to control a situation where I had no control. My first and only child had been born prematurely, who I desperately wanted to see, and I was in a sweat. The dark clouds were circling once again, a storm was brewing up. I did not know who I was or what I stood for. Was this a breakdown? I would sit rocking and shaking one minute and be telling jokes and cracking people up the next. I now refer to this time as my nervous breakthrough. I had come apart. Without realising it my dark self had totally overshadowed my true nature and I was split right down the middle.
A long time after this first session my therapist told me that when he first saw me he thought that I looked like a boy in his fathers clothes, they were too big for me. He thought, this is a boy who needs a father! When I told him about my new born son, he thought, well if this boy does not have a father, how can he look after his own, and there goes the panic. He said he usually finds that on his first meeting with people his instincts usually hold a key. Timing was crucial as I think if he had told me his instincts from the start I would have ran a mile.
The big question that comes up time and time again in therapy is results focused. Is this therapy doing me any good? Is it making me worse? For me, I have discovered that therapy is both those things. If indeed a false self was created as a child, as a way of coping with deficiencies of their parents, then a deep groove has been cut into oneself, a pattern has emerged, one branch of the tree has began to grow away from the main trunk. Trees do not grow straight, they bend and bow towards the light, so part of us slips further and further and more distant from our true nature. As such, much of my anguish is based on a fixed idea of how things are supposed to be, but when that idea is not met, my nemesis the wolf comes in and shows its teeth.
In one respect I am now reading situations with more clarity, like never before, a new fresh day has come. I know when I am angry and I can breathe deeply into it, disappointments no longer resonate as much, these feelings always pass. In another respect I feel that I have regressed with my feet placed firmly in adolescence or even earlier in the labour of birth. Neuroses seem to have intensified and generalised anxiety can be heightened to what can seem like a dangerous level. I stay in much of the time as I feel that its only the wolf that wants to go out and dance with its ego. So the once unnoticed driving forces I was unaware of have been illuminated, there’s nowhere to hide anymore, the process is fully underway.
Many Psychotherapists and scholars believe that we cannot ever change intrinsically, and I believe this too. However, the wind now makes me smile, I watch stressed out children and my eyes are filled with tears, the grass feels amazing beneath my feet and I tickle my back at night and it feels good. If I acknowledge all the rough edges of my humanness – Pain, Courage, Fear and Celebration and I ask myself if Therapy is working, the answer would be that I am learning how to love more deeply. The heart is breaking open and communion with oneself, just occasionally, has a sacred order.
I yearn for understanding, and yet I fear, I am further from the answers, than ever before ~Abigail Baker
During my first 5 years of psychotherapy in my 20’s I worked with an female therapist in her 60’s and I found it extremely uncomfortable articulating my sexual fantasies with her. I would mostly avoid the subject, but if we did go there, I would box up my fantasies and make them very generic, tame and watered down. For example, we never explored certain fetishes and their possible meanings for me individually. This was one of the reasons that convinced me that a male therapist would be vital second time around. However, I guess if I did reveal things I was truly ashamed of, the real fear would lie in being abandoned by ‘anybody’ whatever their gender.
I still find it uncomfortable discussing the real nitty gritty, I cringe and squirm and beat around the bush, but I do disclose eventually. Oscar Wilde once said “Sex is the refuge of the weak” and that rang true for me in a sense that I tended to gravitate towards sex, or thoughts about sex, when I wanted to avoid emotional pain, which was quite frequent sometimes. In as much as talking about my once hidden fantasies made me feel on edge I knew there must be something lurking underneath worth discovering. When we are uncomfortable we are extremely close to touching on a nerve, and sometimes if we can bear it, we need to step into these darker clouds.
What is extremely difficult is having solid memories about what actually happened to me when I was younger around sexuality and how these experiences developed and got transferred onto my relationships as an adolescent or as a man. While memories of this kind may not establish themselves, due to their elusive nature, feelings and sensations do. Our thoughts and associations around sexuality can hold some real insights into how we view ourselves. Our fantasies and turn on’s may seem strange even to us, but for me I noticed a pattern, in that the fantasies needed to be fuelled and made more elaborate over time which highlighted the fact that these fantasies were built layer by layer. Underneath these fantasies and roles lies an internal message of who we may be which is intrenched in power and dominance or submissive traits.
Sexuality poorly repressed unsettles some families; well repressed, it unsettles the whole world ~ Karl Kraus
About 10 years ago a friend of mine played me a tape of Eckhart Tolle. In his unique and eire voice, Eckhart spoke of being depressed and alone in his flat in London. One morning in desperation, he said to himself ‘Why do I keep doing this to myself.’ He then thought, well if I am doing this to myself, there must be two of me. This was a huge revelation for me at the time and this dual internal premise has stayed with me ever since.
The internal on-going commentary we stand victim to on a daily basis can be relentless and life consuming. It can be quite startling when it is unpacked and looked at to see how deadening and stagnant these thoughts can be. There is a voice that berates us, tells us that we are no good, and convinces us that something dreadful is about to happen. Replacing these thoughts with positive ones ‘Californian style’ was my first port of call, but for me, I realised this did not work in the long run. Simply hearing the thoughts, allowing them to drift by and not judging them, akin to meditation, seamed to be the way foreword.
Realising and accepting that there is a part of me that is battling with my true self, a part of me that keeps me locked up in open prison, and wounds me, is painful. The inner voice loves death, risk, sex and drama and like a wolf watching a group of campers from afar, he will never come close. There is no taming of this beast, it cannot ever change, only my perception of him can. Realising that this ego will always have a voice is hard to except but some voices are louder than others and perhaps one day I can turn mine down to a whisper.
I had been anxious and depressed for years and suddenly I was deeply at peace ~ Eckhart Tolle
There are endless stages during analysis. Like floating in the sea you are continually tossed around. Sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards and sometimes downwards. Constant movement and chaos without an absolute end result to cling to. It takes courage and perseverance to continually lay out your often out of date thought patterns and beliefs. I often liken it to peeling back the skin from an onion. Bit by bit, layer by layer, the premise being to get down to the inner core. Some stages are painful while others are liberating and some moments seem to change perceptions for good. Some sessions can make you feel like an unprotected and vulnerable child and the following session had me feeling that way.
With my head in my hands sitting up on the couch I was trembling, anxious, emotional and distraught. I wanted to ask my therapist something. It felt so child like to ask and I imagined that my question would not receive the answer I needed to hear. My therapist never gave me advice, it was up to me to work things out by myself, and to ask this would feel like a school boy error. I felt like I was falling into pieces, my emotion was overwhelming and finally after what seemed like 30 mins of deliberating on my question, it just came out. ‘Am I going to be alright?’
The silence seemed to last forever when my therapist finally said ‘I don’t know’. His answer did not dry my tears, nor did it stop the deep pain I was experiencing but I knew that he was telling me his truth. How could he possibly know I was going to be 100% alright. Like a child bearing pain I wanted to hear ‘of course you are’ or ‘this is just part of the process.’ What I was left with was an unfamiliar feeling of realness, that I was connected to something truthful and right. That moment is when I fully trusted my therapist and the first moment I truly trusted anybody.
We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy ~ W Anderson