**trigger warning/death**— Maria Albertsen (@MariaAlbertsen_) November 21, 2020
For the last year therapy has been really painful. I’m talking painful to the point of where I didn’t want to continue. I want to share a recent breakthrough that I had, and how I got there. It’s about love and boundaries and why maintaining them are 1/
**Trigger warning – talk about death **
I recently shared something from my own personal therapy on Twitter and the response was huge. It was about therapy and love and boundaries. You can click on the link to the tweet above to read it on Twitter and see what others had to say, or you can keep reading below (copied and pasted from Twitter).
For the last year therapy has been really painful. I’m talking painful to the point of where I didn’t want to continue. I want to share a recent breakthrough that I had, and how I got there. It’s about love and boundaries and why maintaining them are so important.
I’ve worked with my therapist for 4 years now. For the last year all I’ve thought about is how I want her to love me as I love her and to never leave me. This is of course to do with transference but we’ve struggled to understand it.
The smaller parts me, my inner children, have tried all ways to get her to tell me she loves me, that she’ll never leave me. I’ve joked with her, laughed with her, been angry with her, and tried to trick her. All to get her to give in. To say, ‘Maria, I love you too.’
Then several weeks ago she asked me again what love meant to me and then she asked me one question which has literally changed my life. She said, ‘you say you want me to love you. Tell me instead what it is I am not giving you as your therapist?’
And this really blew my mind.
Because there is nothing as my therapist that she doesn’t give me. She’s reliable, consistent, boundaried, intelligent, empathic and yes, loving. She’s never changed how she is with me in 4 years.
I left the session and I was really stunned, like a rabbit in the headlights, because I couldn’t answer it, and I usually have an answer for everything!
I naturally began to think about this and I thought about how she gives me everything I need, as my therapist, so questioned why I was acting and feeling the way I was. And then I had one thought – ‘The only person who has given me more was my Nana. She doesn’t love me like she did.’
And then I just stopped. Literally stopped.
My nana died when I was just 10 years old. It was a really traumatic experience as I was sleeping with her when she died. She’d been dead hours when I woke and getting help was also traumatic. And until now, I never realised how much it has affected me. I mean I knew it had, I’ve woken every single day for 30 years and my first thought is ‘who is dead?’, but I wasn’t aware of just how much it had affected me. It turns out it’s affected my whole life!
It hit me that who I think my Nana was, isn’t necessarily how others will have experienced her. I began to remember things which simply made her human and flawed and I was surprised by that. I remembered the time she dropped dripping oil from the frying pan and burnt my leg, the little scar I still have. The time she accidentally put washing powder in the bath and I came out in a big rash. How she smoked around me and fed me chips all the time. And it dawned on me that she was human too and I began to wonder why this was such a surprise to me, and I realised that since she had died, I had made her into some God like figure, almost as an attempt to make her into a divine being so that I didn’t have to let her go. I mean, if she wasn’t human , then she couldn’t be dead, right?
And I think I done this because of how she died, finding her there laying next to me as she was, was too painful to bear. But also, because I didn’t get the support I needed when I was little to process what had happened. I mean, how many little kids go to bed with their Nana and wake up with them lying dead next to them?
From all of this I also realised that what this has meant is that in order to protect myself from ever feeling like that again, in making her a divine being, not only did it mean I didn’t need to processed what had happened, but it has played a part in keeping me alone. Because it has meant that no one has been able to come close to that, because no one could match what I had made her into in my head. She was a god and everyone else a mere human being. So, in my reluctance to let her go, and my inability to grieve for her, I shut myself off from others and ultimately from the care and love they offered me.
I went back to therapy and we discussed this in detail. I talked about how I felt silly about reaching 40 years old and never realising this. Thirty years it took….. until my therapist kindly reminded me that we’re not aware of what is unconscious.
With my therapist I began to allow myself to feel the pain of losing her, to acknowledge that she had died, and to grieve for all the close relationships I had missed out on because of this…. because of being scared to get too close to anyone in case they died too.
And I realised that I had been trying to get to this point in therapy for the last year, probably longer. I had been edging closer to realising she was dead and that’s why I was begging my therapist to tell me she loved me…. to give me what my Nana had…. in order to keep my Nana alive…. but she couldn’t as she wasn’t my Nana…. I’d made my therapist into my Nana (transference), and when she couldn’t give me what she had then I had to admit she wasn’t my Nana and that also my Nana wasn’t here…. she was dead….
And it would have been so easy for my therapist to have sat there and said, ‘yes Maria, I love you, I feel love for you,’ or whatever… but that would have been rescuing me, and she didn’t do that. Instead, she sat with me for a year in the darkness, in my pain and she helped me to tolerate it. She held the boundaries and in doing so she held me.
And I realise that what my therapist gave me in doing so, by refusing to recuse me and holding the boundaries despite how painful it was, is indeed an act of love. She didn’t need to say it, she showed it.
And right now I feel lighter, freer and funnily enough….. more open to love than I ever have.