I had session with A this morning.
Last time I was late, so I left extra early, and ended up 40 minutes ahead of time. I sat in Starbucks and did the metro crossword, but I hate being early – I try to arrive exactly on time.
I read all your comments too, and one thing that stuck out to me was that I am, in fact, having feelings. So that’s what I started with.
A surprised me though, with an apology. She said she was so caught off guard by my disclosure that she had a knee jerk reaction and did something that as a counsellor she shouldn’t have done – and that was labelling my experience before I had had a chance to label it first. I honestly didn’t even notice… I was so out of it that I didn’t remember what she was talking about.
She said “sometimes, in the moment, I forget to check my experiences at the door. And my knee jerk reaction was to say something that as a counsellor I shouldn’t have said. This is about you and your experience and how it felt for you. I am not an investigator nor a judge and I shouldn’t have put words to what you were going through. I should not have revealed my emotions. So I apologize.”
I was struck by this for two reasons. I have had counsellors make this mistake before, their counter-transference or issues they’ve dealt with come into my sessions. But I have never had a counsellor realize it on their own and apologize for it. She was genuinely apologizing for making it about her thoughts and feelings and not about mine. And I didn’t even feel that way so the moment it happened must have been so tiny, and fleeting, but I respected her a lot for bringing it up.
Second, I was struck by the fact that she is oh-so-human… and I liked knowing that. I liked that she made a mistake and owned up to it and took our relationship seriously enough to bring it up with me. It made me feel safer. She is a human. She has her own shit. And she is so aware of it. So I was really struck with gratitude that she was so committed to her growth and self-awareness. She is going to make mistakes, as we all do, but it was really nice to know I can trust her to own them.
She also accidentally called my assailant a douchebag at some point and then went “shit, I shouldn’t have said that.” But it was such a shared human moment that we both laughed. Those conversations took up maybe 4 minutes total – but they felt important to me. I like counsellors who are aware of their own shit. It made me trust her more.
I found just talking through the emotions I have, feeling heard and held within our space, and being told what I was feeling is okay and normal and natural – I found it all very helpful.
We talked about addressing my needs and how this incident has brought to the surface feelings of grief I’ve tried so long to avoid and ignore. We talked about them being scary to feel. I was dismissive with myself and said I would never learn how to defend myself and she was like “I know you see that pattern. So I am going to call you on it now. You don’t get to project your current narrative onto your future – we need to reframe the conversation.” We have gotten close enough that she is calling me on things she let me just kind of work through before, and I like it. I like the more difficult work.
She also asked me to try to articulate things from my point of view – not anyone else’s. I find focusing on me so hard because my whole life was about caring for others and NOT doing that. But I showed up and did my best and she said “PD, I admire the strength with which you approach these things. I know you don’t like it when I ask you to focus on you – I see the struggle. But you work through it. You show up. And I am proud of you for it.”
So, overall, I feel better today. We didn’t get too heavy cause I had to go straight to work… and it’s hard for me to do that after an emotional session.
As I left, and went to go grab what I call my “shared my feelings” MnMs, I called back to her office “are MnMs a suitable breakfast?” And she yelled “always!” And that interaction made me smile.
So I am not good, or perfect, or feeling happy – far from it. I am walking around and hanging out with grief – but I feel supported and cared for and held and all those things when you know someone is there for you and that’s all I can ask for right now. Gentleness and kindness and compassion will continue to be important for me. I also think her admitting her shit got in the way was a really important moment for us and has solidified this connection and trust in a way I didn’t expect.