Posted by: Marie | August 26, 2012

(697) And now I’m changing my mind – Part 2 of 5

Post #697
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

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Me: I told him that, recently, I’ve been working on learning how to be more comfortable with physical contact with people – more specifically, with men – and that I find his touch to be safe and healing. For example, it feels healing to me when he touches me on the shoulder when he is talking to me.

I said that, if he felt comfortable doing so, I’d like for him to continue doing so . . . with one caveat . . . that he make sure he doesn’t come up behind me and catch me by surprise with a touch because that’s a bit tough for me to handle. When I said the last part, I got emotional . . . a few tears.

James got a very concerned look on his face like he thought I was going to ask him to not touch me at all, then his face showed empathy when I got emotional, then he showed relief when I said I was okay with his touch “with a caveat”.

He said it is something he does for his job and something he does as part of who he is, naturally. But, he said he doesn’t want to cause anyone – including me – to feel uncomfortable by touching them. He said that it was obvious [by my emotion] that something was going on with me that caused touch to not be okay for me. He assured me he would refrain from touching me when I don’t see it coming.

Photo by Martin Chen

After the lesson, since my mom and sister hadn’t yet arrived, we talked a little bit about it as he was preparing to leave. We hugged at that point . . .

I’m not sure he intended for us to hug . . . I wasn’t thinking about a hug at all, but he kind of saddled up near me, standing to the side of me . . . I suddenly got a sense that he was considering asking if a hug would be okay . . . it felt natural . . . I just moved towards him and started raising my arm in preparation for a hug . . . I almost didn’t think about it, it was just something I did automatically in response to his body language.

After I took a step towards him and raised my arm, he asked if I would like a hug . . . that’s when it dawned on me that I may have read his body language wrong . . . I don’t think so . . . I think that is what he was thinking . . . I hope so because otherwise I may have hugged him when he didn’t want to be hugged . . . I hope not, that would really be embarrassing . . .

Anyway . . . we hugged . . . but I was nervous and awkward and hit him in the face with my hand . . . but it was nice to get a hug from him.

(I paused for a moment as I processed the emotions that were coming up for me . . . )

Me: He didn’t ask about my reasons for not being comfortable with touch . . . he didn’t ask what happened in my history . . . and I didn’t volunteer that information because I didn’t want to burden him with more than he bargained for . . . he signed up for piano lessons, not for all my drama. I think it is reasonable to ask him to not surprise me from behind . . . but telling him “my story of trauma” would be too much information. After all, he didn’t ask . . . I’m guessing he doesn’t really want to know.

So, anyway . . . that all happened at his lesson a few weeks ago. He had another lesson this week . . . I was hoping to have a chance to check in with him during this week’s lesson, just to make sure we are okay . . . but, he had his daughter with him, so it wasn’t appropriate to bring it up.

(Thoughtful pause)

Me: Since I couldn’t talk to him about it, I tried to figure it out by observing his behavior . . .

(Thoughtful pause)

Me: He didn’t touch me at all this week . . . I told him I was okay with him touching me if I saw it coming . . . now he’s not touching me at all.

(Thoughtful pause as I unscrewed and re-screwed the lid on my water bottle . . . )

Me: That makes me wonder if what I did made him uncomfortable . . .

(Emotional pause)

Me: Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything to him . . . I don’t know . . .

(Another emotional pause . . . I messed with the bottle cap some more . . . looked anywhere but at Edward . . . finally shrugged my shoulders . . . )

Me: I don’t know . . . I just . . . I just don’t know . . .

Edward: You don’t know about what?

Me: Maybe I messed things up . . .

Edward: Maybe you messed things up by making a reasonable request . . . by setting up a reasonable physical boundary?

Me: Maybe . . . I don’t know . . .

He signed up for piano lessons, not for my drama . . .

Edward: I don’t think setting a reasonable boundary qualifies as drama.

Me: But, I got all emotional . . . by getting emotional, I dumped my historical pain on him . . . he didn’t ask for that . . .

Edward: I think you were being real with him. I think you were letting the real Marie show.

Me: Maybe that was too much.

Edward: Do you think it would have been better to maintain a performance that hides the real you?

Me: I don’t think he really wants to get burdened with all my drama.

Edward: Didn’t you have the felt-sense that he was willing to hear your story?

Me: I did . . . but now I think I may have been wrong. Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

I don’t know why it is important . . . why I have such a strong urge . . . to tell him – to tell men – my story. I don’t know why I am so driven to tell them about all the bad stuff that happened to me in the past.

Edward: I think you have a desire to share “who you are” with them in a very real way.

Me: But my historical pain – my story of what happened 40 years ago – is not who I am. I don’t know why I can’t share current and upbeat things . . . like my music . . . but, I guess that is all I have to share . . . right now, “who I am” is music and therapy . . . and that’s all I am right now. It’s okay to share my music with people . . . that’s upbeat and fun and part of who I am now.

But, the therapy part isn’t something that is part of who I am now . . . the therapy stuff is all about history and not the present.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. I have this dilemma also – sometimes it seems my whole life has to be a secret and I don’t have anything I can tell people about! It’s tough when a lot of time and effort go into healing, but it seems inappropriate to share that with people. Kind of sad really, but it’s a fact of life in my case anyway. I am curious how this all worked out for you.

    • Hey, Ellen –

      I’m glad you are a regular reader . . . I did find a great solution . . . at least, it has worked well for me . . . so, keep reading! I used it as a way to share my story with James and Cindy . . .

      – Marie

  2. Any student signs up with a teacher who has their own ways of doing things and their own baggage. You are the same as every other teacher.

    I don’t think setting a boundary like that was dumping. Maybe saying “you have to hug me every 15mins so that I know you appreciate how much I am teaching you and how hard I am working for you may have been inappropriate.” Then again if he likes touch he may have welcomed this, who knows? I think the boundary you set was fine.

    Maybe this is provocative. I think that what happened in our pasts is part of us – not of all of us, not a limit on us, not all of who we are, not who we are becoming; but one part of us.

    And maybe you sorted this all out in the rest of the session!

    • Wow, Evan . . . you make several excellent points!

      Our history is only one part of us . . .

      And, my request was reasonable . . . and asking for a hug every 15 minutes would have been unreasonable . . .

      Thank you for all the thoughtful input!

      – Marie


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