Posted by: Marie | November 19, 2012

(752) People close to me – Part 2 of 2

Post #752
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, December 22, 2011 – continued from previous post]

Right after the Rotary performance, I had a piano lesson with Jeff, the psychiatrist. At one point in the lesson, he turned to me and told me that he used to have a private practice. He said that he dealt almost exclusively with trauma. He doesn’t do it anymore because he got burned out – he cared so much for his clients that it was hard for him to protect his emotional health – he found he was taking on their trauma – he was being traumatized himself to some extent. So, he had to go in a different direction.

I don’t know what he does now for a living. Today, when I asked him if his week had been busy, he said it was a pretty relaxed week because a lot of the kids rescheduled their appointments with him due to the holiday. So, I guess he’s working with kids. I’ll have to ask him.

The way he brought up his former private practice was rather “out of the blue”. Now, looking back, I wonder if he had something else he wanted to say . . . I wonder if that was foundational information he shared as a way to make space to tell me something else. But, I didn’t allow space for him to continue.

Selflessness Forest by Martin Chen

Instead, I asked, “Do you get aggravated when people don’t want to change?” He said, “Yeah – but sometimes people don’t want to change because the status quo is familiar.” That took the conversation off into another direction – then we got back into the lesson.

I wonder what I missed out on.

Jeff said something else I found interesting during his lesson . . . he said he recently was talking to his buddy about how nervous he gets in his lesson when he is playing a piece for me. He said, “As I was talking to my buddy, all the sudden, it dawned on me . . . you don’t really care how well I perform in my lesson – well, you care, because you want me to progress, but you don’t CARE if I don’t perform well in my lesson. You are just trying to coach me along. That was a neat realization – it was helpful and freeing.”

It struck me kind of funny . . . I’m always trying to get people to like me . . . to be impressed by me. So, it is a whole new idea to me that someone might be trying to impress me!

After the lesson, Jeff stuck around for some conversation . . .

He told me about some of his professional and personal writing projects and he mentioned that he and his wife are expecting their first baby in a couple of months – a girl – he told me her name . . . a really pretty French-sounding name I hadn’t heard before – but, I can’t remember the name . . .

And he talked some more about the stuff that had happened to him in his childhood. He talked about the trauma therapy he had gone through with his own therapist in the last few years. He said he was shocked at how much anger had been stored up in his body . . . he had no idea the weight of that anger until he began traveling his own healing journey.

I responded, “How cool that you worked through all these things before you start a family . . . I think it will make you a better dad to have worked through all that stuff with your own dad. What a gift that will be for your daughter!”

On another tangent . . . I’m noticing something . . . every time I open up to people about my story, I learn that they have their own story. I’m learning that every person has a story . . . and that every person has good, bad and ugly in their story.

It seems to me that Jeff is no different. It seems he wants to share his story as much as I want to share mine. He seems to be sharing a little bit each time. It is so cool that he feels safe enough to share it with me – that he wants to tell me.

Anyway, while we were on the topic of how trauma is stored in our bodies, I told Jeff that I was dealing with that in my own therapy. I told him about how my last therapy session had gotten into the subject of body memories. I feel that I’ve worked through so much of the psychological and emotional issues and that most of the work still left to be done is centered around the body memories.

I told him that facing the body memories is so much scarier for me than working on the emotional stuff. He said that he totally understood that fear – that the same was true for him.

I told Jeff that I was seeing evidence of my progress in relation to the physical stuff . . . I told him, “I don’t know if you remember, but at your last lesson, I was showing you some techniques on the keyboard – the fingering for a certain passage of music . . . you put your hand in the air right above mine so you could move your fingers in the same way . . . at one point, our fingers touched for a second . . .”

He got a worried look on his face like he thought I was going to say that he did something inappropriate . . . but no . . .

I told him that I was hyperaware of the contact, but I didn’t get triggered by it at all. That is a sign of progress for me . . . contact with an adult male, even incidental touch, used to be very triggering for me.

He asked why a touch like that would be potentially triggering for me. I explained that it has taken me a long time to be truly comfortable with being so close to an adult male in such tight quarters . . . the keyboard is not very long and there is not a lot of elbow room when you are one of two adults sitting side-by-side at the piano. I have to be close to my students to teach – I’m not used to being that close to adult males, and that is why it has been challenging for me.

Well . . . that . . . and because so many of my experiences involving close physical proximity with men have entailed pain, shame, forced sexual contact, terror, humiliation, emotional disconnect, rejection, criticism . . . and I’ve had relatively few experiences with men that have allowed me to feel safe and respected. It has been hard for me to imagine how sitting so close to an adult male for an hour could be a positive experience.

One of my little tricks to help myself relax when I’m having physical contact with an adult male is to ask myself: 1) Is the touch appropriate? 2) Do I feel safe? If both of my answers are affirmative, I can relax and allow the contact to occur.

But, it’s like I don’t trust myself – I don’t trust my internal standards of what is okay. I have to use logic to determine what is okay. I told Jeff that, when his hand briefly touched mine, I asked myself those two questions. Both answers were “yes” so I was able to roll with it.

I had something else I wanted to say to him . . . I did an “energetic check” on the space between us . . . I was concerned I was freaking him out . . . but, he seemed okay with everything so far. So, I continued . . .

I said, “I’m beginning to have positive experiences with men – for example, with you. I’m learning a different experience around physical proximity and touch . . . that physical contact with a man is not always painful. In fact, I’m learning that it can actually be enjoyable – I don’t mean enjoyable in a sexual way, just in a comforting way. I can allow it to happen and not feel guilty and ashamed. I can actually relax enough to enjoy the touch.

“I’m learning that being in close proximity to a man does not have to be hurtful. It can be pleasant. In fact, it can be downright pleasurable. That is a whole new concept for me.”

He said he was glad I was having that experience . . . that, in the appropriate settings, human contact can be a really healing gift we give each other.

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