Body Memories and the Power of Silence – Paul: Week 23, Part I

I’m going back to Nexus, my previous centre for psychotherapy, as demanded by NewVCB, Christine, A and seemingly everyone else across the space-time continuum right from the beginning of the universe all the way to its infinite ends (don’t you just love the paradoxes of physics?).

Please forgive my customary flippancy. It is probably a good thing to be returning, especially since Nice Lady That Works for Nexus has responded to my email saying she’d stick me back on the waiting list to see Paul. I mean, I knew he’d pick it up when he saw my name on the system, but Nice Lady has already made sure he won’t somehow miss it amongst all the noise of all the other registered clients. Additionally, they’re also going to “call” me (groan) when someone has a cancellation, so that I can go in, pre-therapy, to “update [them] on [my] present circumstances.” That’s going to be a hugely insightful and interesting meeting. “Hello, Nexus Person. Me? Hmm. Still seeing psychiatrist. Still seeing CPN [when she bothers to turn up, which she didn’t last time. I never did rant about that here – I shall rectify that in another post to be composed probably-not-anon]. Still writing that stupid blog, though thanks to anhedonia, avolition and other nefarious a words, not with the frequency or passion that I once did. Still mad. Still depressed. Still unemployed. Still x, still y, still z. Isn’t that so obscenely fascinating that you might have a passion-fuelled heart attack and die right now? No? No, I didn’t think so. It isn’t for me either.”

Anyhow, as any of you who regularly follow this nonsense will know, I’ve been horribly remiss in recording my last few sessions of my last round of therapy with Paul (as I was in the final weeks with C before him, but that was more about my avoiding having to think about the trauma it would have evoked, rather than being merely attributable to an apathetic lethargy caused, at least in part, by the rut of mentalism). I mean, I last saw him in June, for God’s sake, and now it’s the end of September (though quite how that came to be the case is quite beyond me. My life is passing me by…). So. I’m going to bang out this session today (and continue it tomorrow/Sunday), and the two that followed it WITHIN THE NEXT FORTNIGHT AT MOST. Should I fail to achieve this, you are not just permitted to bollock me: you are actively required to do so. OK? OK. Here we go.

This session was on 16 May, just before we went to Fuerteventura. It’s kind of fucked to start writing a review of it over four months later, but I have my notes, and they catalyse certain memories of it, so sod the dispassion and let’s get to it. It will not surprise you to learn that of course things opened with silence. I didn’t know what to say – who’d have guessed it? – and Paul refused to let me off the hook. In a fit of pique, I refused to break a stare with him. Why let him off the hook if he won’t afford me the same courtesy?

But I’m a weakling of a human being, and after several minutes had elapsed, I gave in and told him I couldn’t stare him out any longer. He advised that he had “not considered it a competition.” Whatever. Do you just stare intensely at people for what seems like ages for fun, mate?

In any effort just to say something, I ended up telling him about my neo-psychotic encounter with a Monty Python keyring. When I’d concluded the story, at first he didn’t laugh, which left me feeling utterly mortified. I was disgusted that I had dared find my little anecdote mildly amusing when it apparently wasn’t – but just as I was about to start verbalising my self-castigations, he sort of bowed his head and started howling with laughter. So, ever the psychological splitter, I then began to regard him with a measured incredulity – I mean, it wasn’t that funny!

Composing himself, Paul said, “how appropriate that Monty Python were involved. They seem psychotic at the best of times.”

I concurred, and voiced the view that the whole episode had itself been worthy of a Python sketch.

He used the opportunity to ask me about my friends (spot the heavy irony), the hallucinatory voices. “They seem to have been quiet of late,” he commented. “Why is that?”

I boldly stated that 600 daily milligrams of Seroquel was a forced to be reckoned with.

He smiled appeasingly at me for a welcome but frustratingly brief second. “Wouldn’t it be nice if that were true?” he said, his grin shifting to something slightly more sceptical.

When I elected not to respond to this remark, he continued by saying that maybe it had more to do with the fact that, as we had discussed to some extent the previous week, I was allowed to ‘hurt’ in therapy without that pain’s typical accompaniment of panic. As well you know, dearest readers, I don’t agree with Paul’s views on medication and the medical model at large – however, what I do think is that drugs only help to a point. It is only through therapy that anything approximating proper, long-lasting recovery can be achieved. I thus declared that I agreed with him on that point, adding that in that room with him I could speak with impunity about anything and everything, without facing any value judgements whatsoever (at which point he quipped that whilst that was mostly true, he had to condemn my taste in keyrings. I appreciated that amusing aside).

“You know, it’s odd,” I mused. “I spent a year and a half in NHS therapy, and yet it was only in the last few weeks of it that I felt able to share anything more than the least worse bits of this whole sorry saga with the psychologist. I know Nexus is here to counsel people with experience of sexual abuse specifically, and my previous psychotherapy wasn’t, but it’s still a really positive thing for me that I was able to walk straight in here and start talking about it to you.”

[At this point my mobile started vibrating in my bag, interrupting the flow of conversation. I was absolutely affronted, and when I brought it out of my bag to shut it up, I noted that it was my old friend Brian calling. It is not to my credit that in those few seconds I fantasised about rearranging the face of one of my closest friends for unwittingly intruding upon my therapy session, but that’s the strength of feeling that in my experience so frequently bounces around the room on these occasions.]

“It’s not just about being able to speak,” Paul told me. “It’s also about being able to be silent.”

Ha! I think I call bullshit on that, Paul. As I said to him, “I always feel shit about there being so much silence in session. Which I suppose is odd as I do a lot of it, but you know what I mean.” Don the metaphorical mortar board and amend the uncertain tone of voice. “Of course, intellectually I appreciate that of course there is therapeutic value to be gleaned from silence; you can derive psychological detail from same, and in doing so, afford benefits back to me. Nonetheless, it feels like time-wasting.”

He had been shaking his head, ready to softly scold me for treading into academic territory yet again. With the last sentence uttered, however, he was sated, and proffered the opinion that perhaps, then, it was somehow therapeutic to be allowed to be a ‘time-waster’. “You don’t have to be the ‘good’ client or the ‘good’ child,” he said. “Not in here.”

Not content with my earlier foray into pseudo-scholarly speculation, I hit back with, “I’m not saying this is the case, but if I were to offer a hypothesis [he rolled his eyes, a gesture that I chose to ignore], I might suggest that if I had silence enforced upon me as a child, that it makes sense to re-enact it now, in these circumstances, as an adult.”

Paul looked at me with vague curiosity. I think I’ve said it before, but sometimes you can almost see the cogs turning in his head. In this case, I’m fairly sure that he was trying to develop a response to my continued intellectualising, or perhaps he was mentally querying why I kept insisting on taking the sessions down that route (avoidance, I should imagine). Either way, I know – I knew with C, and I knew with Paul – that I’m not supposed to wank endlessly on about the subconscious thinking behind my feelings and actions. That’s his fucking job.

Thus began the beating-myself-about-the-face for not conforming to what is expected of me in this inherently bizarre social setting. “Why the fuck didn’t I become a psychologist? I’m ridiculously well-versed in o’er pretentious but probably empirically flawed psychobabble shite, just like they are,” I declared.

A ghost of a smile crossed his lips at this, but instead of replying he asked if the silence in session was forced or chosen. To be honest, it’s neither – or not insofar as I had previously considered it anyway. It just is. I said so, but added that on reflection it was probably closer to the latter. I mean, he doesn’t sit there and scream at me every time I use my vocal chords, so he’s hardly coercing me into keeping my fat gob shut.

And guess what? That resulted in a silence as long as the name of a Welsh village. I remember sitting there wearing this ridiculous expression that I suppose was meant to convey some sort of “oh fuck!” embarrassment and discomfort at my entirely predictable but nevertheless irritating failure. Having learnt my lesson at the start of the appointment, I decided not to look at Paul. Instead, the ever-fascinating carpet was the object of my less-than-dignified gaze.

“So,” Paul said eventually. “Is this a comfortable or uncomfortable silence?”

If the question hadn’t been so completely ridiculous, I’d have laughed in his face. How could it be anything other than the latter?!

“I keep racking my brains in order to think of something to say to you.”

“Stop trying to think of intelligent things to say. What would you say then?”

An even more ludicrous remark, I thought – though as I acknowledged, I knew what I was meant to say (or, perhaps more accurately, I knew what clients who are less dickhead-ish than I would have said in similar circumstances. They would have got to the fucking point).

I cleared my throat. OK then, I thought. Let us talk about what he wants to talk about.

“Have you ever heard of the term ‘body memories’?” I asked. When he nodded, I continued by saying, “well, association is the oldest trick in the psychological book. When I come in here, associating what we do with the reason I came here in the first place, I sometimes experience such things.”

“Which is a horrible thing,” he speculated. “How do they manifest?”

I see from an archived post that I briefly alluded to this phenomenon with C – in fact, to my retrospective surprise, I see that I used the actual words when discussing it with him. Fortunately for my too-frequently-blushing cheeks, I managed to avoid such hideous terminology with Paul. “Sometimes I feel like I need to urinate [I somehow managed to resist my urge to play with him by using the word ‘micturate’], even though I actually don’t. I remember this happening from waaaay back into my childhood. If someone was drunk on TV, say, I’d feel this weird sensation, and it often continues this day [something of an odd issue given that my adult self is not exactly a teetotaller]. I was always completely mystified by it, but now of course my supposition, although I have no conscious recollection of it, is that he must have been pissed on one of our…encounters.”

“And how is discussing that for you?”

Aha! The inevitable re-phrasing of that old therapeutic mantra, and how does that make you feel? For once, the question was aptly timed. Even mentioning this bizarre ‘body memory’ caused my head to do what I described as “that thing it does.” In other words, I felt myself trying to float away – to dissociate – but I fought it. I didn’t want Aurora (or anything/anyone else) taking control, little bloody brat that she is. And hark! I was the victor in this case. Mwhahaha! Screw you, Aurora! However, my internally-fought fight against feeling smug at beating her down was somewhat less successful.

Paul broke into my mental tug-of-war. “As well as dissociating, you often choke or stutter whilst trying to talk about these things,” he said. The dialogue presented in these blog posts completely belies the truth of this statement. I am an unmitigated mess of oratorical shite every time I see him.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m abusing you here,” he announced, completely to my surprise.

“That’s not how it feels to me…”

“Well. I try to bridge the gap between the dissociated and repressed to the conscious. It’s inevitably difficult for you, and at those times it’s like I’m coercing you into feeling that pain.”

I reiterated that, at least on a surface level, I didn’t feel that way about things. “I can see your point, though,” I admitted. “But I think reliving the trauma and pain is a necessary part of the process. Not pleasant at the time, but helpful in the long-term, I think.”

He nodded, then – in reference to body memories – brought up another client. “She dreams a lot, and wakes up brutally tender and sore. She’s also constantly bothered with urinary tract problems, despite no medical reason for them.”

I felt immediate empathy with this and said so. Not with dreams resulting in tenderness per se, but regarding random flare-ups of embarrassing down-there issues. I’m frequently afflicted with thrush, which has occasionally been resultant from my now-discovered allergy to penicillin, but which more often develops for no discernible reason at all. I get it in my throat too, so you can see the whole rape-analogy shebang…so I have conversion disorder on top of everything bloody else, how fantastic! Seriously though, in my case I suspect nothing more than coincidence to be at play, but it is interesting and potentially revealing to at least consider possible connections.

Anyhow, Paul had reminded me of something else in his allusion to this other woman. “I dream a lot these days,” I told him. “I’ve never had recurring dreams – other than the one probably everyone has where they’re falling through air – until relatively recently. Now there’s one with which I’m constantly plagued.”

Oh boy. This fairly opened up a set of gargantuan twatting floodgates…

OK, I’m going to leave this post here for now, and continue the session review in a second one. There’s still a myriad of crap to cover, but a month or so ago I decided I was going to try to start writing blog posts that weren’t of the preposterous length to which I seem addicted, at least not every time I put fingers to keys. Since this is already 2,600 words long I have clearly failed, but I wish to fail no more than I already have. So, then, dear readers: duh-duh-DUH! To be continued…

Continued here.


2 thoughts on “Body Memories and the Power of Silence – Paul: Week 23, Part I

  1. Well-written and fascinating post as ever Pan- can’t wait to here what happens next!! Great to hear you’re going to see Paul again, as all your posts here show he is obviously a very good shrink.

    SO sorry about Mrs cat, I’n also sorry I didn’t comment on that before but I’ve been dealing with some of my own depression lately and am just now catching up.

    Hang in there Pan, you are a remarkable woman with a wonderful brain.

    Best wishes

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