Walking into Healer Lady’s office last week was like walking into a republican’s campaign headquarters. I felt like a total impostor, and I fantasized about taking bold action that would sabotage the success of the candidate – in this case me. But my friend’s voice was in my head, telling me to suck it up and tell Healer Lady about the hots.
I think I said the usual “hi,” but I can’t even be certain of that because I was too busy having an out-of-body experience.
Taking my place across from her in the chair that I always feel like such a slouch in, she asked, “What are we doing today?”
Ugh. The moment had arrived.
The details are murky, but what I do remember is that I stated that I had something incredibly uncomfortable to share. I took the very valiant (it was indeed valiant) step and said something to the effect that I kept thinking about her. At some point she asked if my thoughts were “romantic,” which I distinctly remember because a) I wanted to throw up, and b) I hate that word. It conjures up this:
Still contemplating sabotage, my instinct was to argue. What exactly would she consider “romantic”? It’s a bit subjective, right? Don’t people fret for hours over whether someone is making a “romantic” overture or not?
I recalled a story shared at my friend’s wedding about the beginning of her relationship with her now partner of 10 years. At the beginning of their courtship, she received a card from her love interest that was nondescript in its language. The same day, she left for a cross country road trip with a friend who listened as my friend obsessively fretted, out loud, for something like 8 hours, about all of the possible meanings of her love interest’s signature. The card was signed, “Love, Liz.”
But, wanting to get it all over with, I distilled my response to a simple yes. Oh, I can’t tell you how painful that was.
I’d like to pause right here to register that I feel robbed. Sure, I expected that during my life-long relationship with Sweetie, she and/or I would have the hots for someone other than one another. My feeling toward this inevitability is that we would just ride it out. And I definitely have friends who talk up the excitement of “romantic” interactions with someone other than their spouse. I kinda get it, but in reality, it scares me and I’d be perfectly fine without ever having feelings for another person. And, oh, how wonderful it would be if Sweetie did the same. Despite that wish, I’ve noted my friends’ universal adolescent-like involvement with other people that dissolves into nothing other than the non-threatening, joyous feeling that they still got it. So, if I have to go through this, it sucks that it’s with my therapist.
With no point of reference as a touchstone, I just squirmed my way through it.
She did a few excellent things:
- She didn’t point at me while laughing hysterically only to eek out, in broken laugh speech, “That’s…the…………..funniest thing……….. I’ve ever heard.” In fact, she was her usual self.
- She reminded me that she had talked about transference during an earlier session. I recalled that she had and I understood at that time that she was laying the ground work for something, but I didn’t understand that it was THIS! Regardless, her reminder helped to the extent that it indicated the frequency with which this sort of thing comes up in therapy, and therefore that I’m neither alone nor a freak.
- Focusing on the most disturbing piece, which is the fact that it’s all somehow oddly wrapped up with my feelings about the teacher, she took me through the exercise of distinguishing between what is similar and different about the two of them. The differences are abundant and the most obvious similarity is the role Healer Lady plays in my life; almost as an authority (my words, not hers) on my mental health. And then there’s her southern accent.
With all of the above, she essentially shooed it all away. I’m normal again. The preoccupation is gone, and if and when it resurfaces, I’m confident that I’ll be able to casually say, “Hey. I got the hots again.”