Bad news hits you in the pit of your stomach. Your center of gravity shifts, the magnetic pull of the earth holding you fast to your seat. It leaves you trembling, off-balance, dizzy. Hands shake, gait is unsteady, your head swims.
Some months ago, my latest helpful female therapist suggested I'd make greater progress with a male psychologist instead. And in the interest of greater health and personal insight I nervously followed suit. Once a week I sit in a stuffy basement room, one designed without windows, sinking into a relatively comfortable couch. I am ill-at-ease the instant he calls me in from the converted corridor that doubles as a waiting area. When seated, my head droops to the floor, unable to maintain even the briefest eye contact. This is usual for me, in any context.
What bothers me more is the way my personality completely changes. Transference is the desired state in psychotherapy, but what that means for me is that I turn into a massive, ranting jerk. Usually in relatively good control of myself, infrequently ever rude and belligerent, I grow angry and curt. Our sessions quickly take the form of a sixty-minute hate. My distrust and hostility towards men gets transposed onto the therapist. I'm not sure whether he does this deliberately or not, but he has a way of needling me to make me even more upset and animated. I've never liked getting the third degree for any reason, but it often seems like I'm some character witness for my own defense, up there on the stand.
How do you really know what you know? "Is this for clarification," I reply, "or do you want me to defend myself?"
He never answers, just resumes listening, then eventually critiques the latest statement I have mentioned. Once, annoyed, I snapped back at him. How do you really know what you know? And then I promptly regretted it, instantly staring at the carpeted floor again.
Here is what I have learned. The culprit was a sociopath. But I only received his punishment in hand-me-down fashion. Nothing quite like torment by proxy. It is normal to seek the company of older boys, to wish to learn from them, to even idolize them. But the company I received was not what I'd bargained for, nor what I needed. He wanted me to suffer the way he had, to compensate for his own earlier feelings. I suppose you could say he was just following orders, though I think certain orders are probably safe to ignore.
I learn a little bit more each session, usually. Sometimes a still image or two appears. Sometimes I can patch together more of the complete story. There was a time I wanted to know everything, only a few months ago, and now I instead fear I will remember more than I can handle. What happened was much more involved and included numerous perversions that even a nakedly honest person like me dare not even document. This is why my mind went into lock down mode. Do I need to find the chink in my psychological armor? Aside from introducing fresh trauma, how important is it to be aware?
It is time again to curse and pitch a low-grade fit. I wonder what mysteries fear and anguish will produce today.