There has never been a dull moment since the beginning of the Mentalization Based Therapy programme. No sooner do I come through one issue, than I stumble across another waiting for its turn in the therapeutic process.
The current issue has always been highly emotive. Out of everything, this has to be the one that consistently follows like a haunting shadow. It can feel as soul-destroying today as it did in childhood.
There is something very uncomfortable about saying, “I have a terrible relationship with my mother.” Somehow, it feels humiliating, maybe childlike, as though those unresolved issues are stuck in a dysfunctional childhood that didn’t mature with the rest of me.
We have always had a rocky relationship. The fundamental issue seems to be my inherent inability to please her. Rather than punish the child in a rage of violent blows, the only ammunition today is to clench those fists and wield contempt in the shape of passive-aggressive silence.
Our history of underlying issues makes it easy to play into the silence. There is little substance in our relationship, and even less to hold onto. Maybe it provides an opportunity to bail out. At first, the estrangements lasted from weeks to months, once for 5-7 years.
The group were deadly quiet as I revealed this at Friday’s therapy session. “My mind becomes stuck in a ruminating battle of ‘who-is-to-blame.” I can never understand why it causes so much anger and resentment.”
One of the group therapist asked, “What is the feeling when you think about your Mum’s silent treatment?”
“Relief because I don’t need to talk to her… happiness”
“Then why not sit and enjoy that happiness? You were agitated earlier for being on the receiving end of silence. What feeling does that silent-treatment evoke?”
It felt as if the two group Therapists were anticipating some kind of mini-enlightenment.
“What comes before anger?”
“Is it hurt?”
The other group members were sitting tentatively in their seats, smiling, waiting for this eureka moment.
“What is the feeling that comes directly before hurt and anger?”
It is one of those moments in therapy when your mind is bringing something from the unconscious into consciousness. This is always a weird experience. As the ninety minutes ended, I felt a little bemused that I couldn’t yet see the obvious.