Validation is a powerful thing. Whether it is coming from a friend, family member, or therapist, it can change the world of someone, someone like me.
I began seeing the former instructor I wrote about in my last post. I was drawn to her in class and now that she is seeing me as a client I am very glad to have that former relationship. I just wasn’t comfortable pursuing a therapeutic relationship with someone I didn’t know. What if I didn’t particularly like the person I chose to see? Therapy wouldn’t turn out very well for me.
Anyway, validation. I was describing my relationship with my Mom (blah, blah, blah, tired old subject) and describing her volatile nature. Without thinking a whole lot about it, I said, “It’s scary.” It was just a spontaneous expression of how I felt and it is so incredibly true. My former instructor responds with something like, “Wow, Laura, that sounds like trauma.” It was something of a shock and a validation to hear someone else describe it like that. In the past I have always reasoned to myself, “You’re overreacting! Trauma? Abuse? Real trauma is being beaten, being raped, being nearly killed by a roadside bomb. So your Mommy didn’t hug you enough, big. fricken. deal.” But yes, god yes, it has felt like trauma at times. I remember so many distinct and indistinct instances where I felt like I just had to hold on and wait for the storm to end. It was like being in pain and knowing that the pain couldn’t last forever; you just had to wait it out.
There was this one time, I was really young, Mom was in the kitchen making dinner. She was steaming peas, I wanna say snow peas, and Dad enters the kitchen, I think from the backyard, and complains about what we are having for dinner. His comments may or may not have been all that inflammatory but in any case Mom gets pissed off, knocks the pot off of the stove to the floor, and storms out the door. I am standing right outside of the kitchen so I witness it all. I remember getting so upset and scared, running into my room to put my gelly shoes on (shut up it was the late 80’s early 90’s), saying something like “Now see what you’ve done” to my Dad, who was in the kitchen picking up crushed peas off of the floor, on my way out of the door. I rushed to the car where Mom was angrily trying to start it. I remember asking her where she was going and if I could come with her. I remember being so scared she wouldn’t come back. Of course being as young as I was I didn’t really recognize my fear as such a specific one. Now I feel I can name it. Being too angry, she was unable to start the car and we ended up not going anywhere. I had made it as far as getting into the passenger seat. I don’t remember what happened after that.
Another time, much more recently also comes to mind. I won’t bore you with the details but I was 26 and I still felt like the little girl that tried to stop her Mom from leaving. God, I was so afraid. It took me hours to stop crying.
When I say I was scared I don’t mean that Mom would ever physically abuse us but as I said to my therapist, it was more of a threat of withdrawal of love. I could not and sometimes still cannot distinguish between Mom’s anger at me, frustration in any number of instances, anger at others…what has always mattered was, if Mom was not happy those around her would not be happy. Ultimately, Mom’s unpredictability, perfectionism, high stress aura, and explosive moods is part of the reason why Dad could not find much to salvage in their marriage. But Mom and Dad’s divorce is a whole other post.
I was talking about validation. As a therapist in training I know mentally how important a role the validation of a client’s feelings plays in the relationship but to really feel it is something else entirely.
After our first appointment, it is almost like I am addicted. I crave that environment and I am disappointed that my schedule does not allow me to schedule another appointment this coming week.