Stronger than that

by jexmas on December 3, 2010

I did not break, although there have been times, as recently as yesterday, when I thought I might. It amazes me that I did not break. So this memoir is also about the power of psychoanalysis. My first analysis, started when I was 28, saved me from psychosis. How do I know this?
I remember my very first sessions on the couch with my analyst in Australia. Even making the shift from a chair to the couch was so hard for me, such an act of submission. I felt ashamed, outraged, almost too vulnerable to lie down but I did it. I could so easily have walked out, but something made me stay. And it saved me.
I lay there with an ashtray on my chest, chain-smoking while we talked. Now, I am amazed he let me and I do not remember if the window was always open. Now, I hate smoking and, looking back, I feel bad for him breathing in all of my toxic smoke. But it was all so toxic anyway and he was steady and kind. Even then, it was several months into it before I began to realize these troubles I had might be about my mother.
By the time I went to see him, I was so anxious I could barely function. I spoke very quickly and it took me at least a couple of years to slow down to a normal rate of speech. It was almost intolerable to be alone.
Over the next few years, he helped me start to talk about my experience and begin to put my terror and profoundly overwhelming anxiety into words. The change in me allowed my mother to not be as frightened of herself and she sought psychoanalysis towards the end of her life. It gave her some relief, although I wish she had allowed herself to make use of it much earlier, particularly because her brother was a psychoanalyst.
I went to see my first analyst initially three times a week and, when I could take in that it was actually helpful, added another session. Overall, he was extremely helpful but, in the end, I still did not understand love and was not able to reach into the deepest recesses of my mind, as much because I was still neither ready nor strong enough. Contrary to the popular stereotype, I did not fall in love with him and I did not ever feel loved by him. On the last day of my treatment with him, he said, “There will always be scars.”
When I told my second analyst this years later, he scoffed at the notion of there always being scars and, right then, I started to understand love. Even a psychoanalyst is only as good as the depths to which he or she is willing to go. One can understand existential terror intellectually or one can allow oneself to experience it and there is also the possibility of both. Understanding it intellectually is to distance oneself from it. Experiencing it is to take it into one’s body and feel it in tissues, heartbeats, skin, shoulders, muscles and crazed mind.
My first analyst understood my pain mostly intellectually. My second analyst, who is also my training analyst, has allowed himself to experience it, to really know what it was like for me and, together, we are finding our way to love, the kind of love and acceptance every child should have the benefit of knowing.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kris December 5, 2010 at 1:22 pm

Wow Jane, very profound.

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