Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Don't forget me when you go..."

You may (or may not) recall that on Saturday I was busy feeling awful and sad after a frustrating end to a session in which I was trying to stop my client from trying to eat parts of his clothing.   Well, I think that what I neglected to focus on in thinking about (or, more accurately, reacting to) his session was the fact that the drama occurred at the end of the session...shortly after I let him know we had about five minutes before we needed to stop for the day.  A-ha!

This particular gentleman truly dislikes saying “goodbye” at the end of our sessions.  While he doesn’t use speech he can be quite clear in pushing himself (or me) away (sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally) when I begin to prepare him to leave (i.e., helping him with a jacket, getting the foot pedals back on his wheelchair, singing “goodbye”, etc.).   I guess we can now add “chewing on his shirt” to the list of ways he uses to create distance and to make endings a bit more tolerable for himself.  Of course, while it’s less painful in some ways to end angry (or to create a reason for my leaving- something to the effect of “you must be leaving me because you’re angry with me”), it still doesn’t take away the distress and pain.

So, when I went to pick him up for his session today he didn’t seem all that enthused about going with me.  At the same time, he wasn’t exactly adamant about not going with me, so we ended up getting to our session.  When we got there it took me a while to assemble myself, because I was nervous and not certain that my guess about why we were so upset with each other on Saturday was correct.  I presented him with my thoughts- specifically, the fact that our difficulty seemed to happen right when I let him know we’d be ending our session.  I also noted our long history of his expressing frustration and anger toward me when it’s time for us to sing “goodbye”.  

His response? We went from minimal eye contact to his practically staring at me.  It seems I was on the right track.  

We have often used the song “Don’t Forget Me When You Go” in our work together.  It’s a song I wrote, inspired by just this sort of a situation.  Here are the lyrics:

Do you have to go?

You know how I hate this part

You know how I cherish the time we spend together

Why so soon?

It seems like we just started

I swear it was just moments since we said “hello”

Do you see how it matters to me that you be here?

Will you remember to come and see me again?

I wish I could be with you always and forever...

Don’t forget me when you go.

Just one more thing

Please, I know, it just can’t wait

Just let me say this one last thing to you

Yes, it’s true

I didn’t want to leave just yet

I’m searching for a way to make this last a little longer

Do you see how it matters to me that you be here?

Will you remember to come and see me again?

I wish I could be with you always and forever...

Don’t forget me when you go.

When I’m with you I’m singing

And I forget for a little while

I’m learning how to mend my own heart

But it’s so nice to have you beside me for the ride

Do you see how it matters to me that you be here?

Will you remember to come and see me again?

I wish I could be with you always and forever...

Don’t forget me when you go.

©Roia Rafieyan, 1999

[Note:  You can give an actual listen to this song by clicking here.  Just give it a minute to load the player.]

I was all set to play it, but Phil Collins’ song “Against All Odds” kept singing loudly in my head (I’m sorry, but I don’t know how else to describe it-  basically, this is how I often experience countertransference in music therapy sessions with clients).   Here are some of his lyrics:

How can I just let you walk away

Just let you leave without a trace?...

How can you just turn and walk away

When all I can do is watch you leave?

‘Cause we’ve shared the laughter and the pain

We’ve even shared the tears

You’re the only one who really knew me at all.

So take a look at me now

‘Cause there’s just an empty space

And there’s nothing left here to remind me

Just the memory of your face

Take a look at me now

Well there’s just an empty space

And you coming back to me is against the odds

And that’s what I’ve got to face

I wish I could just make you turn around

Turn around and see me cry

There’s so much I need to say to you

So many reasons why

You’re the only one who really knew me at all...

...But to wait for you is all I can do

And that’s what I’ve got to face.

Take a look at me now.

©Phil Collins, 1984

Powerful, huh?  Talk about your maternal transference.  This man is someone who has barely (if ever) seen his family since they institutionalized him as a child (he’s in his 40s now).  The fear of abandonment is always there.  Always. 

I had actually used this very song (the Phil Collins one, I mean) in his session a week ago, and, while he was definitely listening at the time,  there was some serious shirt eating happening toward the end of the song (interesting that it was hard for him to come to the end of the song as well).  At any rate, if a song is playing that loudly in my mind I usually figure it’s there for a reason, so I played through it again.  This time he listened straight through to the end.  His hand was poised on the collar of his shirt to start biting at threads, but he didn’t do it. 

There were heartbreaking moments in our session, but, judging by the amount of eye-contact he offered and the fact that he hardly chewed on his shirt it seemed as if we were on the right track in terms of having some insight into what was upsetting him on Saturday.   And there was the relief that comes with re-connection.

One of the my favorite quotes is from L.A. Pearlman and K.W. Saakvitne’s excellent and helpful book Trauma and the Therapist:  Countertransference and Vicarious Traumatization in Psychotherapy with Incest Survivors (1995):

“...psychotherapy does not promise perfect attunement or mirroring, but entails repeated cycles of connections and disconnections and then repair and reconnection.” (p. 17)

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