Despite this morning’s rocky start with being late and forgetting my phone in the car, I’d like set my irritation aside and talk a bit about what happened yesterday afternoon. Yesterday was my third appointment with my new therapist and for the first time we really started engaging on a deeper level. The first two appointments centered more around me filling her in on what’s going on in my life generally, but yesterday was a bit different. Instead of looking completely at the external components of my life, we started delving more into the interior experiences I was having, specifically my emotional responses to the outside events.
I have been, for lack of a better term, rather melancholic since my wife made her “you are moving too quickly” comment the night I came out to my mother. Without realizing it, my reaction to her statement activated a deep seeded and long running emotional trigger. After working with the therapist and looking over a paper handout she sent me home with, I was finally able to fully realize the dysfunction I was having. Although it is difficult to explain, I’m going to try my best to put into words what exactly my reaction triggered.
When I was a young child (around 4 or 5) my parents got divorced and my father moved out of our house a little before he moved out of state. During this period of time I was very confused and disturbed that (from my perception) the love of my father was leaving me and the need I had for his presence and love was being denied. Because I was a child and because it was never addressed in a therapeutic way, I internalized my father’s absence and his “taking away” of his love as a result of my own inadequacies. I, for lack of a better description, felt that I had done something wrong and this was why I didn’t deserve his love anymore. From what I now understand about how the ego builds a defense system against emotional trauma (it’s for the sake of survival) I can say for certain that the childish ego I had at the time decided it would be best to not deal with that pain, so it tried to avoid it. Fast forward to age 29 and the ego was still trying to avoid feeling that pain about my father leaving. When my wife stated that she felt I was moving too quickly I felt as though the love and support she’d been giving me after coming out to my mother was taken away. Wife’s love being taken away = reversion back to the same idiosyncrasy of trying to avoid the pain of my father “taking away” his love from me.
You see, her reaction activated the same old habit in me of believing that I’d done something wrong and that was why I didn’t deserve love. This created a myriad of dysfunctions all surrounding my decision to transition and caused me to fall into a rather deep and pervasive state of depression (culminating in my calling in sick and staying at home in bed).
So what to do? I had figured out why I was feeling so down, but how to fix it? Well, the handout she gave me after our session indicated that the only way to overcome the activation of childhood trauma was to stop avoiding it (via the ego’s defense mechanisms) and to just allow yourself to experience the emotional pain. This manifested in me, for probably the very first time, just allowing myself to be completely overwhelmed by the emotional pain of a 4 year old. It’s difficult to describe, but I literally felt my 4 year old self come to the forefront of my mind and wallow in the confusion, anger, and sadness about my father leaving. Instead of trying to console this 4 year old self I just let it be, I just let if feel out all of the emotions and pains that it needed to process. I, of course, cried quite heavily as I allowed these powerfully painful emotions to surge through my body. This went on for some time (probably a good 20 minutes) until it eventually subsided, leaving me feeling amazing. I no longer felt a deep sense of inadequacy, and for the first time in a good long while, I felt truly liberated from my pain. I no longer needed to feel like I’d done something wrong or that there was something wrong with me. I no longer needed to believe that I was the reason my father’s love went away and that meant I no longer needed to keep repeating the same cycle of pain and defense mechanisms.
My wife being temporarily unsupportive didn’t have to mean that I’d done something wrong or that I wasn’t worthy of love. Her reaction didn’t have to create anything in me, let alone a complete breakdown in my own psychological stability. Because I no longer needed to try to avoid an old pain that had never been completely dealt with, there was no need to activate the same old defense mechanism as a reaction to her. She was not my father leaving me as a child, so that reaction/defense mechanism was not only unnecessary but was actually rather inappropriate.
Maybe this doesn’t make any sense to anyone else but I can say today that I feel better than I did before. Although I don’t believe I’m cured of all my emotional ailments, I do believe this was a positive breakthrough that will have long lasting effects on my marriage and my life as a whole. It has also alleviated a great deal of my anxiety about my decision to transition (which, from my last post was obvious that I was having severe doubts about everything).