‘On the outside the emotions are being covered?’
‘Yep, there’s a terrible risk in saying “goodbye” that something on the inside will rupture out of me.’
‘Yes, I remember standing on stage … in my mid-20s. I was addressing the audience and was about to thank a member of my band, someone I’d been really close to since I was a child who was emigrating to Australia after the gig. I was stopped in mid-sentence … a syllable more and I would enter the rupture. I turned my face from the audience. The silence on stage was horrific. I don’t remember what next.’
‘You say “rupture”.’
‘When my mother died, I was stuck. The complex grief of losing a mother that I’d only related with well for part of my life left this dark grey block in my chest and the back of my head. I knew I needed to cry but I couldn’t bear to hear the awful sound that wanted to exit me every time I started. Eventually, I turned the music up so loud I couldn’t hear myself cry. But it’s not what I did … not what it sounded like coming out of my body. My inner ears told me what my outer ones couldn’t.’ [Silence]
‘Yes … rupture. The most guttural gasp and then, and then it vomits this sound. [Silence] I’ve heard it from other people. I think it’s the actual sound of loss?’
‘Is it fearful to lose then?’
‘Isn’t … isn’t it fundamental to loving? To connection? The only way to not experience it as far as I’m wired would be by dying so you couldn’t experience loss.’
‘Do I need to worry about that last sentence?’
‘No, no … God no. Nothing like that. It’s that saying goodbye is so fundamental.’
‘So, as it’s a patient that’s brought this up for you, what do you need from supervision today?’
‘I need to say that I have a daughter. A therapy daughter, you know that. It comes from the fact that she adopted me, as a therapy dad. She led, I followed. I had the space in my life to be that figure for a while.’
‘It’s been what? Four years?’
‘Yes, four. There’s been longer, much longer, but I was “therapy uncle”, “good person”, “repairing therapist”, “the first good guy”.’
‘Never therapy dad?’
‘Never “therapy dad”. You know that bit in the training film for therapists, Gloria … the bit where Rogers says, “Gee Gloria, right now, in the moment, I think I do love you like a father”? It kills trainees. They aren’t ready for how it can work in the room. They think it’s a no-no – like he’s made a mistake. But what’s therapy without love? Isn’t it about a form of love? Safe, ethical, non-erotic love?’
And then it hits.
‘Anny is my daughter. I love her as such because she needed me to. So that the therapy could work, so that she could let go of things, discover, rediscover and then let go.’
‘You have a daughter.’ [Silence] ‘You have a daughter.’ There is another pause as the listening therapist collects himself. ’Okay, so we know you understand the process. You know how to deliver safe, therapeutic love to women and men. It’s been a particular theme for you over the last five or six years. What’s different this time?
‘This is only just in my head but … I think it’s that I have to realise that therapy dad is a foster dad. He has to let go. Fully. No matter how much he loved. He has to have played the full role, a surrogate, but when the job is done … [there is a long silence; the room charges with emotion] … when the job is done he has to make space to receive the next therapy son, daughter [niece, nephew].’
‘It’s part of our work for some patients.’
‘Yes patients – from pati – one who suffers.’
‘Imagine that everyone demanded this from us each session!’
The supervision couple laugh together. Letting go of the tension.
‘We supply what our Ps need; it’s a privilege.’
‘And I wouldn’t change a moment of it, not for all those projections and transferences we have to hold.’
‘But saying goodbye!’
‘I was once given a wonderful message in a card from an “Anny” of mine.’ The supervisor reaches into a tin that is on the side of the desk. ‘There’s a whole bit before this, but here’s the bit that really showed such deep understanding of saying goodbye for me.’
There are things in this world
that even when they live in the past
and can no longer grow into the future,
retain their beauty forever.
For a moment the therapists catch each other’s eyes and each sees in the other the familiar sparkle of light when it catches water.
Duncan recounts from a ‘therapy daughter’ …
“I feel able to fly, but I am sad to leave”
All rights reserved © Copyright Duncan E. Stafford 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author of this post is strictly prohibited. (This article was originally published in 2020 as part of the Three Men with a Blog project.)
All character-based realisations contained in this post are either of a fictional nature or have been derived from heavily disguised, consensually given information.