I had that dream the other night, the one where I’m told I have to go back to school, to complete some mysterious task that I failed to complete when I was a teenager. This recurring dream has come and gone over the years; in recent years it’s come up infrequently, possibly as I’ve worked on whatever issue was causing it. This week it was more lucid and powerful than it had been in years. I clearly remember a scene where I’m walking towards the school gates on a dreary weekday morning, trying to slow my steps so I can put off the inevitable. The image stuck with me when I woke, and I’m still thinking about it now. The fact that the dream can come back so strongly after all these years, at a time when I thought everything was going so well, is concerning because I always took the dream to be a sign of things going badly. The sense of doom in the dream always seems to say something about my life. Some repressed feeling or message is coming up, and evidently the fact that I have just started therapy again must have something to do with it.
I didn’t plan to talk about the dream in today’s therapy session. I went there fully intending to talk about my sexuality for an hour, since it appears to be my most pressing problem and I become increasingly desperate to resolve it by the day. We continued the discussion about shame around sex for the first ten minutes, then somehow it went into a discussion about my experience of school, as I linked the men I tend to be attracted to to the boys I attended school with. “They are all without exception straight, unavailable men; men who would probably hurt me if they knew how I felt about them. These crushes started at school, where the boys I fancied were the ones who would definitely hurt me if they knew.” Then I mentioned the return of the recurring dream about school, and we spent the rest of the session dissecting what happened to me there.
A powerful emotion built in my gut and burst out of my mouth halfway through the conversation. “I’m so fed up of being stuck at school! I want to move on! I want this to be over!” Although I have been aware for a very long time of how school traumatised me, I never really imagined “moving on” from it. For so long I’ve lived with it; at times maybe I’ve thought I could accept those demons in my life and carry on peacefully with them there. Until today I didn’t quite understand the anger I still have about it. My therapist therefore must be good at his job, as his gentle probing questions quickly got underneath the justifications and defences, unearthing a need to heal that I didn’t know was in me. Whenever I said something strong about my school experience he asked me to describe how it made me feel now. His technique is a classic therapeutic technique, I guess, requiring the client to focus on feelings and their underlining meanings. I’m quite impressed that we got to this stage in the second session. Sometimes it can take months or years for client and therapist to go into those areas. I suppose my already high levels of self awareness and my recent training helped a great deal.
After the session my analytical mind wanted to know what was going to happen next, how I was going to use this new insight and finally “move on”. I had to remember what the therapist seemed to be getting at in his closing statements: I can do myself a favour by staying in the present, with the feelings, not trying to use them or process them or get rid of them. There is a helpless and upset child inside me, one that suffered for lack of love, I need to simply be there for that child. The therapist really seems to believe in inner child work, so it looks like I have a lot of that to look forward to. And despite the upsetting nature of the conversation, I came away happy and relieved that I finally get to address these things with someone who is trained and solely focused on the work. Now I can look forward to next week’s session even more.