Session 6 / nail in the coffin

Feeling sick today. Sick of politics, sick of the election, sick of Brexit, sick of people who openly or tacitly support the status quo by doing and saying nothing. It all came out in this week’s therapy session (moved forward to Wednesday because my therapist is away tomorrow), all of the vitriol, all of the rage, all of the blasted feelings of betrayal that I have been keeping in for weeks. In the beginning I didn’t want to go into therapy and talk about P, but that is all I’ve done for the past two weeks, pored over our dying friendship and the pain and anger I’ve been forced to hide for the past few years. I didn’t think I’d need to contemplate breaking the friendship again, that was all supposed to be sorted out last year when I made it a rule to not see him so often and to avoid talking about thorny subjects with him – but it’s become blindingly clear that it will never be sorted out. My feelings are still there, boiling under the surface, seeking any escape valve they can find which at the moment turns out to be my precious therapy sessions. I feel dirty whenever I have to talk to my therapist about politics, knowing as I do the unfair position it puts him in since he can never share his political views with me, especially if they are different to mine. Yesterday my therapist chose to pick up on this aversion I have to candidness about my views: he described it as me “looking after” him. As self aware as I thought I was, I didn’t notice that I have always done the same thing with friends and with mum, people whose views oppose mine: I’ve strived to “look after” them by keeping my mouth shut. I’ve spent a year buttoning my lips with P for the sake of his feelings. I don’t like the thought of confronting him or making it clear that I’m unhappy with him, because it will upset him, so I pretend to be OK every time I see him.

In the session I tried visualising the really honest conversation I’d like to have with P – the therapist actually encouraged me to say what I’d like to say to an empty chair in the corner of the room, a technique that I have encountered once or twice before in therapy – and I couldn’t do it. The words seemed too heavy and embarrassing to utter. I knew that in real life if I were ever to bring this up with P he wouldn’t just sit and listen to me, he’d interject with attempts at advice and solutions. I’d hear about looking on the bright side, how things will probably work out for the best because the world is fundamentally ok and the Tory party really is the only viable government. P wouldn’t hear what I was really saying. I’d get superficial sympathy, and no empathy whatsoever.

I could send P an email with my thoughts: at least I’d be able to get the words out without interruptions, and I’ve always found it ten times easier to express myself on paper, being a prolific diarist as opposed to orator. Something about sending an email would seem cowardly, though, which is why I’ve never done it, and why I continue to be in this catch 22 situation. Doesn’t the world say it’s fairer and morally better to break difficult news to friends and loved ones face to face? If you have to end a relationship, isn’t it a cheap cop out to do it by email? Here my therapist reminded me that I was doing it again, looking after P’s feelings by appealing to arbitrary morals. He questioned whether I really believe that it’s better to have these difficult conversations face to face, or if it’s some rule that society has opposed on me. I thought I believed it, but after the session I wasn’t so sure.

At the end of the day, all of this boils down to excuses not to tell P how I’m feeling. We have another holiday booked in September, which means I have to spend another summer biting my tongue, because his feelings are more important than mine and I can’t possibly ruin his happy, content life. The therapist is really doing his job by questioning these values, something I’ve never done before. I’ve endured years of uncomfortable inauthenticity for the sake of a friend’s feelings without realising there was another way. Whether I tell P the truth by email or verbally, the concept of such raw and necessary honesty feels awful to me, because it will definitely hurt him and deep down I still doubt that my feelings are important enough to do that to someone. But maybe that doubt doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it.

*

P emails me daily from work to catch up and fill the time. Often it’s a friendly, superficial kind of email, asking me what I’ve been watching on Netflix, what I’m reading, how work’s going. Today, being friendly was the last thing I felt like doing. On the day of our national election I woke up feeling angrier than ever at the status quo. I know and my therapist knows that sending back an abrupt “fuck off” would plainly be wrong, but I couldn’t simply email back and pretend we were still ok, like there was nothing going on. So I’ve told him that I’m angry and I think another Tory government will be a disaster; I’ve also said that I can’t meet up for a while because I’m short of funds and I need time to myself. Both things are true, and I feel better for saying them. Unfortunately I couldn’t go all the way in linking the two things – my anger at the government and my desire not to see him for a while – by admitting that I am actually angry with him. It seemed too harsh for an email and since he was at work I had to stop myself from going too far. That’s probably me putting his feelings first again, but it felt like an appropriate restraint in the circumstances.

P replied back quickly, reminding me that he doesn’t agree with all the government’s policies, but we have to live with what we’ve got and make the best of it. Immediately after that it was back to the niceties, talking about his plans for the weekend and the holiday we’re still going on in September.

Clearly there is no awareness of his part in the situation. He cannot see how voting for them (which he definitely did this morning) bolsters them and makes the onward march towards “no deal” and decades of austerity even more likely. Well, he either can’t see it or he refuses to see it. If I had told him the truth, that his actions today have an impact on the precarious situation we find ourselves in and that he bears responsibility for it, it might have demanded an honest answer from him. He might have been forced to admit that he doesn’t want to pay more taxes, that he doesn’t care about the poor and suffering, and that’s why he’s happy to put up with a hard Brexit and everything else that comes with the Conservatives. I couldn’t see the point in forcing him to admit to what I already know he’s thinking, so I haven’t replied to the email. I probably won’t reply to any more emails for a good while. I must have annoyed him today, and if I have banged the first nail into the coffin, maybe it’s for the best.

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