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Touch in therapy is uncommon. Touch in psychoanalysis is rare, and rarer still is it discussed. But, it has had a profound impact on my analysis and I feel that it is important to talk about.

My analyst has been sitting with me for five weeks. We sit on the floor, backs up against the dead-cow couch, side by side, arms touching. Since it is summer, I sometimes have the privilege of directly feeling her skin, if she is wearing short sleeves. I always wear short sleeves.

We sit like that the entire session. I always ask before sitting on the floor – I do not want to violate her space. I can usually tell what kind of mood she’s in from our close proximity. When I get upset with her, I move away slightly. On a few occasions, I have become so exhausted from the material that I have laid my head on her shoulder. We have hugged twice. She has held me, and put her head against my own. I usually keep my hair down so I can hide behind it, eyes closed, so I can feel her. Feeling her allows me to not feel like a helium balloon, looking down on the world below and wondering how to get back. Touching her is so basic and primitive, and also provides so much depth and richness, that I have difficulty articulating the effect it is having. Or maybe that’s just the goddamn alexithymia.

I have a difficult time with the fact that we do it, though. While there is nothing sexual about it and it is not a secret – my husband knows, my analyst’s supervisor knows – it feels slightly taboo. Part of this may be because touch in psychoanalysis, especially in this manner, would probably have Freud rolling over in his grave. But I think the biggest reason for me is because we did not touch each other in my family.

It was always the message from my parents that bodies are dirty, in a sexual way, no matter what you do with them. Of course, you can engage in varying degrees of disgustingness – sex is dirtier than everything, probably except for masturbation, but breastfeeding, childbirth, puberty, hugging, and sharing food off of your plate are all dirty. Yet, as I’m discovering with my daughter, safe, non-sexual touch can be a wonderful way to connect and has all sorts of physical and psychological benefits. There is nothing like kissing the smooth skin of a baby’s belly, or smelling the back of their neck, or tracing their tiny shoulder blades.

So, even though I know, intellectually, that touch with my analyst is also safe and non-sexual and feels good and it is okay to feel good that way, it still feels… clandestine. As I explained to my analyst, it is like your parents not letting you eat dinner and then sneaking to the refrigerator when they’re sleeping. There’s nothing wrong with eating, but it feels like you’re doing something bad, anyway. My analyst didn’t miss a beat. “You’re starving,” she said.

Analysis is interesting, intense, intimate.

My analyst is really good. Her interpretations are accurate, but it’s about more than the interpretations. She is present with me. She is thinking about what I’m thinking about. When she makes mistakes, she apologizes and learns from them, and moves on. When I make mistakes, I apologize, learn, and move on. In just four months, we have a good relationship.

Of course, it is important to be honest, but I’m seeing just how important that is. It really goes a long way in moving the analysis. And when I am honest, there is no judgment on her part.

I’ve learned a lot in a few short months. My mother was constantly over- or under-stimulating, so I engage in self-destructive behaviours to recreate that inner state – it’s all I’ve known. Thankfully, my analyst listened to what I needed and agreed to sit next to me during our sessions. Her physical presence keeps me calm, which is something I don’t experience outside of her office. I’m able to tolerate more difficult topics and more boring sessions without feeling like I need to run to the bathroom and hurt myself.

Also, my analyst identified how my parents’ harmful patterns are now seeping into my daughter’s life. Thankfully, my daughter remains unaware of these influences, but it is important to me that they are stopped before she becomes affected by them. It sounds like it’s time that I put in some firm boundaries. It’s a scary prospect because it means my parents will likely end up hurt, and I might feel them pull back from me. But my daughter’s wellbeing must come first. There is no option, there.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Alexithymia is a bitch. It is often difficult for me to know how to think or feel or act in many situations because I was never taught how. But I have a lot of faith in my analyst and in the process of the analytic relationship. There is movement.

My tiny baby is almost a year old, and she really isn’t tiny.

The nostalgia is hitting me hard. At this time last year I was ridiculously pregnant and hot and irritable and I wanted that baby out. A lot of my pregnancy, actually, was uncomfortable and tinged with ambivalence. I had no idea how to be a mother and was skeptical if I should be one, if I was so uncertain of how to take care of a baby. I felt a fierce amount of protection around the little creature who kept kicking my ribs, but I didn’t know if I would know how to love her. Becoming a parent is the most natural thing a person can do, and I was at a loss.

Everywhere I turned I came up empty. There was the American influence of getting your baby to be independent as quickly as possible. It was confusing advice as it went against my better judgment. And turning to my mother was no help. Looking inside myself for answers was murky and unclear, because I wasn’t properly mothered myself. How can you be what you’ve never known?

My analyst is now sitting next to me on the floor, as per my request. She remarked yesterday that it’s about meeting me where I am, which is exactly what I’m trying to do with my daughter. I think it is working. We have a very strong bond, and her little spirit is not broken.

But I am still wistful for the days of my pregnancy. I wish I could go back and reconnect with my baby in that way. I worry that she could feel how unsure I was about being a mother. Now I am trying to be with her exactly where she is, in case she needs extra reassurance that there was not one second of her life in which I did not love her with every fibre of my being.

Analysis is hard. It is more than hard. It is incredibly difficult and painful, and I’m only three months in.

I have a dead mother.

Not actually dead, mind you. She is alive and well halfway across the country, which honestly isn’t far enough. But she’s dead on the inside. She’s boring and dull and dead and so closed off from her feelings and instincts that she didn’t breastfeed or hold me when I was little. I didn’t think it mattered too much until I found myself begging my analyst to touch me. Her gentle denial stabs me, every time, on some raw, visceral level and the pain is so intense I find it difficult to breathe. It’s horrible. She says it will get better with talking. I have no choice but to try, if only for my daughter.

I try not to blame my mother for her deeply wounding mistakes, as I can see how her own mother was cold and aloof, and her mother before her. But it makes me angry. I’m choosing to get help so my daughter can have a different experience. I am putting myself through this so my daughter (hopefully) doesn’t have to. Why didn’t my mother do that? I didn’t matter enough? I didn’t touch her in a way that made her want to overcome her problems so she could try to mother me properly?

I sometimes feel slightly jealous of my daughter. She will never know denial of the breast or premature separation or refusal to be held. I simply won’t let it happen. She will wean and leave our bed when her brain and body are ready. I want, more than anything, for her to never have to feel this kind of pain. I want her to be able to mother her own child someday without having to go to therapy to figure out how to do it. I just wish my mother had done the same for me.

I thought I might try to take this blog in a new direction. Being a mother is an experience too remarkable to not capture, and the same, I think, with being an analysand. So, here we are.

My ultimate goal, of course, is to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted human who is comfortable in and with herself. My daughter, Peanut, is ten months old, with a personality so uninhibited that I don’t know how she fits it into her little body. In order to foster who she naturally is, my husband and I try to create an environment which does not sap her energy and liveliness. We attend to her when she cries, we bed share, I breastfeed, in hopes that she will not have to worry about why her primal needs are not met and instead can grow and develop with confidence. I find myself intensely attuned to her; I suppose my analyst would say that I track her.

Speaking of my analyst – after two and a half years of tempestuous therapy, I left my therapist. Considering my options, I decided to enter psychoanalysis. For one, I enjoy the depth and work required. It challenges my brain in a vigorous and exciting way. Two, I want to be an analyst, and one has to undergo personal analysis before one can sit in the chair. So I thought, why not? And I very carefully selected my therapist – analyst. She’s good. She’s steady and sharp. She will be good for me.

So, that is what I hope to do here – record the intertwining journeys of being a parent, and becoming an analyst. I have a feeling that each will strongly influence the other.