Penny showed up for her session 30 minutes late. She should know better, as a psychotherapist herself. She had come to see me after a few clients she had referred to me reported significant breakthroughs. Despite a policy that sessions would not be extended due to tardiness, she was repeatedly late; this time by thirty minutes.
Entering the therapy room, she was noticeably frazzled, her hair a mess. “Are you alright?” I asked, concerned.
“Oh, I will be, in a minute,” as she settled into the chair.
Her hairline was wet and the right temple looked painfully red and raw. I gently touched it, “Let me take a look.” She flinched. The cause of her wet hair was not water but blood. “You are bleeding!” I exclaimed while running to the bathroom to wash my hands. I returned with a wad of paper towels and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. She held the paper towels as I dabbed at the wound with peroxide. After instructing her to apply some pressure with the towels to stop the bleeding, I left her alone briefly as I went to make a pot of tea.
The hot tea calmed us both and dissipated the turbulent energies had Penny brought with her into the room. As the bleeding stopped Penny looked more relaxed.
“Can we talk about this? What happened before you got here?”
“Oh, THIS?!” pointing at her forehead, “This is nothing. It was all my fault,” nervously laughing it off.
“Did you fall and bump into something sharp?” I was searching for a reasonable explanation. “Do you want me to drive you to the doctor? If you had a fall and hurt your head, you really should have it checked out.”
“Nothing like that,” she responded nonchalantly. “It was my husband. We had an argument this morning over breakfast. He did not want eggs and we were out of bacon. He got mad and threw a bottle at me. Don’t worry about it, it is nothing.”
She had convinced herself it was a non-issue, but I was horrified, “You mean this is a common occurrence? He gets angry at you for something that was not your fault and then throws things at you?”
She maintained her matter-of-fact tone, “Oh, this is nothing. He is a big man. Sometimes he pushes me and sometimes he strikes me. Don’t worry, it is nothing.” As I went from horrified to incredulous she continued, “I really got off easy this time. It WAS my fault we were out of bacon this morning.”
I was still trying to comprehend Penny’s rationale for being abused as she repeated, “I really got off easy this morning. It was only a small bottle!”
And thus began the session. Penny eventually realized it wasn’t about the size of the bottle or the man, but about the nature of the relationship.
It is hard to admit to a life situation that has become unpleasant or unhealthy. It is easier to adapt, make excuses, rationalize and continue to endure suffering. Whether the cause is an abusive relationship, a stressful job, nasty parents, unsavory living conditions, etc.; lying to oneself is not a practical long term strategy. The sufferer may come to the conclusion that the situation is just their way of life and continue adapting to it. In reality, it is a very slow death.
Names and specific circumstances have been revised to protect the confidentiality of the client.