Transitional Objects, Therapy and the White Bear Saga

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Apologies for being a little quiet (and thanks to those who have messaged me – I will get around to replying). Friday brought about a massive disaster that has spiralled out of control this weekend, only coming to a standstill after an emergency session, earlier than planned, with T1.

So, Friday. I had T2. Parked in the car park, was chatting to a tutor so put Woo, T1’s giraffe (otherwise known as a transitional object), in my pocket with my car keys, zipped my pocket and walked from the car park with this tutor. We split ways, and I signed in for T2. As I walked down the corridor, I unzipped my pocket and took my keys out, ready to put them on the table, rather than sit on them for an hour. I rezipped my pocket, did therapy with T2 (another post…), walked back to the car, and realised Woo was gone.

In a surprisingly adult way, I was calm for a good 20 minutes. I retraced my steps and checked all my pockets. I logically knew he could only be in so many places. It seemed most logical that he was with T2, that maybe I had switched without realising in our session and taken him out, maybe left him on the table/chair. I was still adult when I emailed T2 to ask her to check both her office and with the desk – because if you found a toy giraffe, particularly in a counselling setting, you’d hand it in, right?

I was adult all the way home, and I was adult right up until T2 emailed me to say no, Woo wasn’t with her and he wasn’t with the desk.

Then I panicked.

I want to tell you a bit about something else that happened this weekend. As I’ve written about before, I’ve got two dogs at home, one an 11 week old pup. Before Pup came home, I went to the pet shop and I lovingly bought a number of toys, two of each. I wanted to have two so that there wouldn’t be any fighting – Big Dog has been an only child for so long I didn’t know how he’d react. However, the pet shop only had one of the bear that I wanted, so we ended up with White Bear, and Purple Bear. Neither toys are actually bears – White Bear is some sort of cow/sheep hybrid, and Purple Bear looks like a unicorn had a night on the tiles with a rhinoceros and didn’t call the next day. But for ease and simplicity, in our house they’re known as bears.

Purple Bear isn’t getting much of a look in with my dogs. The puppy very occasionally likes to suck/chew on his horn (..that’s what she said?) but in general, neither dog is interested. White Bear, however, is a hit. The puppy sucks his tail, rubs against his mane and likes to pretend he’s not looking, then run and leap on him, sending them both skidding across the wooden floor. Big Dog likes to fit as much of White Bear in his mouth as possible and then stand on his tip toes on the sofa, whilst Pup leaps and squeals. Big Dog likes to sleep with White Bear in his mouth, growling gently whenever Pup wants a tail to chew.

Because White Bear is, well, white, he was getting pretty manky. Though dried on turkey-biscuit-mush and puppy slobber may be appealing for some, it was starting to hum so I took White Bear away, and on Saturday, I put him in the washing machine, along with yet another dog bed (…puppies).

Both my dogs looked at me like I’d just murdered their mother in front of their eyes. They both sat in front of the washing machine and watched the entire cycle from start to finish (and trust me, if you knew my washing machine, you’d know that’s an achievement. It’s so loud there are aliens on Pluto that use it instead of their alarm clock). I tried offering food, chews, Purple Bear, but no, they both sat in front of the washing machine.

Then I took him out of the washing machine and I pegged him to dry. As he was now outside and the dogs were inside, they paced, back and forth and back and forth, kicking Purple Bear into the dirt like the insult he clearly was. Eventually, White Bear was dry, and I gave him back to my heartbroken dogs, who spent the rest of the night with one end of White Bear each, chewing and sucking until they were contented.

The point of this story (yes, there is a point) is that, this weekend, I’ve driven myself mad about Woo. On Friday afternoon, I was hysterical and harming. Friday evening, I dissociated and lost time – about 5 hours. On Saturday, I was inconsolable (and harming). Sunday was a mash up of tears, harming and shock. Only today, having seen T1, have I calmed to anything below hysteria.

I am aware that Woo is an inanimate piece of plastic. But he was an important piece of plastic. He represented safety, continuity, hope and reality. He reminded me that T1 was real – that she was genuine and that she would be there next week. He was a physical representation of a relationship that means the world to me, for my healing, my sanity and my journey. He was the first ‘transitional object’ that I have ever, ever had that wasn’t taken away from me when I was sad, or bad (sob story: I did have a bear as a child. My mother’s favourite trick was to take him away from me when I was in tears and sent to my room, because I ‘didn’t deserve him’). So he represented a time when it’s ok to be comforted, even when I’ve made a mistake; a time where someone cares about me enough to give me a piece of plastic that they won’t hold against me at a later date, like a bizarre weapon. He was just a piece of plastic – but I’m going to argue that he created more trust and comfort in the few weeks I had him that any amount of talking could do.

The complete hysteria of losing him had three strands – one, Little lost someone important. Ouch ouch ouch. Two, he belonged to T1, he was mine to look after and I lost him. What would she do to me? We return to a place where I know she will never harm me – but I still sat in our session today, tensed and flinching and waiting for the sting of the first slap. And three, my adult anger at Little for being so completely pathetic about a toy – didn’t she get the memo that we’re now ADULT?

So this is what the White Bear Saga taught me this week. Needing comfort is ok. Sometimes, that comfort has no logic, but that’s ok. It is also ok to grieve their loss (temporary or otherwise). It’s called having feelings. Oh, and that mistakes happen, and that’s ok, too. They didn’t mean to cover W.B. in turkey biscuits – I didn’t mean to lose Woo. But that’s ok.

X

(P.S. after T1 had talked me down from panic in our session and repeatedly told me she wasn’t cross, she let me pick another animal. He’s a polar bear (Little chose, don’t ask, I don’t know…), as yet unnamed (suggestions welcome! My best friend named Woo, I’m rubbish at naming). He isn’t Woo – but I like him already. He’s heavy and solid and really grounding with how obvious he is – and he fits in the palm of my hand. He isn’t Woo, but T1 is real again, I’m grounded again and though I made a mistake, I’m not being punished for it. Life moves on.)

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