It was a Thursday afternoon, and as usual, I was chipping off my nail polish and sobbing on the couch in my therapist’s office.
My voice was faint while I attempted to share another childhood account of feeling overpowered and submissive. On this day, I struggled to look up at her or say much of anything that was audible.
When I reached the midpoint of my story, my voice was too soft to hear, and I chipped away at my nails even more feverishly while my feet twisted awkwardly under the table. I wanted to finish my story, but I froze.
We sat in silence for some time while I chipped at my last fingernail of the day. I was determined to have no more pink polish on my pinkie. After my nails returned to their natural state, I moved on to destroying my bracelet and twisted my feet into a French braid.
After a while, I looked up at her briefly, and I could tell she wanted to speak. I maintained eye contact for a moment to show that I was listening and not dissociating above the sofa.
“F*ck him,” she said.
I looked at her stunned.
“What?” I asked.
I was astonished as she raised her middle finger.
I started laughing and followed her lead.
“Umm, f*ck him,” I said in a little girl’s voice, putting up my middle finger fearfully.
“What is that, Rebecca?” she asked while giggling and examining my lonely middle finger.
My middle finger was straight in the air and did not look at all fierce. She had to know I had only made this gesture a handful of times in my life.
I quickly put it down out of embarrassment.
She smiled gently, and as any good therapist would do, directed me to look at her finger. She instructed me to raise my ring finger and pointer slightly. I did as I was told and felt a sense of confidence I had never felt emerge.
“That’s better,” she said. “Now hold it up proudly and say it again.”
“F*ck him,” I said softly.
She looked at me, beaming, as a parent does when their child learns a new skill.
“Much better. Now, how do you feel?” she asked.
“Great!” I responded as I examined my badass finger and let go of tension. My voice had returned.
We laughed for the rest of the session, and I was able to soften toward my childhood pain of having my identity squashed. She sent me home with homework to listen to the song “Middle Fingers.” I blared it in my car that day, and for the next six months.
Since that session, I’ve memorized the song, mastered flipping others off, and have started to find my voice. While I often still find myself submissive in situations in which I’m not, I am beginning to develop an awareness of what I do and don’t like and have found myself to speak up in situations that would have been next to impossible last year.
I entered therapy with her thinking she’d teach me more skills on things such as mindfulness, and instead, I learned the power of flipping off a**holes.
To my surprise, I feel much better.