Sian Confidential: My female boss kissed me on a night out.
Sian responds to reader Ashley, who feels her identity is falling apart.
I’ve been suffering from stress and insomnia for about six weeks. I work as a project manager and it’s pretty demanding. My husband and I have a large mortgage and I constantly worry about one of us losing our jobs, especially with the economy the way it is right now. My boss is female and recently divorced with grown-up children. Before lockdown we would go out after work for drinks; sometimes as a team but a lot of the time just us two. The last time we went out we both shared two bottles of wine, so we were quite merry. As we were waiting for our taxis and saying good-bye with the usual hug, she kissed me and I think I kissed her back, but then pulled away. I was shocked about everything; her doing it in the first place and my response to the kiss. I’m not gay and don’t fancy her, and now I’ve been very cold and off with her ever since. I don’t seem to be able to be friends with her anymore, and my coldness is now affecting work. However, I keep having thoughts of having sex with her and I’m horrified and disgusted with myself because it’s so alien to me. What’s going on? I feel like my identity is falling apart.
Your confusion is coming from your anxiety, which is composed of a number of uncertainties which are all interacting and exaggerating one another. Firstly, though maybe not the most distressing, is your fear that alienating your boss is jeopardising your job. This could be sorted out very simply by clearing the air and saying: “I apologise for my avoidance; I was upset at what happened and wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Could we put it behind us and move on?”
You are apologising if there has been any rudeness on your part and stating your wishes going forward. Remember, she may feel embarrassed too.
You may also be anxious about feeling like you have cheated on your husband, although I couldn’t pick this up from your letter. I would put this behind you as an insignificant event. It shouldn’t affect your marriage and he need not know, however ultimately this decision is up to you. From what you have told me, you are neither attracted to your boss nor to women in general. What is happening is that you are generating more of the sexual imagery by fighting it. For example, if I say ‘don’t think of a pink elephant for 2 minutes’, most people can’t keep the pink elephant thought out of their heads.
The more you try the worse it gets. The first time you thought about the sex it obviously shocked you, however what you resist persists. The frequency of the thoughts just means you are generating them through fighting them; just because you think it doesn’t mean you want it to happen. It’s just a thought.
“I don’t know who I am anymore” is something I hear a lot from an anxious, embarrassed or guilty person. You are still definitely you. You just fear you are not.
Sian is a cognitive behaviour therapist and also a clinical hypnotherapist, having trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London and the College of Clinical Hypnosis. Four years ago Sian relocated her Harley Street practice to her native North East after 26 years in central London. Sian now runs her private clinic in Gosforth and also owns a training academy to help organisations with stress reduction. Sian’s approach is to help people become their own therapists, whether they come to see her for panic attacks, depression or OCD (she covers a wide range of emotional and behavioural issues).