Therapy Number Two

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. It very much looks as if dinner will be chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. I have been diligent about eating high protein meals with vegetables, I’ve been feeling better…and tonight I just can’t do it.

It’s been a rough day is all I can say. Not so bad that I stay in bed and can’t function. I’ve been to the health food store for coffee and filters and one sweet potato. I went to the library. I actually cleaned my oven – a task I’ve put off for over a year. It was never cleaned when the previous tenant left, so it set off the smoke alarm every time I used it. So I did that. But that was the limit of my strength today.

I feel full of a heavy sadness, and can’t really tell what the cause is, except it must have been therapy that upset me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t remember anything…yet still I feel full of upsetness.

The city is absolutely lovely – spring sunshine, all the green light and new, spring flowers blue and yellow mostly.

I walk into Ron’s office which is stuffy and warm. It’s humid in the city today, and his tiny office does warm up fast. He opens a window for me, and it gets a bit more comfortable.

We say hello when he comes to get me in the waiting room. I settle on his leather couch and look around.

E. I feel as if I’ve just been here.

Ron nods. Then we sit. I do not wish to talk. The silence stretches into minutes. Ron shifts around in his chair. I keep looking around, meeting his eyes every minute or so. I speak after about five minutes.

E. I don’t feel like talking.

Ron nods.

R. What do you make of that?

I shrug, and we sit, about another five minutes.

E. I feel if I tell you things, you won’t be sympathetic, so why bother.

R. How so?

I sit for another minute or so. I strongly feel there is no point talking to this man. He won’t be supportive and he’ll twist around anything I say, the way he did last session.

R. It does feel problematic….kind of like your father not talking to you.

E. Anything I say, you’ll just say I feel like that because of the way my father treated me, so why bother?

R. I think that is a dilemma. You have feelings you need to talk about, yet you don’t wish to talk.

E. Feelings I need to talk about?

R. If you have feelings in a relationship, and they are not expressed, the relationship becomes unreal, fake. Especially a relationship like ours, a therapeutic relationship….

I hadn’t really thought of relationships like this before. This is news to me.

E. You seem to be trying to fix me really fast. Pointing out my failings to make me a better person.

R. Like what. What have I pointed out to you?

E. Oh, that I don’t accept criticism well. Well who does? That I don’t accept feedback, I’m flippant. That I make E cry.

R. I can’t imagine those words would ever come out of my mouth – that you ‘make E cry’.

E. Well, you didn’t say it exactly like that. You are a therapist. You put things differently. You said I said this and that, and that then E cried.

R. I don’t think I said that Ellen.

E. And I think you used to like me, and now you don’t. Since the group. With all my problems in the group, me leaving, then staying but interrupting, shredding kleenex, the angry emails….I think this has gotten to you. You don’t like me anymore.

R. Even though I’ve explicitly told you to interrupt instead of leave – I’ve asked you to do that…..

E. You don’t like me anymore.

R. That is not true. I don’t feel any differently about you than I did.

E. You even talk to me completely differently than you used to. For instance, you never used to say my name. Now you repeat it so many times. It’s totally different.

R. Do you think you just don’t remember my saying your name in the past?

E. No. It’s something I flag actually. You never used to. 

R. So now I’m doing something you like that I didn’t used to do.

E. No. I liked how you were before.

R. I think you interpret my feelings, my reactions, and this is not true.

E. Well, it’s how I feel.

R. No, you’re telling me how I feel. And I don’t feel like that.

E. What is the point of arguing like this. I try and tell you how I feel, and you argue with me. Fine. You win. Great. I still feel the same.

R. How do I criticize you?

E. You don’t support me. Like when I said the thing about E reminds me of my sister.

R. I asked E how she felt about that.

E. How does that support me? It doesn’t. Anyway, now I know you always concentrate on the person who speaks first….

R. Not always….you seem very intent on figuring out the ‘rules’.

E. Well. Yes. Because once I know how you’re operating, I don’t have to take everything so personally. Like for instance, you didn’t go into how I feel about E because she had spoken first, so you were supporting her.

R. I don’t always do that.

E. Fine. You argue, you win. I’m wrong.

R. But how will we find out the truth?

E. I don’t know. I do know that you don’t seem to even hear what I’m saying to you. I reflect back to you what you tell me, so you feel heard. I don’t feel heard though.

R. What do the other parts of you have to say about this. Can you hear them?

I listen inwardly.

E. Well…one part says….you suck. You’re an asshole. Sorry……Great, that’s just great.

I laugh. 

R. No, it’s OK. Why did you laugh?

E. Because it’s stupid.

R. I don’t think it’s stupid.

E. You know, it’s so hard to talk to you. This is…transference? Is that why? I was talking to R after the group, and it was so much easier to talk to him than to talk to you.

Ron shoots me this intense look he has every time I’ve mentioned R the last few sessions. Next time this happens, I’m going to ask him about it.

E. So these feelings I have about you, they’re feelings I had about my father? That’s the theory?

R. Well, it’s not quite so straight forward.

R. Tell me more about how I criticize you.

E. I don’t know. You just do. That’s how I feel. And in the group, I feel like the quieter I can be, the better you’ll like it. I don’t want to say anything because I think you’ll judge me.

R. Would you bring that into the group?

E. If I do, you won’t be supportive, unless I start the group with that.

R. Um….

E. Oh, you mean start out? I guess I could.

R. OK.

E. I hate this kind of arguing. You know, I could take a class and do that. What I want help with is my feelings – feeling them, which I find difficult by myself. And the parts – I think the key to this is the parts. Not this arguing back and forth about who said what. It’s frustrating.

R. Um….You are in a dilemma.

E. Did you know one of your favorite words is ‘dilemma’? You use it all the time.

R. Just with you or with others also?

E. With me.

R. I think you do have a lot of dilemmas.

E. Whatever.

Ron doesn’t proceed to tell me what my dilemma is this time. I am in no mood to hear it. I am frustrated, pissed off, and feeling unheard and uncared about.

One thing, Ron is really into this conversation. I’ve missed out some of the complexities, as my emotion seems to erase what is said to some extent. But we ping pong back and forth the whole time we aren’t sitting in silence. Now I can see he is not frustrated with me, he is interested in this. And his eyes turn blue – a kind of sky blue, not the dark blue I’ve seen before. They usually look muddy, as he sits with his back to a window. I don’t know how he gets them to change colour like that. The kid is fascinated by this. She doesn’t get to speak this time though.

E. Everything is complicated, because the parts have different opinions on everything. Like the kid…well, you’re the only person the kid has ever talked to.

R. So the kid still feels positive about me.

E. Yeah. Well, the kid is five. She’s not too complex. Unless you do some horrible thing, which you will not do, I know, then she thinks you’re wonderful.

E. If you would just say one true thing, I’d feel better. (Looking at the clock.) There, you have a minute to say something true.

Ron sit for a moment.

R. Everything I’ve said is true.

E. (Very exasperated.) Right. OK.

I gather my purse and get up.

E. Thank you.

R. (soft therapist voice) See you Thursday.

Grrr…I am pissed off. The last thing I want reminding of is Thursday.

So today I feel less pissed off, but massively sad. I’m no longer as sure that Ron doesn’t like me. I’m not sure if we have a connection or not – I’m no longer sure not. I feel full of a heaviness and a need to lie down.

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6 comments
  1. Laura said:

    I've had many sessions like this, where I felt there was no use in saying anything, hopeless that I would get what I wanted. and the heavy sadness that results. I can't say that I've gleaned much wisdom about them. You did well to tell him where you were at. I wonder if the little seeds of doubt (that he likes you, is intensely interested, that you have a connection) have grown (or died) since you wrote this?I think I'm seeing, especially in the last two posts, that you appear to be living in a closed system. You critique yourself in group from the standpoint of a generic group member (that crazy Ellen!), and you're responding to yourself through your frequent interpretations of Ron's responses (which he has a difficult time dislodging!). (He's not interested in this so we won't/can't discuss it). That virtual external critic seems to always be warning you, curbing you, shaming you – trying to protect you from rejection by anticipating it in advance. the latest monkeytraps post seems really apropos.I like what Ron said about relationships, too. what were WE thinking relationships were?wonderful posts, Ellen…

  2. Ruth said:

    "If you have feelings in a relationship, and they are not expressed, the relationship becomes unreal, fake. Especially a relationship like ours, a therapeutic relationship…." That is an interesting perspective. I found that when I got frustrated with my counselor and I stared telling him how I felt that he wasn't always sympathetic. However, I learned more about myself. Did you consider the possibility that when you don't want to talk to Ron it is when you are angry with him and you use silence like a weapon? Out right anger is considered bad so silence may have been an acceptable way to show anger. To me it sounded like the session ended up being an opportunity to feel connected with at least the kid.

  3. gniz said:

    I have to agree with a lot of what the previous two posters have written. The phrase "Living in a closed system" resonated with me. I think we all do to some extent. But our assumptions about what people think and feel about us are often very skewed by how we feel about ourselves. It's important, imo, to understand just how deeply our perceptions of ourselves color what we ASSUME people feel about us. We can be wrong any number of ways. I've mentioned before that kids who are in difficult families might tend to be overly attuned to facial expressions and body language because it was part of their emotional survival at a young age–trying to read and respond to their parents in order to avoid harm.This habit is deeply ingrained and many of the assumptions we draw when over-analyzing are not correct.At the same time, how to navigate the world in a different way? Having been mistreated as children, we internalize a sense of wrongness. But in order to be in the world in a more confident way, we can't simply always believe we are wrong and broken. If we live this way, we continuously turn to others for approval and never believe it even when we get it!You internalize wrongness and now you see it everywhere. You see it in strangers, in co-workers, in your therapist. But what you are seeing (based on how you describe it on this blog) is merely a reflection of your internal constructs.The question in my mind is how you can regain the confidence in yourself that you are ok, that you're inherently worthy of respect, worthy of being listened to and worthy of speaking for yourself. How do you cross that bridge? Yes, the parts are very important. I don't really understand your parts situation, but it appears that the more you allow them to speak out, the better you feel overall.Nobody on earth can judge you, nobody knows what you've been through but you and you alone. Whatever the "truth" is about Ron and what he says, the underlying truth is that this is your journey and ultimately how you feel and your own compass is what matters. Ron is not always correct. He is a guide, but the ultimate guide is you and it will always be you. Ron is an employee you've hired because he might know some of this terrain. But remember, you are the one with the power over your own life and there's nothing wrong with you Ellen.Keep moving forward, never give up hope in yourself!

  4. Ellen said:

    @ Laura – OK, I'll take that. I actually feel a lot differently about this whole thing today, a few days after therapy. I no longer have that conviction that Ron is critical and doesn't like me. It's odd, because I could see it intellectually before, but now I feel it. Your thoughts on the critic are definitely worth pondering too. I think when we have these strong world views, others can tell us we're wrong till they're blue in the face, and it doesn't really help. That's why we need the therapy I suppose. Something about being allowed to express this stuff, however irrational it seems, helps shift it. I was thinking relationships were a make-do process, where you hide most of yourself in order not to be rejected. Since you're asking. :-)Glad you find the posts speak to you. Cheers!@ Ruth – From what you've posted about it Ruth, I think the type of counseling you do and have done in the past is pretty different from what I'm doing. In many cases, the therapist is not in fact interested in exploring the relationship with the client. In the kind that I do, the relationship with the therapist can be a focus. It is supposed to mirror other relationships we have. In my case self-defeating types. I have used silence as a weapon in the past, as you say, for instance with my ex-husband. I deeply regret doing that now. With Ron – well, I don't know. The silence mainly hurts myself – he still gets paid. It was more the silence of not feeling I'll be heard, so what's the point. I think. Hmmm, maybe not. Maybe it was anger. Not sure.I wouldn't say the kid got to be part of this session. Though I was aware of her discomfort with criticizing Ron. Thanks for the comment.@ gniz – Thanks Aaron. I too agree with the previous posters. :-)Like I said to Laura, I feel this session, which looks pretty dismal written down, actually shifted my feelings about Ron quite a bit, which is a relief. I again see him as on my side. It's amazing that I had the totally opposite feeling a few days ago. It does make you see the way we construct our own realities. However, it's left me really sad, which I don't understand. This is a good thing – why would it make me sad?I actually think being tuned in to the feelings of others is not a bad thing in itself. It can be real useful. I think I do pick up actual emotions and signals. Just when I am threatened, emotional, I start projecting and misinterpreting what I see and feel coming from the other person. My own fears get played out. By itself though, sensitivity is OK. For sure Ron is not always correct. Well, figuring out the ins and outs is what therapy is for after all. It can sound bad, like I'm in this bad situation with Ron, but relationship problems are what this therapy addresses, as I understand it anyhow.I don't understand the parts situation either. Thanks for all the encouragement and thoughts.

  5. gniz said:

    Hi Ellen, I agree that being attuned to how others are feeling is a good thing. It's only in "overdoing" it that it can become a drag. In terms of becoming neurotic about believing that the tiny little facial expressions and body reactions people have are always in relation to you or that you are accurately interpreting such subtleties of how their thoughts relate to a body reaction.For instance you have sometimes written about a certain expression Ron or a co-worker will make and then say "he thinks I'm crazy" or "she doesn't like me", etc. Sometimes you even have more detailed analysis of someone's thoughts based on body language.My point would be that what you might have picked up on is actually someone thinking about a fight they had with their wife three hours ago. Or maybe a health concern. Or maybe they're hungry. The point is that you can't know the variables and even the most finely tuned antennae is going to be wrong a portion of the time.Furthermore, your own sense of self-worth is directly impacting how you view their reactions.So yes, you have great empathy and good ability to pick up on subtle cues. But your own lenses through which you see the world is coloring your interpretation to a point where it becomes much less reliable.I think you should believe Ron when he tells you that's not what he was thinking. He probably knows more than you do what he was thinking. I think that's probably what he meant when he said "everything I said was true." He was probably stating that it was true because it was about his own thoughts and how he is approaching you. I could be wrong.My own lenses and interpretations directly affect how I view this particular issue…

  6. Ellen said:

    Hi Aaron, For sure. I know I go haywire sometimes, and it's not all about me. Sadly. I do believe Ron about this…more or less. I think sometimes I do annoy, but I do now also believe what he tells me. It's a huge struggle. I think because he is so important to me, it's just this huge thing.Also, I knew I was being irrational in the session. I just kept having the strong feeling that I was being judged, regardless of what Ron said to me. My feelings can be so strong and so insistent, that 'the facts' don't help. Somehow staying with it did help though in the end."My own lenses and interpretations directly affect how I view this particular issue…" he he ho ho ha ha ha…..Yes they do. Perhaps sometime you will be challenged on one of your own 'lenses' – if you haven't been already, I don't know. It's not too pretty an experience, even when the lens is negative.Thanks a lot for talking with me. Cheers

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