Woolgathering

Today I’ve been contemplating therapy and whether it is helping me or not. I have been unhappy today, alone…but nowhere near as bad as when I’m completely triggered by therapy. If I’d had something social planned, I would have been able to do it.

Therapy yesterday was the most silent session I’ve ever had. It wasn’t that nothing was happening for me though. It was as if all the silent parts, the suffering parts, where allowed to be there in Ron’s office, even though they couldn’t talk to him. I suppose from Ron’s point of view not a whole lot was happening. But he did pay a lot of attention anyway. I think threatening to leave does bring him to attention, like a shock. Not that that’s why I wanted to leave.

It was almost like being a victim in a traffic accident – someone stops to help, and starts analyzing the situation for you – but you’re bleeding out. What you need is for someone just to sit with you and be there, holding your hand. That is all you can take in further, when all the blood is running out, and you may not have long to live. You don’t care to discuss much.

I don’t think Ron is getting how devastated I’ve been after sessions with him. I’m not falling apart in his office, so he’s not seeing it. This last session was like just paying attention to the amount of pain I was in from last week. If I feel it, I can’t talk, because it hurts too much.  He seems to think I’m resisting talking to him….but I don’t feel like that. It’s more that I’m trying to feel things while I’m there with him.

The other problem was to do with his group. How I kept trying to raise a problem, week after week, and there just wasn’t room to do that. And when I did speak, Ron didn’t show much interest. You are supposed to go into depth with your problem, and I couldn’t, I didn’t know how to do that.

I’m pretty sure it reminded me of trying to tell my mother about my abuse when I was a child. I don’t really remember trying to do so….but I must have. Though I remember once when I was sick with a fever, trying over and over to tell her something, and then…instantly forgetting what it was I wanted to say, blocking it out. I remember her telling me that I must tell her….but then I would not know what it was I needed to tell.

This issue of speaking, needing to speak, and not having words or having no one listen is very deep and very painful for me. Having it re-enacted in the group was devastating.

I wonder also if I need to see something good coming from therapy. My life is not improving. I have less friends than before I started. Partly because my weekends, which I used to be able to use for socializing, now are needed to recover from therapy. Partly because my standards are higher – I’ve dropped some support group ‘friends’ whom I have nothing in common with beyond a particular suffering. But as a result, I’m often alone.

I still dislike my job. Though I appreciate having enough to live on. And it is not an abusive situation at all. Simply it feels as if I am of no use to anyone.

In general, I feel of little use. I’ve lately been feeding a friend’s cat while they’re away – that small thing makes me feel that yes, this cat and this friend are a tiny bit better off because I am alive. But it’s not a reason for living is it.

It makes no difference to anyone if I am alive or not. Sometimes I feel I do have things to give, love, something….But there is no one to give to.

Anyhow…maybe I need to address my actual  life in therapy. I think I’ll be waiting a long time for this ‘experiencing my feelings’ to help me in any actual way.

While I’m wool gathering here….I did some meditation before going to group last week. I was feeling scared of it as usual. I’d been reading Tara Brach, who talks about forgiving the feeling that you don’t want, whatever it is. So I sat there feeling the fear, and at the same time forgiving it for being there. Over and over. It was actually calming.

What I realized while doing this was something I had not been aware of. How on the one hand I fear this group. But on the other – how deeply I long to belong, to be accepted by it. And how scary it is to need that acceptance. How high the stakes are for me, fearing and expecting rejection, sometimes even making that happen, while wishing desperately for belonging and acceptance.

Last week was the last group session. At first members completely ignored this, several people going on about their personal issues…hard to believe they could ignore such an obvious fact as that this was the last group session. At about the half way point, Ron finally spoke up and asked people to talk about how they felt about the group ending. I mostly listened. I said a bit about my issue of belonging or not.

We also talked a bit about what the group was trying to accomplish – mostly R and myself have that issue.

Then A had one final complaint about me – I forget exactly what it was, but something along the lines of it being difficult to feel safe when I was criticizing E a lot worse than E criticized me. We didn’t really get into discussing this, as there just wasn’t time. I told A it was difficult to discuss things with her because she’d forgotten what she’d said when she’d kind of attacked me. And that of course I was going to be reacting if she attacked.

This is pretty confused. But I do see A’s point of view. From where she sits, if I understand her correctly, the group is a place to bring your issues that you’re dealing with in therapy, and get kind and supportive feedback for them. That is how she sees the group. And if that is how group is supposed to work, I am not doing a good job as a group member.

I don’t think this is how the group is supposed to work. However, Ron is not being clear about it. Which is my complaint to him. He is not picking a direction, say a here and now orientation, with an emphasis on interacting honestly with other group members. He’ll say that’s part of it, but he also wants this in-depth exploration of people’s personal stuff. Which requires a lot of safety. I don’t see how you can easily have both. The honest interactions are not especially conducive to safety, especially if we are exploring negative interactions, so he gets this kind of hybrid, with no one quite sure what we are trying to do.

I wanted to talk about this with him, but in my session, my rational mind seemed completely AWOL.

Anyhow, I have survived the group. I hope I can rebuild some trust with Ron, which was really shaken as a result of my group experience, now that group is over.

Group was important to me, and I will miss the people in it, despite everything.

R gave me his phone number on our last ride home. So now he has mine, I have his. Perhaps we will contact each other.

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9 comments
  1. ((Ellen))I think it is so hard to evaluate the effectiveness of therapy at any single point of time. The effects are complicated and rarely straightforward. I do understand the desire to do so, however, and I've spent a lot of time trying to do that myself. I also can relate to thinking that the T doesn't really understand how things are effecting you because they see you for so short of a time and your are reporting the rest of the week to them. I wonder whether there is anything you are looking for from Ron that would tell you he understood how much you are struggling with your feelings after therapy.It makes a difference to me that you are alive and I suspect it does to others. You certainly give me support and friendship. I wonder if you really mean that it doesn't make enough of a difference. My T asked me recently what was enough because I used the phrase "it isn't enough" often in different discussions. He suggested it wasn't enough because nothing would be enough to make up for the things I didn't get in childhood. Group has been such a difficult thing for you. I'm glad you attended the last session.Di

  2. hope you can talk in some detail to ron about the after effects. therapy is not supposed to retraumatize you, and i can't really tell from your posts if it is just really upsetting, or more along the lines of retraumatizing. it's a pretty fine line… so worth exploring. your safety is the most important thing. i always feel worn out and need a nap after therapy…. still every once and a while something happens and i get triggered, and it takes a week or so to come back to feeling like myself. but that's now the exception rather than the rule. sharon has always told me, from the beginning, to not think about trauma/therapy stuff in between our appointments, and it's only now, in year three, that i'm able to do that… i can see the value but it took a while to develop the skills in order to do that. anyhow, glad you didn't quit and hope you can keep trying to talk to him. he wants to listen, cares, and he is trustworthy, unlike your parents.

  3. Laura said:

    I'd say, try to accept the process. You are gathering strength, finding out what matters to you, changing your focus from the outside to the inside, to what you need, what nourishes you and what doesn't, what direction to go in. You slow down, as you move into the turn.It's interesting dealing with everyone's ideas of what group should be, and how they evolve. 'A' used to be content just quietly absorbing, it sounds like now, she's getting interested in talking, but wants it to be safe, like individual therapy. (maybe she should start a blog to get kind and supportive feedback). I think part of the purpose of group (and individual therapy, actually), is developing a tougher skin, so you can handle the jostling of other people's emotions, and opinions, etc. You start the process in individual therapy, you're moving out of living so much in the perfect world of your own head.I don't think Ron is going to lay down the direction. It's ambiguous. He says, it's up to the group. I wonder if the in-depth focus is an early phase strategy on his part – to frustrate members, so that while he's going in-depth with one, they're starting to feel discontented and impatient with the sustained focus on someone else. It takes strong feelings to overcome members' reticence and politeness! Meanwhile, SOMEONE is getting value from the session. My sense of group is closer to yours – and I think you could still get value from seeing how you've recreated your family dynamics, in group. Do you usually wait for someone else to lead the way, for example, and then feel critical of the way they're doing it?It seems like Survivor: Group. Everyone brings something different to the mix. What do we want to do?

  4. Ellen said:

    @ attached – Your comment means a lot to me Di, thank you. I think there are a lot of similarities in how we are experiencing therapy and it's reassuring. Sorry about the 'alive' comment – I truly wasn't fishing, but also, I appreciate your response. I am relieved group is over. take care@ obd – That's what I wonder – am I simply re-traumatizing myself? That is something to raise with Ron – I tried a bit last time to raise that, but not very distinctly I think. It mostly takes me three – four days to recover, and that's a long time. You're right about Ron, thanks. He is trustworthy. take care@ Laura – Survivor: Group! He he. I like it. thanks

  5. Amanda said:

    May I be honest? I'm relieved that group is over for you, and that now you will be able to focus more on individual therapy. Group sounds like it was incredibly difficult and it's difficult to see what everyone got out of it (without Ron's direction). I'm sure within the next couple of weeks, that you'll both be able to get back into a good groove. Continue being honest with him and letting him know what you need. You deserve to be heard in this.Thinking of you.

  6. Ellen said:

    @ Amanda – I value your honesty Amanda. I'm relieved also. I'll have to let some time pass to evaluate whether this group helped me or was simply rolling in broken glass to no purpose. thanks for the comment@ proginoskes – Thanks for the quote and for coming by! I'd actually prefer not to sit with pain….but mostly don't get my preference. Cheers

  7. Ruth said:

    Seems to me you have a lot of insight on your situation and have an easier time writing it than saying it. Some of the stuff I worked on with my counselor I actually would write it out. I would bring what I wrote to the session. Sometimes he would read it and sometimes I would read it out loud. I let him pick which way to do it. I agree with you on groups like that, it is difficult to talk openly and feel safe at the same time. In my opinion you are doing more than you think. I found that when I was heavily into counseling I didn't have time or energy for hardly anything else. But now that I am getting healthier I enjoy the friendships I have more and I think the relationships are healthier too.

  8. Ellen said:

    Hi Ruth,Like you, I find it a lot easier to write things out than to say them. I actually forgot most of this stuff in my session. Maybe it's more emotional saying things in person, so then my excellent 'forgetting' mechanisms kick in. Thanks for the encouragement.

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