lost_in_the_forest_by_viride-d4yi53bI’m not really making much sense of my experience of being lost in the forest. It’s not making sense to me from a distance, though it seemed fine at the time.

Spent the weekend in a dark place. Today I spent a lot of time napping and reading a fantasy story about a queen’s herald and her magical horse.

I wish I was a different person.

I need to get it together for work tomorrow.

I talked to two friends this weekend and didn’t mention what I’m going through to either of them. But it’s so heavy – it’s like being run over by a truck but chatting about other things.

One thing is, I don’t know how to talk about it. I remembered I was lost in the forest? That doesn’t even make sense.

If I knew what the forest is supposed to mean…’s not connected to real life for me. It must be symbolic – I felt lost as a child….I don’t know. It seemed very real to me when I was experiencing it. And the feelings were definitely from the past – they kind of sprung out.

So this weekend I get the feelings of being very lost, alone, and hugely sad….but I don’t have the story that should go with it.

Before this forest scenario happened, Ron said I keep secrets. I don’t confront my parents with what happened in the past – the abuse, my father freezing me out. He felt that’s why I’m upset with A bringing our private conversation into the group.

I don’t see the correspondence myself. That conversations was not a secret, exactly. I’d thought it was private though. It did make me look like I was trashing Ron. I wasn’t, in that conversation, though I know I have on this blog.

Ron says it’s the principle – keeping secrets. The group should have primacy. People can’t withhold things.

I think there’s a difference between privacy and secrecy. I don’t understand why A felt he needed to bring this in.

Anyway, I’m thinking about what I tell people. How do you talk about trauma? It’s overwhelming, and I don’t know how to talk about it. I’m also not sure that my friends would want to know.

It’s feeling like a secret. How I really feel has almost always been a secret. I didn’t want people to notice I was not happy, in case they thought I was crazy.

As to talking to my parents about the unhappy past – I don’t see how that will help me. They won’t understand. I think I’ll feel worse when they respond angrily.

I feel like I can’t tell anyone much of anything.

  1. So what feels literal and “real” to you are the feelings. That’s probably correct then. If you can stay with the feelings long enough, the “story” will eventually come.

      • You’ll have to see, I suppose. But that’s what happens for me. If I am able to stay with the feelings enough and just be with them, bits of the event also come, and eventually it’s enough to make sense of what happened. I have found it better not to try too hard to know–I find myself feeling then that I am just imagining an event that didn’t happen. And then later I don’t feel I’ll ever know the truth. But for me the feelings always come as the first part of the memory.

        • Ellen said:

          Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. Seems like good advice not to push too hard for knowing more. The mind moves at a pace I can handle, which is a good thing.

  2. The mind is interesting in its ability to blend ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ until we are not sure which is which. It would be easier if we were given a few more clues but the mind can be very stubborn that way. You may want to try the approach, if the feelings are real where could they come from? Exploring that avenue. I think you comment is very telling, “They won’t understand. I think I’ll feel worse when they respond angrily.” You do know how your parents will react to saying anything is different than what they expect you to say. I suspect past experience gives the power behind the conviction of what you believe. I know my friends do not want to hear about my past…that is why I paid a counselor to listen and hopeful make some sens out of what I do remember. You may want to try free writing, you set the timer for 15 minutes and just do a mind dump. Anything and everything that comes to mind write it down, including if you think the suggestion is really stupid and sitting here writing seems strange. It may not work for you but this free brainstorming helped my mine accept that I had the right to say painful things. Breaking down the barriers in your own mind are some of the toughest. I think you are doing awesome. I asked my counselor after I had been very angry with him, about how he felt when I criticized him. He gently told me that he expected it and worried if I didn’t. If I complained, that meant I was processing the stuff myself and not expecting him to solve my problems for me or to be perfect. Hugs. You are doing amazing work. Progress is there… are recognizing you have something to say instead of just sitting quietly. Huge step.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for sharing your experience and the suggestions Ruth. I’ll try the free writing. I like your counsellor’s take on criticism. I do feel guilty for how critical I can be of Ron, but it’s hopefully part of the process. I know I have a right to say what I want, just don’t see the benefit at the moment. But maybe that is fear. Hugs.

  3. Mike Haitch said:

    Hi Ellen,

    I’ve been keeping up with all this but haven’t had much to say.

    The forest is a very common metaphor. It represents the unconscious and the unknown, the parts of ourselves that we are afraid to face. It fits in with where you are at the moment.

    At the momen you are facing an awful lot of stuff from your past and it’s messy and fragmented and you are losing your identity a little amongst it all. The metaphor is of getting lost in the forest.

    Parts of our minds can only speak through metaphors and symbols like this so part of you could be saying “I’m lost and scared and don’t know where I am anymore, I want out of here”.

    This isn’t fun but it might be helpful to you in the longer term. You’ve got a lot of scary stuff in your past and now you are starting to face up to it in a big way. One of the things your fragmented parts give you is a splitting off of the story into tiny chunks that you cannot see all at once.

    I’ve been in a place like this and like a forest it seems like it goes on forever and there’s no way out and you’ll suddenly come to a clearing or the edge of a forest and you’ll feel better.

    For a long time all the scary stuff in the forest has kept you running and prevented you from being yourself. The anxiety and everything else is how the scary stuff shows up. As you start to face it, it feels worse for a while before it gets better.

    • Ellen said:

      Nice to hear from you Mike. I like how you explain the forest image. I actually feel it’s a healing thing to go through, especially now that it’s receded a bit. I didn’t know that a forest is a metaphor in that way…I guess it scares me that I’m experiencing it in such an immediate way – at the time, it seems completely real. Then I realize it can’t be literal….So I worry I’m going crazy, but I’m still here, going to work and everything, so not completely insane. You’re making a lot of sense here.

      Thanks. Take care.

  4. laura said:

    you compartmentalize everyone… based on what you think they can handle knowing about you…what they can handle without getting upset to the point where they reject you (ie, think you’re crazy). Group and Individual are places to practice being transparent. I can relate to how it feels to have A talking in group about your private conversations – you’ve lost control over what to share and what to “keep private”. I can imagine that you’d prefer to put some things in a particular way, withhold other things – but
    \ he doesn’t have your agenda (he has his own), so he can’t do it right. I think he’s doing you a favor by spilling the beans.
    I wouldn’t say you trash Ron here, you share some negative feelings and doubts – those feelings are true – and when you don’t share them, you’re not being completely honest. Like not sharing your journal. You’re managing the relationship, attempting to control what he sees, how he feels. Sharing the negative feelings, your doubts, would help you to see that he cares about you – all of you. He sees more than you realize. He sees that you’re keeping secrets.

    I had a session like this recently – I felt lost and alone in a dark forest. Stumbling around in the dark, lost, helpless. I was so confused as to what was going on that I couldn’t describe it to group, I just cried and spluttered. And I was angry at Howard, at therapy – I should have tools for this, I shouldn’t feel helpless!! I felt like quitting therapy (since it was useless) – but I was afraid to (did I have any better ideas?). I shared this with Howard, and he survived hearing it. And I no longer felt that I was alone.

  5. Gel said:

    There is so much wisdom in the comments here. I’m just in awe. It’s really helpful to me.

    What you wrote about talking to friends…” it’s like being run over by a truck but chatting about other things”…I feel like that a lot in social situations. That’s why I tend to avoid them.

    The part about A bringing your private conversations to the group…..your feelings about that seem totally valid to me. If it were me, I’d feel that my needs for consideration and trust would not be met by someone sharing a private conversation we’d had. Sometimes it’s not even so much about the content of what’s shared, but about it not demonstrating that the person cares how it affects me. Maybe there is also something about honoring that people have different rates of how they open up to others and it’s just about care and respect being shown through actions.

    About secrets. I’ve not been in a therapy group like you have. Is it something you agree to do….to share every thing about yourself in the group? I guess in my imagination I would think a therapy group would be a place to learn how to relate with people in healthy ways including respecting different paces and boundaries. It doesn’t make sense that people who are fragile and have varied traumas from the past would suddenly be able to expose all the private details of their souls in a group.

    But I can see that when we are all isolated with our traumas then growth doesn’t happen either. So I guess my point is there should be some kind of middle ground where you get to gradually open up as trust is built. And not get forced or shamed into being totally transparent. And become skillful at determining WHO is safe and appropriate to share your feelings with. In my experience most immediate expressions of anger at someone do not lead to deeper connections and understanding…..Instead finding someone other than the one I’m angry with, to let the anger out, in a safe way is better….because I usually get through to a deeper level of release and healing for myself with out generating more mess and barriers between myself and the other. I can still express what I need to communicate later but without the damaging venom that raw anger usually carries.

    Maybe your therapy group follows a different philosophy that I don’t understand yet. Sink or learn swim?

    Like others have said, I think you ARE progressing. Going to bed or reading fantasy novels is so so much better than a bunch of other ways of dealing with stuff….that’s from me, a person who turned to alcohol and eating disorder to cope and numb out. So gosh, you are doing way better than that! 🙂

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for understanding how I feel about A. To your questions – there is an agreement to share any contact you have with group members outside of the group, if you find it problematic anyway. Obviously if you’re seeing someone from the group socially, you’re not going to talk about everything. One member for instance shared a ride home with another member and felt he sat too close to her, so she talked about it in group. I just didn’t think my conversations with A were problematic, they happened many months ago, and I don’t see why he brought that in. Maybe I will ask him.

      The group is not exactly a place to practice relating to others. It kind of is but kind of isn’t. You’re much more ‘in your face’ in a group than you would be in a social situation. The idea is sometimes to go ahead and trigger people, then they go off and explore that issue that came up….It’s more using each other to figure ourselves out. So communication skills for instance aren’t taught. You do not have to talk about your own stuff unless you want to – we are never pushed to disclose things. But interpersonally, we are expected to be honest about our real feelings.

      I agree it’s important to build trust slowly. Not like me with A, where I trusted him all at once. I really agree with you about the anger also – I learned that last year in group, where I tried expressing anger with one person, and it just didn’t help at all. It’s tricky.

      Yes, there are worse ways of coping….It’s a good trick I learned as a child, to escape into a book, and it’s serving me pretty well now.

      Thanks for the encouragement and interest Gel.

  6. I’ve been thinking about this post and the discussion in the comments for awhile. While I don’t know if you expecting A to not mention your conversations from a long time ago is an attempt to compartmentalize things or manage what the group knows about you or not. I do think that the idea that A and you have different agendas is interesting and I would take it further and say you have very different memories of your conversations. Maybe the reason he made it sound like you were criticizing Ron is because that is how he interpreted and then remembered what you said while you may not have been criticizing Ron at all. Also it is hard to predict how much or what kind of importance that A put on those conversations and that might be why he brought them up now. It could be interesting to hear why he thinks he brought them up.

    I hope you have stopped feeling like you are “being run over by a truck but chatting about other things”. I can relate to the feeling and I always feel worse when I force myself to behave socially and hide how I really feel. I’ve started to let myself acknowledge how terrible I feel. Sometimes that means not interacting socially so I won’t have to chat, sometimes it means telling someone up front that I feel terrible but not attempting to tell them anymore and focusing on the social interaction, and occasionally it means calling someone up who I can talk to about how bad I feel and what I think those feelings mean to me. I hope you reach out if you feel like talking. I’m willing to listen.

    • Ellen said:

      I kind of think my mild criticism of Ron caused him a lot of anxiety, which he certainly didn’t express at the time. I do mean to ask him why he felt the need to bring that in. It was in the context of my describing my ‘fights’ with Ron to the group, so it wasn’t a new thing at all. I remember I was worrying whether Ron was the right T for me, as he doesn’t specialize in dissociation, and I’ve heard you should see a specialist in that if that’s your problem. I also said how excellent a T Ron can sometimes be, in that same conversations, which A didn’t repeat.

      I do feel better now, or at least different (exhausted from meetings at work). The only way I found to put it was to say that I felt really tired. We’d met to see a hot docs film, so there was just a bit of chat standing in line, which I still found difficult. Thanks for offering a listening ear. Not sure if I wanted to talk or not, but I might try calling you sometime. When I’m trying to process trauma, I don’t have a lot of words for what is going on.

      Thanks Di.

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