Therapy Friday 2

I am still upset about the previous night’s group when I arrive at Ron’s office. However, I sit down and can’t think what I want to talk about. Ron alludes to the email I sent him about the group.

E. Did you feel exasperated with me in the group?

Ron shakes his head no.

R. Why would I be?

E. Because I didn’t accept E’s feedback. Because I didn’t go deeper into how I felt. I had the strong sense you were exasperated with me. That you felt I was closed- minded.

R. I thought you were being open and direct. You spoke about how you felt in that moment.

E. Oh.

I pause to take this in. I’d been certain Ron had been unhappy with me. It’s a really good feeling to think he appreciated my openness in sharing my feelings.

E. I think…my opinion is that there is this unspoken rule in the group, that you do not say anything negative about anyone else. Unless that person starts. But once that person wades into something with a particular person, everyone feels free to bring up their own negative feelings from past groups. I don’t want to go against that rule anymore, it’s too painful.

Ron tries to say something. I don’t want to let him, though I know I should.

E. I totally understand this is not your philosophy of the group. But it’s how it’s working. I don’t know if it’s the particular people in this group or what…..

Ron lets it go. In general, he doesn’t argue with me at all this session. It is very peaceful, to be able to say how I see it without arguing with him.

E. You’re really holding back this session, you’re not arguing with me at all even though I know you disagree. Is it because of what I said in my email?

R. Where do I disagree?

I think about the ‘rule’ discussion, but I can’t face going back and forth with him on it, so I don’t say.

E. Oh, I don’t want to talk about it. But do you feel I shut you down?

R. No.

I was sure that I had, so this is good to know. I think he is going easy, but at least not feeling shut down.

Now I can’t remember the rest very well. One part was Ron talking about what he sees happening between us.

E. You know when you said about last Friday that you experienced me as very angry….that wasn’t really how I was experiencing it. It was more frustration that you didn’t understand, and then a feeling of falling apart and not coping. Yes, I was angry also. But that wasn’t the main thing.

R. I think when you come in pugnaciously, so to speak, you want to fight. When you were a child, you tried to engage your father, but for him, this wasn’t OK. He was too fragile and he couldn’t accept it. So because of this, you now feel like our relationship breaks just because we disagree. When in reality, it’s actually a good thing to do, to explore disagreements.

I think about this.

E. Yeah…that’s true. I do feel our relationship breaks.

It does break – it does. If I feel it does, isn’t that the definition of a broken relationship?

E. What do you think I’m avoiding then, when I talk about parts. I have been trying not to talk about them since you said that.

R. No no no no no. shakes head playfully. I did not say that.

E. What were you saying then?

R. Your parts are real. I think sometimes you have brought up being in parts as the reason why you can’t change something. But I think you have more influence on the parts than you think.

E. Well, I can influence whether they’re out or not. Unless I’m scared or surprised. And I can influence how I treat them – whether I listen and try to help.

R. Yes, that’s important. I think you can also influence behaviour. Even if just a little bit. Over time, tiny changes can make a big difference.

E. Oh. Well that seems OK. I don’t know if it’s true but it doesn’t upset me.

Now what happened?

Towards the end of the session, Ron is going on some more about something which I’ve completely forgotten. Something about disagreements being fine or some such most likely.

E. So do you think this kind of discussion is going to help my depression?

R. Not all at once, but over time, slowly….

E. No, I mean this particular one that I’ve had over the last week. I’ve been having a lot of somatic type symptoms. I feel as if there’s a metal bar across my pelvis….the when I go out, the other day, I was feeling all the choking stuff, and kind of verbalizing that.

I feel like a person talking to themselves in public that everyone else pretends not to notice when that happens.

R. Those may be some unconscious memories you do not wish to remember.

E. Maybe. Or maybe memories from before I could have thoughts?

Ron nods.

R. Can you feel then now?

I start paying attention to this.

E. Yes. They’re still there.

Something seems to be playing out just beyond the edge of my vision, where I can’t clearly make it out. I start describing it, slowly and in pieces as it comes to me in this dream.

E. It’s as if someone is angry with me. My father. It’s as if I’m being pushed down backwards….We’re outside. The ground is hard. Grass….with bumpy bits of earth….My mother is wearing a dress….

R. soft voice. This seems like an important memory. So next week I won’t be here Friday, so can we schedule another day?

I can’t adjust to this need to instantly deal with real life. Could he at least have given me ten seconds to transition? I pick up my purse and dash out of the office, saying as I’m through the door that I’ll email him about next week. I don’t say goodbye. I feel I need to get out of there instantly.

This was an odd memory compared to others I’ve accessed in Ron’s office. This one seemed flat. I didn’t get the emotions, just bits of pictures. At the same time, I felt like I’d gone back in time and I was disoriented. I think this is a way of remembering where I’m translating for parts, instead of turning into the child this happened to.

I don’t know what happened. It seemed there were other people around, so it’s unlikely to have been some major trauma. I seem to be really young, maybe four. My father became angry, and I was angry, and was pushed over somehow.

My father is not physically a violent person. He wouldn’t have deliberately hit me so I fell over.

It’s very odd to have these bits of things come back, while I still don’t know what it is about. I do know I spent most of Saturday in bed, recovering. I read my YA novel, a good one called Ship Breaker.

It’s making me feel kind of sick to write about this. So I guess it is a memory of something bad.

  1. I’ve found my parents to be different people than I thought they were before I remembered important traumas. I didn’t have the full picture, and my view of their personalities turned out to be substantially incorrect. I would be inclined to trust your memory of what happened rather than your view of your father’s personality. You may also find that it’s something you need to revisit.

    I’m wondering if when Ron argues with you, it feels the relationship is breaking because what you need is to be heard and understood. Even if he sees things differently, you need to feel that he has tried to see things from your perspective and understood what it is like for you. When he argues, it is almost as if you are being asked to meet his need to be heard, when your therapy is really not about his needs. It is about yours.

    Just some thoughts. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      I do feel a strong need to be heard. Ron seems to be making more of an effort with me in this. I’ve watched how he acts with others in my group, and I can see he is like that with everyone. He seems to jump over the place where the person is at, to providing insight. But…he also does listen when I tell him things. So we’ll see.

      I wonder if I’ll have the same experience with how I see my parents. I’ve never idealized them. It is very hard to make sense of these tiny memory fragments, then I see them and they seem quite normal. It’s hard to know what to believe. I do think a lot of my troubles stem from just their more ordinary disregard for my feelings, rather than explicit traumas.

      Thanks for the thoughts Ashana.

      • For me, it seems like having parts means I can’t hear myself, so I think it’s made the need to be heard more intense at times.

        I never idealized my parents either, but I had certain misconceptions–based somewhat on things I dissociated and also based on things I’d been told that weren’t true. My mother, for example, had this idea that my dad was socially awkward, inept, and just generally not very bright. I think now he was brilliant. Presenting himself at inept at times was part of his skillful manipulations of others.

        Anyway, yes, it will be interesting to see. But as the memory fragments expand, you’ll get a fuller view of a lot of things.

  2. Even with 10 seconds the disorientation exists, in my experience, it just takes time to reorient my thinking from coming out of the past. You are doing much better than you believe. Hoping for continued healing. Ruth

    • Ellen said:

      Yes. Ten seconds was like a bare minimum. Ideally I’d have five minutes to come back to the room and calm down. Ron didn’t pause at all to let me regroup and I felt it was insensitive. Thanks for the encouragement Ruth.

  3. Gel said:

    What Ashana wrote……she put into words what I had a vague feeling about. So Ditto.

    What you were saying about somatic memories possibly being memories from before you could think….wow that really interests me. I have reason to believe I experienced some abuse before I was 3 or so. (family history coming to light) And I don’t have cognitive memories. But I’ve been having a lot of somatic stuff coming up in addition to feelings that don’t seem related to anything in the present. Not sure what to do about it.

    I’d be curious to hear any thoughts, do you have experience with how you deal with that sort of thing in a theraputic way?

    • Ellen said:

      With somatic memories? First thing, if it’s abuse, do not try to uncover more alone. It’s too painful. I try to allow them to exist and stop struggling to suppress them. I try to allow whatever is trying to emerge to do so, without freaking out. I really think though for really bad stuff, you need good support to make any headway. With support, I feel safer allowing things to surface. On your own, you can be compassionate towards yourself, allow lots of down-time, and don’t beat yourself up for having the memory pieces.

      I wonder if it would be possible to work through some of this stuff using art. I’ve never been drawn to creating art, but it makes a lot of sense to me that it would help.

      I wish I had better answers.

      Thanks for your interest Gel.

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