Therapy Friday

[wallcoo]_Clausen_Winter_WorkArt: George Clausen: Winter Work

I want to get this week’s therapy down while I still remember the details. Last week was a lot of parts, and so I forgot the session pretty quickly. I know V talked a lot, and so I subsequently had a lot of dark feelings from her.

This week, we first talked about my problem with exercise. I feel quite hopeless about this – I get triggered over and over, but can’t seem to work anything through, so next time, I get triggered into the same scenarios/feelings once again. Ideally, I’d make progress processing this stuff, and it would resolve, but somehow, that doesn’t happen for me. Ron wonders if it’s because I have to deal with it on my own, so then I must shut it away again in order to function. I agree it would be nice to have someone sympathetic there. However, I did have a session one day right after too much exercise, and I was triggered, and nothing resolved then either.

When I think about it later, I remember about hot warm cold trauma. This is something I could explain to Ron, though I wish he already understood it. Sometimes I wish he understood more about trauma. His idea is that you open it up, don’t be afraid of it, and let it process. The problem is, if it’s too intense, too hot, you can’t manage that, because it’s too threatening to your sanity, and so you must shut it down. You need to get that trauma to warm – where you can feel it, but it is not completely overwhelming, and in that state, it can be processed.

My impression, at least from meeting Ron’s clients in group, is that for most of his clients, the number one problem is actually unawareness of feeling – they are in ‘cold’ so to speak. They don’t have the problem of trauma appearing which overwhelms the system. Instead they have frozen feelings which they spend a lot of energy denying are there. That is not my problem, but I realize that’s a problem for a lot of slightly troubled people. So in that case, it makes sense to always try to open things up as much as possible. For me, not so much.

Maybe that’s the issue. I don’t seem to be thinking well in the therapy hour – I wish I’d thought to mention this. If I could somehow trigger the exercise trauma in small amounts, maybe I could process it.

Most of the session was taken up with a discussion of work. I’m a horrible anxious mess at work. I’m actually feeling afraid a good portion of the time there, and at home, I obsess about the people and what might be going on. I think this was triggered off by the strange behaviour of my boss, who stopped talking to me and only dealt with my project through a co-worker of mine, whom I don’t get along with, but who is his long time employee. Along with some disapproving looks, and a few strange things that he said, that was enough to send me into a tailspin.

One day, because I heard my boss’ voice in the small room where he interviewed me for this job, I half believed he was interviewing my replacement. I knew at the time, this was unlikely, but my mind was unable to overrule my sense of fear and danger, one that stuck with me for the rest of the day.

The other problem is because I’m having so much anxiety, it’s impacting how I interact with people. I’ve had meetings where my voice is very tight and shaking a bit, and I know that’s not pleasant for people. Plus, they can easily draw the conclusion that you are not competent. They see the anxiety, and base their opinion on this.

And here Ron and I clash. He feels I am making up explanations for things which are unclear, and the explanations frighten me. He’s said this before, and to me, it always sounds like he is not believing what I tell him. Organizations are strange places, I say. Weird interpersonal and group dynamics happen all the time, which you probably wouldn’t know much about, since therapists don’t tend to be working in large organizations.

I get really uncomfortable, and it feels like I’m wasting my hour discussing this, so I want to move on. Ron feels it’s an important discussion, because we’re also talking about how the two of us are relating. I feel he is saying I’m making things up, that I’m paranoid. I agree that I’m over-reacting. I bring up group, how I felt the same thing from him, that he was denying my reality.

Now somehow, we come onto the same page here, and I can’t quite remember how it happened. Ron says something like it makes more sense to not try to explain my feelings in terms of what’s happening in the present, but instead, to think of them as coming from my past. This kind of makes sense to me, and all of a sudden, I feel calmer. Sure, my father was super critical. These feelings of being unacceptable, unwanted, are familiar from the past. Ron says the trick is going to be trying to heal the wounds of the past, rather than making up explanations for the present.

For some reason, writing it out here feels bad.

The session was pretty much over at that point. Ron and I parted on friendly terms – I genuinely felt he’d put his finger on something that made sense.

Then I woke up at 1 am last night, completely immersed in the anxiety of work again. I again felt Ron wasn’t believing me, and that work was genuinely threatening and full of bad things. It’s going to be a long slog to try and work this stuff out. Maybe it’s hopeful that for a short time at least, I felt Ron understood some of what I was trying to tell him. I am going to try and look at it all as if it’s feelings from the past.

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10 comments
  1. Grainne said:

    Healing the past rather than explaining the present is a sound theory but so difficult to put into practice when all the anxiety you feel is in the here and now. I often hear and see things in myself that I feel need to be explained or excused, especially at work and I know the battle that goes on inside. Xx wishing for some peace to find you this weekend. *hugs*

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks so much for understanding Grainne. It is difficult to put into practice. Plus it still feels crappy, wherever it’s coming from. I guess realizing the feelings are influenced by my past might stop me acting on them, which could be a plus. But things really do go on in the present….it’s confusing. Hugs to you.

  2. Maybe it would be helpful to let your counselor know about the things they are doing therapy that you don’t find helpful.

    • Ellen said:

      I find most things he does helpful. I’ve let him know everything in this post – I’m not that shy. Thanks for commenting.

  3. It seems like there are two things going on: your boss is acting weird, which is usually a sign of a problem. Bosses who turn on and off like that tend to do other unpredictable things, like lash out and fire you. It sounds like you’d like to understand why he’s behaving that way or what what you can do to manage his responses to you if at all possible. You also need some help managing the anxiety at work, so that you don’t seem incompetent to others. You’re right that people see that and take something away from it, often not very positive. Not being able to understand the dynamic in the present makes it more frightening.

    Ron’s right that it’s also a result of being triggered in the past. When Ron said this, your worries about the present didn’t disappear. Some part of you responded to this and felt validated–you think this too. However, the worries about the present went underground and resurfaced later.

    My thought is try to stay “warm” with the anxiety too. It’s definitely being triggered by the past. It’s definitely a problem in the present, but you probably can’t think very clearly about the present when the past is so triggered. Trying to shut down the anxiety and think harder–which it sounds like you end up doing–isn’t really helping very much. What helps the younger part calm down? All of you was probably affected by your dad’s silence. V gets the lion’s share of it, but little parts were probably scared too.

    • Ellen said:

      Now I’m right back in the anxiety – I was trying to talk myself out of it. I suppose it is possible I’m making the whole thing up, which seems to be Ron’s view basically. But actually, I think I’m slower than most people to catch on that there’s a problem, because I doubt all my perceptions so intensely. I know I have a past that impinges on my present. I think in fact there is a problem, but I cannot work out what it is. Bosses acting strangely and differently and vaguely hostile is a concern for anyone, especially a contractor like me who can be let go with no discussion whatsoever.

      I would love to believe it’s just my past, but I don’t think so. My past is making it seem overwhelming, like you’re pointing out.

      I don’t know what can really comfort parts. We were reading a book they liked, but that’s not enough once it’s this bad. However, I am working on it. A lot of this fear is coming right from traumatized parts.

      I think I need to medicate actually, because it’s so bad, I feel my job is at risk. I can take something before meetings, and hopefully, if I can figure it out, before I talk with this mean co-worker, as I must deal with her as part of the project.

      The part I didn’t mention here is that this boss has now left for a new job. That is a good thing for me. The other hopeful thing is I met the new boss last week, and he was pretty explicitly kind to me, smiling kindly at me, and not joining in to some of the slightly disparaging comments my boss was making about my project. A new boss is also really great because this co-worker who is a huge problem for me will not have a ‘special’ relationship with him, so hopefully there will not be the weird dynamics between the three of us.

      You’d think I’d be completely relieved, but for some reason, I’m still an anxious wreck. I’ve fallen into a pit of anxiety. I’ve been fired before, and the feelings at work were very similar to those times, and I don’t want it to happen again.

      Thanks for believing me Ashana. I needed someone to say that – that yes, this is a concern.

  4. Cat said:

    Hi Ellen… I think opening up about trauma and opening up about bad memories are entirely different and it sound like Ron doesn’t grasp that, he sounds so matter of fact.

    It is easy to be sucked into what others might be thinking, but the reality is, this is office politics, cut throat jungle stuff and many of your anxieties are very probable and your boss is unprofessional, anyway, so the support you should be getting will never be there. Ron’s suggestion of thinking of the negative feelings coming from the past is spot on because that’s exactly what seems to be happening. Not only are you dealing with the work dynamics, they are also triggering those difficult emotions from the past and that’s a lot to contend with. I hope your weekend is going okay

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, it is different. I don’t know – sometimes I feel I trash talk Ron, when actually, he’s pretty good and I mostly feel grateful. Just snippy sometimes I guess. Sometimes I wonder if he knows what he’s doing, but I do that with most people. A good thing about him is he doesn’t deny things – like a lot of therapists would disagree when I said I don’t think I’m processing things, they’re just repeating – and he didn’t do that.

      It is office politics. Cue the jungle drums. 🙂 Yes, I agree with all you say on this. I’ve been low this weekend but just went out for a haircut, brownie and americano, and now I feel a bit better. Hope you are well. Thanks.

      • Cat said:

        I also wonder if Paul knows what he’s doing 🙂 I hope you have a better week at work, Ellen

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