Therapy Saturday

Ah, the lovely coolness of air-conditioning on my back. It’s hot and humid here, summer come early. Though I like the sun as much as anyone, I suffer from the heat, and when I finally allow myself to turn on that AC, it does feel nice.

Yesterday’s therapy was better again. It still left me with a massive therapy hangover, but at least I am not blaming Ron for it. I hope I’m actually processing feelings from my past, when I can’t function properly, and spend hours lying down staring out the window. One of my problems with therapy at the moment is I can’t tell if I’m getting anywhere, or simply being triggered over and over.

The first part of the session, we discussed my concerns about therapy. I wondered what had happened last time to make me depressed all weekend. Ron thought we’d talked about how I was in parts, and how that always disturbs me. I didn’t particularly remember that part of the session. Anyway, I said, I feel like I’m accepting being in parts, but that he isn’t as much. I mentioned that B hadn’t been talking, because he seemed to think it was a waste of time talking to her, because she chats. We talked about processing trauma, how I didn’t think that it had helped me, when we’d done this in the past. And how from what I’d read, you’re supposed to try and process trauma a little at a time, instead of being overwhelmed by it as I tend to be. Ron sat back, and said, well, he’s never seen anyone who is actually able to do that, because trauma tends to emerge in one piece. That of course, if it could be done, it would make a lot of sense to tackle it a bit at a time.

Then he said that by processing it while he’s there, it’s different from the original experience, because I’m no longer alone with it. So I said that yes, that’s true, and it’s a good thing, but that then I have to leave his office, and it’s not like it stops, it keeps going, and it’s awful.

But, I felt better about the whole thing after talking about it. At least he’s making some kind of sense. Then I asked about his theory of therapy, as I like to know what I’m trying to accomplish. So he said, there are three axes. The first is processing the trauma. The second is trying to develop a better relationship with myself, and among parts. And the third is trying to make changes to my environment, so I’d see the world as a more welcoming place / interact more helpfully with others like my family or at work.

I didn’t say so, but I really don’t interact with my family, though I see them briefly now and then. It’s like an emotional cut-off. I think I probably have way better skills now at relating to people, but since there are no really close people in my world, I don’t get much chance to practice. It’s odd Ron thinks I’m interacting with my family.

Then the session becomes much more about parts, and rational discussion falls away. V and B both get to say their piece. V is very depressed and angry. B tells Ron about the great treat she got at Starbucks, and a new colouring book. And I half remember some kind of scenario where I am small, and my mother is angry with me, while I’m standing in the kitchen, my head about the height of the top of the oven door. I feel like a bad girl. I remember the feelings, but that’s all that comes clear.

We discuss a dream I’d had that morning, of being lost in an underground mall, asking for help from a group of teenagers, and trying to find my way, while the ceiling might be collapsing. It’s V’s dream, and she cries and gets upset about it.

And we discussed my mother. She is a very distant person, so it was always hard to feel she cared. And, I ask, how could she not have known about the abuse, when it happened to a child so young? How was that even possible? I feel angry with her for not really caring – it was always about doing all her tasks, cooking the meals, taking care of my father – not caring for how her children really were. I think I didn’t really know you could have feelings, when I was young, in a way, because no feelings were ever labelled or talked about. Feelings were to be suppressed as fast as possible, unless they were feelings of mild contentment I suppose.

So, I’m not sure what it was, but something in the session really threw me, and I’ve been very lethargic ever since. And sad I suppose.

I felt like Ron was much more serious and took the parts seriously this session. I could tell he was trying to respond authentically, not dismissing anything. He supported me in my feelings about my mother. Yes, she should have cared in a more human way.

That’s all I can bear to say about it for now. Again, I’m not clear what it was that upset me so. I wish I knew.

  1. I know for me hopelessness about one situation in the present triggers off another situation from the past that was quite a lot more hopeless, and the emotion becomes very strong and overwhelming. So something like feeling hopeless about therapy–which is really a fixable problem–would set off the feelings of the inescapableness of the abuse, which wasn’t fixable at all. So dealing with discouragement that is just kind of normal and temporary in life would be really difficult for me. Now it’s much better, partly because i have so many things I can do now about the feelings that I don’t feel trapped in them.

    One thing that stands out about the therapy session is that Ron is trying to help you titrate things. He assumes that things can’t be broken into more manageable bits, so he’s not trying to help you do that. But it can be. As overwhelming as my memories are, they are never all at once, bits emerge over days. And even then, it’s not all of it. I get one group of bits and then months later, come back to it and get other bits or get more emotional intensity. They aren’t all at once. He just doesn’t try. Your memories are coming in bits, but the main mechanism doing this is dissociation. You need other ways to stay “warm” and to help you titrate. And it seems like you are going to have to do this yourself. I think he’ll support you in doing it–he’ll see it as improving your relationship with yourself–but he’s not going to help you brainstorm ways to do it.

    If you are lying in bed staring out the window and something nice is going on–cuddly blankets, or you’re looking at B’s toys, or cool AC–then it’s helping.

    I think B is really important, because she is this child part who is authentic and spontaneous. She likes relating to people, she enjoys ordinary things in life. She is a part of who you were before all the emotions got shut down and you lost contact with yourself. I think you can work at this from two ends–from expanding yourself to include the parts, and expanding the worlds of the parts so they include more of each other and more of you. A lot of therapy seems aimed mostly at working only at one end, only at helping the presenting part, but I think working from both ends really speeds things up. As the parts have a chance to relate and discuss and make sense of things themselves, their worlds become larger and they also build skills. It helps a lot.

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Ashana,
      That is what triggers are like for me also. Just, I don’t feel hopeless about therapy, so it’s not that. But I don’t know what it is. I’ve been very depressed since the session and I haven’t figured out why.

      About titrating – my memories come in bits also. Just the feeling of even that is overwhelming. Yes, Ron does not try to titrate. It’s true – he’ll help me with anything I come up with, but he doesn’t know how to do it. It seems he doesn’t think to much about the nurturing, healing aspect that needs to happen after the memories and feelings emerge. I need to remember that myself – that I need to take care of those parts and help them, not just endure their emergence.

      Maybe it is helping then – I do have the toys, and blankets. I really hope it is.

      I’m glad you think B is important – I think so too. She really does enjoy people, in ways I do not, and she has so much less fear of people than I do. I’m trying to understand your idea of working from two ends – it seems like a good one.

      Thanks very much for your thoughts. I’ve read this over a few times, trying to understand and let it sink in.

      • Must be something else then. Keep trying to stay “warm” until the walls get thin enough for the reason to get through?

        I’m glad my thoughts helped.

        Take care. I’m sorry you’ve had such a depressed time of it lately.

  2. manyofus1980 said:

    glad you had a good session Ellen! It sounded productive and very full!

  3. Rachel said:

    Hi Ellen, it does sound like a productive session and I am glad you were able to voice some of the concerns you’ve had about the therapy progress and how it feels to you. I can relate to the feeling of staring, feeling listless and “off” for reasons you can pinpoint after a session. I like to think of it as the subconscious continuing the therapy outside the office.

    • Ellen said:

      Sorry you can relate. Well, glad and sorry. I hope it is therapy continuing….thanks Rachel

  4. Sometimes it is hard to know why a certain emotion lingers. I processed stuff a little at a time and in big chunks, it varied. Perhaps when you do a little at a time you don’t feel the time is productive because it doesn’t feel like much happening. My second counselor taught me to sit with an emotion. Actually ask what it needs. When emotions linger they tend to need acknowledgement, action or acceptance. There might be other responses but those are the ones I am familiar with. It took practice for me to start working backwards to find the source of the emotional response. I’m glad you felt better about the counseling session.

    • Ellen said:

      I’ll try sitting with it. Just the depression feels overwhelming. It’s like all I can do is sit with it, and nothing else gets done. 😦 Thanks very much for sharing your experience – it does help.

      • My counselor suggested that depression is away to dampen anger to a more acceptable level. He taught me that anger is triggered by fear, frustration, or hurt. I am learning in my processing is if I am feeling depressed, am I feeling one of the ‘anger’ emotions? Part of the detective work to understand my reactions.

        • Ellen said:

          Interesting. Ron said depression is me keeping a lid on my emotions – he thinks it could be any emotion including anger. It’s just such a hard puzzle to solve.

          • My counselor said that we bring our puzzle pieces into counseling to help straighten things out….I just happen to be a 10,000 piece puzzle. Hugs. You are doing amazing.

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