Therapy Thursday 2

This weekend is better. A lot better. I’ve been sad, thinking about my marriage, but it’s been a feeling, rather than the shocked kind of shut down of last weekend. This morning at one point, I felt almost happy. About nothing in particular. Maybe it’s starting to sink in for parts that we no longer live in the ex’s house – we are safe, in a quiet place that is ours to do with as we like. No one will start with a buzz saw at unexpected hours. No one will be furious that I haven’t done such and such.

I think one thing I wasn’t expecting from a partner, which I should have been, was that he would care how I felt. I think that’s basic – the partner should care. As I should care about him also of course. My ex did care, when it didn’t impact him, but anything that interfered with his goals was completely dismissed. His own traumas and upsets always were centre stage. There wasn’t much room for anyone else on that stage. I think when we met, I hadn’t had the experience of anyone caring much how I felt, so any crumbs of attention or caring seemed wonderful. I just didn’t have the expectation of being cared about much.

Just to be clear, I know I was completely dysfunctional also in that duo.

So the rest of the therapy session Thursday. I’m still trying to figure out what goes wrong, why I get so depressed after therapy. I ask Ron what he thinks causes depression. He says depression is a lid you keep on your feelings, and those feelings could be anything – sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, excitement. That for me, I explore parts in my session, but once I get home, that dissociative mechanism is so strong, I slam the lid back down, leading to exhaustion. It’s exhausting to push down all those feelings. Plus the feelings are not getting out, so that is exhausting also. In my mind, I see this old fashioned metal garbage can, complete with Oscar the Grouch, open, Oscar peeking out, then slammed shut.

It could be true. At other times, Ron has had other explanations for my depression, but this one makes sense to me at the time.

In the last fifteen minutes, parts are getting frantic to have a say. So in quick succession, out come V, then B. I am not wanting to slam any lids, so I let it happen. Then, I tell Ron about another part. Not sure if this is a part like the others, or what. It’s the part that beats me up. I visualize it as parts being beat up with sticks. Ron asks to speak to that part, Red.

Red is not sure she wants to speak to Ron. Than she does. She tells him how awful I am, how everyone can see the awfulness, my bad clothes, how everything about me is wrong. So she beats everyone up to keep them in line.

Why do you do that?

It’s my job. When she goes out, everyone can tell there’s something wrong with her. I’m just trying to help.

Maybe you could have a different job.

Well, you wanted to speak with me, now you’re just arguing with me!

I don’t think I’m arguing, I just want to understand.

That’s all I remember of the conversations. It feels quite good to have that part be more conscious. I certainly feel her a lot of the time. At the doctor’s this week, she was busy screaming at me how awful my t-shirt was – baggy or whatever. Pink. It was so painful. She often fixates on what I’m wearing as proof of the way I can’t fit in.

So I leave. On the way out, I see Ron hasn’t locked the door to his office the way he usually does, so I chide him for leaving it unlocked! There’s not a lot of danger of anyone coming in – I’m still in Red critical mode.

He just says ‘take care’. I suddenly see how tired he is, trying to be supportive to the last. It’s an evening session – I bet he’s had a long day.

Then the next day, I send him this email about how I think we’re not connecting – that’s why I’m getting depressed. Sigh. I feel bad for him. He doesn’t reply, so the next day I send another, saying I’m doing better, and wishing him a good holiday. To that he does reply, and says writing seems to help me.

I’m hard on therapists. What can I say.

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19 comments
  1. Rachel said:

    Sounds like a lot of growth and new insights. Also sounds like you’re taking risks in session with parts being more vocal with Ron. Glad your weekend was better this time around too. I hear a lot of strength and self-confidence in what you write.

  2. manyofus1980 said:

    Its good b and v and red had a say in the session. Maybe the reason red is being critical is because she’s masking her own feelings of insecurity. I’m glad Ron replied to your second email. I always find when our therapist replies it really helps. X

    • Ellen said:

      Could be, about Red. Yeah, it helps me also when they reply, I feel more cared about. Thanks Many.

  3. Maybe what didn’t get seen was Red’s positive intention. She is just trying to help, and when you were younger, it probably did help. Or at least it was an imitation of how the adults tried to “help” by criticizing you endlessly. I know these kinds of messages for me were mixed in with messages about how criticism was for my own good–if I didn’t fit in, then people wouldn’t like me, I wouldn’t have any friends, other kids would pick on me, etc. Of course, that didn’t actually happen. I had friends. No one much picked on me even though I was a 2×2 and looked like a freak, and it didn’t especially matter that I was shy and not always very assertive. But the message at home was that all this negativity was going to make my life easier in other contexts. So, maybe Red heard something like that or believes something similar, and she’s acting from that place, but of course no one likes all the criticism. You don’t like it. It scares the little parts. So she’s stuck being the “bad guy” when she’s trying to help, and Ron doesn’t really see her positive intention or she doesn’t feel he does. He can’t see the necessity of it–that trying to conform to your family’s narrow expectations was really crucial for getting any kind of positive attention at home (and kids need like as much as they need food and air). So he doesn’t see that it really was necessary and for her, because she’s not fully caught up on the present, it seems like it’s still necessary. I just see this horrible dilemma for her, and I can see how she wouldn’t feel seen at all.

    Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting how you had similar criticism. In my case, I don’t remember my parents vocalizing the ‘for your own good’ part, though I guess that was understood. My father is just a very critical person, and yes, he’s trying to help by showing the way to excellence, whatever that might be. I used to be pretty critical of others also – it was the only way I knew how to be. Thankfully, I no longer feel that way most of the time, about others. And rationally, I try to give myself a break also. However, there’s this part.

      I can see I didn’t write this out very thoughtfully. I didn’t feel that Ron didn’t get it with this part. He did seem to be giving her space. I personally didn’t see the part’s positive intention, though I can if I think about it. I actually think Ron understands that part of it OK. I didn’t feel that part didn’t feel seen. Maybe I have more of an abusive part than any that you have, for some reason.

      The lack of connection I felt after the session didn’t seem to be about Red. I think overall, my session doesn’t make much sense – it’s a jumble of different things, which I’m just recording. You’re trying to make it coherent, when it isn’t. I do thank you for trying!

      I am lacking in trust with Ron tonight for other reasons. Mainly I feel he doesn’t get trauma very well. Because I think what I need is not so much help in accessing it, but more in dealing with it once it’s here. I need to stop going into overwhelm and shutting down. I keep either panicking or shutting down, routinely, and I need to stop doing that and let things be there, somehow, so they can resolve.

      Thanks Ashana.

      • Probably you did write it out thoughtfully. i just saw that part about Red, and it reminded me of Ruthie, who used to continually tell me what I had done wrong or what I was forgetting. It was annoying. Then I realized she was trying to help and nagging was sort of all she could do. It crossed my mind that she must have felt unwelcome that I was always annoyed about it, even though I didn’t say anything–they problem with parts is they’re in your head. You can’t keep secrets from them or lie. Anyway, it just reminded me. But such an important part of the work is understanding the perspectives of the different parts and helping them see each other’s. Does Red know she’s scaring all the little parts?

        I may not have such a critical part, or maybe that issue hasn’t surfaced yet…

        Yes, it really does seem like you need something more in terms of help dealing with it afterwards. i hope that comes for you soon.

        • Ellen said:

          My sessions are a mess of different things – I think it’d be confusing to read. Anyway. I really like your perspective of understanding this part – I hadn’t really thought about it. Maybe she has other aspects, other than beating everyone else up. I’m not sure if she’s really a personality like some of the others actually – she seems a little one dimensional. I don’t know what Red knows – I just hear the beating up part so far.

          Hope you don’t have a part like this – you honestly don’t give off that critical vibe, in your writing anyway.

          As to dealing – you seem to manage very well, without anyone else to help. Maybe I can learn calming down myself. Just I’d like to at least be on the same page as Ron, even if he can’t help me with that aspect. It could be if I explain it, he’ll agree with me.

          • I found I had much better success in therapy if I could understand some things myself and then explain them. I think he might. It would be nice if you could go in and he could help you understand it, but that doesn’t always happen.

            I have found with the parts that when the top layer of trauma starts to come off, they do start to have other aspects, so maybe that will come through eventually. Once they get help with the feelings, they also start to grow.

            The parts that were coping by being controlling were more fearful and paranoid than critical.

  4. What Ron described about depression keeping the lid on feelings is very similar to what my counselor said. I noticed that as I am more accepting of what I feel it is easier to feel in the moment instead of depressing the feelings. It does take a lot of energy to keep myself down. Take care. Ruth

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, I thought of your previous comment on keeping the lid on being depressing. Thanks Ruth.

  5. Cat said:

    I am glad you were feeling better over the weekend. I think you are spot on about not having the experience of someone caring to judge against your Ex’s behaviour.

    I get depressed for no reason after therapy, especially group. If Psychotherapy unlocks things buried in our subconscious, then it makes sense that all sorts of feelings are bubbling to the surface, even the ones we are not even aware of being there.

    I doubt the Therapist feels you’re being hard on him and I get the feeling that you are connecting with the feelings within and if that means critical Red and her angry streak coming to the surface, then that can only be a good thing.

    • Ellen said:

      With better past experiences, we wouldn’t fall into these traps.

      Sorry you also get depressed, but it’s kind of validating too. I hate being strange and alone! A lot of crap must be getting stirred up.

      I hope you’re right about Ron.

      Thanks Cat.

  6. I had this other thought about Red, which is that in a family with a narcissist (which your dad seems to have been), people are valued for what they do rather than who they are. Her job is keeping everyone in line through criticism, and she may value herself for doing that exclusively. I’m wondering if you can nudge her in the direction of being someone who can be valued for who she is. Maybe ask her–or have Ron ask her–what she likes to do, what her favourite colours, if she likes books and movies and what her tastes in those are if she does, so you can start doing these things and she can feel she be valued for other aspects of herself.

    • Ellen said:

      It’s an interesting thought, thank you. My father definitely values people for what they do. I’m still not sure Red is a full fledged part with likes and dislikes….She has taken on my father’s critical and hurtful ways. Could be there is more to her – I’ll see what develops.

      • Yes, you’ll have to see.

        She might develop more as time goes on.

  7. This is so how I communicate. Like I know how to be “normal” and that if I was I would speak in session or wait until next session or I don’t know. But I feel so disconnected or as if I didn’t say what I needed and I want to explain and I want to feel connected and I send these emails off and then I rethink it and send another short one that I’m fine. I don’t do it all that much and her responses are random and then I try to figure out if it’s me or her and what did I say. And I always tell her I don’t want a response except if I do which has only been once or twice. But really I am just protecting myself and of course I always want a response but admitting that makes me seem needy and sad and messed up. And sometimes I think blogging is just better. And I like the garbage can theory and I might be much like Oscar after sessions.

    • Ellen said:

      I always want a response also. If I specifically request a response, Ron will respond, mostly, though this time he didn’t. I’ve noticed if my emails are very complicated, he is less likely to respond. Sometimes I send really mixed messages – like I don’t agree with what he said in session, plus I feel bad, plus I feel good about something else. I think then he doesn’t know how to respond. Like you, it’s really hard for me to ask for a response, so mostly I don’t, and then I worry I’ve said the wrong thing. Just did that last night, and now I am worrying. It sucks.

      thanks for commenting!

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