Therapy Friday II – books

It’s the longest day of the year, and I should be happy, but I’m not. So much light and warmth, and it’s not really sinking in for me, that life is good right now. I still can’t seem to function today. Although I feel good about therapy, it’s been more difficult to process. And it wasn’t trauma that came up, just family dynamics. Maybe I’m just feeling how it was as a child in my family.

I just want to stay withdrawn – quiet at home, reading a mystery novel. Just don’t ask me to vaccuum, do laundry, meet my son….nothing. I’m a lump, I just want to sit. It’s too painful to do anything else.

I wish things had been different.

So the next part of therapy then. I say that it seems like when trauma memories come up in therapy, they emerge, I suffer, but then they go back down, unchanged, ready to re-emerge the next time. That it seems like it’s because that’s the way trauma is stored for me, in little bubbles. As opposed to the types of memories that are very sad, and talking about them makes you sad, but then you work through the sadness and it changes. And for psychodynamic therapy, the belief is that catharsis is healing, in itself, but I think that for what I have, it doesn’t help. And that I worry that I  am being re-traumatized.

Ron says that if I was being re-traumatized, week after week, I’d be getting worse, in fact, I’d be psychotic by now. That obviously that isn’t happening. I say yes, that’s true. But my fear is therapy isn’t helping.

I think by re-traumatizing, I didn’t actually mean being re-abused, which would be horrible. I meant accessing the memories again and again, with all the pain that involves, without processing them and so without this being useful.

Ron wonders if my life has improved. I say that yes, it has. I don’t go into details, but I’m actually thinking of my working life. I can handle interactions so much more smoothly now. I no longer make the worst interpersonal mistakes. I no longer get furious, or if I do, I manage to contain it and not express it in a harmful way. And I see people much more clearly. And I am more aware of other people’s feelings, and can think more about what their motives might be.

My personal life seems more dismal, if anything. I spend a lot of time being very sad. I’ve kind of shed most of my friends at this point. Not through fights, but I just stop reaching out. They were maybe superficial friends, but they were people in my life at least. A lot of the time, I don’t even miss friends – I just want to be able to be myself.

My relationship to my son has improved. I think therapy has helped here. Not directly, by talking about him. More because I’ve had the experience of being deeply listened to and cared about, week after week, and I can now give some of that to him.

Back to my therapy conversation. Ron thinks that I’m more integrated – he sees a difference from when I first started coming to see him. I’m not totally sure in what way, but it could be.

I say that trauma therapy has moved on quite a bit in the last ten years, and that’s why I was wondering if Ron could share with me anything he’d read about trauma. That I didn’t want to waste my sessions arguing with him, because I’m not about to change his mind, but I’d find it useful if I could read something about what he believes about trauma.

Ron says he’s read some, but he finds a lot of the approaches to trauma superficial, and they don’t help to understand the whole person, and to understand a person’s life. So I say, OK, maybe they don’t make meaning, but they might provide some ways of going about treating it. Ron says that he doesn’t believe in having techniques, because they limit his responses. Or something. Something to the effect that he doesn’t do manualized therapy anyway – therapy by the book.

But he did think of some books he’d read on trauma he could tell me the titles of. He tells me three titles. Sigh. The first is a book he’d lent me, about self psychology, which I suspect is from his training days. It’s so badly written to be almost unreadable, and I got almost nothing out of it. The second, hmmm…I forget. The third title I didn’t know, so I wrote down. He wasn’t sure of the author, and I looked it up on Amazon at home. I suspect he’s remembered the title wrong. This books is by Charles Whitfield, who wrote about the inner child and was a great believer in 12-step groups. I doubt very much this is the title Ron meant, from what I know about him. Maybe he meant the seminal Judith Herman book on trauma, Trauma and Recovery. That is a great book. Anyway. None of these are about any of the latest work and approaches to trauma, and especially dissociation. I would so like it if Ron cared enough to inform himself about this.

I just think that it could be that the ‘how to work with trauma’ type books are not enough to teach someone how to be a therapist. But I think once you know how to be a therapist, they can help with ideas and knowledge.

Anyway, this is not the conversation. But then, out of the blue, Ron says he’d be happy to read anything I’d like him to read. I don’t have to ask him even. I am so surprised, and I say so. Ron asks why. Because….because you already know everything. Ron gives me this kind of humorous look. So I say that would be great, and that I’ve got a book at home I’d like to lend him. It’s not superficial, and it’s aimed at therapists. It’s not psychodynamic though. So he says great. And I sit there very surprised.

And then the more therapeutic part happens. I’ve been aware that I’m feeling very uncomfortable with this conversation. I tell Ron I’m feeling bad, as if we’ve been arguing. He says that he thinks in general, I am not comfortable with raising other points of view. He says he doesn’t feel like we’ve been arguing. And in any case, he would be OK with it. He wouldn’t reject me, and he doesn’t feel at all angry.

And I feel so much better, and again, connected.

Then we have the grounding conversation I posted about. And trying to finish up, B comes forward and starts crying. She thinks I’ve been arguing with Ron. Ron says again he is not afraid of my emotions, everything is OK, and such. I struggle for a few more minutes, flipping in and out of the kid, trying to ground and get back to the adult, when B comes rushing forward every time Ron says something understanding.

I think I’ve just been so hurt by academic type arguments with my father, which resulted at one time, in his cutting me out altogether, pretending I was invisible for years. Young parts are so afraid it was something we did, and that we are doing it again, and as a result, will be rejected.

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12 comments
  1. Cat said:

    Family gatherings do tend to remind us of those childhood dynamics and you’re also very aware through therapy. It’s hardly surprising you want to chill, you need and deserve a break. This sounds like an excellent session and I would tend to agree about the reasons why you are sensitive to potential disagreements

    • Ellen said:

      It was a good session, thanks. Yeah, my experience was complete rejection and negation when I argued….it’s what parts of me expect to happen every time. I actually got a few things done this weekend after all, thank goodness.

      Thanks Cat.

      • Cat said:

        Pleased you got through the weekend without any major downer.

  2. Grainne said:

    I think it is very good that Ron was open to reading some of your suggestions around trauma and treatment. It immediately put me at ease for you and it shows how much he respects you and your opinions. 🙂

    Sound like a draining session but one that was helpful in the end. I have the same sort of internal reactions when disagreeing with people…always worried that I’ve put them off by not agreeing in full. It’s not an easy one to get over. Xx

    • Ellen said:

      I never thought of it as him respecting my opinions – but I like the idea! I hope that’s it. Ron is a good, open person, and it doesn’t always come across in my posts.

      It is not easy to get over at all. Because of my personality, I still go ahead and disagree, and then I suffer for it. Thank you. xox

  3. It seems like you got to an incredibly important place.

    At time I’ve had the same thought: I wished therapists cared enough to keep up with their field. It’s like some people just decide an approach is wrong or an element of the field is wrong and never investigate it again. But then generally I think people don’t read that much.

    It’s really good he offered.

    • Ellen said:

      I am realizing that I have multiple feelings at once. When only the top one gets expressed, I really suffer because of the other one. At the same time, the other feeling is something I’m pushing away all the time I’m talking. It makes things really complex. But at least in therapy, I’m starting to pay attention to this.

      Yeah, I wish people read more also. I think Ron does read, because I see various books around he seems to be reading, but, I also think he is pretty busy, with kids and his practice. With Ron, he has this very strong philosophy about not categorizing people. I think it could interfere with reading an awful lot of psychology, if he won’t look at anything that ‘labels’ people. I’m hoping that’s not the case though. I guess I’ll find out. I’m hoping he can leave the parts he doesn’t agree with, but still see some usefulness in books that do not completely share his viewpoint.

      • Yes, he probably is busy.

        I can really relate to what you say about multiple feelings at once. It’s hard because to construct a coherent narrative, you find yourself having to choose–even if one feeling isn’t one you wish you didn’t have. It’s just hard to think about it all at once and express it in a way that makes sense.

        I hope he does get something out of what he reads.

        • Ellen said:

          About the multiple feelings – yes, it is hard to express. I think it’s impossible with regular people in life – because it doesn’t make sense. Therapy is good for trying to do it, because there is someone willing to be there even if it’s not making sense. Maybe a partner would do that also, if they understood….

          I’m just glad I’ve realized this problem, even at this late date, at least I can be aware.

  4. Rachel said:

    Hi Ellen, so many topics, I don’t think I can do justice in commenting on all of it. I can really relate to losing friends, or letting them drop. I’ve been in a period lately of loneliness and isolation, just because I am not engaging in as superficial relationships. I love your statement “I just want to be able to be myself.”
    I was touched that Ron said he would read any book you suggested. He cares, and is invested in the therapy with you. I’m sorry the day felt rough and you weren’t able to get everything you wanted done. I hope you can be gentle with yourself, as you are taking emotional risks in therapy and that is tiring.

    • Ellen said:

      Sorry you too are lonely at the moment. For me I sometimes worry I’m not feeling lonely enough. I used to feel lonely. I have even less friends now, but I don’t seem to miss them, except periodically. I feel I should need people more. I kind of feel they’ve been more trouble than they’re worth. Hopefully I’ll change my mind at some point.

      Thanks for the support.

      • Rachel said:

        Maybe you are in a quieter period right now, more introspective and self-reflective and less focused on the social. I imagine you’ll branch out when you see the need again. No need to force it or judge yourself for where you are now. Much can be learned from solo time.

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