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I just want to stay withdrawn – quiet at home, reading a mystery novel.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.