Therapy Friday – emptiness

Arghh….one of those bad therapy sessions today. Man. I think they go better when I’ve been writing about things during the week. I went, and had nothing planned, in particular, beyond being in parts and wanting to change that. As last weekend was a washout for me in terms of doing anything with anyone. And work is quiet. Actually work is aggravating, but I forgot that in session. I feel like I’m being ignored, and that triggers me. However. I just remembered I’m not having issues with anyone there, and had a few social interactions that were fine.

The session seems full of emptiness. Ron can be very bland and colourless sometimes. Sometimes that’s a good quality, other times it’s irritating. Today I ended up feeling unconnected completely. I just wasn’t sure anyone was there.

I gave him my book, The Haunted Self, about dissociation and trauma. Who knows if he will read it. He said he’d try. I really think he knows nothing about the last fifteen years of trauma research. He’s kind of dismissed it because he ‘doesn’t believe in labels’, but he’s dismissed it without knowing anything about it.

Yes I feel critical of Ron.

He does try to help me. He is good at some of it. He can tolerate all kinds of emotion for instance. He responds in a good way often. I never fear I am too much for him – not really.

I hate it when we do this kind of reciting my week, reciting my problems, and he tries to give ‘insights’ kind of sessions. To me they feel useless, but sometimes, I can’t think what else to do.

What was the advice this week? Oh I feel mean saying it this way. He doesn’t really give advice….I know that. But this week it seemed like he did. We talked about how I shut down after sessions and don’t do a lot. He tried to find out why I don’t do anything. I feel too bad. But couldn’t you go out anyway, even if you feel bad? Yes, I can do things but then I dissociate, get very very tense, feel disembodied, and stop sleeping. No, but isn’t there a middle ground between these? Well, how do I find that. At which point, we stop.

Yes, I don’t want to shut down. Yes, it’s a problem. My life shrinks to almost nothing. But it hurts so very much, that it’s impossible to do things. This is the part that I feel like Ron is missing. How severe it feels. I wonder if, because I do not self-harm, or drink to excess, or really do anything, it seems that I don’t feel that bad? I feel bad. It’s just, my response is to stay in bed. Or stay home. Kind of shut down.

Oh yeah, Ron says maybe it’s like trying to get a child out the door. You can force it, but you can also try other ways. Like treats? You can try bribery….I say well, that can work with a child who is well. What I’ve got is a traumatized child. In that case, I wouldn’t be trying to get the child out the door, I’d be trying to take care of her instead.

Ron looks kind of sorrowful, and the discussion peters out. I wonder if he had any other suggestions – I can’t remember at all.

Towards the end of the session, I mention metta and how doing that kind of meditation can bring up the negative emotions, like the critic. So then Ron wanted to talk to the critic. Who is a part. Then flipped over to B. Once the parts start talking, things make less rational sense, but I feel more present and real.

B tells about shoes we bought last week. They are cute – with a wedge heel. She loves them. However, they hurt to walk in much. So she’s explaining why we bought them, because people at work wear fancy shoes, and anyway, you don’t have to walk that far in shoes, they can look pretty.

Then I’m hit with this immense feeling of loneliness. It’s surprising, because Ron is sitting right there, for all I don’t feel that connected to him. The loneliness is so intense it feels dangerous. I tell Ron what I’m feeling. How does he respond? He says sometimes if I’m in my ‘inner world’ I’m not realizing what’s happening in the outer world. Something like that.

He thinks the feeling is there because of what we’ve been talking about. I tell him it’s not that – it’s not a gradual feeling in response to our discussion. It’s more like a bubble that popped and I’m left drowning in this feeling.

It doesn’t make much sense to me. I start feeling really angry as well. I raise my voice to complaining level. I’m angry that I’m feeling this shitty, and that Ron isn’t doing anything about it. I say I wish I’d had this experience earlier in the session. Why, so you wouldn’t feel bad after the session? No, so I could work out what’s going on. Sorry to get all angry and difficult. I just don’t get this. It’s OK, you’re expressing your feelings, you’re not being difficult.

So I leave. We do take a few minutes so I can gather myself together. Ron wants to tell me about his upcoming vacation but I tell him can you tell me next time, I’m too riled up at the moment, I can’t deal with it.

This time I’m not crying. I’m just feeling very pissed off. But, I think it’s an inner feeling. Ron didn’t really do anything. I didn’t feel connected, but he didn’t do that. I feel angry and empty.

I have been harping on about how awful I feel after sessions, and is this normal? I don’t think it is, from my reading of other blogs. People with serious issues don’t leave therapy and are incapacitated for the next few days. So I’m not sure what happens to me. We’ve not even dealing with trauma most times. I think I’ve got Ron worried about this perhaps.

Maybe this time, I won’t get so sad. Hope not. I have a few days off, and I want to do some stuff, not stay in bed.

  1. I imagine it happens late in the session because it takes time to calm down enough for the feelings to start coming through. It’s not like a switch that can be turned on and off. I’m sorry it keeps working out this way.

    • Ellen said:

      That is likely true. I’m transitioning from my adult every day self to these other selves, and it’s a process that wants to happen, but it takes time. Thanks.

  2. Rachel said:

    I’m sorry you keep feeling so debilitated after sessions. That must be so frustrating. Especially when sometimes you feel connected, but sometimes not. I think you are doing such a good job of communicating all of this to Ron. Even if he doesn’t ‘get it’, which from what I gather, he very well may not entirely. I wish he was everything you want and need right now. I’m sending positive and strong thoughts for you for your days off – I hope it goes well. Take good care.

    • Rachel said:

      I also have another thought/question – let me know if this resonantes for you. I also can feel an emotional let-down after therapy. Or just feeling like I am deeply affected, and it is hard to get back on my feet. I think part of the reason for that might be that I put so much stock into my sessions, and inevitably am disappointed or not getting all those needs met I buried and pushed down during the week. I don’t think it is a conscious action on my part, but I am starting to see just how much power I place in the relationship, and how easily I can be disturbed by what happens in the sessions. So I am wondering if that could be going on for you – parts aren’t able to say what they need to, because they have had nowhere else to discharge, so you are still holding onto it plus the added burden of disappointment. I could be totally off, but wanted to toss my idea out there. xx

      • Ellen said:

        Yes, I think I put too much pressure on therapy. I really agree with this. Unfortunately, there really is no one else for me to talk to about anything emotional. Though writing it out here helps – that’s why I was thinking it goes better when I write.

        I don’t think my shut down response is due to my relationship to Ron though. I think it’s emotional memories of some kind. It means less dissociation is happening, but I can’t function at the same time.

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        • Rachel said:

          It might not be directly related to him, but I think he is a component. Whether or not that means his part is not navigating the feelings as skillfully as could be done, I am unsure. Hard to know what reality is, when muddled with trauma responses. But I think your insights and constant probing into the relationship means something. I don’t know what it means, but I think your instincts will tell you.

          • Ellen said:

            Could be. It is hard to know what reality is – what’s me, what’s him. It’s so difficult right now. thank you

    • Ellen said:

      It is frustrating, thanks. The debilitated feeling doesn’t seem to be related to how connected I feel to Ron. It seems to be more some kind of memories.

      He really doesn’t get a fair amount. It’s emerging that he has pretty much zero knowledge about what’s wrong with me – dissociation and parts. He doesn’t seem to have read anything on this published in the last fifteen years, and I find that more and more disturbing. I’d like to feel he has the knowledge I need him to have.

      Thank you. I’ll do my best to enjoy.

      • Rachel said:

        I agree, it does sound like memories and feelings from the past. Because it seems more pronounced after you visit family. Hmm, interesting. Ah, it is so hard to WANT someone to WANT what you want them to do/know. I feel the same way about D – I wonder if she knows anything about attachment theory, or has bothered to read anything since she started working with me.

        • Ellen said:

          Sorry, this is what I meant to answer. Morning brain. 🙂

          I just wonder if he’s read anything since leaving school, about twenty years ago. Well, I know he reads. But he hasn’t read about dissociation, and that’s my main trouble, and it makes me mad actually. You’d think he’d care enough to do that, after a few years. Thanks.

  3. Ron says that he ‘doesn’t like to label people’. Great. He doesn’t need to see you as a label or diagnosis in order to get something out of The Haunted Self. In fact, I agree that it’s much better to see the whole person and not just the diagnosis. But if you don’t understand that big piece of them that goes with the diagnosis out of fear or labeling, then you can’t understand the whole person. All that you are asking him to do is to get the vocabulary so the two of you can talk and work on the trauma.

    Have you read some of the research that suggests that people didn’t see blue as blue until relatively recently? (Recently as far as being human goes). The word blue doesn’t exist in ancient languages, like Greek. The thought is that it wasn’t until there was a word for it and people could communicate about it that it became something that people saw as ‘blue.’ It seems like what is going on with Ron is the same thing. You want for him to learn the concept ‘blue.’

    In terms of being debilitated, it often happens to me, but in a different way than you, I think. It like what I started working on in session just keeps on going and going. These days I don’t spend much time in a trauma state, but I will spend a lot of time in blended child states, dealing with intense feelings. It’s not pleasant, but at least I can see that it is a part of my process and it helps with forward movement. Everything tends to keeps me in a state of exhaustion these days, though.

    I do need to learn to give myself more of a break between sessions. I think that I am going to have to make it through the current phase of therapy before I can do it, though.

    • Ellen said:

      I agree also – that’s one reason I see Ron, and not some psychiatrist. I don’t want to be treated like a medical problem. Ron doesn’t believe in diagnosis either. But it feels like that gives him an excuse to not keep up with anything, if it mentions a diagnosis or condition. It’s like he’s trying to navigate by ‘basic principles’ without availing himself of any of the knowledge and experience that’s out there now.

      That’s really interesting about ‘blue’. Huh. Yes, I’d like Ron to get a vocabulary. How can you talk about anything if you don’t have names for what you want to discuss? You can’t – you just discuss in terms of ‘feelings’, and it doesn’t go very far.

      Sorry you have a similar problem after sessions, but it’s really helpful that you can see that it’s a healing process. Sometimes for me, it is similar, I continue unravelling the feelings that came up in a session. Lately it’s been more mysterious – I don’t really see the connection. I’m wanting to blame Ron for not doing the right things, but likely that’s not true. I’m confused. I can so relate to the exhaustion.

      Thanks Cat

  4. I can certainly relate to the feelings of exhaustion where deep early feelings are surfacing. I have a lot of early attachment trauma I believe. I am not with a therapist as I have got completely disillusioned with therapy. I used to practice as a therapist myself but have stopped. But if people feel that therapy helps them that’s great, it just doesn’t work for me any more. What seems to help me get out of a bad state is playing some music or singing. I’m a musician. I don’t always manage this as often as I’d like as my motivation can really dip, but when I do, it helps.

    • Ellen said:

      Music seems like a great way to express feelings.

      Interesting you were once a therapist but now don’t believe in it at all. That must have been a painful transition. Very good though you got out of a field you no longer believe in.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Cat said:

    I can relate to that bland colourless feeling you have about Ron, I also do with my T. I was a little disappointed to read of Ron saying he will try to read the book…mmm… I thought he initially said he would read whatever you suggest. And when he said, “can’t you go out anyway?” I did question his understanding.

    I admire how you are in touch with feelings during the session and this is probably partly why you feel so bad afterwards, and you have the complicated mix of the emotions bubbling up from other parts. I hope this weekend isn’t too much of a wash out.

    • Ellen said:

      I hate that bland colourless feeling – I never used to have that with Ron. It seems to have come up since I stopped trying to relate to him outside of being a therapy client – no how are you or asking questions about his life. He never volunteers anything about himself, so I’m not sure where he is, in a way.

      Yeah – I can’t force anyone to read stuff, and this book is quite hefty and a bit academic. I read it, but it took me quite a while. However, it’s got great research on dissociation, and it’s stuff I think he should know about if he’s trying to help clients who have that condition.

      Yeah, on going out – he is not really getting how bad things are with me, it feels like.

      I’m really struggling with therapy at the moment as you can see from my comments. Thanks for commenting Cat.

      • Cat said:

        I feel I need more from Paul at this stage in my therapy. I feel a little lost and he is very laid back and always repeats things back to me rather than ask me any searching questions. I plan to talk to him about it next week

        I can understand your concern over Ron and the trauma stuff. It’s a hard one. I suppose the question is, would it hold you back or is it something you can work around? Can you process it your own way and just expect him to keep up in his way? Does that make sense?

        I share in your therapy struggles, Ellen, sure I do, with my weekend therapy hangover in full swing, I am stomping around in a right old humpy mood

        • Ellen said:

          I hope you do tell Paul what you need from him next session. You won’t change his personality, but he might do things a little differently for you. Plus it’s great practice, advocating for yourself.

          Yes, I can maybe process it my way and let him support me as I do that. I’m not sure.

          Hope you feel better at this point. Can’t say as I do. I’m thinking of leaving therapy, and it’s tearing me apart.

          Take care.

          • Cat said:

            I’m not sure about you being able to process things your way in session with Ron. As I mentioned in another comment to you today, your situation is different to mine and I would probably also be looking for the T to have a better understanding.

            I’m feeling a little better but it has been a powerful week with a rollercoaster of emotions and we have a heat wave due this week…gggrrr

  6. On another note, it seems like Ron is thinking about it like other kinds of depression, where you try to do things and your mood lifts a little because of that. In trauma, it’s like you’re overwhelmed already, you go out and find yourself more stimulated and it’s just too much. It would be pleasurable, but you’re so overwhelmed, and there is this tremendous strain to go on acting normal despite the feelings inside that the sense of strain makes it just horrible. So very often you try to do things that seem like they might help and they don’t help. You feel worse. And I think that’s the part Ron doesn’t get.

    • Ellen said:

      Yep. Doing stuff makes it feel worse. Or else I just cut it off altogether and end up disembodied. A big piece is also how hard it is to interact with people while this is going on.

      I’m struggling a lot trying to explain stuff to Ron – it’s kind of exhausting.


      • It is, but it’s very important someone be able to understand your perspective and how things are for you, so you have to explain it. Take care.

        • Ellen said:

          Yes, that would be better. thanks

  7. Andi said:

    Sessions like this are especially hard. I’m sorry you felt so alone and disconnected. I also struggle with feeling unsettled after sessions. Not as much as previously, but I relate a lot to what you talk about here. You’re not alone.

  8. I didn’t start my blog until 6 years after the beginning of counseling. When I started, I would be so wiped out from each session I had to have someone else drive me. I then progressed that I could drive myself but I had to wait at least a half an hour before attempting to go home. Sometimes I would sit in my car for an hour before finally driving home. The first year I was seeing the counselor twice a week so it was one huge overwhelming blur. The counselor kept telling me I would feel better but I kept feeling worse. He underestimated how severe my trauma was because I didn’t have any memories to tell him. Being wiped out after a session is what I experienced for many years. This past year I felt only peace after each session so I realized, I was figuring stuff out myself and the counselor was just my audience. That is after over 10 years of counseling. Just a reminder, how many years each person takes is very individual. People outside of the traumatized world expect everything to be done in 10 weeks or less. Here’s my theory, if it took about 15 years to mess me up, wouldn’t be logical to take about that to straighten me out? Sorry to hear after sessions is tough but it doesn’t seem unusual to me. I am amazed at your insight already. You’re ability to recognize what is you and what is parts is encouraging to me. Parts are real. Pulling them to the front to share their stories is scary. Hugs to you. Hope you get to have a treat that entices you out this weekend. By the way, just a suggestion that worked for me, coloring or drawing when I am in a parts state I found to be helpful to feel more grounded and less scattered. I bought an expensive coloring book and cheap box of crayons. Take care.

    • Ellen said:

      That is so helpful, to know you also would ‘fall apart’ after sessions. I feel like a freak, so it’s good to know I’m not alone. Ten years seems like a long time. For me it’s been four and a half years, and that seems like a long time already. I’m glad you feel peace now after sessions – that is a dream for me.

      I did go out some this weekend. I’ll try the coloring – I do have a book and pencils / crayons.

      Thanks very much Ruth for sharing your story.

      • I’m glad something I shared helped. Have fun with the coloring. I found it restful.

  9. When I reflect on what you wrote what resonates for me is this frustration. Feeling not only ignored but as if I want to scream at Ron “you don’t get it, I need you”. I want for him to say hey, let me put off what I had planned, and let’s spend another 30 minutes together. Or maybe we need 90 minute sessions or more frequent or what else might you need. I find I want for my T to do this and for her to be present enough to know when I need more and to know me well enough that I can’t express it and if I do it must be really meaningful. I don’t know if that makes sense or not but I wanted to say that I get it. 💙

  10. I understand what you mean about feeling awful, and not being able to change that feeling, and that furthering that feeling. It’s hard for someone who studied, but not experienced, such feelings. The tendency is to try and help or just to remain passive and listen, neither of which does the sufferer any good. I think this is the source of your loneliness: that you have to experience this awful feeling alone with no hope of help or even understanding. That’s how it was for me when I was in deep depression/not sleeping. And sometimes bad feelings overcome me now, and i get impatient for them to lift, and feel lonely that no one understands, that I am the only one who can help myself. It frightens me. I have never felt very capable, and when faced with the responsibility of improving my mood, I get very anxious. I think this was what scared me most during my breakdowns: I had to be the one to pull out of it. But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to without medication. I never knew whether I actually needed the medication or could have overcome my issues, if I just worked harder. This conundrum destroyed what little self esteem I had so that now I am a much more subdued, cautious person. Enough about me. Just wanted you to know I have been there, and understand your loneliness and frustration.


    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for sharing your story Elizabeth. It’s true, in the end, we have to do the healing.

  11. Believe me you are not alone in that. I often spend the next week recovering from a particularly hard session. I wonder whether Ron is not a good match for you therapeutically if he can’t understand why you have to shut down. Of course you will feel bad after therapy – you are pulling up from the depths many things you were terrified of and things that hurt, and it’s very hard to deal with all that.

    Just know that sometimes there’s some goodness in riding out the storm and waiting for it to pass. Xx

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