Anger and chaos

Today I was so angry. I was so disabled. I know it’s because I got hit with some trauma during therapy. It’s worse when that happens, worse than the feelings from growing up. Trauma has a special charge – that dark helplessness, the gross feelings, feeling sore and bruised, though not physically. It’s unmistakable.

That’s why those parts were crying – because of this half memory. And because I’d had a difficult night, and no chance to shake it off because therapy was first thing in the morning, bang, some trauma came up.

Now I’m going to say negative things about therapy, but I’m not sure it’s Ron’s fault. I feel a bunch of things are his fault, and I’ve felt furious with him a lot of the day, between being too depressed to function. However, maybe it’s misplaced anger that went along with this event?

I feel like he should know what’s happening. He never does. I always have to figure it out, explain it to him, and then have him believe it or not. He does believe, at the time, but because he has no theory in his mind to put it in, he just forgets again pretty much right away. So I feel he should know what’s happening, he should know how horrible and gross I’m going to feel, and he should do something, or at least say something sympathetic.

I hate that he knows nothing about flashbacks or how to help. He thinks all feeling is good, but it’s not. Not for trauma, IMO. You need to feel something in the right doses, in the right intensity, for it to be healing. For him, all feeling is great, and healing in itself, especially with him there to be supportive.

I feel really bitter and angry.

And yet, it’s likely that even if I went to someone who specializes, it would still hurt like hell, and I would hate it just as much.

I’m just not sure this is doing me any good. Having trauma come up, and yes, I get through it, it costs me a few days of my life, and then I can function again, ready for the next time it’s triggered off.

Actually the session was good, apart from this. I discussed basically all my complaints that I posted about. Ron gets to hear it all. The part where I said I haven’t been feeling connected. Ron wanted to know when I feel more connected, so I mentioned parts. And he said sometimes if I’m starting to dissociate, I start to feel he is a bit unreal, which is true. It’s a really frightening feeling actually, to be sitting there, and not able to feel his presence there, sitting opposite me.

Last session, by discussing it, it got better.

We went back and forth about his trauma skills also. I said I’d been wondering if I need a specialist. That there’d been changes in how trauma was treated in the last few decades, which he didn’t seem to know about. Ron said something about how every few years, some new technique comes along that’s supposed to speed up treatment, and then that technique fades away again. It was a more involved discussion, but the upshot was, he thinks I’m talking about some ‘technique’ and he’s more interested in the deep fundamentals of therapy.

I forget how this argument went, and I wish I remembered. I remember at one point, Ron said how he agreed with me about something or other, and he definitely heard me out entirely, for as long as I wanted to discuss this. I ended up not wanting to continue. I didn’t agree that I was just talking about ‘some technique’, but he’d been kind, and patient, and not at all angry, and I was kind of mollified by all this. I even told him the books he recommended were crap. Not in those words. But they were all from his time in therapy school, that is, two decades ago. One I found completely unreadable. The other was about this false memory syndrome crap, so called, that was so big in the nineties, which I’m just not that interested in. Nothing about dissociation at all.

Anyway. He took it all in stride. He apparently feels he knows all that’s necessary.

Anyway, am I going to change the way he does therapy? Nope. Am I likely to influence his views on his profession in any way? Again, no. If I want someone who specializes, I will have to bite the bullet and go.

I said I might look for help with trauma elsewhere, like trauma yoga perhaps. He said he does have a colleague who offers that.

On the one hand, it feels great to have this kind of discussion, and not have the person retaliate or be really hurt and angry. And I felt a connection to Ron again. On the other hand, I had one more session where I plunged into trauma without Ron knowing it was happening, which then made me furiously angry.

I should probably not switch out of parts if they’re crying. They’re very upset – why not stay with that and try to help? I’ve been switching back out in sessions when I feel too confused and too bad. But that means Ron can’t really help that much, and it looks to him, apparently, as if the problem has gone away. I’m paying Ron to help me with my overwhelming emotions – I should stay in them. I know one thing that causes the parts to flee is Ron’s questions. They don’t seem to know much, and they get confused and can’t answer, and so I switch out. I think I need to stay put. I need to stay put so those parts can be comforted, even if they don’t have any answers. The way this is working, they get triggered out, the put away, and I get to deal with a chaotic aftermath completely on my own, with Ron not even aware anything’s happened.

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21 comments
  1. plf1990 said:

    Don’t know what to say to help, but I am here, reading and supporting you x

    • Ellen said:

      I appreciate that, thank you plf.

  2. Sounds like one of those really tough situations where all the options are just not very good. You have a good relationship with Ron and the relationship is helping, but maybe not as much as you need. Or you can take a gamble on a new person. The hard part for me in a similar situation (slightly) was that it resonated with every other time when I needed help and didn’t get it.

    Take care. tt’s hard.

    • Ellen said:

      It is hard. I’m thinking i have to go elsewhere. But, my thinking could change later. And everything is mixed together – the awfulness of the flashbacks, emotions, feelings about Ron, everything. Just a mess. Thank you.

  3. Rachel said:

    The anger seems to have a different energy to it than the depression. Perhaps a move mobilizing emotion. A call to action, in a sense. I’m sorry that you continue to feel like you are not getting the proper support for processing trauma from Ron. That must be utterly frustrating, when you have conversations that seem cyclical and not leading to changes you desire. I think you are doing a good job of bringing it up, and I am glad he listens to you and you feel supported in that way at least.

    • Ellen said:

      Well, I doubt Ron will change, no matter what I say. It’s a mess. Thanks.

  4. Cat said:

    Trauma does seem to bring up a lot of anger and sometimes we don’t even know where it comes from or what it’s all about.

    What you said about Ron not applying theory and showing little sign of knowing what’s happening, is how I feel about Paul. It’s sometimes hard to believe any of us are keeping track because I am dissociating and he is so laid back and takes it as it comes. I remember a blog post I read by a retired Psychotherapist who said, as much as we think they should, they don’t know what’s going on beneath our exterior, and how we think we are responding may not actually be how we come across.

    When you started talking about Ron saying there are different techniques, I wondered if he might be confusing things. I didn’t think you meant new techniques, but rather new theories with techniques, there’s a difference.

    There is a lot to gain from clearing the air with the Therapist and while I do think a considerable amount of anger is misplaced, there is still the question of what would best serve your healing. Sometimes the fear of the unknown clouds our vision and holds us back.

    • Ellen said:

      Exactly, about anger.

      Sorry you have similar issues with Paul. Maybe it’s true, I’m not showing the signs that Ron needs to figure things out. But then, he’s not looking for them either.

      Ron is setting up a ‘straw man argument’. It’s a favorite of his, do you know it? You reduce the other person’s views to something that is kind of silly or ridiculous, and then argue against that. Of course I don’t mean techniques – that’s his reframing of what i’m saying.

      Maybe the fear of the unknown is clouding my vision – that could very well be.

      Thanks Cat.

      • Cat said:

        Straw man? Nope, I haven’t heard of that one, but don’t like the sound of it…mmm

  5. leb105 said:

    I get the feeling that your anger at Ron is a defense – better to be furiously angry at him than to feel what you’re feeling. What you’re feeling is HIS FAULT! This would be a familiar gambit of mine.
    What specifically attracts you, from your reading of current best practice?

    • Ellen said:

      Um – I think anger is what I’m feeling. However, it’s very possible that the anger is misplaced – it could be the anger of a young child being abused. The memory isn’t coming clear, so I don’t really know much about it. There are also a lot of other feelings there.

      I like the idea of establishing safety, then venturing into memory/trauma work slowly and carefully. Plus, I’d like the idea of someone who has worked with people with PTSD and dissociative disorders before, so everything isn’t entirely new to them. I think you can learn a lot even just from reading about people with particular diagnoses, like mine, if you’re so inclined. I’m sorrowful that Ron is not interested.

      Thanks.

      • leb105 said:

        Anger (real anger) can be a secondary emotion, to something else that’s more threatening – like fear. My recent bout of anger at H seems to have preceded a breakthrough… maybe a change is just over the horizon, for you?
        Do you know or read anyone who has experienced and been helped by this approach?
        It sounds as if Ron is saying that traumatic memories tend to blow up – they’re not on a dimmer switch – and as difficult as it assuredly is for you, it sounds as if you are tolerating the treatment. You’re holding down a job – one that would be difficult for a lot of people. You live independently. You’re able to recover without heavy drugs, all on your own (thanks, Ron!). How’d you do it, this time?
        If it were easier on your adult you, and less disruptive of your parts-free life, you might never get where you’re going!
        The idea, isn’t it? is to be gradually desensitized to these memories and feelings, to the degree that you’re able to NOT freak out (be overwhelmed) and to stay on your feet and start to distinguish what’s actually happening in your mind and body? Also to learn how to recover your balance, with help if it’s available, but also without, if it’s not.
        Maybe you’d like him to acknowledge how difficult this is for you, that you shouldn’t have to go through this. To assure you that it will be worth it if you hang on.
        I hope you’ll keep letting him know the things you don’t think he knows or notices, and keep questioning what you know he thinks. It’s not like he reads your blog, he probably knows less of what’s happening for you, than we do!
        best wishes…

        • Ellen said:

          So what was the breakthrough?

          I think lots of people are helped by it. You are presumably being helped by it yourself.

          Thanks for saying positive things about me – I can’t think of anything positive at the moment, but it’s true, I cope. I’m sure if I were taking big drugs, I would actually not bounce back.

          You are explaining this the way Ron would explain it. Maybe he is right and I am wrong.

          No, he knows a lot more about me than you do. The blog is just a slice – and I tell him about this stuff also.

          I have mixed feelings about all this for sure – it’s pretty painful.

          Thanks.

          • leb105 said:

            “I like the idea of establishing safety, then venturing into memory/trauma work slowly and carefully.”
            I meant, do you know or read of trauma survivors who have been helped by this new, slow and careful approach? Does it feel slow and careful – from the client’s side?
            It’s easy for the therapist to think that’s what they’re doing, but perhaps any unusual amount of feeling can seem frightening, and like too much, for the client? The objective way to know that it is actually tolerable, is to look at whether or not the person is able to cope. Yes it throws you for a loop – and the part of you that is self-appointed to keep “chaos” at bay, resents having to clean up the mess (but really, it’s afraid).

            My breakthrough (thanks for asking) is in feeling my emotions and in listening for them. I had a therapist 20 years ago who told me that “people in therapy usually know their emotions”. Well, I didn’t. I haven’t made much progress in life (I’m 58, single, unemployed, childless, friendless), and a LOT of therapy (and group therapy, and time spent thinking and writing about therapy) hasn’t really changed that – and I was angry and disappointed. On top of that, therapy was feeling pretty irritating! Howard didn’t seem to be taking me seriously, I felt as if he were mocking me, and I was almost ready to quit in disgust! But things are happening, now. Changes, inside. Sometimes, there’s an inner voice. Recently, I realized I felt irritated and resentful at someone I initially liked, and I found that I could tick off what had happened to change my feeling. I wonder if I’m starting to have a Self, where before I didn’t. I think I was pretty invisible to my parents, and they weren’t good mirrors. They didn’t know their feelings. I couldn’t tell you what I’m “like” – I’m invisible to myself.
            So, now I can begin the therapy of someone who (kind of) knows their feelings!

            • Ellen said:

              No, I don’t know anyone. Just online people, if that counts. What I hear from them is the therapist is in agreement that pacing and safety are concerns, in a way that they don’t seem to be for Ron.

              That seems like a real important and vital change, to start feeling your feelings and knowing what they are. Good to hear you are making progress. It’s extra hard when you start off at such a difficult place that you don’t feel you have a Self.

  6. Another perspective to consider….I’m reading a book about counseling and how it works. One of the theories is that it is the relationship with the client that carries more weight than what technique is used. I also encountered the attitude from my counselor that all emotions are ‘good’ negative or not. I chuckled about your comment about repressing happy memories, believe it or not, you did. Unfortunately, anger is easier to trigger and trumps all other emotions. It is a primal “get the Hell out of Dodge” reaction which is great if you are being chased by a tiger. My counselor was constantly purposely getting me angry then he would help me explore which emotion was hiding under it. I also learned that depression is anger without enthusiasm. Doesn’t that just suck? Once, I waded through my lake of anger and turned depression back into anger then explored what I had hidden, I did start having random happy memories. It was kind of weird. I would be walking somewhere and I would just remember something from my past that I felt really happy. It was awesome. The further into healing I slogged the more times it happens. I think the metaphor is finding gold while sluicing through all the garbage of my life. I am cheering for you. Sitting with angry, sad, hurt, and fearful emotions is difficult. Cleaning out old wounds worth the price in my opinion. But I am also talking on the other side of 10 years of counseling. Hugs, Ruth

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for telling me all this Ruth. Some found good memories would be something to look forward to. Hugs.

  7. Wow ellen this all sounds quite chaotic and messy. I’m glad ron listened it is good he gave you space to bring all this up but his views on therapy seem old fashioned. maybe you should try to find that trauma specialist after all. or do the trauma yoga. X

  8. I kind of agree with manyofus1980. The field has learned a lot about the treatment of repressed memories and trauma since the mid/late 1990s. I know this because I went to therapy then and am in therapy again now. It may be that I’m older, in a better place in my life, etc., but I also feel the therapy I am getting now does not retraumatize me in the way that earlier therapy did. In that earlier therapy, there was a lot of me feeling like the abused child, and I felt very helpless. My current therapist helps build my stronger wiser self as a comfort and healer for the traumatized child. This is not to say it’s not painful and difficult but I feel I am making progress in a way I didn’t before.

    Also ignore the false memory garbage. It will just make you feel terrible. My current therapist finally convinced me that the issue was not the exact accuracy of my traumatic memories but the healing that I needed. Letting go of “did I make it all up” was one of the most helpful things I have done for myself.

    Wishing you all the best, Q.

    • Ellen said:

      Glad you’ve found therapy a better experience this time around Q.

      I’m still going back and forth in my mind on all this, on whether I need to leave. I am very attached to Ron, and it’s not easy for me to find someone I can relate to. Plus, he is open to what I need – I may be able to slow things down just on my end. But yes, it would be nice if he had some clue that trauma is being treated differently nowadays. But, Ron is so excellent in some ways.

      Yeah. I lived through the false memory BS in the nineties, and it really upset me then. It’s not something I care anything about now.

      Thanks for commenting Q.

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