Therapy Saturday

This weekend is for re-grouping. I’ve lost another job, and it is partly my fault, my issues. It feels pretty bad. I know it’s not all me, but I’m not blameless that’s for sure. They’ll never tell me – when people are let go, if it’s not a budget issue or some such, they will always make it about performance.  The end product just wasn’t good enough. They’ll never say it’s your attitude.

Anyway. Therapy Saturday. It was better than it has been for a while. We did get into it a bit at the start, but it seemed like Ron listened and got it more than in the past. Right at the start, as I was already feeling completely dragged out, I said I hope this doesn’t make it worse. Then Ron says – so it’s hard to know what to do, when you don’t want to get upset. Which was not at all what I said.

I explained about how I skip right over feeling things to overwhelm and shut down. How I do want to feel. We always get into this tedious discussion about how you have to feel things to heal. I know.  I agree. It’s just that what we do sometimes doesn’t help me feel – it just spins me into overwhelm.

So, Ron said, you’re just reacting to feelings, instead of feeling them? Yes. That’s it. I react instead. So he seemed to understand.

The other main thing I talked about was how I’ve noticed in the past week that parts do not know how to label what they’re feeling. I noticed that especially with the teenage part V. She gets overwhelmed right away and screams about wanting to die. Nothing I did seemed to have much effect. But this week, I noticed if I say, You’re feeling angry at this situation, or frustrated, or sad, or whatever – it helped. She stopped screaming. Having labels and words for feelings makes them manageable. Oh – that’s what that is. It’s a feeling. It has a name, it’s about something. If you don’t have that, everything feels like a huge cyclone of badness.

I have that to some extent also I think. I’m not very good at labeling an emotion and telling some kind of little story about it. And feeling emotions separately, instead of altogether.

So the rest of the session, we worked on labeling what I was feeling as I was feeling it. It was hard work. Plus I felt more right there in the session. Instead of talking a lot, and feeling it all in one horrible lump after.

We also talked a bit about what had happened at work. Ron was sympathetic, not blaming me much at all. At these points, it’s nice to have a sympathetic ear. I already feel horrible about it all, and I can see my part in it.

I was drawing/doodling for most of the session, as we slowly talked. That really helps a lot. The part that’s drawing, a really young part, gets to be there too, without having to plunge into that part’s trauma. It is so very important somehow. This time Ron expressed some interest in what she’d drawn, and that felt good too. We made up some story about what it was, and then he said something about what it looked like to him.

I left full of feelings, as naming them seemed to bring them out more. Kind of teary and vulnerable. And Ron did seem to care – he sat forward on his footstool and leaned in a bit towards me, which feels caring to me.

So was I overwhelmed this weekend? Not as much. I coped both days somewhat, but I’m really bummed about my job. I’ve taken care of some basics at least. I didn’t end up switched into a child part, so  that is a real bonus. I think this idea of carefully naming feelings is going to be really helpful.

One feeling we discussed was fear. I was talking about work, and how I felt attacked. The feeling attacked was maybe like a memory – an impression of being young and being attacked. So being attacked – that’s not a feeling, I say. What’s the feeling? Fear, says Ron. And I realize, a lot of my angry responses at work must have been based on fear – on feeling attacked, feeling powerless and full of fear.

Kind of too bad there wasn’t time to work this out, so I could change my behaviour. It does take time to change responses – if you just get punished right away, that possibility of change disappears.

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20 comments
  1. leb105 said:

    A real turning point! I wonder if that’s what happens with me. We always talk about language being symbolic, but being so much less than the thing it labels – and in this case, that’s a really good thing.

    • Ellen said:

      I hope it is, thanks. I’m not totally sure what you’re saying about language as regards feelings….I know words can be used to distance yourself from feelings also. For me, having words for something gives me a way of dealing with it. Many people learn that as children, but i didn’t. Thanks Laura

  2. e.Nice said:

    That makes a lot of sense, reacting to feelings is going to be hard to manage, especially if you don’t know what the feelings are. I think its especially hard if you are used to shutting down the feelings before you even get a look at them (frequently happens for me anyways). I agree that as you start naming, becoming aware of feelings more show up. its actually kind of annoying. Glad you coped this weekend and I hope today goes well too.

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, I shut right down before I feel feelings, because I get overwhelmed, so I want to slow the whole process down so I can feel them instead. More feelings do show up, exactly. Thank you nice.

  3. Rachel said:

    It takes a lot of time to changes responses! But recognizing in the moment something is happening, reflecting, and then figuring out the source can help for future instances. I think you worked through this really well, Ellen. Really. Sure, you reacted, but you have been thoughtful and that is what counts. These are deep, deep wounds being activated. Of course your defenses went into overdrive.

    • Ellen said:

      Yeah, I think my defenses going into overdrive sums it up. At the moment I feel so at fault. At least I’m aware. And I know there were other factors at play. Thanks Rachel

      • Rachel said:

        I get it, and even if it was all your fault (which I don’t personally believe), I hope you can give yourself compassion. It was a very difficult situation with little to zero support. You did your absolute best.

        • Ellen said:

          I did do my best. Thanks Rachel.

  4. Naming feelings is hard. But also important and I’m glad you felt like it helped. Its good you felt able to function this weekend after such a tough session. XX

  5. Ashana M said:

    This seems really important. I’m glad.

    I can relate to what you say about labeling feelings. The weird thing is I can label them if I look sort of from the outside. I mean, from the way I behave or feel in a removed way–like if my heart rate increases, I know I am worried, for example. But it’s like i have no idea what feeling it might be if I am experiencing it in a more visceral way–as though there is no connection between the label and the inside of my body. Sometimes it takes a long, long time before I can even identify it, and I have learned I just need to be patient. Eventually it will become clear. It really seems very important. It’s as though I assumed emotions were experienced in a completely different way than they normally happen.

    Good work.

    • Ellen said:

      It does seem important. I think it might be a great way to start sorting out which feelings are related to the present and which to the past…just from the effort of identifying what’s happening in the present.

      Thanks for describing your process. That is very removed. Hmm….I might try that. It sounds like you are sort of guessing at what the feeling is in relation to your visceral reactions. I find I am guessing also to some extent, and seeing if what I come up with seems to resonate.

      Thanks Ash.

  6. I often have trouble naming feelings, or even having them. I am numb a lot of the time, or (like you), overly activated. One thing that sometimes helps is when E. asks me to look at a list of feeling words. She has a huge list, organized by a set of feelings. So under “fear,” she’ll have anxious, worried, uncertain, frightened, terrified… We’ll go down the list, and I’ll say no, not this, not that, not the other one, hm maybe it’s suspicious. A lot of the time we’ll even depersonalize it, so it’s not what I feel, but what the little girl in me might be feeling. Actually that usually helps me more, to think about what this other part might be feeling.

    I still need to get better at self-soothing when I’m super activated. Sometimes it can take me days to come down from something that set me off, and during that time, instead of thinking about feelings and needs, I’ll think, “I just want to hurt myself” and “I’m so bad.” One thing I’m working on is figuring what part of me is saying those things and what the real underlying feeling is, what that part needs.

    All this is to say I can relate. And perhaps having a list would also make it easier for you to name your feelings? Just an idea.

    • Ellen said:

      Interesting you have similar issues Q. I know what you mean about parts – for me also, this is kind of how they think, and finding the underlying feeling and giving them the words helps them stop ‘screaming’ those thoughts. For me, it was huge to realize that this not recognizing/labeling feelings is an issue.

      The list does sound helpful. This is not something Ron would do, provide a list, though if I specifically ask him to he will do that technique with me. He likes to be very ‘organic’ – no techniques. Which has its pluses and its minuses. I might try the list idea on my own first.

      Thanks for sharing and for the suggestion.

      • What is that like, organic with no technique? I have a hard time even imagining…

        • Ellen said:

          Well…I was writing in short hand. Ron does in fact have a theory and technique that he uses. I meant that he doesn’t really do any of the shorter techniques that are out there, for instance, looking at lists of feelings. Or say, talking about ‘the window of tolerance’, or any of the CBT type techniques. He won’t teach anything like that. However, if I say something that is, say, mean to myself, he would point that out. And he now does grounding with me at the end of sessions, even if I don’t initiate it, since I wanted to try it and it was helpful at times.

          I like his approach because you do not turn into a project or a science experiment. For instance, I don’t have to monitor my thoughts in any mechanical way, or constantly strive to improve by meditating, or whatever. I’m always a person first and foremost, not a project for improvement.

          Sometimes though, I want to try some of these other approaches. And he will go along with me, so I appreciate that.

          Hope that helps. Cheers

          • E. has a lot of “techniques.” She has handouts she’s developed and refined over time, and she has a general approach she takes to healing trauma. But she presents these as options I can pick up if they are useful to me or leave them aside. Sometimes I take them and using them as a starting point to go somewhere else. So I guess she has some structures but she is loose with them and ultimately lets me lead.

            • Ellen said:

              Sounds like a good mix. 🙂

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