Fourth day

This is my fourth day of being mostly unable to function after a therapy session, if I count Thursday, when I had a session in the morning. Yesterday a friend phoned me, and I answered the phone, but when she asked me if I wanted to do an activity with her, I couldn’t answer, I was so down. I apologized and told her i shouldn’t have answered the phone, and she said she was going to hang up and if I decided I wanted to do something together I could call her back. OK.

It would have been nice if she’d asked me what was wrong or if I wanted to talk. But I know this friend doesn’t really do feelings. Still a bit hurtful that she didn’t say anything but that she was going to hang up.

I thought I’d be better by now. I thought at least I’d make it to church, and it seemed impossible to go when the time for it came. Since then I’ve been lying on the couch and in bed mostly. I did do the dishes, showered and dressed.

I am obsessed with this last session. Or my feelings about Ron. But it’s not like normal thought, it’s more like a crisis. It’s as if I’ve been shocked, and can’t calm down into a normal state. I’ve started doing a meditation tape I have in an effort to relax, to let this stuff move through and process instead of staying stuck.

I’ve been going over what happened. First of all, I’d wanted not just to give a recap of my life in the last week – I’d wanted to go with something meaningful. I told Ron a dream I remembered, as he’s really good with dreams. This was at the start of session – maybe that was too intense for me. The dream had to do with my childhood. It wasn’t obviously distressing, but my childhood is distressing, and talking about a dream seems to bring feelings rushing to the surface.

I think it’s a problem that when I’m discussing things with Ron from an adult perspective, it’s like speaking from a distance, because a lot of my feelings are stored in parts. So I don’t get the full force of them, and then I don’t communicate them to Ron, and he thinks apparently that what we’re discussing isn’t having much effect on me. I can be thinking that also actually. I feel vague uneasy feelings that things are going on in the background though, and then all of a sudden it’s too much, and so I try to stop the discussion because I’m truly overwhelmed. Ron then thinks I’m avoiding my feelings about whatever we’re discussing, because I’m afraid of the pain, and that it’s his job to push and persist at this point. Then we have an unpleasant mild type of conflict, where I never do get to express what’s come up for me, and I don’t get his support, as he thinks I’m avoiding the whole thing. Then I go home and cannot function. This time for days at a time.

I’ve really just figured this out. It’s been happening all along, but has been worse this past year. And then Ron feels I’m not making progress, and it’s because I’m avoiding, so he escalates his part in this.

I did try to explain a part of this to him. It is extremely hard to explain how things are working to a therapist in the middle of your own therapy. The transference is this black and sticky substance, and somehow, you have to try and ignore it and explain something, which goes against what your therapist believes, and it’s his profession, so he’s not likely to change his mind on anything he believes. Especially as you cannot put your emotions aside far enough to make any kind of convincing case.

At one point, I said that a problem I have is parts are involved in these emotions. So why not let parts speak here. Which Ron is agreeable to. The problem being, I don’t have control of parts. They do not wish to jump into a current discussion. They want to be themselves. If B comes forward, she starts speaking on a completely different track to what we’re talking about. Then Ron concludes that I’m distracting and avoiding. So B stops speaking, her feelings very hurt, and more frustration and conflict with Ron ensues.

At one point we were speaking about my mother. How difficult it is that she doesn’t respond. And Ron had a lot to say about my family, none of which I can remember now. I was feeling worse and worse, and the sense of him going on and paying no attention to how I was feeling was so strong. And I see now I expressed myself poorly. I knew I wanted him to stop talking, but wasn’t clear what the problem was. If I could have expressed my feelings of overwhelming sadness, or despair, or whatever they were, I bet he would have been supportive. It really was as if I was bleeding out at a traffic accident, and the person trying to help me started lecturing on blood clotting properties. I couldn’t pay attention to him or understand him either.

I can see now how he is not seeing how distressed I am, and it’s partly my fault, as I’m not expressing it. I’m so used to keeping my distress under wraps. It would be nice if he was looking for that problem, but he’s not, for some reason. One thing about Ron, he is definitely empathetic to emotions and distress once he sees they are there.

I did send him an email the day after the session in an attempt to repair this. The email was pretty much like my post describing the session. He replied that evening. His reply made things worse though. To me, it read so condescending. “I can see how hard this is for you.” Not addressing a single thing I said in the email. I am tempted to email back Fuck off and die. But – how would I feel then? He would not respond. I would feel like an abuser.

How to wrap this up. I’m hoping if I keep writing, somehow I’ll get my balance back.


  1. This sounds so hurtful– you described your feeling of what happened so well, the analogy of a bleeding out at an accident. I’m sorry things are so messy and hard. I agree you shouldn’t be having to educate your therapist; that is such an uncomfortable situation. I hope things get better. Keep writing, sometimes I find sense in my writing. I hope you do, too. Sending hugs if you want them. Xx

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, writing helps. Thank you Alice

  2. Laura Burns said:

    This seems like really good work, E! I wish you had the advantage of being in Group and seeing others wrestle as you do with being transparent, changing direction based on what’s happening, and asking for what you think will be helpful. More later…

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Laura. But as I found group unhelpful and damaging, I have to say I am very glad I am not in group. It didn’t help me at all.

  3. Ashana M said:

    That sounds really clear and it makes so much sense. It is almost like if you didn’t need therapy, therapy would be really great. It does sound more like you really do need someone who knows more about complex trauma or about dissociation, because I think you are right that this is his training. His training is to push you out of your comfort zone, so that you grapple with emotions. It isn’t to help you regulate the emotions so that they can be processed as they come up. He also doesn’t see that the more shut down you are, the more distressed you are feeling. He doesn’t see that as overwhelm. He sees it as resistance he needs to push against. He also doesn’t see that this impulse to connect like B has can be gently brought into your core persona if he is accepting of it. He rejects her, and it is sort of doomed as an endeavour to get that desire to connect to move towards what your adult self would like to actually connect about. It’s interesting that he could only use the strategies that were so helpful to you it the bioroom in that setting. He couldn’t use the same strategies in a different context to help you stay with your feelings. This is so hard.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, if I didn’t need it, therapy would be excellent. lol.

      It is interesting how different he was in the bio room. It’s when he starts needing to talk that things go pear shaped. Which is a problem. You’ve articulated the problem really well.

      Just wondering – do you get why this is so hard for me? The feelings are of course difficult, but beyond that? Thanks

      • Ashana M said:

        Maybe. I get that you are not in synch, and you have to cope with your feelings, while what he is doing makes them more and more difficult to deal with. So you have to figure out how to manage your own feelings and how to get him to change how he interacts with you while your brain goes melty and it becomes more and more difficult to devise any sensible plan of action about either problem. It seems like he does not realize in these moments when you ask him to stop talking that you are actually feeling something quite powerful. He seems to have no idea. Which to me, makes sense that you would stop expressing emotions in those moments, because in tense moments your family couldn’t handle emotions. He seems to have no idea, which I have found to be not uncommon, but it’s still surprising to me.

        I am rambling now, I know, but it seems like one of the underpinnings of psychodynamic therapy is that you bring unconscious material into your awareness and then exercise more conscious control over that behaviour. So it ought to be you can see how withdrawing creates problems, and you then try harder to not withdraw. The problem is that someone with trauma is usually completely maxed out on their ability to exercise more control, and it just doesn’t work to try harder. Ron probably expects if you just try harder to express feelings in times of stress, you will find it becomes easier and easier and it doesn’t. Or with the after-therapy hangover, just try harder to get out there and be among people and it will get easier. I think he probably believes that.

        • Ellen said:

          Yes, I agree with this, with the caveat that I’m not always sure what Ron is actually thinking, but this makes sense of what he actually is doing.

          My question was actually rhetorical, though I appreciate all the thought you’ve put into your responses, and they do really illustrate the problem with some of what Ron does. For me, the reason this is so agonizing is that I am attached to Ron, a problem you didn’t seem to encounter in your therapies. So trying to leave him, especially for younger parts, is panic inducing and plunges me into such a depression I don’t feel I can survive it. Also, not everything Ron does is unskillful. He does understand family dynamics, and he does understand how to use the therapy relationship in the therapy, to some extent anyway. The whole situation is confusing and it seems if I make a wrong move, from an internal perspective, I will die. The stakes seem that high to me.

          Thanks Ash.

          • Ellen said:

            No, I didn’t mean rhetorical. My question was a feeler to see if you might know that this is a problem for me.

  4. I hope you can find balance soon too. writing is good. Keep that up. I relate to wanting to send an email where you just lash out. I’ve wanted to do that too with my therapist lots of times. xxx

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