August 6, 2019 at 11:14 am #306877
Shutting one’s eyes as an instinctive act makes sense. Yes, I agree that while abuse maybe be ‘normal’ it’s never okay.
As for examples of the questions, it’s been too long to remember them or exact wording, but many things like:
- “I wonder why you think ________.”
- “I wonder why you feel _________.”
- “It seems you think _________. I wonder why you think that.”
And I would often have no direct or immediate answer for these questions. I felt literally pelted with his questions, like I was being interrogated. It might have helped if he had drawn me out a bit and said something like:
“It seems to me you think ______. In your daily life, when do you feel this way? What’s happening? Who else is present?” Or,
“What’s the first time you can recall thinking/feeling _______? What was happening? Who was there? Is this something you felt often as a child/teen/with your parents/with your siblings/at school?”
It’s a cliché that therapists always ask the question, “And how did that make you feel?” but he never did. I wish he had. Often, I would tell him about something that happened in my daily life and that I had felt, say, stupid/embarrassed/one-down, and he would scoff when I told him that. In the moment, it felt like a scoff of disgust or annoyance that I would be so weak as to think that–and that’s probably a projection on my part based on how my father and sister treated me. After the session, I came to think it may have been a scoff of disbelief that I felt that way. He sometimes gave off the impression that he saw me as a more together person than I ever felt myself to be.
What this therapy felt like was that he was waiting for me to make some logical connections and come to some big, obvious conclusion but I just wasn’t getting there. Whatever logical connection he saw, I just wasn’t seeing. I needed more help. I needed a flashlight in the darkness, but he was saying, “No, no. There’s enough light to see. Figure it out already.” And that’s where I think the failure of therapy was. I didn’t know enough about how I should be treated, what is not just ‘normal’ or ‘typical’ behavior, but healthy behavior and attitudes. And you can’t know that if you haven’t experienced it. I think a therapist, dealing with a client from a dysfunctional background, needs to educate the client on what is healthy/productive/effective behavior and treat the client that way. You have to experience it first, and on a consistent basis, not just a one-off exposure, to know it and then make logical connections and conclusions, spot red flags and make better choices. I got some of this with the therapist I said would tell me over and over, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” One time, I came and told her about something that had happened in the previous session that had rubbed me the wrong way, and she thanked me for bringing it up with her. Sadly, my therapy with this therapist was short-lived because her husband needed to move across the country for a job change. I would have continued seeing her if that hadn’t happened because I felt like I was making some progress in therapy for the first time.
August 6, 2019 at 11:30 am #306885
- This reply was modified 1 week, 6 days ago by Lost soul.
Dear Lost Soul:
I will read and reply when I am back to the computer, in about a couple of hours, but possibly later than that.
anitaAugust 6, 2019 at 11:32 am #306889
Before I forget… there’s another thing about that therapy that probably lead to it being a failure.
One thing I’ve always longed for in life is to be deeply known. For someone to get how I feel, what my experience has been. I went into that therapy with that desire, although I didn’t articulate it. I didn’t even think to articulate it. But I somehow assumed it would be part of the process. And come before the therapist tried to get me to think differently or teach me skills or whatever. So I was always telling the therapist more… more anecdotes and stories about my family and how they treated me and I think he was really tired of hearing them and wanted me to move on and get over it already.
Lost SoulAugust 6, 2019 at 5:55 pm #306925
Dear Lost Soul:
I started to read your recent posts but I know that I need to be more focused to read thoroughly, that is, to understand better. I will therefore read and reply to you tomorrow, about 12- 15 hours from now.
anitaAugust 7, 2019 at 6:33 am #306985
Dear Lost Soul:
You wrote earlier regarding your parents: “Their interest in me as a person was non-existent… Yes, they fed, sheltered, and clothed me. But they didn’t bother to understand me, guide me, give me hope and encouragement, or make me feel wanted and valued”-
– these are the things you need from a therapist: to understand you, guide you, give you hope and encouragement and make you feel wanted and valued in the context of the therapeutic relationship.
When a therapist asked you: “I wonder why you think”, if it was asked in a neural tone of voice, devoid of emotion, it sends you the message that he … is not interested. What you need is emotion from a therapist. You need to see and hear that the therapist doesn’t just wonder why, that he really wants to know and understand you better.
“I felt literally pelted with his questions, like I was being interrogated”- and he didn’t notice your distress and kept asking questions? You don’t need yet another person to not see you, that is, to be invisible yet to another person.
You suggested that he could have asked: “In your daily life, when do you feel this way? What’s happening?”- these questions would have shown you that he was interested in understanding you.
“he would scoff when I told him (having felt stupid, embarrassed..)” You felt that it was a scoff of disgust or annoyance, but you figure maybe that was a projection on your part and the scoff may have meant disbelief that you felt the way you did because he thought you were “a more together person”- either one of these meanings behind a therapist’s scoffing is harmful to any client.
If indeed “he was waiting for (you) to make some logical connections and come to some big, obvious conclusion”, then he should have worked in academia, dealing with the intellect alone. In therapy, emotions need to be attended to. Emotions and Intellect, both.
For therapy to be effective, the client has to trust the therapist to care for the client, to work hard for the benefit of the client, to treat the client empathetically and respectfully. If you want (let me know), I can copy and paste for you here a paper my therapist gave me at the time after a few sessions, plus some notes he gave me at a later date, at the beginning of therapy. It will give you an idea of what I mean by a hard working, empathetic, respectful, professional therapist.
August 7, 2019 at 2:52 pm #307085
- This reply was modified 1 week, 5 days ago by anita.
It’s funny reading your description because out of the different therapists I’ve seen, whether it was for two sessions or twenty, he sounds pretty bad, doesn’t he? But honestly, in terms of quality/effectiveness, I would put him in third place, lol.
…Okay, if I made a list of therapists I’ve seen, I guess I could scratch out ones I only saw, say four times or less. So that would eliminate any I saw in school and a few others I went round to check out for an initial session or two, which leaves six therapists. And yes, he would probably be in third place.
I don’t have any enmity for that therapist though I do for a couple of the others. And to be fair to him, I realized as I got older that I didn’t tell him everything about my childhood. I didn’t tell him as well as a few of the others some of the more egregious anecdotes of my childhood, so he didn’t get the full picture of my childhood. Honestly, I didn’t even think to tell him some of these stories, and if I had thought about them, I probably wouldn’t have told him or anyone at that time out of embarrassment.
[Though I mentioned I had extras like music lessons/sports/activities, before I was in high school I thought my parents were just getting by money-wise. Many things we would ask for–even non-frill type things–were an automatic ‘no’, and then there were times that major appliances broke down or things would break down in the house–plumbing, electrical, heat–and we would go without for days or weeks. I won’t give graphic details of what this meant for our daily lives, but I can say it did prepare me well for camping when I was older.
As a child, I thought things not getting repaired for awhile was from lack of money… decades later, I found old bank statements and other documents that showed otherwise. While my father was by no means rich, there was plenty of money that could have been used for repairs and no financial reason for us to have gone without whatever it was at the time. We could even have afforded a few vacations. He had my mom believing this too; he was very controlling and she had no idea what their finances were… even when my dad died, she didn’t know for sure the true state of their finances. My mom was probably the only mom at our white-bread suburban elementary school who knew how to use a chainsaw or had to split firewood on a regular basis. She told me she felt like she was on a short leash moneywise, which is part of why she got mad when I would stood my ground that time and insisted on getting new underwear. I stood up for myself that time because I was getting razzed at school for the state of my holey, falling apart old underwear when I had to change for gym class.]
I’ve been feeling awful the past couple days… frustrated, bitter, resentful. I had an unpleasant interaction with someone the other day that brought up old feelings because I wasn’t being heard, was talked over and was treated coldly. While I’m angered, I’m also feeling fed up with myself for being so easily affected by someone else’s crappy behavior. It makes me feel like I’m weak to let it get to me. The frustration, bitterness and resentment are feelings I recognize from childhood, from times when I either couldn’t get my parents to understand my needs and/or couldn’t get them to meet my needs. Although, now that I’ve written this message, I’m feeling a bit better… more relaxed. I was really irritable when I started it. I was so mixed up earlier today, I could barely think straight. When I get like this, the only thing I can do is simple tasks like cleaning, chores, etc.; I’m not much good for any to-do list item that’s complex or takes a lot of interaction with others. I’ve picked two therapists to interview, but I’ve been too mentally wiped out to think about what to ask them.
I’d be happy to read the paper you mentioned whenever you have time to post it.
Lost SoulAugust 7, 2019 at 4:14 pm #307111
Dear Lost Soul:
I read your recent post and want to re-read it and reply tomorrow. I plan to send you the paper I mentioned as well, paste it into the post tomorrow. Be back in about 14 hours from now. I hope you rest well.
anitaAugust 8, 2019 at 6:00 am #307139
Dear Lost Soul:
In my first post to you this morning I will send you the therapy notes from my 2011 therapy. The following is a copy of the “Treatment Plan” that my therapist handed to me after a few sessions with him. I omitted some of the words (“…”)
1. Develop and use coping skills to deal with mood swings.
2. Develop the ability to control impulsive behavior.
3. Replace “black and white” thinking with the ability to tolerate ambiguity and complexity in people and issues.
4. Develop and use anger management skills.
5. Learn and use better interpersonal skills.
6. Stop self-damaging behaviors..
– Determine what situations trigger anger, fear, suspicion, depression, anxiety, etc.
– Identify the dysfunctional or negative thinking behind the negative feelings, and challenge/ replace them with more realistic and healthy thoughts.
– Understand the connection between what happened in the past, and what is happening now when emotions become intense.
– Build motivation to stop self-defeating, impulsive behaviors.
– Replace destructive (to self or others), impulsive habits w/ healthy coping methods
– Teach assertiveness in communication
– Identify ways to find fulfillment and satisfaction
– See qualified physician to evaluate if medications are advisable.
What the Work Will Look Like
– Committing to ending suicidal threats, replaced with other ways of solving problem ad dealing with intense negative emotions.
– Journaling and Thought Records to track what’s behind the negative feelings in the moment.
– Mood logs, examining evidence, role playing.
– Discuss the past and how it seems to invade the present.
– Look at benefits and costs of behaviors you’ve used to protect yourself from intense bad feelings.
– Learn to monitor and recognize when these feelings arise, and use distraction techniques early in the experience (delaying reactions, relaxation, breathing, exercise,…)
– Learn new ways to talk, act, and think when emotions (especially suspicion or anger) becomes intense.
– Learn and use communication skills to deal with those emotions (speaking and written exercises w/ (husband), in session and at home)
– Experiment with activities that might be fun, relaxing and personally meaningful
– Get additional support via phone and additional meetings”
A copy of another paper he gave me later on:
1. I’d like to outline our treatment plan going forward, get your feedback and see how you might want to change it and how we will proceed.
2. The anxiety and depression you feel, as well as the anger you feel, can all be treated successfully. But it’s important that we work from a good diagnosis.
3. I don’t think this is bipolar disorder. In fact, I think you’ve been voicing that as well, though ultimately I’d like a physician to make an assessment…
4. I believe that how you feel, think, and behave have largely to do with the way you were abused as a child. Your mother left you with a legacy of pain, fear, and emptiness that can seem impossible to overcome. The painful legacy she left matches the depth of the abuse.
5. Yes Anita, I truly believe that this legacy of pain can be overcome (In fact, I believe you began making steps toward this before we even met.)
6. It is sadly all too common that people who grow up with the suffering your experienced learn that it is too risky to trust- to trust even someone you love. And that when love does appear, it must be verified again and again. Does this seem familiar?
7. It’s understandable that, with the abuse you were dealt, you might find it hard to believe that you are worthy of love, or that you may not always feel trust for those who say they love you. Again, your very difficult childhood comes to mind.
8. getting better, feeling better, having better relationships are all possible. But we must be honest: the work that needs to happen is significant. The effort that is needed to help you tolerate and alter the pain, and change the angry or compulsive behaviors takes time and practice. We can go as fast or as slow as you need, but it will not be easy or comfortable some of the time.
9. What makes the work hard is that to survive the abuse you’ve been through you have had to develop survival habits, almost like skills, that assured you would live through the trauma.
10. Now you must unlearn those habits and try new skills. Can you see how this might feel risky? Here are some of the things you must unlearn…
11. For example, you learned to disassociate- to separate yourself from the pain you were going through. That was the only way to bear the pain.. to separate your body and mind from it.
11a. In therapy you will learn skills to regulate your emotions, to keep them from becoming too intense, and even to tolerate them. You will learn/ know that these intense feelings will pass, and to focus on changing that thoughts that might be making the pain worse.
12. You also learned deep skepticism and distrust of people who say they love you. After all, who loves a child more than its mother? Yet what kind of love did/ could your mother show? So love itself might seem like a dangerous idea to you..
12a. In therapy, you will learn to be in loving relationships, to develop trust and communicate assertively. Your needs are important, how to get them met is a skill set we can all learn more of, and maybe you weren’t given a chance to learn that well.
14. Finally, to survive, you had to decide that whatever “felt wrong” in the present might be a replay of what happened in the past. Even if the present situation is very different than the past.
14a, in therapy, you’ll learn skills to make wiser decisions about what is happening, balancing your emotions with your intelligence and your instinct.
15. Are you willing, even a part of you, to learn some new skills to replace the ones above? Are you interested in a new way to see the world?”
</div>August 8, 2019 at 7:32 am #307151
Dear Lost Soul:
In response to your recent post:
“I guess I could scratch out ones I only saw, say four times or less”- in my experience, I can scratch out one therapist I saw a dozen times or more. Nothing from those sessions was left in me, nothing useful. But one session with my 2011-13 therapist left me knowing he was the one. It was clear that he was hard working, dedicated to his job, from the first session. But even though he was great, when I left him/ the state I was living in, 2.5 years later, there was so much more to do, so much more healing to go through.
“Many things we would ask for- even non-frill type things- were an automatic ‘no'”- I suppose how your father stated that No is relevant, and why he did. Reads like he had a huge problem with spending money that he had, for any purpose, including the basics. He shouldn’t have had children if he cared so much about not spending money that he did have on necessities.
Impressive, your mother having used a chainsaw and splitting firewood.. and on a regular basis, my goodness! (I tried splitting wood myself, was unsuccessful). She felt that she was on a short leash with your father, “which is part of why she got mad when I..” typical, for a wife to direct her anger at the husband, to the children.
“I’ve been feeling awful… I had an unpleasant interaction with someone the other day… I wasnt being heard”- happens all the time, for example, my neighbors on one side got themselves a rooster that make all that racket repeatedly during the day. If I considered having rooster, I would think twice: will it disturb the neighbors, is it fair to them. But not the neighbors, they didn’t think or if they did, they didn’t care. It is a lack of social responsibility which is very common. It is a shame that after the abuse and neglect of our childhood, there is plenty more to encounter all through life, people being inconsiderate, unaware, uncaring and/or etc.
The frustration, bitterness, resentment you mentioned over the recent interaction are greater than they would be if that interaction didn’t activate your childhood experience that was and is still raw and intense: “I either couldn’t get my parents to understand my needs and/ or couldn’t get them to meet my needs”.
You wrote that you were irritable, “so mixed up earlier today, I could barely think straight”- that is the distress of childhood activated, this is how you felt then, long ago. And just like you were “mentally wiped out” yesterday, you were mentally wiped out as a child. We keep re-living our childhood experience. You don’t have to remember how you felt then, you are still feeling that way.
anitaAugust 12, 2019 at 12:01 pm #307679
That’s a fantastic treatment plan/outline. [Applause]
It’s a lot to process, and I’ve been very busy the past several days. If possible, I will write and post a longer reply tonight.
Lost SoulAugust 12, 2019 at 12:40 pm #307689
Dear Lost Soul:
Take your time, however long it may be.