What I was really saying was…

Towards the end of my session yesterday I told T that I had recently read a fellow bloggers post (you may recognise yourself in this if you are reading but I am keeping this anonymous for your privacy – I hope you don’t mind me writing about it!!) where she detailed that she had sent her T an email clearly showing how much pain she was in and subsequently her T’s response. I said that it had shocked me to read the T’s response because it felt so cruel and so unattuned.  I said it had really shocked me and I guess scared me in a way because I don’t know what I would do if my T did that to me.  My T has recently suggested that humiliation is a real issue for me because my mother always punished me for having needs and embarrassed me at the same time for being too needy and so I guess that is why this tapped into me so much.

I guess the worry that my T might respond to a similar email from me made me panic.  What would I do? How would I respond? How would I continue to see her? What would happen if my T were to become “bad” in my head? Then what?

My T said that often therapists who “haven’t done their own work” can sometimes struggle with knowing how to be attuned to things like this.  The push and pull of people affected by attachment trauma is palpable – to me at least – because I experience it first hand and luckily for me, my T seems to “get it” enough that I feel understood. So far at least.

I told T that I had responded to this poor lady with sympathy and said that I was sure she wouldn’t appreciate me or anyone else “slagging off” her therapist because I know I would become extremely defensive, but that I wanted her to know that I “got it”.. I said other people had responded in much the same way as me.

T said that therapists that haven’t had their own therapy and dealt with their own issues often come up against countertransference and can struggle to properly “see” the issues their client is facing enough to be able to respond in the appropriate way. For example I said that someone I know regularly threatens to cancel their next therapy appointment when distressed. I said that even I (as a completely untrained individual) understand that this isn’t really because they don’t want to go to their session, but it is out of fear and panic and pushing away when they most need something – the same way that I push my boyfriend away when I need to be held and comforted most.  My T agreed with this and said that usually someone threatening to quit or cancel sessions is for that same reason and that they mostly just need to know that their therapist WANTS them to come, that they will stay, that they won’t give up on them or abandon them – like a lot of us who have been previously abandoned and assume the same thing will happen again.

I think for me when I need my T the most that is when I am the most scared of her. I’ve written a lot recently about the fear of needing T and how I find it difficult to put into words – the fear is so huge and feels life-threatening, I think perhaps this feeling is similar for others.  I honestly believe the only reason I’ve never cancelled a session is because I am far too compliant and too much of a people pleaser to take that risk… but perhaps it will happen one day.  T often warns me that one day I will feel a lot of anger towards her and that I may not want to come.. she’s been right about everything else she’s predicted in the past despite how unbelievable it seems at first.  For example she used to ask me how it felt when she was going or on a break and I used to laugh and find this really weird… not so funny now is it Twinks? LOL.

Anyway, back to the point – therapists that have or haven’t “done their own work”. T said that therapists that haven’t worked through their own issues may be triggered by a patient in distress and this can sometimes explain the reason for a (what seems punitive) response, especially by email when it is hard to know the way in which something is meant.  I know for me I read emails in the mood that I am in rather than the way they may have been intended.  Have you ever shown someone else an email or text that you think is rude or abrupt for someone else to say they don’t see the issue? … hopefully not just me. I am hugely hypersensitive and very hypervigilent so I notice the most microscopic of change in people – another thing I can thank my mother for.

I asked T what would happen though if the therapist hadn’t had any attachment-based trauma and was dealing with a patient who was very wounded by attachment based stuff? I said what if they had no attachment problems growing up –  how would they understand? T said that nobody ever has absolutely no attachment issues.  I questioned this as I had thought for a long while now that most people who were securely attached wouldn’t have experienced ANY attachment related problems.  T said that everyone has some kind of issue growing up because no parents were absolutely perfect – and that attachment effects so much in our lives, the way we respond to life, the way we grieve, all sorts of things. She then said that therapists barely touch on attachment in their training…………………

Whhhatttttt???????? Sorry but this seems absolutely mental to me. I just assumed that all therapists learnt about attachment in a very deep and detailed way .I assumed it was the pillar of their learning? At least the fundamental building blocks no? Apparently not.  I didn’t hide my shock when T said this. I was really thrown.  She said they touch on it in a very basic way in that they learn that a baby’s attachment to its mother will have links to how that child (then adult) will grieve.. she said that all her learning has been through her own therapy, through being a therapist and through reading and training seminars etc.  Wowzas.

So I said, the thing is, I find it hard to believe that a therapist who hasn’t had deep attachment trauma could come anywhere near to understanding what people like me experience – what we feel and how we view the world, the people in it – how we see things. I just don’t think you can learn that stuff in a book.  T said she believed that experiencing things would certainly help.

I said to T that if you were a therapist that had similar issues to someone sat in front of you who was deeply distressed and crying and feeling this unbearable pain how hard that must be – that it must tap into their own issues? I said if I was a therapist and someone was in front of me going through things that I could relate to, I think I would find it incredibly difficult and would end up crying with them! T said that once you have done your own work, you hold a boundary and you don’t get affected by it in the way that I might think I would. She said once you’ve worked through your own stuff, you are boundaried and it doesn’t feel like that….

 

Okay so basically what I was saying to her was this:

T, what happened to you growing up? Did you have attachment trauma? Did you have a shit caregiver? Were you abused? Was your mother narcissistic like mine? Was your Dad an absent, head-in-the-sand coward too?  Please tell me about your life so that I can decide whether you really understand my pain.

Do you realllyyyyyyyyyyyyy understand how I feel or are you just remembering things you’ve read in books?

Why don’t you cry when I am upset?

Share your history with me please!

 

But clearly I didn’t actually say that and I think I was hoping she might work that out and ask me if that is what I was getting at – but she didn’t. Or at least she didn’t then… maybe she will think on it and what I *really* meant, we shall see.

Back to the crying conversation: T said something like “I am not really a crier” or “I don’t cry often” or something like that…. I didn’t like it when she said that because it took me a very, very, very long time to be able to cry in front of T and I still feel hugely uncomfortable and embarrassed when I do cry in front of her… for some reason her saying she isn’t a “crier” made me feel like she would judge me more than I already worried she did. Obviously though I acted as though she had said “I like cats” and just smiled and nodded in interest.

She then said that she had a previous career (“before I had my children”) (OUCHY – Why do I hate this so much. T: please stop talking about your children, I don’t like it)that had helped her with this stuff.. she didn’t expand on what that was (although in the past she has told me she worked with domestic abuse victims and that she worked in a school and a care home) – so I assume she meant one of these: my mind has since fantasied that she was saying

“I’ve worked with victims of domestic abuse who have had it much, much worse than you – that will stop you crying at attachment trauma“…

but I know that isn’t really the case.

T said it really wouldn’t be helpful if she were to cry (if a therapist were to cry) because it would put the patient in a precarious situation. She said that if someone was co-dependant or was used to parenting the adult (like me…) that person would then feel a duty to protect and look after the crying therapist. That made sense I guess.  I admitted to T that one half of me would feel like they really were moved by what I was talking about – enough to cry for me but that yes, if she were to cry I may feel I had to stop what I was saying because I wouldn’t want to be the cause of her tears… it was a double-bind.  She said that sometimes she may feel her eyes go prickly/water but that she could generally hold her own stuff back.

I said to T that therapists must see so many people cry that I guess it is hard to be moved to tears – they’ve seen it all and heard it all.. I was basically implying that nothing would shock them enough to be that moved emotionally by someone else’s pain.

I was basically saying:

Do you think that my stuff is boring?

Do you think I am over the top upset?

Do you think I should be over it by now? That compared to other clients, my stuff is very basic and not a big deal?

Do you think I exaggerate or that I feel sorry for myself?…..

 Do you ever get upset for me?

Do you ever nearly cry at what I tell you?

Do I as a person MOVE you at all?


The session was over at this point and I was standing at the door on my way out when T said that of course they get moved by things and that they’ve never seen or heard it all – that they are not robots and of course they still have their own feelings about things but they have just learnt to handle them effectively and that they need to do this in order to not “burn out”. She said that therapists who were burnt out were dangerous to their clients which was why their breaks were important. She said that burn out was a dangerous little shit.. and that she could see it from a mile away.

She said “bring this back with you next week” and I said “Yep, will do!” but I meant: l want to see if you remember and I want to see if this plays on your mind at all and you work out what I was really saying/asking you.

We shall see but I just have this feeling that she won’t, which is a shame.

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17 thoughts on “What I was really saying was…

  1. Well, it depends, some therapists won’t know what you mean or are trying to say unless you actually tell them out loud, in a very direct-explicit manner. If they’re really in tune, they might get it intuitively or inquire further. At least, that’s been my experience.

    Also, I can totally relate to wanting to know about the therapist’s “history”, to know if they’ve gone through similar issues, to know if they can truly understand what we’ve been through. In general, it seems that most therapists aren’t keen on revealing too much about their personal lives (if at all), maybe ’cause they’re concerned it might disrupt the therapeutic relationship, I don’t know.

    Anyways, hope you don’t mind if I chime in here… hugs twinkletoes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh hi Psy! Of course I don’t, I love getting comments!! I agree with all you have said. She is pretty attuned to me and I think if she thought about it properly then she could most definitely figure it out – I think if she inquired further I would perhaps make it more obvious or maybe be a bit braver but saying it in a direct-explicit manner? no way haha that’s still too scary for me.

      I am glad you know what I mean about wanting to know their history. I know very little about my T and she said that she likes to keep it that way because she doesn’t want to upset the transference and she said that sometimes you imagine things about your T and then you find out that you are wrong. For example you might assume your T likes classical music and then you hear her playing rap.. (stupid example but you get my point) and that can cause confusion apparently.

      I know she won’t tell me her history and I also don’t expect her too (it is hugely private) I guess what I want to know is, do you reallyyyyy understand and do you really care about me or do I bore you? … interesting x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah that’s a pretty great example! Not stupid, at all. 😉 Yea, I always form this image of who these therapists are and how they might be like in real life, and maybe they’re not like that at all, who knows, right? 🙂

        Well, I think most therapists actually do care about their patients; there are some articles written by therapists that state how they care about, and even love, their patients very much. Then, of course it can vary, you know the saying, there are always a few bad apples lying around. But I’m convinced that the vast majority of therapists have good intentions.

        Anyways, have a great weekend twinkletoes! xo

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  2. I don’t mind you talking about it at all. I’m glad it helped you to have a helpful conversation with your therapist.

    I disagree, though, if you are suggesting that T responded in the way she did because she hasn’t done enough of her own work to be attuned enough. T has done plenty of her own work and is ordinarly extremely well attuned to me. We have done years and years of therapy so we know each other pretty well. I wasn’t as hurt by her response as others were – she was validating my need for a break, and also respecting my wishes – where we struggle is because there is more than one of me internally and everyone’s wishes are different. To force me to come would have upset the part with a genuine desire to have a break. Allowing me to choose upset Little who wanted to be begged to come. Sometimes nothing she does is right. But she always does everything with great love.

    We all love imperfectly. She loves me imperfectly. We all get it wrong sometimes – this is especially difficult with my circumstances. But don’t worry that it’s because she hasn’t had enough training or because she hasn’t done her own work. I would never share her training or her own personal attributes that make her so qualified to work with me because it’s not for me to share, but i feel completely confident that she is one of the best and most experienced people I could possibly work with.

    I guess what I’m saying is we all love imperfectly but that doesn’t necessarily stop us being perfect for someone in an imperfect w ay….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey! Oh its lovely to see you write here in response to this, I wouldn’t have blamed you for staying quiet! Very brave.

      Firstly, thanks for the comment and secondly, I personally wasn’t suggesting that at all. My T seemed to be, admittedly but that’s not to say that I agree with her and my T didn’t have all the information either did she about your parts or about your T’s background and education blah blah… so I hope that you forgive any implication that is what I meant, because I didn’t.

      Either way though, it did open a helpful dialougue with my T which has led me to think much more about things that I question about her and how she thinks and sees me which has been helpful.

      I know how loyal we are to our T’s and I know how wonderful the relationship is between all of us out there and our respective T’s so absolutely no offence was aimed at your’s, I promise.

      As for loving imperfectly – I agree to that!! xx

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      1. I think that’s part of what is so helpful about the blog world – it opens up conversations with our Ts and also with ourselves – your comment helped me to take a step back and look more calmly at what was happening which really helped me see T as less of a bad guy and more as someone who was trying to help. It’s such a wonderful support network.

        Xx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I had pledged not to comment on other posts because I always seem to offend the person but you always post such interesting and articulate posts! That said, I hope that I don’t offend you with anything that I say.

    I think that the good therapists will have had therapy themselves. They are more likely to be empathetic and passionate (if you know what I mean) if it is a vocation. I don’t think that a lot of the staff in the NHS mental health services, for example, are there vocationally because I have heard some terrible stories!

    I personally am not bothered if my T understands what I have been through. She is empathetic and her explanation of the psychology is enough understanding for me. But I have never been abused or experienced extreme attachment issues. I have them, but I don’t see them as extreme. The thing with the training is that not all therapist choose to see clients with past trauma. Kati Morton is a therapist with her own YouTube channel. She did a few videos recently with a trauma therapist who was extremely knowledgeable about resilience and all sorts of the other things involved. I got the impression that she had done a lot more further training to specialise in trauma, but I don’t know if she had. Kati doesn’t see clients with trauma in her own practice. But I agree that a therapist who has not dealt with their own past will not be as effective as they will be in danger of experiencing counter transference.

    The trouble with the push pull of the session cancelling is that therapists are also bound by ethics. If a therapist convinces a vulnerable person not to cancel a session, they could be viewed as taking money from a vulnerable person against their will. It sounds a bit ridiculous but my therapist is big on ethics! She won’t see a client if she doesn’t feel like she is helping them. The therapist will usually know what is going on which is what you have explained and would probably try to convince them not to cancel in a more creative way or just know the client well enough to know that they will return when they are ready or able. I don’t know if your T would agree with any of that!

    I would be horrified if my therapist cried in session! I, like you, would feel responsible for caring for my T rather than her caring for me. A therapist should be able to let a client reveal everything and hold all of the emotion that comes with that. It’s about the client, not the therapist. They’re only human of course and I also understand that it could feel validating for a therapist to cry out of empathy for our experience too.

    I think that in all of those questions, you’re just looking for validation. Understandably of course. I suppose with self disclosures from a therapist, you would have to able to handle it. My T does the odd self disclosure but there is never any emotion in it, it is just generally quite relevant to what we are discussing. They are probably well judged and thought out before being said.

    The therapeutic relationship is strange and difficult to navigate. I have to say that I think your T is brilliant. I can see how attuned she is when I read about your sessions. Gosh this is long and just my two cents! x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow I’ve just read this once and I’m going to read it again. I have to say that you write so beautifully. You are so eloquent, just like Sirena is. I would love to be able to write like that.

      I love and appreciate everything you’ve said above. I think I will read it again in a moment to take it in a bit more.

      What you say about you personally not being too bothered whether your T understands as long as she is empathetic and you get to hear the psychology and make sense of it…. that’s an interesting point… I wonder why I care so much? I don’t know the answer to that right now…

      Totally understand what you are saying about ethics and taking money from a vulnerable person – and I understand that. I am sure my T would agree too, as I said before I think that my T only had a very tiny fraction of the facts put to her by me (and clearly I misunderstood!) I think I jumped to your defence so quickly because it tapped into some insecurity of myself – which just proves what we both say about having your own therapy being helpful ha!!

      I think you are right that a therapist should be able to hold all emotion – and I can’t have it both ways because I sometimes worry that I’ll see her *true* reaction on her face when I tell her things from my past that perhaps I’m ashamed of etc…. more food for thought.

      Thank you for saying that about my T. I do think she is wonderful and has been very attuned to me – it’s nice to read that this comes over in my blogs, that’s nice feedback.

      Thank you again, I’m so pleased we’ve had this conversation so thank you for breaking your rule this once!! Xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Phew! I’m glad it came across as it was intended to!
        I think that being understood and wanting to ask those questions may just be because of where you are the moment. You might not have been bothered yourself six months ago. You have cried and shown your vulnerability so I can understand you seeking reassurance from your T.
        My T is quite unconventional so I guess she is more able to be honest about certain things!
        I’m glad that it gave you food for thought! I think that I have offended someone on here and I don’t believe in telling people what they want to hear so I am choosy about my commenting! x

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well that’s the whole purpose of the blogging world in my opinion. You put yourself and your writing “out there” and we won’t all agree all of the time. Don’t let it put you off commenting or is lot will miss out on your helpful suggestions or validations or whatever it may be.

        You are right because I didn’t care 6 months ago like I do this week. Things shift a lot and quickly. Xx

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Twink – I just want you to know that I also think your writing is marvellous. Spelling – check; grammar – check; clarity – check; cohesion – check; color – check; voice – check. Yup. TS

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha! Just as a sign of my credibility …. “compliment” is, I think, what you mean. Chuckle (I really am a mean person.) TS

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  5. It sounds like you really had a good conversation about all this stuff. I hope she figures out what you were trying to say to her, but if she doesnt, do you think you could possibly be more direct with her? or is that way too scary for you? she may surprise you. xx

    Like

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