Posted by: Marie | June 2, 2009

(81) An end to therapy – Part 1 of 3

Post #81
[Private journal entry written on Tuesday, October 28, 2008]

It feels like my counseling with Mark came to a close today. It was a good session . . and by the time we finished, I didn’t have anything else I wanted to talk to him about. So, it was a quiet, peaceful completion. So, starting today, my ponderings will be written to myself (not to Mark) as a way to capture what I am experiencing and thinking during each step of this journey.

(005)

Backyard by Martin Chen

At the very start of the session, Mark asked if he could maintain body contact with me (sit close to me) as we talked today . . . he felt that I was in great need of non-sexual physical touch and that he could provide that for me in a safe way.  I agreed, so he sat next to me with his shoulder in front of mine, our sides and arms touching.  He asked me if that felt sexual to me and/or if it was comfortable for me . . . I said it was okay. At first, I was a bit freaked because I could feel the heat from his body, but I was able to breath through that and let it be okay.

So, we sat like that for most of the session.  I don’t remember ever before having that close/prolonged contact with a man when there wasn’t an expectation of subsequent sex.  I don’t remember my dad ever holding me (other than quick hugs) – the sense I have is that he didn’t touch me for fear of crossing some line into sexual inappropriateness.  So, this experience with Mark was weird, wonderful, comfortable and healing.

I noticed (as did Mark) that I felt unable to reach out to touch him . . . I felt I had to remain passive because if I initiated any contact, I might cross some line into sexual inappropriateness.  At one point, I really wanted to turn and bury my head in his shoulder.  I’m sure he would have been okay with it, but I just couldn’t do it or even ask for that, the fear was too great.

I did find it interesting that, during the time I wanted to bury my head in his shoulder, it was a time that I would have normally been wanting to pull out my safety blanket (the one I carry with me to therapy so I can hide under it when I am feeling extra vulnerable, but that I have never actually used) – instead, I mentally turned to Mark for support and “protection” . . . very weird feeling . . turning to a man for protection.

He spent more than two hours (maybe 2½?) with me . . . he reviewed his experience of the “big controversy” we had from which I learned how to set boundaries – I learned that his definition of “abuse” is far broader than mine (he considered disrespect and “pushing someone’s buttons” as forms of abuse), so that is why he believed I was feeling abused when I talked about feeling disrespected and his pushing my buttons – alas, the confusion on my part when he reflected back to me that I was feeling abused.

He also pointed out that sometimes it is best to just take someone’s actions/words with a grain of salt and let them slide . . . but when I feel my boundaries are being violated, I need to say something.  He pointed out that it might have been more constructive for me to focus on what specifically he was doing that was violating my boundaries as opposed to being personal and aggressive in my message (personal/aggressive = “I don’t trust your counseling ability and I question your professionalism”).  He said that being personal and aggressive is one way to put pressure on someone, maybe even in a manipulative way – I can see that and I agree – I told him that I was being aggressive because I felt he was not listening and I was trying to get his attention – I can now see that there are better ways to do that, like setting boundaries.

We talked about my pattern of threatening to leave counseling every few weeks – I do that with all my relationships.  I think there are two reasons for that – I often feel trapped and I need to know that I have a “way out”.  Mark consistently provided that “way out” every time he reminded me that I was free to go or to stay – it was my choice.

I think the second reason is so that I can test if the person really cares about me – if I leave, if I’m really ugly, will he care enough to come after me?  Mark said he didn’t have the availability to chase after me, but I told him he did “come after me” by always taking the time to respond to my rants and by saying that he wanted me to stay and that the door was always open – I didn’t need him to physically chase after me, I just needed to know that he really cared – I assured him that I knew that for sure.

He also acknowledged that he had responded aggressively in his last response in that exchange . . . that he had matched my aggression. That aggressive response from him had been a key catalyst in the light bulb coming on for me concerning boundaries, so I am grateful for it. However, it shook my belief that he could and would remain in a neutral, detached space as I reflected off of him what was going on for me . . . that it was safe for me to say whatever I needed to say to get things figured out. Somehow, his acknowledgment today made it okay for me – I had thought I was being overly sensitive and his acknowledgement let me know that my surprise at his aggression was normal and reasonable.

He then reviewed my last email (about feeling like a space pod).  He referred to the sentence about my not wanting to go to church so I don’t have to so vividly be reminded of what I lost . . . he pointed out (accurately so) that I was also avoiding the possibility of losing it again.  I hadn’t thought of that.

He also pointed out that I have a habit of not investing in relationships – I can see this.  He believes (and I agree) that it is because most relationships (at least with men) have brought me pain, so why would I want to invest in them and prolong them?  After the session, I also identified the possibility that the example I was given by my parents – especially my dad – reflects very limited investment in relationships – neither my mom nor my dad (especially not my dad) had close friends – my mom does now, though.

Mark said that he didn’t like what I had written about myself – the derogatory statements.  I agree with him that they aren’t healthy, but I was trying to capture the tape that plays in my head on a regular basis.  I was trying to demonstrate to him where I was at in my progress (or lack thereof) so he could help me move forward.

He reminded me that I needed to think positive and uplifting thoughts about myself, that I need present myself as someone who decides if other people meet my standard rather than worrying that I don’t meet theirs.  He reminded me that I am a quality person and that I needed to shift my perception of myself.  I told him I have been trying to do that for many, many years – that I have read a hundred books, talked to many wise people, tried all kinds of programs, but I haven’t been able to shift my perception of myself.  I know what the problem is, I just don’t know how to fix it.

He suggested that maybe I wasn’t fighting hard enough . . that, like a drug addict, I need to really, really want to change.  I asked for clarification . . did he really believe that I wasn’t trying hard?  He told me the horse/donkey story . . . a fire in a barn, the horse pushes and pushes against the door but finally dies of a heart attack, the donkey gives one good kick to the wall, breaks through and walks to safety . . . which one worked harder?  He said that he was questioning how effectively I was working.  Again, I pointed out that, if I knew what to do, I would be glad to do it, I just don’t know what to do.

He said that he sees two options for me:

1) Turn to God for miraculous healing and move forward as a complete and healed person;

2) Use traditional psychotherapy & treatment to manage symptoms for the rest of my life.

He said he believed there was only a 40% chance that I would choose #1.  I assured him that I would absolutely choose #1 – that I am actively choosing #1 – it just doesn’t look like he thinks it should look.

Anyway, we talked a bit about how my overall healing really needs to focus on first healing my relationship with God (more specifically, my perception of God).  I agree with him – that needs to be one of my top priorities.  I don’t think my healing can occur without that.

However, he said that for me to heal my perception of God, I need to turn to the Bible because that is the ultimate source of truth – I need to look very carefully at what God says about God by reading God’s word (the Bible).  He said that healing cannot occur within the context of my own “made-up” religion and belief system.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. I’ve been reading all your entries over the last couple of days and I have to say to you, WELL DONE! and with that I am referring to both the clarity of your writing and your courage to share. not only with your therapist, but also with the rest of us.

    I can’t help but believe that others will find your posts helpful as they manage through the healing process in therapy and recognize both differences and similarities. Your writing has certainly stirred up a few questions for me to ponder.

    Thanks so much for sharing. And I look forward to your future posts.

    Wishing you peace and safety.
    Take gentle care.
    nomorehurt

    • Wow! That’s a lot of reading! I’m humbled by the amount of time/energy you dedicated to reading all my posts, start to end, and your kind words . . .

      I enjoy reading your blog, as well . . . (http://nomorehurt.wordpress.com/)

      Thanks, again!
      – Marie

  2. My T thinks the same thing – that I’ll be healed if I turn to God. I dunno.

    I asked him once if he didn’t have enough faith for the both of us!

    • Ivory –

      Now that’s a good reply . . . asking if T has enough faith for both of us . . . I’ll have to try that one, LOL!!

      – Marie

  3. “Anyway, we talked a bit about how my overall healing really needs to focus on first healing my relationship with God (more specifically, my perception of God.)”

    Wonderful advice, and spot on too. When I was receiving counselling as part of my journey to recover from severe depression, my counsellor showed me that my perspective of God was fundamentally flawed – the ways my father had (mis)treated me affected my image of Him, and telling me that God would take away everything I ever really wanted in order to test me, also warped my view of God. Getting set free from these misconceptions of God, and getting to know the real Him, brought so much healing.

    • Hi, Peter –

      Thanks for emphasizing that point . . . it was a key lesson for me! Thanks for reading and for commenting! I hope I see you back sometime!

      – Marie

  4. I would be extremely uncomfortable if a therapist EVER suggested to me that God could heal anything. Is this just me? I would run for the hills, partially because of my own personal issues.

    Are there God based therapists that are choosen because the patient wants that? Is that what is going on here?

    I am truely confused…

    • Hi, MM –

      You aren’t the only confused one, LOL . . .

      I do have a relationship with God — it just does not look the way evangelical Christians believe it should look. I am very aware of this gap in belief systems. I do not feel compelled to push, cajole or otherwise attempt to convert people to my belief system. I am aware that evangelical Christians generally do feel compelled to attempt to convert people. So, in general, I avoid situations where I know I might get cornered by enthusiastic Christians.

      We live in a small town so our selection of therapists is rather limited. I could widen my selection by going to one of the nearby bigger towns, but for the sake of convenience and in order to support the economy of our small town, I chose to go to one of our local therapists. Almost all of them are evangelical Christians, so I just accepted the fact that I would have to deal with that potential conflict, regardless of whom I chose.

      When I hired this therapist, I was aware that he offered Bible-based therapy/counseling . . . and I was very clear with him that I was not interested in Bible-based therapy, that I was interested in “secular” therapy (my two choices were Bible-based or secular). He promised he would keep it “secular”.

      When I answered his questions about religion and my spiritual beliefs, and when I spontaneously mused aloud about my relationship with God, he took it to mean that I had indicated my agreement to switch to Bible-based therapy. This was not, however, the case.

      I wanted the freedom to examine my spiritual beliefs in therapy (or in my therapy journal) without being pressured to align my beliefs with his. To me, “secular therapy” is defined as therapy that is not Bible-based (nor Qur’an-based, nor Tanakh-based) – it does not mean I’m not allowed to mention the word “God”. He, apparently, does not recognize this middle ground.

      I attempted several times to clarify that I had not agreed to a switch in format. He said he was clear about it, yet he persisted in using Bible-based therapy in our sessions (and telling me my beliefs were invalid and were causing me ongoing harm). So, I ended my therapy with him.

      Does that help?
      – Marie

    • Oh, and, MM –

      Yes, you can find therapy that is based upon specific belief structures and/or religions — some people won’t go to a therapist unless that format is used . . . or unless they are assured the therapist won’t suggest anything or utilize techniques that are at odds with a specific religion or belief structure.

      – Marie


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