Posted by: Marie | June 4, 2010

(328) Session deux – Part 1 of 3

Post #328
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, January 21, 2010]

I’ll be damned.

He did it.

In our session today, Mark took one big step in the direction I needed him to go in order for me to feel emotionally safe in our therapy.

I’ll be snot-digger-dock damned.

I am exhausted but very happy.

I slept very little last night because I was feeling sick to my stomach – and when I did sleep, I dreamt about not being able to explain music to my students.

I still don’t feel very great this morning, but I wasn’t going to miss therapy for anything.

And, it was a session worth showing up for . . . the beginning was a bit rough, but it got better from there . . .

Right off the bat, I asked him why he had not responded to my frantic phone call and emails. He said he felt it was best to address the situation face-to-face where we could marry up the voice inflections and body language with the words to better read each other’s intent.

Photo by Martin Chen

I guess I’d have to agree . . . however, I thought to myself that it would have been nice to at least have an email from him saying that he wanted to wait until the session to discuss it further . . . I would have felt less like I was trying to communicate with a non-responsive brick wall.

We both showed up with the other’s email printed out and clipped to a clipboard. We both had the same plan – to walk through the emails, word by word, until we thoroughly understood the other’s position.

That was my first clue that maybe our relationship might have a chance of surviving.

We agreed to go over my email first.

Mark pointed out that there were 50+ instances of the word “I”. He said it like it was a bad thing – so, I asked if he thought it was bad.

He said, “No, but it shows confidence and power and that can feel intimidating to the recipient.”

I responded, “I don’t get it . . . another time I wrote a harsh email and used the word ‘you’ a lot, and you said you felt attacked. So, this time I used the word ‘I’ a lot so it would be about me and my feelings . . . but that seems to be wrong, too. How do you want me to express my thoughts and feelings to you?”

He said, “It’s not about doing it right or doing it wrong, I’m just commenting on the overall spirit of your email. I’m trying to help you get along easier with people in the midst of conflict.”

(Okay . . . I’m thinking he is really not qualified to help me with that, but . . . whatever. Next . . . )

Then, he brought up the fact that, in the email, I stated I wasn’t sure how long the current good feelings would last – like I expected them to be short-lived. He pointed out that I also stated I am usually more depressed on the weekends.

He said that, because of how I spoke of these conditions in my writing, I’m encouraging them to remain true. In other words, I shouldn’t make statements like that if I want my negative states of mind to decrease because words have power.

(Okay – again, good point – but, I think he is getting stuck on the minutiae and not seeing the big picture. I hope he picks up the pace or we aren’t gonna get through this email today. Our focus needs to be on understanding each other’s experience. So, moving on . . . )

We started going through the email, paragraph by paragraph. With each paragraph, I tried to explain what changes in his behavior I needed in order to feel safe with him. It didn’t take long before we were talking in circles – I was trying to put the focus on his behavior and he was trying to put the focus back on me. I could see we were not going to get through my email by the end of the session.

So, we ditched my email and I just explained my experience from start to finish – he asked questions along the way when something I said didn’t make sense to him.

He acknowledged that I asked for secular therapy.

He asked for clarification around what constitutes a “religious discussion” – because he didn’t think he had violated that boundary with the discussion in October 2008. I told him that I consider any discussion in which he presents his religious beliefs, or tells me my beliefs are wrong or invalid, to be a violation of that boundary.

He said he thought the whole religion boundary issue, specific to this second round of therapy, had already been addressed – he said that, in our emails prior to our first session two weeks ago (here and here), he had promised he would not bring up religion. And, he made a very conscious choice to not bring up religion in our first session. So, he could not understand how I could think he violated that boundary in our first session – he was feeling unfairly accused.

I explained that the religion boundary issue had not yet been resolved for me . . . that I still believe he will bring his religious beliefs into my therapy if he feels justified in doing so.

I told him that the only time he has promised to not discuss his religious beliefs was way back in August of 2008 – and that he broke that promise in October of 2008. I told him that, in this current round of therapy, he has not given me his word that he would keep his beliefs out of my therapy – not in emails and not in person. I told him I am still feeling unsafe in that area.

I told him I recognize he didn’t bring up religion in our first session and I told him that I appreciate that. I explained I said what I said in the email because I need assurance from him that he won’t bring his beliefs into my therapy, even if he thinks it would be justified. I wasn’t accusing him of breaching the boundary in the last session, I was just asking for an assurance from him as we move forward.

He said, “Well, I give you my word now.”

I told him that I also feel unsafe when he response to my emails with aggressive emails (like this and this). I asked him to make sure he understands the situation before turning loose on me like that in the future.

He said that normally, when he writes a sensitive email, he always waits 24 hours, reviews it to make sure it reads as he intends for it to read – and then sends it.

However, he had been VERY sick on Monday and wasn’t thinking clearly – he wrote that email and sent it without waiting the 24 hours. He had not kept a copy in his mailbox, so he wasn’t even sure what he had said.

(How can sent email not be saved? I mean, he either has to have a global parameter set to not save any sent emails – which would be legally irresponsible for a therapist – or he had to specifically delete the one he sent to me. So, really? Oh, well . . . whatever . . . it’s not vital to understanding each other’s experience. Next . . . )

It just so happened I had a copy of his email with me, so I handed it to him.

After glancing over it, he said that, while being sick was no excuse, he hoped knowing the circumstances under which it was written might help me understand why he said what he said.

(I get it. However, I find it interesting that he didn’t apologize or show regret, and it seems he still feels justified. But, I see his point. I can let it go. It’s water under the bridge. Moving on . . .)

We talked back and forth some more . . . at one point, he stated that his experience of me is that I’m very closed-minded when new ideas are introduced to me. I asked for an example.

He said that the religion issue was a perfect example . . . that I keep reacting strongly whenever he states that the Bible says we will be enternally damned unless we accept Jesus Christ as our savior . . .

. . . and, with that, he launched into a full-fledged sermon about salvation . . .

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. . . . and, with that, he launched into a full-fledged sermon about salvation . . .

    oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy…

    My mouth fell open when I read that. I sure hope things got better from there.

    • Hi, EH –

      The only direction they could go from there was up!

      It was one of those moments I kept checking to see if I was dreaming, LOL . . .

      – Marie

    • I agree, I thought, holy boundary violation, batman! I had a therapist once who was Christian and I had explicitly asked her to keep her beliefs out of it too. She just couldn’t help herself either and I had to fire her. I don’t think there are very many non-Christians that wouldn’t be offended or ‘resistant’ to someone having the eternal arrogance to tell us that “we will be eternally damned unless we accept Jesus Christ as our saviour”. Give me a break! Does this guy have a counselling degree or did he just go to church a lot?

      • Hi, SDW –

        It is good to hear from you!

        Your ending question is a humorous one . . . and the answer is “both” . . . LOL. He is a chaplin as well as a therapist . . . degreed in both.

        Thanks for speaking with passion on my behalf!

        – Marie

  2. I found that you both turned up with your emails on clipboards delightful.

    I’m glad the session got better, it certainly started out rough.

    I guess the next instalments will be fun (or not).

    • Hey, Evan –

      Yeah, seeing him show up with my email on his clipboard gave me some hope!

      It was a rough start . . . but some good things did happen . . .

      Thanks for sticking around!

      – Marie

  3. that I keep reacting strongly whenever he states that the Bible says we will be enternally damned

    This was the point at which, despite myself, I just couldn’t help laughing. I mean, who the hell *wouldn’t* react strongly to being told that? And how would he react if your positions were reversed, and you told him that because he believes in Christianity, he’s doomed to a life of externalized responsibility in which he will never gain genuine self-knowledge, since he’s conveniently able to blame Satan for everything negative he does, and credit Jesus with everything good?

    I’d guess he’d have a fairly strong reaction to that. Everyone is closed-minded about something, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    • Okay, David . . . you got me to giggle a bit!

      Maybe I’ll keep that line handy for future reference, LOL.

      You are right, we all are closed-minded about something . . . for me, its usually things that I have already devoted large amounts of time and energy investigating and about which have already arrived at a solid conclusion — Christianity being one of those things — God not so much.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      – Marie

  4. I say bullshit, or if you don’t like swearing, “Good Grief!!!, with lots of eye rolling.

    Whether he realizes what he is doing or not, he is NOT listening to you. Not even close. There is not wiggle room for misunderstanding: he has an agenda and is not listening to you. A therapist shouldn’t have a personal agenda.

    Quit trying to make him understand. He has a blind spot, maybe many. From what you say I think this makes him a BAD therapist. For a Christian or non-Christian client.

    And I am a Christian (although a very questioning one).

    Don’t try to make this work, it is not your job to make it work. You can find a better therapist than this. I have had many therapists, Christian and non-Christian who wouldn’t pull this crap.

    I know this is all in the past, but this my reaction.

    • Hi, Susan –

      All I can say is: You are right on all points.

      He wasn’t listening.

      He had a personal agenda.

      He didn’t have a clue how to be an effective therapist.

      The best I could hope for was to figure out why I keep creating this situation . . and I decided to do that by sticking with this situation until I got some answers.

      Does that make sense?

      – Marie

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