Posted by: Marie | June 28, 2010

(344) Session trois – Part 4 of 4

Post #344
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, February 4, 2010, documenting a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

If I’m not feeling heard, what can I do to make sure you are hearing me – other than threatening to leave?

You have developed a belief about yourself that you are smarter, that you know more and that you have a better way to address every situation. I think you developed it as a compensation for the negative dialogue your dad fed to you. You developed it so you could have value in at least one area.

So, now, when you are working with someone on a project, you have little tolerance for how he or she wants to do it. It would serve you well to be very kind in these situations. Even if you know better, go along with his or her plan – and do it with a great attitude.

The Altitude by Martin Chen

I once helped a group of ladies build some library shelves. I could see that their design was not going to support the weight of the books. I made a suggestion of a different way, but they wanted to do it their way. So, I kept my mouth shut, I did exactly what they told me to do – and I did it with a cheerful heart.

When the shelves were done and they started putting books on them, they could see the fault in their design. So, they asked me to help them re-do the shelves – the way I had wanted to do them.

After the fact, one of the ladies told me that she most appreciated the fact that I had let them do it their way without criticism or judgment.

So, sometimes you have to just keep your mouth shut and let people do it their own way, assuming it is not a life- or limb-risking way. Honoring their way is much better than being smart and right.

Another example of this is . . . I would like to go one way with your therapy, but you have very strong opinions about what would be best. I have learned it is much easier for me if I let you have your way. It would be nice if you would let me, the therapist, lead the therapy. But, that is not what you want. So, I step back and let you lead. I could fight you, but it would do more damage in the end. So, I don’t fight you.


With that, we were out of time. We scheduled the next session for February 18th.

As I was packing up to leave, he strongly encouraged me to send a status report or at least some thoughts in the days between this and next session. He said it helps him know how to prepare. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable sending email because so much of what I think about in the days between sessions would be offensive to him – I don’t want to take the chance of making it so hostile between us that we couldn’t continue.

He advised me to wait 24 hours after writing something to send it . . . or . . he said I could call him. He likes getting phone calls . . . if he doesn’t answer, I could leave a voicemail – at least then he could hear the inflection in my voice and that would help soften his gut reaction. (Since when is that my job?!?!?)

I told him I would think about it. But, I don’t think there is anything I’m processing that would be appropriate to share via email or voicemail . . . most of what I am processing is about what isn’t working between us . . . it would be potentially explosive.

You know, he is right about how I discount his part in my progress. I do that because I don’t think he is a good therapist. I think I am making progress despite his involvement. I mean, he has contributed, but I don’t think he has contributed as much as he thinks he has.

I think he has a big heart, he is committed to me and to this process, and he really cares about me.

But, I am learning what I’m learning because we are re-enacting what happened with my dad and what repeatedly happens with men in my life. His contribution is that he is willing to stick around indefinitely and he is willing to tell me his side of the experience.

The re-enactment is occurring because both of us have inserted our “stuff” into the situation. He has not been able to keep his stuff out of it. He is not able to see when his stuff is running the show, even when I point it out to him.

He is not able to help me make sense of what I am experiencing – he is just giving me the raw feedback and I’m figuring it out on my own.

The arrangement works because his stuff gets in the way – which makes the work we do valuable, but it does not make him a skilled therapist.

For example, from what I learned today, I now understand what is going on with him concerning the mirror exercise. He crafted a “test” with a specific purpose – to show that I can sometimes be touched without being triggered. He was very proud of his ability to craft this exercise/test. He was very proud of himself when the test netted the result he was expecting.

I invalidated the result of this test by saying I had left my body. He couldn’t allow his test result to be invalidated because it would mean his test had not been a good test – which, in his mind, would call into question his competency as a therapist.

In order to preserve the validity of the result, the test and his perceived competency, he had to invalidate what I was reporting as my experience. Either I had to be wrong or he had to be wrong – and he couldn’t handle being wrong.

So, as a way of making me wrong and him right, he said I was lying and/or exaggerating about what I had experienced. Furthermore, he said I was doing it specifically to devalue his contribution to my healing. He believed my intention was to hurt him.

I had no idea all the meaning he had attached to this exercise/test, so I had no way of knowing I was triggering him with my insight. I was just sharing what I had experienced.

At the end of today’s session, when he was talking about how he would like to be the leader in our sessions, my eyes welled up with tears – it would be so satisfying to be able to relax into his expertise and let him lead . . . to be able to trust someone that much. But, that is not going to happen.

On the other side of the coin . . . he acknowledged that some of the “no need to talk about it” list items were all about his “stuff”. He acknowledged, at least to some level, that my complaints about his stuff coming into my therapy are legitimate. Because of that, I have come away from therapy today feeling that, for the second time, I have had a voice and some power in this relationship. (The first time was getting the religion boundary set firmly.)

I think that may be progress.


  1. I think this is lots of progress.

    It is such an interesting relationship. I think that your therapist is a better person than a therapist. (In my view there are several people who are better therapists than human beings.) This makes it fascinating to me.

    My guess is that for someone bought up as he was that he has come a long way. Admitting to his own stuff is a big deal I think.

    As to him not seeing his own stuff. Well, that is why therapists should also have therapy (oops, I mean ‘supervision’ – we wouldn’t want to call it therapy would we?). Either that or therapists and clients could meet as equals – both doing the best they can to live lives they value (I think the supervision option is likely to be more popular).

    Very much looking forward to seeing where the relationship goes next.

    • Hey, Evan –

      That is a really good way of looking at it . . . that he is a better person than a therapist. That is so true.

      I think talking to him about all this stuff made me more aware of how my behavior — especially my tendency to think in very strict parameters — might affect other people.

      Great input! Thank you!

      – Marie

  2. I don’t know Marie. All I can say from looking at all these recent posts about Mark, is that when a therapy becomes all about the therapy relationship, then there’s no room to heal. The dynamics have shifted too much one way. I’m not sure who is to blame, or whether there is blame. But unless both of you can find a way to make therapy about your healing, I think you will be stuck.

    • All I can say, Paul, is . . .

      You are absolutely right!

      It didn’t take me much longer to figure that out, LOL. Keep reading . . .

      – Marie

  3. You know, he is right about how I discount his part in my progress. I do that because I don’t think he is a good therapist. I think I am making progress despite his involvement. I mean, he has contributed, but I don’t think he has contributed as much as he thinks he has.

    Probably it’s my off-kilter sense of humor, but for some reason this struck me as really funny. And actually, re-reading it, it *is* funny, in an ironic way. I know what you mean by it, and I think you’re getting something out of the process of hammering this out with him … and I think the lessons you learn by doing it will be helpful in establishing communication patterns and boundaries with other men in your life.

    I think he means well, but I agree with you that he’s not a very good therapist. I also think you’ll know when you’re at the end of the road, and you’ll move on. You’re still getting something done here … and it’s about you sorting out your own stuff, rather than trying to fix the relationship. The safety of this framework allows you to observe in a way that real life doesn’t … and actually in a way that effective therapy also doesn’t allow … in really effective therapy, the framework blurs or becomes temporarily invisible. That’s sure as all heck not happening here. :-)

    • Bingo, David!

      You are right on every single point . . .

      I was getting a ton of value from sorting out my own stuff against the backdrop of our conflict. Knowing that he was “obligated” to stick around was of great value to me. I knew I could keep working on this until I got it figured out.

      Thank you for giving me credit for knowing when the gig is up!

      – Marie

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