Posted by: Marie | June 29, 2010

(345) Unlocking the mystery – Part 1 of 3

Post #345
[Private journal entry written on Friday, February 5, 2010 – noon]

In our therapy session yesterday, I could clearly see evidence of at least one major way Mark is very much like my dad. When Mark and I were talking about the “I heard what you said the first time” list, he spoke as if he expected me to accept and incorporate every piece of advice he gave to me. It is as if he never considered the possibility I might have my own process for filtering advice – that I might have my own mind.

Call it arrogance, false confidence, bravado or wishful thinking, both Mark and my dad operate/operated that way. They both expect/expected me to conform without argument. When I didn’t quietly go along with my dad’s instructions, he told me that I was a bad, undesirable child. If I dared to continue arguing, he hit me with a belt or he slapped me across the face. So, I learned to be compliant.

When I got older, I figured out I could stand up to men like this by screaming or cussing or using other forms of intimidation. Occasionally, I even held my position with my fists.

With Mark, I am learning to use my voice. This is a first for me.

And, Mark is starting to hear me. In order for our work together to be productive, he must continue hearing me. He must change some of his behavior. I need to talk to him in a way that will allow him to stay open and connected as we negotiate new terms for our relationship.

In the 24 hours since our session, I have frantically worked to capture the conversation I want to have with him in our next session. My mind has been spinning with bits and pieces of the conversation . . . I needed to get it captured so my brain could settle down.

I have been very careful about following all the rules Mark has laid out for me on how to communicate with him effectively – how to communicate in a way that won’t set him off.

Here is what I have come up with so far; I may need to tweak it a bit more before sending it because it still might be too offensive to him:


When I get triggered about something that occurs in therapy, one of two things happens:

1: Mental lock-up

This usually occurs when the validity of my experiences and beliefs are being challenged (for example, when you challenge my beliefs about God or my beliefs about men).

To an observer, it usually shows up as aggressive hostility or passive-aggressive patronizing agreement or compliance. From my perspective, I experience a feeling that, if I don’t fight with everything in me, my identity and my existence as an individual person will be annihilated.

I think it is rooted in how my dad did not honor my opinions, preferences, beliefs and individuality.

2) Physical lock-up

This usually occurs when my body registers a potential threat to my physical integrity (physical or sexual assault or forced compliance).

It usually shows up as a sensation of “leaving my body”. It would be difficult for an observer to know when this is happening because I’m very good at covering it up by remaining fully functional and sometimes even “agreeable” in all other capacities. And, I have not yet given myself permission to signal another person when I am in this state.

I think it is rooted in my history of physical and sexual abuse.


I am starting to see that the way in which I naturally process a “lock-up” is:

Step 1: Identify and express emotions and body sensations

After years of denying and pushing down emotions and body sensations, I am slow at acknowledging their existence and identifying them.

In order to complete this step successfully, I need a safe environment where I feel believed and heard, where my experience is validated, and where I can complete this step without being rushed into subsequent steps.

I need a huge amount of verbal affirmation and support from you during this step.

I need you to assure me repeatedly that it is permissible for me to have these experiences and to express them. I need you to assure me repeatedly that you believe what I am saying and that you don’t think I’m exaggerating or making it up.

Photo by Martin Chen

I am battling a long history of believing I had no right to feel or express emotions and sensations, and being told that I was exaggerating and making it up. I have a long history of not being believed.

It is very difficult for me to believe it is okay to spend time and energy on this step, that there is no need to rush.

I need you to assure me repeatedly that it is okay for me to do this step in your presence.

I need a lot of support and encouragement from you during this step because it is during this step I am most likely to shut down.

I cannot stress enough how important this step is for me.

Step 2: Figure out what caused the lock-up

I believe my lock-ups are caused by illogical thought processes. In response to “bad stuff” that happened repeatedly in the past, I have developed a way of reacting that is not healthy in order to survive that “bad stuff”.

Before I can shift those thought processes and thoughtless reactions, I need to first identify them. That is the purpose of this step.

In this step, I figure out the path of causes and effects. I do this by “feeling it” in my body. This means it is a very emotional process and I tend to feel very fragile while I’m doing it.

I need be able to map the causes and effects without being pushed to classify them as good or bad, healthy or not healthy, and without being pushed to “fix them”. The “fixing” part comes in Steps 3 & 4.

Step 3: Determine what is healthy

After all the strong emotion has dispersed and I have moved back into my body and am feeling “stable” again, I can begin this step.

During this step, I take a step back from the triggers and emotions and sensations to determine which thought processes and beliefs and automatic responses are healthy and which are not.

This allows me to determine which I want to keep and which I want to change.

Step 4: Create and implement healthy thought patterns

In this step, I start replacing the thoughts and beliefs and actions that are not serving me well with ones that do.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. That’s a very clear process. Thanks for articulating it.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I’m glad you found it to be clear . . . that was my intention!

      – Marie

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