Posted by: Marie | July 2, 2010

(348) Melting down – 1pm

Post #348
[Private journal entry written on Friday, February 5, 2010 – 1pm]

While I am pleased that Mark has started to “hear me” during our conversations, I am also very aware of the mountain of misfires in our communication that still exist. I consistently feel not heard and not understood. The tiny bit of progress we did make is dwarfed by what is left to accomplish.

I worked so hard on organizing and softening what I want to say in our next session, especially the last section (the “aggression” section) . . . but, I don’t think it is softened enough. I think it is still going to trigger Mark’s anger. Yet, it is so soft that it is starting to not make sense. I’ve skirted around what I really need to say until I’m no longer making sense. My words just go in circles.

I feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of effort required to get him to understand even one simple concept. He just has no clue what all is going on inside of me. I am incredibly frustrated.

I now realize that, regardless of how much work I put into getting the “aggression” section “just right”, he still isn’t going to hear what I am trying to say. I can fight and fight and fight – it will be for naught. This is hopeless. He is not going to understand me. It ain’t gonna happen.

I’m feeling the frustration and hopelessness so strongly. I can’t figure out how to fix this and I don’t trust Mark to figure it out either.

In desperation, I called Mark this afternoon (1pm) in tears – I just lost it. He asked me what was upsetting me. All I could think to say was that I don’t know how to do therapy – that I just don’t get how to do it.

The Island by Martin Chen

He said that he needed more information – he didn’t know what I meant. I didn’t really have a simple answer. So, I told him that I am feeling not heard and not safe.

He said that, if that was true, then I need to find a different therapist; that I shouldn’t be in therapy with a therapist with whom I feel unsafe. I told him that, while I could change therapists, I’d probably have issues with another therapist . . . this seems to be something I manifest wherever I go. So, it would make more sense to stick around and figure it out with him since we have taken it this far already. He agreed that made sense.

He said he was very surprised to learn about my frustration – he felt our last session had been very productive and he was feeling really hopeful about what would happen subsequently.

All I could think was . . .

Well, you got to feel heard and understood because I asked questions and gave you the space to pontificate for the entire session. The session was about you and your needs – not about mine. And, that is why I’m in tears and you are happy.

He pointed out that he had taken responsibility for some of his “stuff” – hadn’t he? Couldn’t I, at least, give him credit for that? I acknowledged he had taken responsibility to some extent.

He asked me if there was something I wasn’t telling him . . . had I lied to him during the session? I thought . . .

Lied about what? I didn’t say anything . . . you did all the talking! I never had the opportunity to lie!

Finally, I found some words I felt I could speak outloud . . . I told him that I had worked for hours and hours trying to explain, in writing, what was going on with me. Despite being so very careful to not offend him, I believed if I sent him what I wrote, it would make him angry.

He pointed out that, if our relationship was in that bad of shape, I didn’t have anything to lose by sending it.

I agreed.

He said he has been frustrated with me, but he has never been angry with me. He said that, if he ever got angry with me, or any client, he would have to end the relationship. I thought . . .

So, anger is not allowed? Really?

He said he has never been angry with a client.

Again . . . really??

He said he didn’t think anything I would have to say would make him angry – he asked me to send what I had written and he would read it over. Then, we could talk about it in an emergency session.

He suggested an emergency session on Monday, but our schedules didn’t mesh. Instead, we just planned a phone call.

We hung up. I sent the email – and a “Hail, Mary”.


  1. Hmmm, this seems strange to me. I’m not really sure what to say but I hope you both get it figured out so you can move on!

    • Hi, Lily –

      Pardon me for giggling at what you wrote . . . yes, this whole relationship is strange!

      Just so you know, it does all work out in the end . . . thanks for reading!

      – Marie

  2. I’ll be interested to hear how the call went.

    Never angry huh? I wonder what he means by ‘frustration’ and ‘anger’. Put more bluntly: sounds like crap to me.

    • Yup, Evan . . . pure crap! LOL

      – Marie

  3. This seems like good therapy to me, in the sense that you are being triggered and are working with him to figure out what is happening. Lots of ‘connecting’, even if it doesn’t feel good?

    The statement that he’s never been angry with a client seems suspect to me though. Anger is natural and involuntary – it’s all about what is done with that. If he’s never felt it with a client, I’d be thinking he has suppressed that feeling somehow. Though I’m no expert, that’s for sure.

    I wonder what happened next?

    • Hi, Ellen –

      I agree that the whole anger thing is quite suspect . . . and it seems a therapist would know that anger is vital and can be constructive.

      I did learn a lot from working with [against?] him in our therapy . . .

      I hope you keep reading!

      – Marie

  4. Hi Maria – all I can say is I get it. My experiences in therapy were much similar to what you describe. I was looking to be “taught” and to fill in the blanks in what was missing from my upbringing in abuse and neglect.

    What I discovered about “therapy” in general over nearly 2 decades in the mh system – is that we don’t get instruction….through the relationships we are supposed to “figure out” how to “do it” and be “compliant” not inquisitive or insightful.

    ugh. Which led me to do just that – I figured it out and that is what my blog is about – sharing how I did it with others.

    Therapy in general is so ambiguous, so unclear for me. Lacked direction or purpose. I had many therapy relationships as you describe here…I’d been “fired” a few times, typically told I was resistant, difficult, non compliant etc….I did not find it to be an empowering relationship and in fact I found I had become severely dependent on my therapist and other providers because I did not have the life skills to direct my own life; I needed constant reassurance, validation, permission and direction.

    I”m sorry you are/have been struggling in trying to get your needs met in this relationship. Personally – I have since learned that instead of always having to “fight” to get my needs met by another that I could learn what was missing in my development and become my own “therapist”, my own “best resource” and find my own answers and solutions.

    I feel frustrated for your experience and wish you the best in finding the path that will take you where you want to go.

    from “A Journey”

    • Hi, Susan –

      I have heard the same complaints and the same “I finally figured it out on my own” stories from many people. It seems the mental health industry could learn by listening to all these people . . .

      I have also heard stories of people finding really awesome therapists who were able to help create empowering therapeutic relationships.

      So, I think it can go either way!

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  5. Hey Marie,

    I think trusting yourself is a good idea. This fellow seems really off to me. It’s not your issue that it’s not working out.

    This guy doesn’t sound like a professional to me. Qualified, psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists don’t generally talk much during sessions, they listen, ask questions, draw you out, help you figure out what you need to do rather than telling you.

    Particularly with sexual abuse survivors, the most commonly recommended way of working is to work to empower the survivor to figure out what they need to do, not take their power away by telling them or forcing them to do anything. Judith Herman’s book Trauma and Recovery has a good bit in it on therapy and sexual abuse survivors and the key issues and methods if you want to check into it.

    I know this situation was a long time ago, but I have some red flags about this therapist.

    I’ve had a few therapists in my time and most have been very helpful. I suggest going to a therapist who is the opposite sex from and physically different from your worst or main abuser, who has experience and training in working with sexual abuse survivors, and ideally is feminist or pro-feminist. The feminist folks seem to be better at not being freaked out by abuse histories, and more down with empowering their clients and getting out of the way. However, there are of course exceptions, dogmatic controlling folks exist everywhere. Therapy groups with other survivors are also good, and can be very shame reducing.

    Not liking this guy at all. First the religious prostletizing, which he’d have to be pretty dense to not figure out was not a good thing to do with you, and now agression exercises as a male therapist with a female survivor? He sounds incompetent, frankly. It’s not you.

    My two cents, I’m sure you figured it all out and this is irrelevant, but these are my thoughts…

    • Hey, SDW –

      Mark does seem to have a very high opinion of himself and his so called wisdom . . . I think the thinks there is one way to do things and it is his job to teach the world how to do it.

      This second round with him was more to figure out why I keep recreating the situation of being in relationships with arrogant self-centered men . . . even when I think I’ve found a man not like that, he has always turned out to be that way. So, I wanted to jump into the fire and figure it out.

      I like your input . . . you always have valuable input! Thank you for sharing it with us!

      – Marie

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