Posted by: Marie | February 24, 2011

(524) Reader Input: Too much information?

Post #524

Solicitation for Reader Input

In the past few days, I’ve been involved in a few conversations – in person and via this blog – about how much graphic detail is too much graphic detail when it comes to healing conversations.

So . . . I’m curious . . .

If you were in my shoes and needed to address the root cause of violent sexual fantasies (like I did in my last few posts), would you be willing to share with your therapist at the level of graphic detail at which I shared with my therapist? Do you think it is appropriate for that to happen at any level? Does the gender mix of the client and therapist have any bearing on the appropriateness?

Would you be willing to share such details with someone who is not your therapist –for example, a friend or a spouse? If you were that friend or spouse, would you be willing to read/hear such details? If not, at what level would you set the boundary?

Have you ever shared such details with someone? If so, was your experience affirming? Why or why not?

I really want to hear your thoughts!! Please submit your comments!


Responses

  1. Very willing to share with therapist, provided you have established trust. Thats what they are there for. They are trained to handle it (if they are good).

    Possibly with spouse, depends on the spouse and your need to share. I think not going into detail would not indicate lack of closeness.

    Not more than general tone with friends or blog. I am concerned about you sharing at the blog level – there are people who might use it in unfortunate ways.

    • Hey, Marie –

      I appreciate your discussion on what level of detail you would share with each audience . . . I think you are right on about the therapist being trained to handle it – assuming he or she is competent and qualified.

      And, I hear what you are saying about the level of detail I have disclosed at the blog level . . . it is something I thought a huge amount about before deciding how to handle it. I am aware that it could fall in the hands of children, that it could be used for masturbation . . . and I am also very aware that my disclosure could show someone who believes he or she is “the only one” with such dark fantasies and who is too ashamed to talk to anyone about it that it is acceptable to talk about it in the appropriate context. My disclosure may be what allows someone to finally reach out for help.

      I choose to shine a very bright light on this topic that is traditionally kept secret . . . because our shame is trapped in the secrecy. I refuse to add to that secrecy and shame.

      It is not my responsibility to make sure people use this material in only certain ways. People are going to do what they are going to do . . . people are going to use cars for good and for bad, people are going to use guns for good and for bad, people are going to use money for good and for bad . . . and all of that is about the people, not about the substance being used.

      Part of my attitude about this comes from my own history of using other people’s healing stories (like ones published on rainn.org) for masturbation. At the time, I was horribly ashamed of myself for doing so. But, I now understand I was simply trying to make sense of my own history. And, the material I read back then, for that “unfortunate purpose”, stuck with me and has been helpful in my current healing journey.

      So, I would rather publish those details in as dignified and authentic of a manner as possible so that someone can be helped, than to withhold it in fear of it being used in ways I would prefer it not be used.

      I hope that makes sense . . . thank you for calling attention to this matter . . .

      – Marie

  2. I think it’s completely appropriate to share with a therapist, but I also think it could be an absolute disaster with a client and therapist who aren’t well-matched. In some ways, I think this type of material is easier to share with a trusted friend. Personally I have been the recipient of many such disclosures, from friends of both genders, and for me, there is no boundary as far as what I will or won’t hear.

    I think it’s important to speak up, and speak out. Shame will be healed only when people understand that others share their experiences. I think this is really crucial around confusing behaviors stemming from childhood trauma. The more people understand the purpose of “self-harm,” the less harming it is, and the more chance there is to heal it.

    • Hey, David –

      You make a great point about how disasterous sharing such information could be when there is a poor fit in a therapeutic relationship! I can’t imagine how bad it could have been had I tried to do this with Mark . . . yikes!

      Thank you for the support concering speaking up and speaking out . . . when we share our stories, it acts as a beacon of hope for others.

      – Marie

  3. My spouse was horrifically abused as a child. She has shared some of the details with me but not her fantasies (privacy is a very big deal to her). So I have listened to these kinds of things – but from real life rather than fantasy. Likewise from other friends and people I’ve known.

    As to therapists. Gender is only an issue if it’s an issue to the client. The big deal is trust I think.

    My sexual fantasies aren’t violent so it’s hard for me to know if I would share them with a therapist. I have shared things I’m ashamed of with therapists – the issue was trust. This has always been a positive experience for me.

    Being vulnerable with others hasn’t always been entirely positive for me. No one has set about being cruel in response but some have been insensitive – I guess it isn’t their fault they didn’t have a clue how to respond.

    I think it is very important that people have some way to set boundaries in relationships. About this and many other things too.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I am inspired by your quiet and steady support of me and of others like me . . . I am sure your spouse benefits greatly from your support, as well!

      I agree that trust is really at the heart of what can and cannot be shared . . . that trust is so important!

      – Marie

  4. Your post has helped me talk about this with my therapist. I haven’t shared the full details yet but I am working towards it. My therapist is female, and for me that is important. I don’t think I could tell a male therapist about these fantasies. To be honest, I’m not sure I could do the kind of therapy I’m doing with a male at all, even with no fantasies. I don’t know that I could build up a level of trust.

    I would be fine hearing about these fantasies from a friend, it wouldn’t cross any boundaries with me. I would want to support them in their healing journey and if talking about it openly helps I’m good with that. My best friend has already told me she doesn’t want to hear them, and I respect her for being so honest with me. I’m not hurt. I’d rather leave this conversation to the professionals.

    I have never shared these particular fantasies with anyone, but I used to be heavily into s/m and did a lot of role playing. My partner and I negotiated and acted out many violent fantasies and fantasies involving significant age differences, like teacher student, babysitter child, and father daughter. I found the role playing to be very cathartic. This was long before I recovered any memories of child sexual abuse. It all makes sense now. Then, I just thought I was wired differently.

    I’m glad you wrote about this in your blog. It has helped me feel less alone. The password protected page was a thoughtful measure.

    • Hey, Catherine –

      It warms my heart to here about someone being helped by what he or she read on my blog . . . it is one of the biggest reasons I write and publish here.

      Isn’t it amazing how our brains create a complex fantasy world as a way to cope with the unthinkable? However, when not well understood, that fantasy world looks bad and dangerous . . . even disgusting. But, when understood, it makes perfect sense and is actually quite helpful and healing — it is a brilliant method of survival.

      Thank you for sharing your story with us!

      – Marie

  5. I might not–would not–share this material on a public blog. But it would be because of my fear, not because it’s wrong or inappropriate to do so.

    I think you are incredibly courageous and that this is part of your healing journey, part of helping others who are traveling a similar path.

    I’ve said before that reading your very personal journal entries (where you described how the pent-up memories and emotions from your past made you sometimes need to act out physically) helped me tremendously in understanding what my niece was going though…

    So I know that your are helping yourself and many others in your efforts, which I applaud. Thanks for doing what you’re doing here. I really bow to your courage, you are someone who is lighting the way for people.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I am so glad what you read here has helped you and your family . . . that is why I do this . . . well, that, and to give myself an outlet within a supportive community.

      I’m curious . . . what would/do you fear?

      – Marie

  6. Hey Marie, yes you have helped me. As for what I would fear from publishing those kinds of personal details…many things. I would fear that people could connect that stuff to my identity and perhaps bother me, send me emails or show up at my house…that’s paranoid but it does happen sometimes in this day and age.

    Also in terms of future employers or co-workers finding it and having information about me, knowing my personal details. Even friends and family…not everyone has good intentions when they hold information like that about you.

    At the same time, you’re putting it out there in a very dignified, almost clinical manner that is hard to find fault with. It’s almost such a show of strength and confidence that most people will probably be intimidated by it. I don’t think you will ever regret doing it.

    But i dont personally have that sort of self-confidence. So again, I applaud that you do.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      So . . . this reply has been a long time coming . . .

      Thank you for the applause . . . my choices about what to share and not share, and it what way I share it, have been carefully made. And, yes, it has taken courage for me to share authentically. I understand I might have to pay a dear price in the future for doing so . . . I believe it is worth it because I need to share who I really am and what is really going on with me in order to heal. I understand not everyone is like that, but I am.

      I don’t know that I would encourage others to do the same . . . I think it is a very personal choice and one that needs to be made carefully.

      Thank you for your kind words!

      – Marie

  7. I find it’s a general issue with sexual abuse, even beyond the fantasies aspect. What kind of details would I share with others about what happened? In my case, I don’t share a lot, as people find it too disturbing. Also, disclosing this stuff massively upsets me, so again, I would shy away. AS to the gender aspect – I find it easier to relate to men in general, so having male therapist wouldn’t bother me as to sharing details, more than a female. Just in general, its’ not something I am drawn to doing at this point.

    You’ve obviously thought a lot about this and shown a lot of courage in following your own path to healing.

    • Thank you, Ellen, for your input . . . I find others less upset by my story as I become less upset by it . . . it could be my perception, but it seems other are less upset by it now.

      Thank you for your kind words! I wish you the best!

      Thank you for being patient about getting a reply from me!

      – Marie

  8. Hi,

    I recently found your blog while canvassing the internet for people going through similar therapy journeys as I am, and I want you to know that your posts and archives are helping me tremendously.

    With regards to your questions:

    I am a straight female with a male, straight therapist who’s a bit older than I am (I’m 26; he’s early 40s). With him, I theoretically feel free to speak about everything, no matter how graphic. “Inappropriate sharing,” to me, is not a concern in therapy, regardless of gender/sexual orientation. Though, I might note: I am working with a doctor who practices a very aloof, affect-less form of psychotherapy. I know nothing about him and he doesn’t emote in our sessions; we never touch (I would honestly freak out if he came near me at all), and it’s not exactly “warm” in the way it seems you describe your interactions with therapists. I’m not sure what a difference in styles might change?

    That said, I do have my own issues with sharing (1. I am still hesitant to connect myself with these things by saying them aloud, and 2. I sometimes worry about traumatizing my therapist or causing him to have terrible nightmares like I do every night), so I understand your questioning. However, for me at least, I believe both of those issues are rich in transference and that the best thing is to talk about hesitation, which would most likely lead to talking about the content. And, yes, I have shared various things equally graphic as what you describe; it’s supposed to be the safest place in the world!

    As a friend or partner, I would be willing to hear anything at all from someone close to me. Though, I guess, maybe a deal-breaker would be if the fantasy involved sadistic or non-consensual activity with me, someone we mutually know, or a specific minor. That is, I suppose I’d be less willing to listen if the fantasy had a real-life quality of violence, if that makes sense? Other than that, I’m all ears.

    I don’t have anyone, besides my therapist, with whom I share difficult sex/abuse things. I fear driving people away, but probably that’s my own anxiety. I had a boyfriend of 2 years who recently broke up with me immediately after inadvertently reading my therapy diary, and it really crushed me. But, if you have willing listeners, I’d say, use them! Boundaries=negotiable between you and the person. I’d have them read material on how to listen to stories of abuse before discussing.

    I oppose media censorship and would encourage you to share anything you’re comfortable with on your blog. Your writing voice is elevated, and there’s nothing pornographic about a therapy journal. Moreover, I, at least, find your openness incredibly helpful and comforting. Thank you for, as you wrote, “refus[ing] to add to that secrecy and shame.”

    • Hi, Jenn –

      I so appreciate all the effort you put into writing such a great comment . . . I’ve been slow to respond and I appreciate your patience!

      I found myself wondering, too, if your therapy experience might be different if there was an emotional connection between you and your therapist . . . that relationship has been key in my healing journey . . . I’m learning how to really “be” with people by practicing and being coached by him.

      I appreciate your attitude about encouraging people to share as much as they wish to share . . . that we should be able to share what we want/need to. This is the way to unbury the secrets from under the shame.

      Thank you for your input and your kind words!

      – Marie

  9. I’d share anything I needed to clear with a therapist and my wife, but probably no-one else. If I was sure my blog was secure and anonymous, I’d also share it there if I had a good reason to do so.

    • Hey, SDW –

      Thanks for adding to the discussion . . . and for being patient with my response!

      I’m curious what a “good reason” for sharing details on your blog might be . . .

      – Marie

      • Well, as you might have noticed, I’m pretty frank on my blog. I talk about things there to get them clear in my own head, to break the silence and shame about surviving sexual abuse and to get feedback from people with the same experiences. I’d say all of those are good reasons. I don’t have much about me or my life I’m ashamed of, although there are of course things that are private. I wouldn’t talk about my sex life with my wife, for example, since that affects her privacy.


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