Posted by: Marie | August 15, 2011

(576) In search of hope – Part 2 of 6

Post #576
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Me: Maybe it’s because it makes me aware of how bad things are – that they are worse than I thought.

Edward: And what happens when things are worse than you thought they were? What does that mean?

Me: I already think I have so far to go that I often doubt my ability to get there . . . and when I have evidence that the damage is more extensive than I thought, it takes away the little bit of hope I do have.

Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: It takes away the hope for what?

Me: For getting to the place I am functional . . . to the place where I’m not killing myself with destructive behavior.

Edward: Can you tell me more about that?

Me: I have hope I’ll someday stop killing myself . . . I have hope that someday I will no longer wish to die on a daily basis.

But, I have no hope of being whole enough to fully participate in relationships – and, from what I’m learning from you, participating in meaningful relationships is a key part of my healing and will be a key part of my wanting to stay alive at some point in the future. That means I’m screwed because I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have relationships like that.

Edward: Relationships like what?

Me: Relationships like . . . well . . . relationships that add to my energy and joy rather than slowly suck them away. Right now, my relationships suck away my energy quickly – they exhaust me. It is much easier to be alone – to hang out with my cat.

Edward: Ouch . . . (hand on heart)

Can you feel the pain of that? I can feel it all the way over here. Can you feel it? Can you take a moment to allow yourself to feel the pain of your finding aloneness preferential to being in relationship?

(I nodded my head)

Edward: I do believe that much of the pain you feel comes as a result of intense loneliness. I also believe deep healing occurs within the context of close, healthy relationships.

Me: Yeah . . . like I said, that means I’m screwed.

Edward: (After a pause) You do have relationships . . you are already participating in relationships.

Me: Not really . . . I’m not fully participating in them.

In all the relationships I have, I have a role, a responsibility . . . I know when I’m doing what I’m supposed to and when I’m not . . . and when I’m no longer fulfilling my assigned role, I believe I’m no longer welcome in the relationship. So, my participation is always superficial because I know the relationship is conditional and transitory.

Edward: What do you call what you are doing in here with me?

Me: (After a long pause) I’m being in a relationship.

Edward: Is your participation in our relationship superficial or are you participating fully?

Me: I’m participating fully.


At this point, I had more to say but I declined to say it . . .

I was thinking that my relationship with Edward doesn’t really count because I’m paying for it. It’s not like he is in the relationship because he wants to spend time with me. I have a role to play in this relationship, too – my role is that of a paying client. When I stop paying for the relationship, the relationship will end and Edward will go away.

When someone – more specifically, a man – spends time with me because he wants to spend time with me and not because of how I can benefit him, then I’ll consider that a relationship that really counts.

There is no way I was willing to say any of this aloud because it would likely hurt his feelings and because it would make it seem like I’m committed to discounting any progress that I’m making . . . which, in the words of Mark and of my dad, is malingering. And there are few things I fear more than being labeled a malingerer.

I sat quietly as I crafted a way to end this topic without lying and without telling the truth . . . and then to gracefully transition to something else . . .

I reached for the box of tissues and pulled it towards me. As I did so, I noticed a box elder bug crawling across the top of the box. I carefully pulled a tissue out of the box without disturbing the bug.


Edward: I see we have a visitor . . . you are welcome to put him out the window, if you care to.

Me: Nah, he’s fine right there. He seems content so I think I’ll leave him alone.

Edward: Okay!

(After a thoughtful pause) What would it be like for you to participate fully in a relationship where you didn’t have to earn the right to participate? What would it be like to be able to just show up and know that was enough?

Me: I don’t know . . . I’ve never experienced that. Though I can imagine it would be freeing . . . I can imagine it would help regenerate my energy rather than suck my energy dry.

Edward: What do you think would have to happen in order for those kinds of relationships to manifest in your life?

Me: I would have to be a lot further along in my healing journey, I think.

Edward: What circumstances do you think would exist further along in your healing journey that don’t exist now?

Me: I just feel broken right now – too broken to operate in healthy manner within the context of a relationship. I keep creating unhealthy relationships because I’m still broken. I have to be not broken anymore in order to create healthy relationships.

If I could be not broken, then I could be in healthy and fulfilling relationships, then I could stop feeling the pain that comes from being alone, then I wouldn’t need to pick and binge and work myself to death.

Edward: Ouch! There is a lot of pain there!

(After a thoughtful pause) What does it mean to be “not broken anymore”?

(I hem-hawed around for a while, trying to find an answer – finally . . . )

Me: It means that I get to the point where I want to be here, to be alive.

Edward: You don’t want to be here? You don’t want to be alive?

Me: No, I don’t.

(He seemed surprised to hear that I don’t want to be alive – and that surprised me. I’ve talked about it quite a bit so it seems that should not be news to him. I was busy trying to figure out if he really was surprised by that news or if he was just saying that as a way to create space for some new insight when he interrupted my thoughts with an answer . . . )

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. I think you highlight one of the weaknesses of doing therapy this way.

    Though I do think that usually people do relationships because there is something in it for them – usually enjoying the other person’s company. I think mutual benefit can be a good thing.

    My thought was that you are probably present with your students; if not fully then at least substantially.

    But maybe I’m anticipating what came up in the rest of this session (or subsequent ones). Looking forward to reading more.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I find it interesting that it feels as if Edward really does like spending time with me — that he really does care. I have often wondered how he can have that level of connection with all of his clients . . . or maybe he doesn’t.

      I think you are right about how I am present with my students . . . I really do enter a uni-focus state with them when I teach and I’m very aware of what is going on with them mentally, emotionally, etc.

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  2. Perhaps it is the same for Edward as it is for you with your students.

    • Oooooo . . . I hadn’t thought of that . . . I bet you are right!

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