Posted by: Marie | June 29, 2012

(659) Healthy negotiations – Part 4 of 4

Post #659
[Private journal entry written on Monday, July 18, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


(I looked at my sticky note yet again . . . and braced myself to bring up another risky topic . . . )

Me: Okay . . . I have one more thing to cover . . . and it is something else that has to do with how we interact . . .

Edward: Okay! I’d like to hear about it!

Me: Several times, I’ve mentioned to you that I really don’t know what we should be talking about in our sessions. I’ve asked you to take the lead on deciding what direction we should head. I understand that, if something has come up since the previous session and I need to talk about it, that topic takes precedence over anything you might have planned. I agree that should be the case.

Finding Land by Martin Chen

However, there have been times when I’ve said I don’t have anything in particular that I want to talk about . . . and you respond by telling me that you don’t really have anything in particular either. Then, we kind of sit there and look at each other.

You’ve told me several times that I don’t need to show up with anything prepared . . . that it might actually be healthy for me to come not prepared. However, when you tell me you don’t have anything in particular that you want to cover, I conclude that I have to have something prepared and in my back pocket because I can’t trust you to do that for me.

That’s not okay with me. I really need for you to have some ideas tucked away for when I don’t have anything in particular to work on.

I know there is stuff I still need to work on because I know I’m not yet where I want to be in my healing journey. I just have no idea how to define, prioritize or approach those issues. I need for you to figure that out and lead the way.

Edward: Thank you for telling me about this . . . I can imagine it is scary for you to say this to me.

Me: Yes . . .

(As I acknowledged how scary it had been for me to say all of that to him, I was overwhelmed with strong emotion . . . relief that he hadn’t exploded in response, fear that he might yet push me away for being too much of a bother, pride that I was using my adult voice . . . my eyes filled with tears . . . )

Edward: (Very gently) I don’t want you to feel like you have to come to our sessions with a sticky note full of topics. I don’t want you to carry that responsibility – because it is not your job and because I think it feels like a burden to you.

(I nodded my head.)

Edward: Let me assure you that I do have a plan in mind . . . I have proactively and concretely identified several areas that need attention.

I’ve been concerned that, if I set out a specific plan of action, you will feel required to follow the specific plan and not feel free to bring up pressing issues unless they fit neatly in the plan. Also, it is my style to have several directions identified and head in the direction that feels most fitting in the moment. That feels like a more organic approach to me.

However, I’m hearing that the more diffused approach is not working for you. I’m hearing that you would be more comfortable with a more concrete and detailed plan. I’m hearing that it is important for you to be able to see the big picture at all times.

Me: Yes . . . exactly! Otherwise, it seems to me you have no plan – which causes me to feel that I can’t trust you to lead me through the process.

Edward: Okay . . . let me assure you that I do have a plan. And, I’ll make a point of articulating the details of that plan to you as we progress. Does that sound like a step towards you feeling more able to refrain from preparing for our sessions?

Me: Yes, absolutely!

Edward: Good. I’m glad you brought this to my attention and that we have found what seems to be a workable solution.

Can we also address the related concern that I have?

Me: Which is what, exactly?

Edward: If and when I articulate the plan I have in mind, I am concerned that you won’t feel able to bring up other issues as they show up for you in your daily life unless they fit neatly in the plan.

How can we address that?

Me: Let me assure you that I am very clear that I’m welcome to bring up stuff that is outside your plan and that we can put our attention towards those matters first. I don’t think that will be a problem at all.

Edward: Okay, that works for me!

Would you like to learn a bit about the “big picture” right now?

Me: Yes, I’d very much like to!

Edward: Well, I’m seeing three major areas that need our attention: 1) healing around the sexual abuse and your present-day sexuality, 2) anger and sadness around your historical relationship with your dad, and 3) your relationships with men, particularly in the context of dating.

Me: That sounds awesome . . . I agree those are the three major issues.

And, there might be a fourth area – my relationship with God. However, right now, the “God” issue feels more or less resolved for now. I think I have some more soul-searching to do around it, but I don’t know that I have more healing to do in that area – at least not the type of healing that would occur in here. I think that work might better be done within a spiritual community. My thoughts around all of that might change later, but for now, the “God” issue feels mostly resolved for me in a therapeutic sense.

Edward: I agree . . . I share your assessment of that area. Of those areas we’ve identified, do you have one that you would prefer to focus on first?

Me: Right now, I feel stuck on the “dad” issues . . . I think I need some more time to process what we have already covered. After I’ve had time for that, then I might be ready to move forward again in that area.

And, the sexual issues seem to be relatively concluded for now . . . I think the issues around my sexuality will be stirred up when I start thinking about dating. But, for now, I think I’m in a good point for pausing the work on the sexual issues – for a little while.

So . . . maybe it would be best to work on the “men” issues first.

Edward: I agree! That is what I’ve been thinking for a while.

Me: (Laughing a bit) And, I won’t prepare for that discussion . . . I’ll trust that you’ll lead us in that direction.

Edward: Yes . . . we can start there in our next session . . . unless, of course, something else comes up for you in the meantime.

Me: Good . . . I’m pleased with this resolution. I feel good about this. Thank you!


And that brought us to the end of the session. We said our good-byes and hugged . . . and I headed out feeling really good about where things stood between us.

On the way home, I reflected on how strange it felt – but how good it felt – to have a calm conversation with a man in which I am seen, heard, respected . . . in which there is space for me to make reasonable requests . . . in which my requests are taken seriously . . . in which we are able to craft solutions that work well for both of us.

Wow. I guess that kind of stuff really does happen in my life. Wow.

Who knew?


  1. That was a nice negotiation

    • It sure challenged my belief that there is not room for my needs to be met . . . I kinda liked that new experience!

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