Posted by: Marie | November 16, 2012

(750) Allowing vs forcing – Part 4 of 4

Post #750
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, December 21, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Me: This sucks. I hate this. I hate being stuck like this. But, I have no hope that it is ever going to be better.

Edward: Those memories are stored in your body. When I suggested that you speak up to your dad, it seems like you were really ready to do it until you actually started to speak the words . . . . then your body froze up on you. I think your mind is in a good place – your mind is ready for it – but your body is still has those memories stored up.

Me: How do we fix that?

Edward: If you want to, we can find a way to do that together.

(Looking at Edward intently, I took a long breath in, held it for a moment, then let it out . . . )

Photo by Martin Chen

Me: I want to . . . I just have no hope that it will do any good. But, I’m not willing to do nothing, so I guess I’ll keep going.

Edward: It seems the feeling of being paralyzed and frozen is what troubles you the most.

Me: Yes.

Edward: We can work on that feeling of being frozen . . . together, we can find a way for you to move through that feeling so you can do what you would like to do with your body.

Me: What would that look like?

Edward: Well, there are some exercises we can do to start moving those memories out of your body. That would free up the paralysis . . . it would allow you to use your body to express your feelings . . . it would allow to use your voice in a powerful way.


As soon as he said that, my brain flooded with visions of me attempting to lift the racquet, trying to beat the pillow, trying to move my body in an expressive manner . . . I went into a full panic attack. I fought to get enough air . . . I seriously thought I might pass out from not being able to breath.

Edward was focused on explaining what the exercises might entail – he was busy talking, rearranging his legs as he sat Indian-style in his chair, and flipping through pages of his notebook. He didn’t notice I was struggling. He is usually very attuned to what it going on with me, so I was surprised when he didn’t notice. I tried to say something to him, but I was too far into the paralysis. I couldn’t get my voice to work.

His incomprehensible words were sliding past me. I needed for him to shut up because I was overwhelmed. His words were piling up on top of me – they kept coming and kept coming.

Finally, I just waved my hand like: Shut up! Shut up! I’m drowning!

He finally quit talking and looked up at me in surprise . . .


Edward: (Very gently) Marie, take some deep breaths . . . you’re okay . . . I have your back . . . you’re safe here . . . take another deep breath . . .

(My panic started dissipating and sobs took over)

Me: I don’t think I can do that – it feels impossible and terrifying.

Edward: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Me: I do want to . . . I just don’t think I capable of doing it.

Edward: We’ll do it together . . . and we will move slowly.

Me: (Catching another deep breath) Will you take REALLY small steps? The idea of even really small steps terrifies the crap out of me. It feels like I’m too scared to even try – even the trying is terrifying.

Edward: Yes, of course. I promise we will take tiny steps. You will be in control of how fast or slow we move.

Me: Okay . . .

Edward: Can you tell me more about what you feel when you think of taking even a small step??

Me: There is still so much more work to do . . . and I don’t think doing all that work is going to change anything. I think it will never be better – I think I’ll never be able to move past that frozen feeling. I think this is as good as it is going to get.

Right now, I’m not praying every day to die . . . maybe that’s enough. I’m feeling ambivalent about moving beyond this point in my progress because I don’t have hope that I’ll ever thrive or have an amazing life. But, at least I don’t pray to die.

Maybe I don’t want to do more or better than this – maybe I can’t do more or better than this. Maybe I’m as far as I’m ever going to get. Maybe I’ve lost the fight. I’m thinking that I don’t really want to fight to move beyond this point in my progress.

(I breathed a few big breaths . . . )

Me: I’m tired of fighting – of always fighting – maybe where I am right now is enough. Maybe I want to stop.

Edward: I can understand that feeling . . .

I would be like me taking piano lessons . . . I take lessons for a couple of years and I find the challenge of learning to play overwhelming. I really want to play Chopin’s music but his music feels too difficult . . . I believe I’ll never make enough progress to be able to play his music.

But, I can acknowledge that I can already play Christmas carols. For now, that is enough.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t someday – a ways down the road – be ready to try to play Chopin again. But for right now, Christmas carols are enough.

It is perfectly okay for you to feel that where you are right now is progress enough.

Me: I don’t know where I’m at with things right now – I guess I do want to keep trying . . . but I don’t know if I have the willpower to keep pushing.

Edward: You don’t have to keep pushing. But, if you want to keep trying, I’ll be right next to you the entire way. We can do it together.

Me: Okay . . . thank you . . . I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’ll have to think about it.

Edward: Am I hearing you say that you might want to stop therapy?

Me: I don’t know . . . it might be time for me to take a break . . . I don’t know . . . I’ll have to think about it.

Edward: Of course. Take as much time to think about it as you need.


And that brought us to the end of the session . . .

As I drove home, I was wrapped up in my thoughts . . . I’m so tired of pushing.

Maybe that does mean it’s time to stop therapy for a while. I don’t know.

Maybe, if I keep showing up, Edward can squeeze some good out of it. Maybe, if I just keep showing up, there will be a little improvement with each session. And maybe, if there can be a little bit of improvement each month or each year, and if there can be slow progress over a long period of time, maybe it will someday be better than it is today.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to hike again. Maybe someday I’ll stop binging. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my own skin.

I don’t know.


  1. I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

    • It continues to be an interesting journey!!

  2. me too. another version of your deep-seated belief that therapy must be “goal oriented” and have measurable outcomes, i think. i wonder if he pushed you too hard and your desire to quit comes from a place of being triggered. i hope you stuck with it.

    for me, therapy is all about process, about a healing relationship with my therapist, about awareness. change is slow and i trust that i will get there, in my own time, with the help of my therapist.

    • Hi, Catherine –

      I think I struggle most with believing it can be different/better for me. When I’m in that struggle, it seems like I’m wasting time and money and that I should stop wasting and just be happy with where I’m at.

      I do know that it is a slow process . . . slow doesn’t bother me . . . but wasting resources on something that will never happen does bother me. That’s what I was dealing with here . . .

      But, I like what you have said . . . I think it would be fitting for many people!

      – Marie

  3. i *do* know that struggle. CBT really helped me with my all or nothing thinking, i used to say some things would never happen (like getting past depression, or finding a partner, or stopping feeling broken), and i felt very powerless and hopeless. a good summary of cbt with examples is here: it’s hard to do alone, but maybe it’s something you can follow up on with your therapist

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