Communicating Clearly with My Therapist

piratelady

MyPTSD Pro
I am hoping you guys can help me use my words better. My therapist and I seem to be at sort of an impasse. I’m struggling with something that I think I’m explaining really well, but he clearly isn’t understanding me. Like we keep talking past each other.

We’re processing csa. He explains the rational thoughts and I’ve even come to believe them most of the time. The rational thoughts are: it was abuse, it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I did to deserve it, if step-dad1 hadn’t been a part of my life, it never would have happened, and I didn’t want it to happen/ I’m not a deviant because if I had wanted it/enjoyed it then it wouldn’t create so much distress now.

So, the thing is looking at it rationally brings up all of these distressing and overwhelming feelings. I find them to be really uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. If I think about it irrationally (I wanted it, I deserved it, it wasn’t abuse, etc), yeah there is pain with that, but it’s a type of pain I’m used to. Also, when I get overwhelmed or triggered the habit is to dredge up all the irrational thoughts. Like if my husband wants to have sex and I don’t want to, but I don’t say anything and do it anyway. It feels wrong to me and all the irrational thought. The problem is that now there is a conflict between the rational and irrational. Like I can tell myself all the irrational stuff, but I don’t really believe it and it’s creating a lot of distress. It’s like we’ve fixed half the problem. Like we’ve reopened and cleaned the wound but haven’t put neosporin and bandages on.

It is kind of a choice to look at it irrationally. He’s started calling it psychological self-harm. I don’t agree with that title for it, but that’s a whole other discussion.

Therapist doesn’t seem to understand how this is a coping mechanism. And I don’t even think I’m explaining it well here. It’s like dealing with some feelings, I know how to do it, dealing with others just feels like everything is crashing down on me and I’m afraid I’ll break.

This is an excerpt from my private journal that I emailed to therapist that I thought explained it really well. It didn’t seem to land the way I thought it would. In this journal the “sentences” are things like calling it for what it is. I can’t write or say more than “I was a” I think you guys know the rest of that sentence. Anyway... my journal excerpt:

That's really the problem with finishing those sentences too. I can't do it on my own without getting emotional. Finishing those sentences means actually acknowledging what happened rather than what I'm always telling myself. It means looking at it for what it was. There are so many feelings that go with that, feelings I keep pushing away, that keep coming out sideways. So I tell Therapist that I can't do it on my own. But dealing with it in therapy means being vulnerable. It means letting my guard down. That's not something I've ever felt like I can do. Really though, that should be the one place I can do that. I mean if it went badly, I could just never go back. I doubt it would though, I don't really have any reason to think it would.

The alternative is getting really difficult to cope with. I am torn and there is conflict. Part of me wants to believe that I wanted it to happen and I deserved it. That my failure to move or say something, or do anything to stop it makes everything that happened afterwards my fault. I believe what Step-dad1 called me - I'm a whore. I am a deviant. Those are thoughts that I'm comfortable with. I've dealt with them for years. Yes, it hurts, but it's hurt I deserve. But then there are the things we've been talking about in therapy. That it wouldn't have happened if Step-dad1 hadn't been a part of my life, I wouldn't have done that on my own. Or that I wouldn't react the way I do now to intimacy and conflict if it weren't for what happened...that contradicts what I've been telling myself for so many years. And when I look at it rationally...there is such sadness and hurt. When I go back to that memory in my mind, I see it for what it was and all those emotions hit me. It feels like it's too much. it makes me want to cry, but I don't like crying so...back to the irrational and doing things and acting in ways to convince myself that those things I think about myself are actually true. It really is a giant conflict that is creating a real mess.


Is there a more clear and concise way to say this?
 

Teamwork

MyPTSD Pro
It’s difficult when there is nothing to replace the core beliefs.sometimes you need a new track playing. If you switch roles and become the therapist to the younger innocent you ask some questions towards the innocent child. What does innocent you know about this topic that deviant step dad introduced you to? How does he play on your innocence And then manipulate it to bring in a new topic of deviant you, when really innocent you did what innocence does-goes along, obeys. The belief can be let go if you ask yourself, the hard question-if I let it go who will protect me? Your husband is protector now, if you let him. May be a topic you and he can talk about. Submissive sex with your partner is submissive sexual encounter from the past. Create safety with your husband so that you can navigate the moments where you move to submissive instead of relational choice with someone you love. Those would be alternative topics to explore for a bit in therapy so that the impasse can be set aside for a bit. Psychological self harm comment did not sit well with me, felt like a sting. Therapists get stuck too, in not knowing how to help a client move past something. Sometimes the best way to move past is to start a new topic because csa has many threads to it. As well it would be a great topic to explore if your yes is yes and your no is no in other areas of your relationships-if it is not then it is a great one to explore and set goals. Like if I do not want chicken for supper I can say no to it-until you are able to move to the more difficult no scenarios that you revert to submission because the adult voice is using the child’s submit default. I truly hope it helps what I’m commenting on as I totally get you on a deep level-at least with my therapist if I’m stuck he says or acknowledges-it may take some time for you to understand-or eventually you will be able to do xyz. He acknowledges the difficulty with no judgement and supporting comments of hope. Also I don’t agree that the if scenario helps much-as in if step dad never came in to your life whatever. I dunno-that comment bothers me because I kinda thing way too many of us have had csa in our lives so who is to say there is truth to the statement. Mine would totally say to me, you and any child does not deserve to be treated that way.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Totally understand.

My T calls it "script backlash". She says it's part of the process of healing. We're moving from one script (I'm bad, I did it, I made them do it, it didn't happen, it was me etc etc etc) to a new script (it was their fault, I am not bad, I was surviving, they chose to do this, I am not to blame etc etc). Those scripts are at polar ends of each other. It's impossible to jump neatly from one to the other. So when we're transitioning to the new one, the old one is hard to let go. We're in this middle ground area that is uncomfortable. makes total sense we would jump back to the old script at times: it's familiar. It helped us survive all these years. But it also now isn't healthy or helpful as we now know about the new script. New script feels right but also scary. Because it means changing all those ingrained core beliefs.

And then having sex when you don't really feel like it is another layer to add to it all.

Maybe you and T are saying the same things? But it is his words that aren't landing well? I can understand that the psychological self harm term would be an 'ouch'. It would be for me.

My T, one of her specialisms is Transactional Analysis and this is where the language of scripts comes from (as far as I understand). Maybe googling scripts and script backlash and having a read of it might help? If that lands right with you? Idk.

But hope you and your T find a way of understanding each other about this important issue.
 

piratelady

MyPTSD Pro
if I let it go who will protect me?
That's one thing I struggle with. I feel like I have to protect me, like I'm the only one I can truly depend on. Yet time and time again I am just compliant. I can't make myself speak up for what I want - for a variety of reasons.
as in if step dad never came in to your life whatever. I dunno-that comment bothers me because I kinda thing way too many of us have had csa in our lives so who is to say there is truth to the statement.
I didn't give it context, it was actually incredibly helpful at the time. I was in the mindset that I wanted it to happen because "that's the kind of person I am, I'm a deviant." So he asked me, if step-dad1 hadn't been part of my life then, would I still have done the things he got me to do? The answer is no - it wouldn't have happened had he not been there to instigate it, which led to me not being a deviant. I don't know why, but that one really stuck with me, in a good way. It's a short phrase I come back to in my mind a lot to get myself back on track. Only now I'm finding ways around it.
Sometimes the best way to move past is to start a new topic because csa has many threads to it.
I don't know if I can. Like the visual of what happened the first time just goes through my head more than ever now and I'm so overcome with shame about it. When I'm just going over it so much it's getting harder to hold on to the rational thoughts. It's almost like I'm analyzing what happened to try to make sure it really wasn't my fault and that I've learned all I can from it, even though Therapist says it wasn't a learning moment. I haven't been this stuck on this memory in a long time. I thought we were pretty much done with it. Only if I can't explain why I'm stuck on it I don't know how he can help me, but I also desperately need to not be stuck on it.
It's impossible to jump neatly from one to the other.
Yeah, you're right. Honestly, I thought I had jumped neatly, but now I'm more stuck than I was before. My need to always excel and be perfect isn't helping since I feel like I need to be healed by now.
New script feels right but also scary. Because it means changing all those ingrained core beliefs.
This is something I've been questioning lately - can you really change your core beliefs? I'm starting to wonder if you can or I should say I'm scared I can't because I'm not good enough or strong enough. In a desperate attempt to feel better I even started googling DBT because I thought it would help with that. Then the more I read about it the more apprehensive I was about that. I think it's not the modality for me. And I'm comfortable with how therapy is now.
Maybe you and T are saying the same things? But it is his words that aren't landing well?
That could be. The psychological self-harm really didn't. When he explained why he came up with that term, it kind of fit, but yeah it stings. I almost started crying in session but I managed to stop it. I had a hard time explaining why it hurt me so much. I'm still now sure how to explain that either. My words aren't working well to explain anything I'm thinking of feeling lately.
Maybe googling scripts and script backlash and having a read of it might help? If that lands right with you? Idk.
Thank you, I'll try googling it. 😊
 

Friday

Moderator
I can’t write or say more than “I was a” I think you guys know the rest of that sentence.
If it helps, at all? Nope. No idea what would finish those sentences.

Sometimes it’s useful to me to know things I think are water=wet obvious... really aren’t. Sometimes it’s not. So I figured on the off-chance it’s useful to you... Nope. Don’t know the rest of that sentence. >>> Something you want to believe and don’t? Something you don’t want to believe? Something the idea of makes you feel sick, so f*ck saying it? Clearly, it’s something important to you, but I’d be flipping a coin to even guess what way it’s important to you, much less pick the actual thing out of thin air.

I considered writing out a list and putting it behind a spoiler, in case you thought I was joking/exaggerating... but as there are literally hundreds of possibilities, and many/most would be “Why the f*ck would you even begin to think I meant that??? Clearly, you have no f*cking clue what I’m talking about, so STFU.” And many others would be “Hello! Duh! Clearly those ones, and I don’t even want to think about it much less read them, why the f*ck would you even write that shit down??? The f*ck is wrong with you???”

...I gave it up as a bad job ;)

It didn’t seem to land the way I thought it would.
How so?

Meaning when you sent it to them you wanted ABC but got XYZ... what are ABC & XYZ?
Therapist doesn’t seem to understand how this is a coping mechanism.
Are you sure? Don’t get me wrong I know that brick wall bang head feeling when you’re trying to convey ABC and the person just does NOT seem to get it and keeps going to XYZ. Dude. That is sooooo not what I’m talking about here! So I’m not saying that you’re wrong, he doesn’t get what you were trying to tell him. I’m just curious if it’s less that you weren’t clear, and more that he took it in an unexpected direction...

... As self harm IS a coping mechanism.

But it’s a coping mechanism with an entire pre-built paradigm around it; feeling worse to feel better, physical pain overriding emotional pain, having a sense of control when things are wildly chaotic/a familiar port in a familiar storm, a warning sign that things are dangerously out of control needing this level of oomph to ground&center&balance yourself... an unhealthy coping mechanism, certainly. Very much in need of finding & being replaced with better coping mechanisms. But still a coping mechanism.

^^^ I got a LOT of that out of what you wrote, but that doesn’t mean the paradigm is the right fit for the situation at hand.

Is there another coping mechanism that is a better parallel / exists in a more similar paradigm for you?
 
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Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
The psychological self-harm really didn't. When he explained why he came up with that term, it kind of fit, but yeah it stings. I almost started crying in session but I managed to stop it
I can imagine. It's a pretty strong term. Maybe talking your reaction to that term through with him might be helpful? It did land. Not well. But that might be something in itself?

I had a hard time explaining why it hurt me so much. I'm still now sure how to explain that either. My words aren't working well to explain anything I'm thinking of feeling lately.
I think your words work perfectly. You are really eloquent and express yourself well.
Maybe like @Friday said, his response is taking it somewhere else. And maybe it's at a pace or terminology that isn't right for you in the moment. Maybe you and T aren't far off the mark from each other: maybe it's talking about the same thing but from different perspectives?
 

piratelady

MyPTSD Pro
How so?

Meaning when you sent it to them you wanted ABC but got XYZ... what are ABC & XYZ?
One of the issues we've been trying to address is the fact that I can't finish the sentences. He wonders why I can't call myself a victim. I can't type it out as a sentence I sure as hell can't say it. Those sentences go right along with the rational way of looking at what I went through. A week or so ago he suggested when I journal to write them out not stopping midsentence. I bluntly told him that I can't because it just brings forward all these terrible emotions that feels like it will just break me. But I was still thinking about it rationally. Key word there being 'was' because the worse those emotions get or if present-day life gets too stressful I retreat back into the irrational thoughts.

I was thinking we would then work on what those feelings were that I can't tolerate and how to fix that. Instead we just talked about how it's "psychological self-harm". Really, it's just easier for me to tolerate so that's where I tend to stay. I feel like I've said that to him in so many different ways, so the "psychological self-harm" just doesn't make a lot of sense to me.
I’m just curious if it’s less that you weren’t clear, and more that he took it in an unexpected direction...
I do wonder if that's the case. I am just really stuck on the word he used. Especially when he said it was more harmful to myself than cutting.
a familiar port in a familiar storm,
I think I want to use this phrase with him, because it makes sense. That's what the irrational thoughts are. I know how to deal with feeling like I deserved what happened. It's easy, like second nature. The other feelings..not so much
Maybe you and T aren't far off the mark from each other: maybe it's talking about the same thing but from different perspectives?
This might be true, I guess like Friday said - I don't usually think of self-harm as a coping mechanism. For me, it's often more of a punishment....so that could be.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
Hi your original post is beautifully written. I want you to know my experience is almost exactly the same even though I’m male and I’d finish the sentence with a different word. It’s irrelevant. It’s points to a feeling we have about ourselves. Everything else spins off that. I vacillate with my therapist as to how much she gets is and often feel like she doesn’t which seems unbelievable considering the time I’ve spent with her. Things come out sideways, I LOVE that. Not being able to say things directly. Inference and innuendo. If I get close to saying certain things directly I get scared and jump back. She calls that doing the anemone. Yes, we deal with it in out sex life of course (my wife and I) The manifestation is different but that’s also irrelevant. The point is it’s still there and you/we are in it still. (I can’t say this and it’s coming out sideways). : )

thanks for your post
 

piratelady

MyPTSD Pro
This has been really helpful guys. I think I’ve found a way to communicate where I’m at using some great analogies... Therapist and I often communicate with analogies. I used what you said @Friday and basically said that those irrational thoughts are the familiar port in the familiar storm. I used my band-aid/Neosporin analogy too.

Also you were both right, were talking about the same thing, but going in opposite directions. Last night, it occurred to me what I’ve actually needed and avoided and that’s caused all of this to come out sideways. So I emailed therapist and made a plan for my next appointment on Wednesday. 🤞 I didn’t make a poor choice...
 
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