Currently ignoring/‘punishing’ my therapist

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
My last therapy session was two weeks ago.

We were talking about a topic that’s pretty difficult and raw for me. In the past, experiences related to this topic were often negative and I felt invalidated and dismissed by others.

Later in the session, my T said something that really pissed me off and upset me. It felt critical, dismissive and invalidating.

Instantly, my walls went up and it was game over for the rest of the session really because I felt angry and disconnected and guarded.

I get that:
- I can have a tendency to get hung up on words/phrases that don’t land well
- The session had likely stirred up emotions about past experiences and brought to the surface some of those feels eg anger at feeling dismissed
- I was also just recovering from Coronavirus and still not feeling 100% so I was low on energy and perhaps I was especially sensitive (T was very kind when I had to cancel a previous session because I was too unwell and texted me every day to check-in and see how I was doing)

That all said, however, when I told my partner what my T had said she pulled a face and said it wouldn’t have gone down well with her either - and she doesn’t have sensitivity around the topic we were discussing.

We didn’t have our next session booked in and, because I felt so furious and upset and was struggling not to cry at the end of the session and I just wanted to get off the call, I opted not to book a next appointment there and then and we left it that I would email her to arrange.

I haven’t emailed her.

I usually see her weekly and have been working with her for a few years. This is the first time I have missed two weeks in a row simply because I haven’t got in touch to book them in.

I have posted here before about how I sometimes fantasise about either firing her or falling out with her which ends in me leaving. I’ve talked to her about this. And the thing with a fantasy is that it isn’t real, right? It’s not necessarily something you actually want to do in real life.

But now I feel that I sort of have...

I’m aware that I have had a strong sense of not wanting to get in touch because I want to punish her. I want to make her wait and make her wonder whether I’m going to get in touch again. My partner said the other day though that it’s actually me who she sees feeling punished by what I’m doing (or not doing!)

Part of me feels exhilarated and in control and pretty bloody triumphant about this whole situation. And thinks, I’ve ignored her for two weeks so let’s do a third week.

Another part of me feels relieved.

And another part feels very anxious and misses my T and is desperate to reconnect with her and smooth everything over.

I’m finding this inner conflict very confusing and difficult to manage.

I also feel embarrassed and ashamed about what I’m doing because T and I have talked at length about how my dad used to completely ignore us for days when I was a kid and it felt very punitive and cruel. And now I’m ignoring her.

I don’t really know what to do.

I don’t think I want to stop seeing this T altogether. And, even if I did decide that, this isn’t the way I’d want to do that.

I know it’s on me to make the next move. I know she isn’t going to contact me as we very clearly left it that she would wait for me to email her and I know she will respect that boundary.

I still feel upset and angry about the things she said even though I can accept they were probably clumsy expressions rather than that she was truly being dismissive.

I feel awkward about now emailing her and asking for a session when I’ve been ignoring her for a couple of weeks.

I don’t even know what I’d talk about now.

If I talk about last session, it will likely go like:
Me: When you said X I felt really dismissed and criticised.
Her: Well...I didn’t mean it like that.

Which is what it was like in the session itself when I tried to say that things hadn’t landed well and that just felt even more invalidating.

And there’s just not anything else I really feel like talking to her about now. I’ve been unwell with Coronavirus for weeks, so things we were working on before then now feel very, very distant and the momentum is gone and I just don’t feel motivated to now try to pick them up again, six weeks later.

Any thoughts on:
- next steps to take
- how to manage the inner conflict I have around all this

Sorry this is so long and thanks for reading and for any suggestions.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
How about explaining that this inner conflict is going on in an email to your T (in which you also arrange your next session)?

You clearly had a strong reaction to what she said and she may or may not know that.
You clearly appreciate the work you and her have done together as it is a relationship that has sustained this fantasy of leaving her/it abruptly.

I agree with your partner. This isn't punishing your T. It will only hurt you if ultimately you need therapy and you feel it works with her (save for this last session).

I suppose relationships aren't perfect and that includes our relationships with our T's. They will make mistakes and it's whether we can work through that (which we can only do if we explore what that is about).

I'm sorry you are going through this. It sounds tough and challenging.
 

Teamwork

MyPTSD Pro
Based on what you’ve detailed here, your t knows you are ignoring her or upset. The tipping point for you may not be crystal clear to her but she would have caught some of it as it transpired. This is a great opportunity for you to keep working it through and move towards, well she said something I didn’t like, do I really want to end the relationship over it or find a path through it. Really it is recreating the past and that is what could be worked on. It would look like examining how this works. It would seem that it is for now in the phase of , you did something I don’t like, don’t agree with, feel you know better, this is my response. Then ask yourself what would doing something new look like for you? Would it be forgiveness towards t? Would it be clearing it up by saying , you said this, I feel this way? Or you said this, what did you mean by that because I felt.... in other words, we build a safe relationship with a person, they do something we don’t like, can we remember that they are safe enough and strong enough to help us work it out. Right now you’ve placed yourself in an all alone position to work it out by taking her out of the resolution phase. It is a lot to unravel, but if deep down you know your t is human, doing their best, and have said something you don’t like, and would likely want to hear from you then figure out how to call a truce to your current stance. It is true you are not punishing t. Maybe producing concern for you but not punishment. They are way more skilled than that. It is called distancing but is not resolving anything because for t, they wait, for you the fuel is still burning causing ruminations on what was said to cause you to distance. What you learn from repairing this will be invaluable to you as you would then have a new skill set of handling conflict quickly with your voice being heard
 

Friday

Moderator
how my dad used to completely ignore us for days when I was a kid and it felt very punitive and cruel. And now I’m ignoring her.
Your partner’s right, IMO. You see not setting an appointment as punishing her. Are thrilled/exhilarated doing a trauma re-enactment with you in your dad’s role. But It’s all still a fantasy.
- Because you’re not actually punishing her.
- Because she’s not a child in your care, and you’re not abusing her.
- Because she’s an adult, a highly trained adult; who is far more likely to be thinking & feeling things wildly differently than an abused child being punished, ignored, and treated cruelly by their father, is.
Hence the fantasy. You’re experiencing a a huge range of feelings over a situation you’re imagining yourself in, rather than the situation you’re actually in.

While it’s theoretically possible she’s put her life & well being in your care, and is no longer an adult capable of taking care of herself but dependent solely on you for all things, and is responding like a broken hearted child being treated cruelly by your not calling her? How likely do you think that theory actually is?

Versus, the possibility that she recognizes you were upset and is respecting your boundaries and giving you some time & space to make your own decisions about how you want to move forward?

...

Looping back around to your partner being right? You’ve gotten to “try” taking on the role of the abuser, without actually abusing anyone / in a completely safe environment... and here are those results:

You miss her.
You’re embarrassed and ashamed.
You feel awkward, anxious, want to make things right, but don’t know how to move forward.
And on top of all of that? Are STILL upset & angry about what happened, because the experiment you tried had zero effect / made no headway in either resolving or moving past the issue.

So, overall? I’d say this experiment was an enormous success!! :D

1. Because you got to learn that the role of abuser isn’t one that brings you any kind of benefit (that can’t be better gotten elsewhere; exhilarated, in control, and triumphant are GREAT goals to bring into your life... as is the relief following the self confidence to act in your own best interest... and ALL completely possible to make line items AND without hurting anyone else to do so)

2. Instead it causes you a great deal of pain, conflict, unhappiness, anxiety, confusion... is very much punishing yourself.

3. No one got hurt // you couldn’t have planned it better to be able to test yourself, without injuring anyone else, or creating a situation you deeply regret, with far reaching consequences.

4. All you have to do, to resume your life, and keep moving in the direction you want to is set an appointment.

Damn fine work, a tremendous amount of work, all this and far more to follow... for the low low price of a comment that landed badly, & not picking up the phone for a couple weeks. (Clearly, there’s more to it, but that’s all that needs “fixing” in this situation. Sorting out the comment that made you angry & upset to begin with, and do so by picking up the phone.) It’s like you dropped a penny and found £50, when you bent to pick it up. I’m reeeeeally seeing this whole situation as having the potential to be a major win, at the very least, and quite possibly a pivotal point in moving forward to be the best damn Barefoot there is // to be living your life exactly as you wish to live it, being exactly the person you want to be. How badass IS that?
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for all your thoughts.


How about explaining that this inner conflict is going on in an email to your T

Hmm...usually this would be something that appeals and that I'd probably do. And my T is open to receiving emails in between sessions. The thing that feels uncomfortable about doing this now is...sometimes (not very often) I have a session where I can't express what I need to or it's not until I process stuff later that I feel something or whatever....so then I've emailed her with all the stuff I couldn't say. And while she seems ok with it and has encouraged me in the past to email her, she also has a habit of saying (in a jokey sort of way) something like 'Ooh, am I going to get one of your emails after this?' And we both kind of laugh about it together. But I actually hate the way she refers to it as 'one of your emails' as though she is sort of rolling her eyes about them.

So, if I were to email her about this, it would just become 'one of Barefoot's emails'. Not really taken seriously?


I suppose relationships aren't perfect and that includes our relationships with our T's. They will make mistakes and it's whether we can work through that

Yes, I definitely know this. We've had ruptures before and have always come through them. I've never done radio silence for two weeks though. So, this is just something different for me to navigate.


Based on what you’ve detailed here, your t knows you are ignoring her or upset. The tipping point for you may not be crystal clear to her

Yes, I think you're right. I suspect that she is not actually feeling punished...but I suspect she thinks 'this is barefoot trying to punish me.' She definitely knew I was upset at the time. And she'll know that this isn't like me...that I don't just ignore her for two weeks. I feel quite embarrassed writing this....I think I must sound very pathetic and childish!

I'm not sure why this is the way it's gone this time. We have had ruptures before that were way more significant and which I was much, much more upset/stressed about. But I didn't go awol for two weeks about those.


Really it is recreating the past and that is what could be worked on

I need to think more about this...the thing is, we weren't talking about anything traumatic...


we build a safe relationship with a person, they do something we don’t like, can we remember that they are safe enough and strong enough to help us work it out.

She has said before something about striving for a secure base...I guess I'm not there yet! Attachment in relation to her certainly seems complicated!


Right now you’ve placed yourself in an all alone position to work it out by taking her out of the resolution phase

I felt quite sad reading this ?


if deep down you know your t is human, doing their best, and have said something you don’t like, and would likely want to hear from you then figure out how to call a truce to your current stance. It is true you are not punishing t. Maybe producing concern for you but not punishment.

Yes, this is all true.


Are thrilled/exhilarated doing a trauma re-enactment with you in your dad’s role.

Just to be really clear though – my dad wasn't/isn't an abuser or in any way tied up with trauma for me. Yes, his way of dealing with feeling angry/frustrated/whatever was to stonewall. And that doesn't feel good and it's a behaviour I don't like. But it's more to do with him having zero emotional intelligence or any idea really about how to communicate and manage emotions. I don't think he actually had (has – he still does it!) any idea of the impact it has. I don't think he realises it has any impact on anyone at all – I think he just thinks he's sitting quietly, thinking his own thoughts ?


You’re experiencing a a huge range of feelings over a situation you’re imagining yourself in, rather than the situation you’re actually in.

Hmm....will think more about this because this could be true, just not really in the context of my dad...


Versus, the possibility that she recognizes you were upset and is respecting your boundaries and giving you some time & space to make your own decisions about how you want to move forward?

Yes, I totally get that this is what she's doing. Hence I realise that I have to be the one to break the current situ.


You’ve gotten to “try” taking on the role of the abuser, without actually abusing anyone / in a completely safe environment...

I don't think it's this really....I don't think me not getting in touch for a couple of weeks one time in the few years we've been working together constitutes me trying on an abuser role. And, as I just mentioned, my dad (who was the one who would ignore) isn't an abuser.

If anything, me not getting in touch is more about me trying to feel more in control, I think...?


Are STILL upset & angry about what happened, because the experiment you tried had zero effect / made no headway in either resolving or moving past the issue.

Similarly, the issue here isn't really that I've been experimenting with taking on an abuser role. I don't think that's the key thing.

I'm upset and angry with her about a few things she said, which felt critical, judgemental, invalidating and were just a total miss. And when I flagged that things weren't landing well and said things like,'It sounds like you're saying X...' she'd say that's not what she meant but then she just carried on down the same road. So, I'm annoyed about what happened in the session, not annoyed with what's happening now.


4. All you have to do, to resume your life, and keep moving in the direction you want to is set an appointment.


Sorting out the comment that made you angry & upset to begin with, and do so by picking up the phone

I think this is one of those things that's simple but not necessarily easy... ?

It feels so awkward and I'm not really sure how to tackle it. Do I just send an email as normal, as if nothing's going on (even though we both know things are off at the moment) and just ask when she has time for a session next week?? Genuine question! I just don't know how to approach this.


I’m reeeeeally seeing this whole situation as having the potential to be a major win, at the very least, and quite possibly a pivotal point in moving forward to be the best damn Barefoot there is

Well....thanks for the encouragement!
 

Chris-duck

Not Active
I think this is one of those things that's simple but not necessarily easy... ?
I think this is kinda true. And also really is an answer to this:
Genuine question! I just don't know how to approach this.
I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong" way to approach it. Call and ask if she has time, send an email explaining what's been going on and rebook a session, literally anything is cool. I don't think any answer is *easy* but the main idea is anything that gets you another session is fine. And you can discuss it there, or summarise it in an email before hand if you don't think you'll be able to manage to explain when you get there. Really, outside of being a dick to her, everything is alright.
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
the main idea is anything that gets you another session is fine

Yes, I guess you’re right. I think my anxiety about how I get things back on track is probably causing me to over-think!

Really, outside of being a dick to her, everything is alright.

Do you think I’m being a dick to her now? Or you mean, don’t be a dick to her when I take whatever next step?
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I'm sorry, I'm sure I've missed much said, but this is the sense I feel from this:

(T was very kind when I had to cancel a previous session because I was too unwell and texted me every day to check-in and see how I was doing)
and
.. there’s just not anything else I really feel like talking to her about now. I’ve been unwell with Coronavirus for weeks, so things we were working on before then now feel very, very distant and the momentum is gone and I just don’t feel motivated to now try to pick them up again, six weeks later.
that you remember to acknowledge how much feeling unwell impacts on you, and yet you recall her kindness. But:
Later in the session, my T said something that really pissed me off and upset me. It felt critical, dismissive and invalidating.
and:
That all said, however, when I told my partner what my T had said she pulled a face and said it wouldn’t have gone down well with her either - and she doesn’t have sensitivity around the topic we were discussing.
so you feel doubtful of trusting, or being understood, or feelings alike. And whether or not you're looking for confirming evidence, some has come from your partner. And thus:
But I actually hate the way she refers to it as 'one of your emails' as though she is sort of rolling her eyes about them.

So, if I were to email her about this, it would just become 'one of Barefoot's emails'. Not really taken seriously?
there comes doubt, and lack of security. ^^
feel quite embarrassed writing this....I think I must sound very pathetic and childish!
^^ Which may be influenced by feelings being minimized. And yet trying to remember what seemed 'right', or safe. And detangle everything else contributing. It sounds like a lot of conflicting emotions and messages (even if those messages are untrue, or were not intended.)
She has said before something about striving for a secure base...I guess I'm not there yet! Attachment in relation to her certainly seems complicated!

Whether it has to do with trauma re-enactment I do not know. But I would guess it does have to do with trust; safety; security; believability; and communication.

Good luck with whatever you choose. :hug:
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
. I meant it in a general "anything goes until it's dickish".
Gotcha! I’m with you on that!

It sounds like a lot of conflicting emotions and messages (even if those messages are untrue, or were not intended.)

Yes, for sure.

I would guess it does have to do with trust; safety; security; believability; and communication.
Your whole post really resonated @Tinyflame
I think there is definitely something around me doubting trust...

T has said before that I am always waiting for her to let me down. She said that was ok and that maybe that won’t always be that way. Hmm...
 

mylunareclipse

MyPTSD Pro
ugh sounds like a tough situation.

I was in similar situation(s) with my long-term T in the past. The best was when I went back and we went over things and we figured a way out of it together.

My guess is your T probably did say something that was hurtful...however instead of hiding with your head in the sand, what's the worst that can happen from confronting her and expressing your feelings? Confrontation seems to be hard for you but maybe it could be an opportunity to practice being assertive when things go wrong rather than run away?

I would go over similar scenarios and be like if I say this she'll say that so what's the point. But the truth is you won't know until you know and work on it with her. One of the things I learned that these things aren't so black and white. Like she could have said something wrong, and you got upset, and she might have not meant it, and you still have the right to be upset, and you can make a way out of it...all of these can exist in a continuum and it doesn't have to be that one is wrong or right. I know that it's extremely hard! partly i think because of the power differential. It feels like you T has the power to hurt you and turn the situation against you in the blink of an eye, but if she's worthy as a T, she'll know how to handle this situation.

Try not to feel ashamed of what's happening, but rather see it as an opportunity to try something different.
 
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