Currently ignoring/‘punishing’ my therapist

barefoot

Sponsor
The session went better than I expected.

I'd made some notes to keep me focused and to ensure I said everything I wanted to.

It threw me at the start because I was quite expecting her to bring it up, but she didn't. And it felt like she wasn't going to.

So, after a few minutes, I said that I think we need to talk about last session and she looked like she agreed that was a good idea. Said she had wondered why I hadn't been in touch but that she had assumed that I had needed some space and she understood that and wanted to respect that.

Before I launched into things, I asked her if she could just listen and let me say it all before she responded to anything, because it would be more helpful for me if she could just let me speak, listen and hear me. And then she could say whatever she wanted to say about it. And she was absolutely fine about that and didn't interrupt at all. That helped me, I think. And I was quite pleased with myself that I'd been able to ask for that and to set things up in a way that would work best for me.

And I was quite pleased with myself for then getting it all out. Especially as some of it was quite uncomfortable to say (eg 'I wanted to make you wait because I wanted to punish you') and because I knew that some of it would be hard for her to hear (the list of words I used at various points to describe how I felt when she said had different things included: angry, judged, criticised, unheard, not taken seriously, dismissed, invalidated, shamed...)

She didn't actually try to explain what she meant at various points where we had clearly had miscommunications, which is what I'd expected she would do. She just listened and then completely accepted what I said and took responsibility and ownership for the session going the way it did. She visibly flinched at some things, so I think she didn't really notice it in the moment when she said it in our session, but hearing me say it back to her, I think made her think, ooh, that really wasn't a good thing I said! She said she had known at the time that her interventions were clumsy and that they weren't landing well and that when she had tried to improve things she only made them worse. So, I was quite surprised to get that level of ownership from her and I appreciated it.

When we talked about my feelings and reaction post-session...when I said that it was ridiculous that part of me wanted to punish her by making her wait for me to get in touch because I'm sure she wasn't feeling punished and I was the one feeling stressed about it, she said that she had felt upset and stressed and concerned too. And that every time she had opened her laptop, she had wondered whether there would be an email from me. She seemed to really want me to know that she cares.

So, really, it couldn't have gone any better. And she couldn't have reacted any better than she did. So, that's all good and I feel like I've said what I needed to say and she responded well to it, so I can now draw a line under that session.

I've noticed today that the anger has gone so I feel calmer.
And now I feel...sad. I feel a bit lost. And perhaps like I've lost something (maybe why I just interrupted grit's poem the way I did!) I can't quite explain it or put my finger on what I'm really feeling or why but it's something around that, I think.

We didn't put another date in the diary. I think she wanted to give me some space to reflect and see how I feel...I don't think she wanted to assume that I want to keep working with her. She offered a free of charge half hour phone call later this week if I want it but I'm not sure. I don't think I want to finish working with her. And, if I did, I don't think I'd want to do it this way. But things feel a bit different. And I don't really know what to talk about with her now.

So....a good conversation yesterday....but still a lot of uncertainty and confusion!
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
That sounds incredibly positive. You got everything you needed from her in that session. She sounds great. Really respectful of you, considerate and hearing what you say.

I hope this new feeling works it's way through. Which it will, won't it? You've found a really successful way of working your feelings through about your last T session. And that was you: you chose how to do it and it worked in the best way possible.
So maybe take confidence from that and know that you can figure this new feeling out too?
 
Well you were very brave getting all of that discussed. So proud of you! You're much stronger than you give yourself credit @barefoot.

Personally, now, I think you ought get back on that horse & move on. That is the whole point of it after-all isn't it? You've got that problem done and dusted & possibly it will help with the way you interact with her going forward? I hope so because misunderstandings are so difficult to navigate.

If you're uncertain how to proceed from this point - allow her, with this new knowledge she has been graced with, to show you the way. Don't leave it and store up more misgivings.

Go well.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
I think you got it Barefoot! It is good you could pinpoint the feeling of wanting or thinking of punishing someone so close to you. It is both a memory of the past of what you could have done but also something you learned and now you are at junction to see it in action and choose how to move forward.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Having felt good about that session, we then had the free of charge half hour call a few days later...I'd reflected on how I felt about things now and had prepared some things I wanted to say about continuing therapy with her...like, I don't want to stop working with her as when I do that I want it to be a positive, intentional decision, not the result of a rupture. And that I don't feel angry with her now. But that I feel quite a sense of loss. And that, even though I don't feel angry with her now, I still feel quite cautious, so I don't feel completely ok about launching straight in as though nothing's happened. Because things feel....different? And I'm not sure what to talk to her about now. Stuff like that.

But, when we spoke, she asked me about my health (I've had Covid and am still unwell seven weeks later) and we were talking about that for quite a while as she was asking lots of questions about symptoms and what the doctor had said etc. And it just felt like quite a relentless health chat – I couldn't find a way to bring up the other stuff because it felt like she was on a bit of a mission to talk about my health. It felt like our previous session and how/if we would move forwards weren't on her radar at all – even though that's why she suggested having this free call in the first place. She was quite forceful and I...wasn't, I suppose! I just felt a bit bamboozled.

Then time was up and we hadn't touched on the previous session or our way forward at all. So, I asked if she had 5 more minutes to do that and she said she didn't (my fault – I should have made sure I brought it up but I found it so hard to stop her flow of questions!)

So, we made a plan to have a quick chat the next day instead (she offered that and was very insistent about – kept saying we should absolutely do that because this was important)

When it came to when we were due to talk, she then apologised and said she couldn't after all.

I get that she's human and that things happen...things come up and throw off plans. That's ok. Happens to me as well! But she does have a habit of doing this...9 times out of 10 when she offers to do something outside of our usual session times, she doesn't follow through on it. It drives me nuts – also because she generally doesn't communicate it and acts like she was never meant to be doing anything else. We have talked about it often so she knows this drives me mad. It's why generally now, if she offers to do something, I decline her offer as I know the chances are it won't happen anyway.

But, I didn't decline this one because it felt important and she was so insistent about us talking the next day.

So, I'm still in limbo and I hate that.

To be fair on her, she has texted a few times this week to ask how I'm doing (have been on antibiotics this week for a suspected lung infection!) so it's not like I think she doesn't care.

She texted yesterday morning to check-in and see how I was feeling. When I replied, I said that being in limbo with her/therapy felt stressful. She replied straight away saying she was sorry to hear that and to let her know how I might want to proceed whenever I was feeling up to it. I messaged straight back saying I wasn't quite sure about how to proceed out of limbo but that maybe I would feel better about it if we had something booked in the diary. So, I asked her to let me know what availability she has next week. No reply fro her...

This is taking up so much energy and headspace! And I just don't have it at the moment.

Perhaps I need to wait until I am 100% recovered as I am so tired and feeling rather low. I just don't know how long it's going to take until I feel 100% And I worry that a few more weeks of this will just increase the disconnection I feel about her.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Another thing I feel conflicted about...

Sometimes, I feel like the challenges I have in the therapeutic relationship (the internal conflict, the push/pull, the excruciating intimacy, the 'being witnessed', the fragility of it all etc) are part of the work I'm meant to be doing in therapy. I came to think that some time ago and the realisation felt like quite a breakthrough, at the time. OMG – THIS is the work! Or, at least it's part of it.

Sometimes though (and I guess now is one of those times) I think, am I just mad?! I keep showing up, every week, for a few years, paying someone...to be in a stressful relationship with them?! I don't know if that's the very definition of insanity right there!
 

joeylittle

Administrator
@barefoot - everything you wrote in your post above (#29) is clear and strikes me as a great window into your experience, from that last phone call until now.

Sometimes, I feel like the challenges I have in the therapeutic relationship (the internal conflict, the push/pull, the excruciating intimacy, the 'being witnessed', the fragility of it all etc) are part of the work I'm meant to be doing in therapy.
You really could be right about this. The only way to find out is to make that leap to the next level of telling your therapist what you're experiencing in the working relationship w/her.

The frustration you're feeling isn't necessarily a bad thing - part of it might be useful in giving yourself that push forward to tell her what's going on.

I know we say this a lot around here...but I think you could use what you've written in post #29 as a great place to start - copying it and sending it to her.
 
G

Goldballoon

That sounds like a really stressful phone call Barefoot. Maybe you need a therapist who is more able to allow you to direct the sessions and who can listen to you properly, as she doesn't seem very good at that.
 
I agree with jl - I reckon you very clearly described the place you found yourself in during that free session call & that'd be a great way to communicate with her without it getting entirely derailed into other areas.

I'm wondering if she's a little lost & perhaps embarrassed & wanted to fill the space/time with something very tangible like your health with covid rather than having a talk about the way forward? An interrogation style session about your health must have been exhausting.

I'm at a loss as to why she would deliberately tell you that she'd find time for you, then cancel. If she has a diary & intends on following through - bar extenuating circumstance where she might say hey! xyz happened & I'm sorry we will need to delay till... - why hasn't that happened?

I wonder if you've reached the limits of this particular therapists knowledge & she knows it? Or, maybe you've outgrown her style or method?

Or, perhaps your insight into the 'relationship' with you therapist and your honesty & observations about it is something she's finding difficult to handle. Perhaps she's not ever been challenged like this before?

I do think you're right to insist on a follow up call to discuss exactly the way forward before you launch into more sessions & I do think you're completely entitled to not expect to just go back to the way it was before.

I hope you begin to feel more energy & much better soon @barefoot - that's such a long time to be so unwell. :hug:
 

barefoot

Sponsor
The frustration you're feeling isn't necessarily a bad thing - part of it might be useful in giving yourself that push forward to tell her what's going on.

Yes, sometimes frustration is productive!


Maybe you need a therapist who is more able to allow you to direct the sessions and who can listen to you properly, as she doesn't seem very good at that.

I don't think her listening skills are a problem – she generally listens really well.

I think the big challenge for me is that I sometimes (usually!) find it difficult to bring up what I want to say. So, if I don't bring in a clear topic from the start that I want to talk about that day, she will ask me a question – often about how work is going or how things are with my family. Or, at the moment, asking about my health. And the problem is, when she does that, I just follow where she leads. Even if inside I'm thinking that's not what I want to be talking about (and sometimes before a session I'll even set the intention – I don't want to waste loads of time today talking about work as I don't need to do that, so don't end up doing that!) Off I go down that rabbit warren with her. And that can then be half a session or even a whole session gone talking about something I didn't want/need to talk about because I just went along with her question and couldn't find a way to speak up, pause that and say 'Anyway...what I really wanted to talk about today is...'

I don't know why that's so hard for me to do.

And I have told her about it loads of times. Told her that, whatever topic she asks about, I will dive down that rabbit warren with her. I even got to a point a few months ago where I said 'Can you please not ask me how work is going? If I need to talk about work, I'll let you know....but if I don't say that, please don't ask about it because that'll be a session gone and I don't need to talk to you about that!'

A few times over the years when we've had this conversation about me finding it difficult to bring up what I want to discuss, the discussion has ended with her asking me if she would like me to help her with that. And I have said yes please. But we don't really pin down how she's going to do that. And then nothing really changes.

Sometimes, if there is something very pressing I need to talk about (especially if it feels anxiety-making) I have texted her in advance with a heads up to try to make myself accountable for talking about that – and she will generally then ask me about that if I haven't brought it up after a little while. Perhaps I need to start doing that again.

The thing is though, the free half hour call that she offered (and that we had and just talked about my health) – she offered it suggesting I reflect on where I am with things and how/whether I'd like to proceed..and reflect on that session we'd just had and whether there was anything I still wanted to say about it all or anything I wanted to ask her about it etc... So, to me it felt very clear....that half hour freebie was to talk about that stuff. So, on that call, I felt anxious about it and was really waiting for her to bring it up and I was wondering why she wasn't. And when the time was up and that was that, I felt really baffled by how she just hadn't mentioned it. And, because she hadn't mentioned it, I just found it completely impossible to mention it myself, for some reason.

I honestly think she is sometimes as avoidant as I am about some of these kinds of conversations... But, if I'm being avoidant, I need her not to be! I think I told her this ages ago and she seemed to understand what I was saying. And yet, here we are again...

I'm wondering if she's a little lost & perhaps embarrassed & wanted to fill the space/time with something very tangible like your health with covid rather than having a talk about the way forward?

I think this is possible. Plus, my health had taken a down turn, so I do think she was genuinely concerned and wanted to know how I was doing.

Also – the session where the wheels had fallen off and I'd ended up feeling invalidated, dismissed, judged, criticised, shamed etc...we had been talking about health and illness and how I have quite a complicated relationship with those things historically. So, I wonder whether her recent regular texting to ask how I am, her insistence on having these extra calls to check-in and her strong focus on my health when we have spoken are ways that she is perhaps trying to counter the impression created before. That, instead of feeling those things, she wants to ensure that I leave these interactions with her feeling that she cares, that she's taking my health concerns seriously, that she's validating my current experience of being unwell etc?

Plus, as I mentioned above, I think in the past she has been as avoidant as I have about having some difficult conversations. We have both gone quite ostrich about them. I wonder if this is one of those times for her. She so impressed me in that last full session we had post-rupture. She was really great. But, perhaps now, after she has reflected on it, she actually is feeling anxious about it and is wondering how much damage the rupture's caused and if I'm going to fire her?!


I'm at a loss as to why she would deliberately tell you that she'd find time for you, then cancel. If she has a diary & intends on following through - bar extenuating circumstance where she might say hey! xyz happened & I'm sorry we will need to delay till... - why hasn't that happened?

Sorry, I think I didn't provide enough context for this and have probably accidentally been misleading and made her look bad. Was trying to not include too much detail as a) I was tired and b) I think my usual long posts here are probably quite off-putting for most people here!

The free session where we ran out of time was on a Friday. I asked if she had 5 more minutes to talk about where I'm at with things since last session/rupture etc. She nodded vigorously and said it was really important that we did that. But that she had another call so couldn't do it now. She then said she could do it sometime over the weekend, which would also mean she'd have more time and be more relaxed because she wouldn't be squeezing me in between client calls.

I hesitated – firstly because I felt bad that I hadn't brought it up myself that call so, secondly, I felt mean taking up some of her time at the weekend and, thirdly, as mentioned before, I always feel hesitant to accept an 'extra' she offers as often they don't happen.

She was very insistent that it was fine and let's do that because it's important that we talk about it so I'm not just left holding on to it on my own...she said several times about talking at the weekend. She said Sundays are generally better and that she doesn't have plans and will just be pottering around the house. Then said she might be able to do sometime on Saturday but that her step-kids were coming over for the afternoon.

So...we ended up finishing the call with her saying she would check with her partner (re arrangements with the kids) and text me later to let me know when we could speak.

Sure enough, she texted that evening saying she could speak anytime on Saturday afternoon so how about I text her at midday and tell her what time would work for me as she was mindful that I was having a nap most afternoons.

Great! So, I text her at midday the next day and ask if she's still able to talk and, if so, would sometime around 2pm work. At 2.30pm she replied, apologising for the delay, saying the kids were still there longer than she had expected and asking if I could do 4pm Sunday instead.

So, it's not like she didn't have a reason (there had obviously been a change of plan with the kids - which would have been more in her partner's control than hers, I guess) Plus, she did let me know (though I'd have appreciated an earlier heads up but, ok) But I just went right back to being angry with her, since this is what she usually does. She offers something in the moment, swooping in to offer something to be caring/to help...and I think it's a very genuine intention in the moment....but then, invariably, when it comes to actually doing it real life gets in the way and she realises she can't do what she's offered. I also felt angry with myself for 'falling for it' again! For putting myself in a position where I was hanging on to hear from her and then it didn't happen.

I replied saying not to worry. Partly because at that point I hadn't seen 4pm any day for weeks as I was always worn out and sound asleep by then. Partly because I didn't want to be in the same position the next day – waiting for a call and wondering whether it would happen. Because, if it had happened again the next day I think I would have properly lost my shit about it! Partly because, to be honest, I just felt pissed off with her so was back to choosing to disengage again.


I wonder if you've reached the limits of this particular therapists knowledge & she knows it? Or, maybe you've outgrown her style or method?

Yeah, I really don't know. I was going to be starting EMDR through someone else to do alongside my talking therapy with her - because I had the opportunity to and thought why not try another approach. I also quite like the idea that EMDR isn't a particularly relational therapy (I don't think?!) so I guess that alone says something about me and how I experience this therapeutic relationship.

EMDR is on hold for now though as I haven't been well. They're basically waiting for me to get in touch to say I'm ready to start. Not sure now (when I'm not feeling 100% health-wise and am low on energy) is the right time to start with a new modality/therapist though?

I don't think the stress I feel about it is really about her (the practical things that annoy me like her over-promising, yes -– but the key things I mentioned earlier like the push/pull and the excruciating intimacy etc – I think would happen with any relational therapist.


Or, perhaps your insight into the 'relationship' with you therapist and your honesty & observations about it is something she's finding difficult to handle. Perhaps she's not ever been challenged like this before?

I don't know. She seems all for talking about it when I tell her that's what we need to talk about. And she has always seemed keen to encourage me to talk about our relationship before (and I have felt anxious about it and reluctant to) Perhaps, now I am willing to talk about I and chomping at the bit about it, she is a little anxious about it. I suspect she doesn't really know at the moment what I'm going to say and what decisions I'm going to make.

She replied to my text this morning giving me her availability this week, so I have gone back to her on that and chosen the day that works best for me. I don't know if that's for a session (paid for) or an ad hoc chat. I just said 'can we talk on X day' when she'd said she had some availability. I would prefer to have a quick chat, discuss the things I've written here about the way forward and then make a decision and book a session in when I'm clearer about that and when I'm feeling a bit better energy and health-wise. But, I don't know. So, I am waiting on her to tell me if it's a session or a quick chat and therefore if I will be paying for it or not. I hate how passive I've being. How I don't feel able to just ask for what I want ie 'Can we just have a quick phone chat on X day to pick up after last session and on the way forward?' I don't feel I can say that. So, I'm waiting for her to tell me what we're doing. I'm aware of how pathetic and childish that is. I just don't feel like I can ask.

And writing that out I'm thinking...it perhaps doesn't feel that she is very safe/trustworthy at the moment. Which then makes me feel bad because she has been sending very kind messages most days to support me when I'm not feeling well. So, for her to be taking the time and doing that and for me to respond with thoughts of 'you're not safe' feels like I'm being very, very unfair.

So sorry for the essay. I hate that I'm in such a muddle about this and that, after five years or so working with her, I still haven't sorted this relationship out (whatever that means!) I feel so pathetic that this is so stressful and so painful. But, at the same time, there is a part of me that is really attached to her. And it's that inner conflict that is so hard to bear – on top of all this practical communication stuff.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I am not sure you can guess what she's thinking or what is behind what she does/ doesn't do. But you say you've repeatedly made your perspective clear to her (which takes vulnerability), and she says she understands then doesn't honor it. Which can leave a person feeling heard- but valueless. It sounds like you've tried to understand her perspective. It shouldn't feel like trusting is a crapshoot, wondering if she means what she says or says what she means, or will do what she says. It only takes a small betrayal for the death of trust. But everyone is human. However, she is also an adult, and a T at that, so it isn't up to you to point out what she obviously must know. Or actually, you have already brought it forward, but it can leave you feeling invalidated for what does not seem to be acknowledged, or cared about enough to not have confidence she cares. There's more to your life and therapy than your health, and they all interconnect. JMHO though. Good luck.
 

joeylittle

Administrator
So sorry for the essay. I hate that I'm in such a muddle about this and that, after five years or so working with her, I still haven't sorted this relationship out (whatever that means!) I feel so pathetic that this is so stressful and so painful. But, at the same time, there is a part of me that is really attached to her. And it's that inner conflict that is so hard to bear – on top of all this practical communication stuff.
You're doing a lot of trying to deduce her motivations, mental state, and other unspoken things. None of that is going to get you anywhere - I really can empathize, it's such an easy trap to fall into - to try and analyze a situation, especially one with a perceived authority or higher-status figure. It can seem easier to create a narrative on your own, rather than actually talk to the other person about how their actions have impacted you.

I can't recommend strongly enough that you show her some of this stuff you've written.

You don't have anything to lose by putting it all on the table. But if you don't get this stuff out there, all you're going to do is keep re-treading the same patterns with this person.

Put it out there, see if it can improve...and then you'll know whether or not you want to keep working with them.
 
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