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How to be honest with your therapist?

siniang

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Thread starter #1
Since this is something quite a lot of us seem to be struggling with, I thought it might be worthwile to open a thread and collect tips how other's are dealing with or even have overcome this.

I'm having a really hard time being completely honest about my internal state with my therapist. It's not so much that I don't trust her (I have a rather naive/trusting personality that tends to overshare*). It's more about me minimizing. (and it's not about not sharing facts from the past/trauma, I have no problem talking about those with her and did so, there's nothing she doesn't know in that regard)

I could have had a week of meltdowns, depressive episodes, fights with people around me.... yet come into therapy and answering her question on how I've been and am doing with "I'm ok". Every single time.

I can recollect what's been happening, but those accounts don't at all match my internal state, both in past and present. At that very moment, when I talk about it, there's no emotions connected, eventhough there's been a hell lot emotions while experiencing them. When I talk about them, it's not <my> experiences, if that makes sense. It's almost like talking about the weather - stating facts, that bear little significance in retrospect. So yes, while those thing happened....they weren't really thaaaaaaaaat bad. It's passed, I'm here, and here in that moment, I'm fine. And that's the way I talk about those things with T - yeah, they happened, but they really weren't that big of a deal. Only...they were. And are.

I know she can't help me if I'm not honest. I haven't quite figured out yet why I can't be honest. Nor how to be it.

*I overshare factual information. I rarely ever share emotions. Not even with people really close, like my husband.
 
#5
Writing it out. Definitely. Still resort to that when I have big stuff that I'm finding it hard to verbalise.

But there's sometimes a seperate issue. Sometimes things are too big or too hard to talk about, and I avoid them.

Sometimes my responses to her questions are inaccurate, because I don't have in-the-moment accurate information to convey. And my way around that? Was to keep logs.

I've kept all different kinds over the years. Different types of symptom-trackers, thought diaries, behaviour diaries, function-meters, etc. All with the aim of noting how I am, with respect to a specific issue, each day.

For example, my current weekly diary I keep a note of when I've used prn through the week, and what days I've had a headache. That's straight up data I can hand over which tells an important story to my T that I can't convey effectively in words.

For whatever reason, I'm good at saying "I spent 4 days in bed this week with a headache" because I'm simply regurgitating data on the page in front of me. I'm utterly useless at doing that in a free-flowing convo about how my week has been.

So, when you talk about your internal state, and having difficulty conveying what that's like - can you break that down any further? For example, "I seem to spend a lot of time ruminating on issues". That's something you could easily log, with practice, each day.

For 7 months straight, I kept a very comprehensive log of my daily symptoms: specific thought patterns, specific behaviours, and specific emotions, that I'd identified were prevalent for me. Everything from clenching my jaw to wanting to SH to crying. I logged every symptom that happened each day, and because I'm a little obsessive, the order that those symptoms occurred in.

That raw data is incredibly helpful. Especially when the words coming out of my mouth aren't.

And other times, like I said, I just write it all down and hand it over.

ETA My function meter is one I return to using regularly. 10 daily activities that I know reflect how well I'm functioning (as opposed to how well I'd like to be functioning, or how well the average person might function). I get a score out of 10 each day. Brushing my teeth earns me a point. But the activities vary, and some are harder than others to pull off. Most importantly, they're all relevant to the way I personally need to function each day.

At the end of the week, I have a pretty objective comparison, which highlights what areas I'm struggling with, which in turn gives a lot of insight into exactly what my issues are psychologically that week. Without having to pull apart my psyche at all. The function meter is definitely one I recommend trying.
 

Deanna

MyPTSD Pro
#6
I'm like you too, Siniang. I stay guarded. Why, I don't know. She has no idea, really. I've told her about some traumas but not all of them ( there is so many I've blocked some of them out) I like SRG response about writing how you are really doing, down on paper. I did that once. I wanted to know more about a certain subject. My problem is I don't keep a journal but now it's time for me. I just think feelings are a waste of time now, at this stage of the game. This forum has taught me to take-in all considerations. So, I'm learning that.
 

grit

MyPTSD Pro
#7
Two things jumped at me:

1) it is quite common for most people not to be so forth coming consciously or unconsciously in therapy - the latter is resistance and easy for most therapist to work through it by verbalizing what you may be projecting to them - could be many different feelings.
The beauty is you are aware of not fully being true in therapy so the first step is just simply admitting this knowledge by stating as a true for your state of mind with her - something along the lines of I have hard time telling you real things in my life. See how that unfolds. If she does not hear or misunderstands or asks you some probably passive questions (to draw you out further), you repeat slower and with intention so she understands you mean it. This is extremely an important step for you or most of us in therapy.

2) The second one is more complicated. Even though sure you may think you are factual or use mostly intellectualizion when dealing with others, one thing you may not be aware of fully (and again this is not unique but normal for all of us to be unaware of but only becomes a problem when others point out for us) is that others may have inclination of how you feel (they may feel what you feel that you are not aware of feeling - simple projecting of a feeling). For example, let us say you are angry but do not feel it, cause you are calm person in general. This is normal for a lot of people, the thing is the person you are angry at (or others you may feel sort of trusting or safe with) may sense wow she is angry and you may resist or oppose to their subjective reality of you. In other words, when you say no I am fine to the therapist, but you are not, that "not being fine" is projected to the therapist so she may sense you feelings somewhat but obviously she does not want to guess and is waiting for you to state your state of mind/body. If you do not and she does not ask...you are both stuck and therapy may become a battle of the minds. It is hard to explain. You may know when your friends are in a bad mood even before they say, well others including the therapist may also feel the same about you to know even though you are saying you are fine maybe you are not fine that day or that moment...this is how we all relate to.

At the end, nothing is wrong for not emptying your stomach in therapy. Everything has its time but if you are annoyed that you simply cannot be YOU with her, just say that. That itself is part of therapy. You are being truthful to you, by even admitting when you are not being truthful to her. You could even explore why you are not truthful with her intellectually until it seeps deeper for you for as long as it takes.

in my own journey of therapy, there were a lot of hit and miss and what I learned is that at the end, I needed to allow to learn from the therapist while still being aware of my own critical thinking. So for you, it seems like you have a rich critical thinking and rightfully you are gun shy of therapy because most therapy, suspends some critical thinking so we all get in touch with our feelings and then use our critical thinking....again this is how I find my own therapy and may not apply to you directly.

Not sure if this all makes sense but that is what I get from your post.
 
#8
I could have had a week of meltdowns, depressive episodes, fights with people around me.... yet come into therapy and answering her question on how I've been and am doing with "I'm ok". Every single time
Yep. Me too. And he knows better, digs, and he always tends to get to it anyway. I think it's me not wanting to talk about it. But he knows that. He knows me. He knows how to dig in a way that I have no idea that he's doing it in the moment and at the end, I'm always like "how did we actually talk about that?" Everytime.

I know I already answered this but I think you are describing most (many?) of those traumatized with most therapists. We don't want to talk about it. It sucks! We have to relive all of that meltdown pain and don't want to. It's natural. Therapists know this. I think it's about allowing your therapist to get to know you to learn how to dig for the information and to help you to actually open up more.
 
#9
I have read the original post, but not all of the responses so please forgive me if I am repeating something that has already been said...

For me, trauma kinda forced me to shut down my emotions and live in my head. So that I had been numb and out of touch with my emotions. Also in the beginning, I found it difficult to accept all the chaos and damage the trauma caused in my life much less discuss it with someone else. I had to allow myself to experience the truth of my situation and my past a little at a time so that I did not get totally overwhelmed.

Perhaps this explains why we are not always so honest with ourselves and others. It simply hurts too much. I don't know. This is just my 2 cents so please take it for what it is...just one persons opinion. Still, I hope it helps.
 
#10
I relate to this post. I struggled for a long time to be honest with my therapist. I am honest about my trauma and the truths but my daily struggles are different. I have hidden who I am and my inner turmoil for years. (Which eventually led to a break down.) It is a coping tool. At times it works and others it doesn't. I started writing down things to share with my therapist and although I rarely looked at what I had written during session, I knew it was there. And, I started just blurting it out at the start of session. This led to us being able to work on specific things but then the world went to crap and I am trying to adjust to the video sessions and I am back to struggling. I still struggle telling my spouse. Sometimes its as if I've been living two lives and now they are trying to join.
 
#11
Agree with @Lionheart777 .

I suppose, for me, it's like being a dirty old vase with some fine cracks, and knowing when it's handled badly or dropped it will shatter. Which won't mean much, just sweeping the shards out of the way so the other can carry on with their business, and it won't harm anyone else. But all that's left of me, goes to the garbage can. That old cracked vase might not have any value, but it's all I've got to work with, even if it's of no value to others. JMHE though. :notworthy:
 
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