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In family therapy with narc-ish family; reveal aspergers dx?

Discussion in 'Treatment & Therapy' started by DogwoodTree, Apr 22, 2018.

  1. DogwoodTree

    DogwoodTree Well-Known Member

    I work in the family business, and due to ongoing relationship issues from abuse throughout my childhood, we are now in family therapy (me, my mom, and one sister). My individual T has said that my mom shows both borderline and narcissistic traits, and this is from raw data that I've shared with him, not just my report of things she's said or done (e.g., emails from her, videos she posted to YouTube, recorded conversations). I think he would prefer that I leave the family business and the family relationships, but that would so deeply affect my career, that I've decided to stick it out a while longer for now.

    I interviewed the family T before we started working with her, and she seemed to "get" the issues we're dealing with. She said she works a lot with families coming from addiction backgrounds (my grandfather was an alcoholic, and I was raised in the same dynamics but without the addiction), and she uses a family systems approach (my T thought that was a really important thing to look for). I also have asperger's, and when I've met with the family T one-on-one, she seems to hear me and understand me well enough as I describe the issues I deal with for being on the spectrum.

    But. When we meet with her as a group, it's like she either forgets I'm autistic (I've learned to mask a lot of my traits), or she seems to target me for not acting totally normal and being able to express empathy with my family members in ways that are warm-and-fuzzy to them. She acknowledges the strengths I bring to the business, but the conversations still revolve around warm-and-fuzzy empathy, and we spend a lot of time trying to get my responses to the others to line up with that standard.

    My family doesn't know about my AS dx, and I've resisted telling them because I'm afraid they'll make all the *issues* to be about my autism instead of recognizing how they also contribute to the problems. I'm already the scapegoat, so maybe that wouldn't be any worse. But I've watched this family T make my autism a primary focus of the conversations (we couch it in terms of "personality differences" so I won't have to reveal my dx if I choose not to). She started our sessions with teaching us empathetic communication skills, which I agree it's important to get all sides listening to the others. But her rules for these conversations are very strict, and sometimes I just can't seem to figure out what it is she's wanting, and so I feel like I'm failing in family therapy because my deficiencies become such a focus of the conversation, and the others' unhealthy relationship dynamics never get any attention.

    For example, the other day I shared that I had been deeply depressed from trying for so long to be a "people person" when I'm really more of a task-oriented person, and I had reached a point of burnout to where I couldn't do it anymore (which is totally fine for my work, but doesn't work so well in family relationships, and their feelings have gotten hurt). My sister was supposed to respond empathetically. She said she also had been depressed because her job isn't a great fit for her personality, and she couldn't understand why I didn't compensate for her depression by making myself to be more of a people person with her. Then I was supposed to respond empathetically, and my response was that I knew she had been depressed, and I knew it was hard, and I couldn't fix the problem for her, but she could get other people around her to meet her needs for her. Then the T said that my sister's response to me was empathetic but my response to her was not. Whereas from my perspective, her response to me was essentially, "You're depressed? Well I am, too. And I don't understand why you don't try harder to make it up to me." But my response to her was essentially, "I actually had already noticed you're depressed, and I know your job is hard, and while I can't fix it for you, other people could help you with that." But my response was "cold" while hers was warm and "empathetic." What am I missing??

    So the family T really wants me to reveal the AS dx to the others. On the positive side, it would make it easier to explain why I struggle with empathy and why it's so freakin' hard to "do" relationships. I can fake it well enough for public appearances with customers and so forth, and as I've gotten feedback from my family members, I try to make sure my work AND family communications are friendly-sounding enough. But it's exhausting and takes so much time. I'll sit and stare at a short email for 20 minutes trying to make sure it sounds warm and friendly enough. And still somehow they think I "hate" them and they feel so "rejected" (their words).

    It doesn't seem to matter what my actual words say, if what I'm saying doesn't make them feel warm and fuzzy inside, then I'm rejecting them and I hate them. And then in family therapy, it's been the opposite with what they say to me. It doesn't seem to matter how judgmental or critical their words are to me, somehow they're still supposedly communicating warmth and fairness and love.

    For example, a couple of weeks ago, my mom, in telling her perspective on an event, said that I had basically refused to do everything she asked of me during a particular project (quote: "she balked at everything I asked her to do"), and that she had to offer me more money to try to make sure I finished the work (quote: "I felt like I had to negotiate to make sure the work got done"). This was unequivocally not true, and I couldn't even repeat the words back to her for an empathetic response. So then the T offered to repeat back what was said, and she changed all the wording to make it sound like my mom had recognized that, in that project, I had been given more than my "fair share" of the work and she was offering me extra money "to compensate." That's actually more what happened, but that is most definitely not what my mom had just said. But somehow, the T decided that's what she had said. When I asked the T about it later in an individual session, she said she was reading body language and other, more abstract communications from my mom that I clearly wasn't picking up on because aspies take things too literally. (How is this not gaslighting? I know the definitions of the words my mom used. Even if her body language said something different, the words still raised a red flag for her dishonesty in recalling the event, and then there's the bizarre discrepancy between what my mom said and how the T interpreted it, and then said the miscommunication was due to my deficiency.)

    So, my question boils down to, would it be helpful to reveal my AS dx, or is that setting myself up for more gaslighting and scapegoating? Or maybe I really am misreading all of this, and the words a person says really don't matter but only some mysterious body language that has nothing to do with the actual words said. (I actually do read body language well because of my abusive upbringing, but I don't always know what to do about the information I gather from someone's body language, and I don't naturally communicate with body language unless I work at it. And I didn't notice anything in my mom's body language that day that said what the family T interpreted her message to say.)
    Anarchy, Sietz, scout86 and 1 other person like this.
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  3. EveHarrington

    EveHarrington _______ in progress. Premium Member

    I am not sure how to advise you on revealing your Dx.....as there are definitely pros and cons. My concern is that they would continue to scapegoat you.

    I will say that it’s not your job to fix your sisters depression. If your sister wants your help, it’s up to her to come to you and ask for help.....in specific ways, not just general “be more of a people person” kind of way. (What does that even mean? Be more of a people person? You’d essentially be guessing at exactly what she needs!)
    Sietz and littleoc like this.
  4. Bkinder

    Bkinder Active Member

    I think you answered your own question within your question. If you are already the scapegoat,
    and you understand gas-lighting, I answer this based on my experience and beliefs about narcissists. Knowledge to narcissists = later use of the information to abuse you. It could be days, months or even years later.......but narcissists need gossip, dirt on people, to feel that they are better, smarter, and can solve other's problems. Narcissists seek to create drama. Information is one source of fuel. Just my opinion for what it is worth but your medical condition isn't their business, and autism, especially Aspergers is not well understood by the general population.
    You are unique, you are not a label.
  5. scout86

    scout86 I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Let me begin by saying I rolled my eyes when I read that.

    Then, I've got to say, in what you've written here, you sound plenty empathetic to me. And the more I think about it, my personal reaction to the idea that it's your job to generate warm, fuzzy feelings in other people is "anger". I really don't see that as your job. To recognize and acknowledge their feelings? Yeah, I can buy that. But if they need warm & fuzzy? What's that got to do with work & how's it your job?

    My T says I don't recognize feelings well. Every now and then, in response to a comment (that I know better than to make to most people) he'll laugh and say, "You really don't get this stuff very well, do you?" But I don't think I have anything on the spectrum. It's just never been very useful to have "feelings". So, I kind of get this situation, but I suspect I don't totally get it. The ability to "do feelings" exists on a spectrum, like most things. You & I and a lot of other people aren't very good at it. So what? We ARE good at other things. How about people work with their strengths and appreciate each other for what they are?

    Sorry about the rant! For your actual question......... I'd ask your T, for a start, because he sounds like he's got a good handle on things.. But, I'm inclined to think "what could it hurt?" I'm sure it will be used against you in some ways. And yet, they are using the traits that go with it against you anyway. Maybe if they put a name to it, the T could help them learn to have a little more empathy for you?
    Anarchy and littleoc like this.
  6. Bkinder

    Bkinder Active Member

    I have a condition, my narcissistic brother has turned into crazy. Making other people feel crazy, then calling them crazy, is a narcissistic hallmark. Why give them any ammunition? I say your disability is your business-don't fuel an existing fire.
    Anarchy, littleoc and EveHarrington like this.
  7. Eagle3

    Eagle3 Well-Known Member

    I read the first interaction with your sister and depression, and I TOTALLY agree with your original interpretation. Your sister was making it all about her, and you came back with an empathetic, yet appropriately boundaried, response. I'm all hella kinds of proud of you for that interaction!

    I hate to say it, but it kind of sounds like the Family T really doesn't understand what's going on as much as she thinks. If the others are allowed to continue narcissistic patterns, no matter how subtle, then nothing will change. I'm of the opinion that if you disclose your Autism, it won't change a damn thing and the treatment from your family just might get much worse. Proceed with caution, and don't let them gang up on you in group!!
    Anarchy, EveHarrington and littleoc like this.
  8. DogwoodTree

    DogwoodTree Well-Known Member

    Yes, this is kinda where it ends up going. I think she basically wants emotional softness, encouragement, affirmation--she thrives on compliments and even said to me, at one point, that if she doesn't get enough words of affirmation (her "love language") from the people in her life, then she'll find a way to force it out of them. She uses Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages book as evidence that she has a right to demand compliments in a relationship so that she can feel loved and do her work.

    I agree with all of this. And my mom and sister definitely go to great lengths to solve other people's problems. It's almost a second career for them, especially my mom. If I could give more details on this publicly, you'd be amazed at how extensively she's gone on this track.

    And yet, if she had this information on me about my dx, she would also be held accountable on that information to the degree that it affects how she appears to other people. She needs to look like a very good person. And really, when it comes down to it, I think she does have a positive intent, she just has a very unhealthy way of going about it. So maybe, if she knew, and then could understand what it means, then just maybe she could adjust to my needs? Or maybe I'm just naive about it, I really don't know.

    I'm trying to believe this.

    It feels like I'm advocating for the right to be rude. The ways I naturally interact with people really are somewhat cold and unemotional. I have to work at warming up my communications. But I DO work at it. I just want the freedom to not have to work so hard at it with my family, without them automatically assuming I hate them and don't want anything to do with them ever again. The family T said my mom has an anxious attachment style due to her own background, and so her own special need is for constant reassurance that I love her and accept her, just like I also have special needs. But I don't think anyone yet fully appreciates how draining this kind of reassurance is for me to give it, especially to my family members, where my whole life I've been the over-responsible, oldest child who had to suck up my emotions and never have needs and take care of everyone else, including my parents, step-parents, and siblings. They all admit that this was the way I was treated growing up, from the time I was very young, and even today I'm the over-responsible one and I'm expected to "take care of" everyone else's emotions. But somehow, they still want me to do more of this??

    Apparently, because this is a family business, there's an additional layer of obligation to meet people's emotional needs in the relationships in order to have the right to keep working in the family business. Nevermind they really couldn't survive much longer without me at this point, considering that my mom is about to retire and my sister doesn't have the gumption to do this on her own. But it seems they'd rather let the whole thing fall apart than work with me if I'm not meeting their emotional needs. Both the family T and a business coach we worked with several months ago said or implied the same thing--that part of my duties in a family business is to meet the emotional needs of the family members. And I get that I have to be kind and respectful and all that. And I am. I'm certainly not yelling at people, or cussing, or insulting, or criticizing. But if my communications are too business-like in nature, then their conclusion is that I hate them and I'm rejecting them and don't want anything to do with them.

    The assumption, because of my aspergers, is that...if they don't feel accepted and loved by me, the problem is that I'm not communicating warmly enough. There's little to no investigation into the possibility that their expectations are inappropriate.

    I think this is where I'm landing on that particular issue, after an extended struggle that had me in crisis for a little while there. The others--including the family T--seem to be communicating in feelings, based on body language. But I'm communicating in logic and facts, based on the words used. Even though I do have feelings, they're buried deep inside and have nothing directly to do with my communication (unless it's an issue of some strong feeling, like fear or anger, overwhelming me and making communication nearly impossible).

    There are a lot of things I do well, especially in our work. But meeting emotional needs is not one of them. I can't meet all of their needs, and I shouldn't have to. Let me do well the things that I'm good at, and let them find other ways to get their emotional needs met.

    But I expect their response will be (and this is essentially what my sister was saying the other day in regards to her depression) that they're stepping outside their comfort zones at times in service of the business and the family, so why can't I do the same thing? If they have to meet me partway by communicating more in writing (because I have difficulty with face-to-face conversation), or by being more accurate with their word selection (because I'm going by what they say, not by what they felt that they intended), then why can't I pour more energy into making small talk with them, or smiling/hugging them, or spending time with them outside of work, or whatever it is they feel is lacking at any particular time.

    And I do. There are a lot of business tasks I've taken on that aren't my natural strengths, and yet I've become very good at them anyway. I also do a lot of masking my autistic traits to try to appear more normal when I'm around them and less awkward or uncomfortable. I do spend personal time with them--way more than I want to, but way less than they want. I do make small talk...again, not enough for them, but some. I have to fake these things to do them, and yet, I still try to do them well. But meeting someone's emotional needs is a different animal for me, something that is extremely draining, and I normally reserve that kind of energy only for my husband, my kids, and the few friends who accept me totally as I am already.

    So that's where it seems that revealing my AS dx might be helpful, so that they can understand how incredibly draining it is to translate my communications into emotional language in a way that won't feel rejecting to them. This really isn't just a personality difference. This is a neurological blockade. And no matter how desperately I've tried to find a way around it so that I could feel "connected" with the people around me, it hasn't worked, and believe me, I've tried. Actually, all this masking and faking it to try to help others feel more connected, results in more distance and alienation and isolation for me. If I could be my real self with them, that authenticity might actually make some real connection possible, but the more I've tried to be my real self with them, the more they've felt rejected and hated.

    ...and this trap results in so much self-hate. Being my real self with people drives most people away. This fact has put me into severe psychological crisis more than anything else over the past few years.

    All of my sisters and my mom have this patronizing tone with me, and always have. It's not a "you're stupid" tone...it's not obviously mean. I've heard them use this tone with other people they're being nice to, people they're "saving." It's kind of a "you're not quite all there, and I'll be really nice to you so you can feel better about yourself anyway" tone. But they don't talk that way to each other. I dread hearing that tone get more pronounced, if they realize I'm certifiably socially deficient.

    I guess they'll find out eventually. Why wait?

    I feel like I'm really screwing up in family therapy because I keep letting my anxiety or fear or anger show (these things cause repetitive movements called stimming, or total lack of eye contact, or difficulty communicating, or unclear thinking). I've been working over the past few years to let some of that show in therapy so I can be more authentic in the therapy room. Now it seems like I should backtrack and put that stuff under wraps again, but my T says he's afraid of the complications that might create in the other therapy work I'm doing. End result is...I feel crazy in the family therapy sessions. These emotions are interfering with my ability to put thoughts and words together during the sessions. But my mom and sister are sitting there as calm as anything, and it makes me look like a lunatic.

    Isn't it their business if it affects my ability to do my job (as they define it)?

    I'm afraid my tone didn't match my words at all. I performed the mental calculations for what the response should be, and then spit it out in a somewhat disorganized fashion because I knew her response had hit a nerve for me, but I didn't have the time to sit with it and figure it out. The words were good, and if the words actually mattered in these conversations, I might've come across okay. But apparently the tone and body language count more in these sessions, and I didn't manage to get all of that aligned correctly. Anyway, it sounds better in writing than it did in person. I'm glad you see what I'm talking about with her response to me, though. I really can't figure out what it was about her response to me that the family T thought was empathetic. The family T seems to interpret things they say very favorably, but the things I say are seen as "cold" even when the words themselves are good.

    I'm thinking more and more that this is the case. And that's very depressing. I chose this T from the list my mom gave me of the Ts she was willing to work with. This is the only one that showed any real promise of being capable of handling this situation. I would much rather work with a male T, but that would require starting over with someone new, and that's if my mom would consider working with someone she didn't choose first herself. The only other option is to walk away and hope my career can survive on my own. I'm the sole breadwinner with my DH and kids. And my job is very specialized--it would be very difficult to set up shop on my own, not entirely impossible at this point, but definitely a significant setback.

    How can I help the family T see the subtle narcissistic patterns in a way that won't look like I'm accusing or blameshifting or playing the victim?
    Anarchy, Sietz and scout86 like this.
  9. scout86

    scout86 I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    I hope you can come up with something. My own experience, with my own family, was that that's hard to do. (My mom and brother are/were really good a being narcs and the ability to manipulate is part of that.)

    I've been thinking about this "love language" stuff. Isn't there kind of two sides to that? They tell you what registers with them as indicating love, so you can try to express it that way. But don't THEY also have a part to play by learning how YOU show and receive love, so they can try to recognize and receive that? Granted, that's hard for a narc to do, but still, isn't that the way it's supposed to work?

    It seems to me that you show love for them just by dealing with them. (Even I get that you can't actually say that to them.) But you are showing your love by working as hard as you do at your job. They don't know how hard that actually IS, of course. Being narcs, they probably won't care.... But.... I don't know, them knowing your diagnosis and letting the dynamic play out in front of the family T COULD show their true colors and that part of the dynamic.

    I've said before that I agree with your T on what you should do. I really respect how hard you're willing to work to keep the family business going. Things might get better when your mom retires.

    In a more normal situation, everyone should be learning to recognize and appreciate all the other communication styles involved. That seems to be missing from this therapist's repertoire, at least right now. Is there a way to present it to your mom and sister that it's in their own best interest to accept you as you are? Because "their own best interest" is what really matters to them.

    I sincerely wish you luck with this!
    Anarchy and Eagle3 like this.
  10. Still Standing

    Still Standing Well-Known Member

    My two cents. I would vote to reveal and educate your family on autism. I am assuming you live life filtered through Asperger's? I am familiar with this, as I have a friend with this who struggles in the real world, relating emotionally with people. I also have a son with this. He, too, is high functioning. He, as it sounds with you as you write and describe yourself very well, are very intelligent and can function well with others. But, the demands of the nuances of communication with others, is draining because of not being able to fully relate. The misconnect can cause division in the work place because it is seen as a negative attitude or unwillingness to adapt. In our own family, this son was tough to relate to and it caused a lot of stress. Once we understood his Asperger's, we were able to adjust our reactions and conversations, and expectations of him and things improved immensely. So, I vote that you have a couple of therapy sessions where your diagnosis can be revealed, discussed, and suggestions of how you can all manage together that would best help you at your job and in your family unit.
    scout86 likes this.
  11. Sideways

    Sideways I'm a VIP Premium Member

    I have a bit of a different perspective on a lot of this, so take what’s helpful, leave the rest, k?

    First, I find the whole ‘narc’ line of assault against your mum unhelpful. Your T has said she has narcissistic traits, but (a) that doesn’t make her a ‘narc’; and (b) it actually doesn’t define her any more than your Asp diagnosis defines you, yeah? So, it’s a way to help understand her and her needs and some of her behaviours, but let’s not get too carried away with the labels!

    If you decide to tell you family about your diagnosis, it may help them understand why you have the communication style that you have. But will it actually change their approach to you? Probably not. After all, it’s just a label. It’s not who you are, and the issues with your family are a whole lot bigger and more complicated than just the fact that you’re on the spectrum.

    Second, and more importantly - the family T that you’re working with seems to be focusing on trying to teach you, mum and sister communication skills. A number of times, when the T has given you feedback about the way you’re communicating, you’ve interpreted that as her saying “I’m doing it wrong, she’s saying I am the problem”.

    I can definitely understand why you’re interpreting it that way. But actually, the T potentially does understand that the ‘problem’ is far more complicated and deep-seated issues that have a long history. She isn’t providing therapy to each of you individually to fix those issues. She’s not actually trying to fix ‘the problem’.

    All she’s doing? Is teaching a skill to try and help you work together. And working together? Seems to be your goal. Good communication skills can help people aork together when there’s a whole tonne of historical trauma stuff and personality issues going on. Good communication is a skill that we can learn (and given your mum’s history? It makes sense that she wasn’t able to teach you this skill herself). Ts are in a good position to help teach us. Which I think is all this T is trying to achieve.

    So, when the T gives you feedback on how you might communicate differently? She’s not saying that you’re the problem. She’s not even saying that this is going to resolve the problem. Because the ‘problem’ is huge. All she’s doing? Is trying to help teach you a skill that can potentially help your family business to function more smoothly, despite all of the underlying issues.

    You don’t need to like your sister, or agree with her, to communicate in an empathic way. But it seems to me that what this T is trying to do is simply give you the skills to work with your family more effectively, letting the deeper issues be what they are.
    Sietz and Still Standing like this.
  12. DogwoodTree

    DogwoodTree Well-Known Member

    This is a challenge bc I don't really receive love in any of those languages.

    Gifts...people don't usually know what I want, and I'd rather get it myself
    Service...I just want everyone to take care of their responsibilities, it's not about me
    Affirmation...compliments leave me feeling like they're trying to "make" me feel loved, and it feels manipulative
    Time...I'd rather be alone most of the time, especially from people who require me to jump through their hoops

    I've tried to identify my own love languages, but it doesn't really work. It seems I don't receive the experience of "love" except in the forms of acceptance, freedom, and everyone just being a good person and taking care of their responsibilities and leaving me alone. So if they want me to fit in their box that makes them feel loved, then that, by definition, is not acceptance or freedom. It's fake and not-love.

    This is what I've been trying for, but it seems they will require a "label" in order to accept that I'm significantly different than they are. And even then, I'm not sure it will work. But what we're doing now isn't working.

    If I knew this is what would happen, I would've done it years ago. My DH adjusted and still makes adjustments as I discover more about what I need and prefer. I've kept him in the loop bc he accepts me no matter what, with or without a label, and honors my needs and differences. But they don't. They're offended at my differences.

    At any rate, I'm warming up to the idea of telling them. They might misuse the information, and the famT might still make this all about my AS. But does any of that really matter, if I get some adjustments in the way they relate to me? I can't force them to face their own issues. And if they make adjustments while saying it's all because I'm disabled or whatever, instead of recognizing that some of the changes are necessary bc of their own issues, does it really matter? I'm already being scapegoated for all of it. At least this way, perhaps some of the pressure will be lessened.

    I agree. That's why I said "narc-ish" in the subject line, and mostly focused on behaviors and patterns, not labels or not-yet-existent diagnoses. I also don't believe she's fully into the narcissistic personality disorder portion of the narc spectrum. She definitely has some traits that cause problems, but I think the famT is right that my mom is not intentionally malicious in all this. I think both my mom and my sister (and me, before I started my own therapy work) have some incredibly unhealthy relationship expectations, and it results in borderline-ish and narc-ish behaviors. But I also think they could change these things if they wanted to.

    This is complicated. It might actually change their approach to me because it would justify their patronizing tone and their desire to "rescue" and "save" in order to see themselves as good and loving. If they give the dx any stock at all, it could actually result in some helpful changes. But that comes at a price of being labeled as deficient. In a conversation with the business coach last summer, even without revealing the AS dx, my mom called me "handicapped" three times because I asked for more reliance on written communications instead of so much verbal communication. She sort of adapted...and then kept guilt tripping me all the way through the fall's project. But she did at least make a little bit of an adjustment. The dx could bring more adjustments bc there's a reason for the adjustments, not just a bizarre request.

    Regarding the label and who I am...many autistics see autism as, in fact, being who I am. This isn't a disability in the sense of being in a wheelchair, or not being able to hear. It affects everything about how I experience the world and myself, and how I interact with the people around me. There's no part of my life untouched by it. It's as much a part of me as my gender, or my personality, or my natural strengths/weaknesses/interests/dislikes...all the things that make me who I am.

    At the same time, each aspie is totally unique. So a person can't just look at the label and think they know me. The spiky profile of autistic capabilities and deficiencies requires that each aspie be evaluated and learned about individually. Are they willing to give me that much freedom to be myself? I don't know.

    This makes a lot of sense, and I think I hear what you're saying--that it's important I don't jump to the conclusion that I'm "wrong" when the famT gives me guidance, correction, or whatever. It's a good point, and one I've been working on in other situations (especially in my karate class...that's been a great opportunity to learn how to be taught and guided without condemning myself for every mistake).

    Still, it seems there's been an inordinate amount of attention on my deficiency in empathetic expressions, and not much attention at all on the others' unhealthy expectations of me. Why did the famT not address my sister's unhealthy expectation that I somehow compensate for her depression so she'll feel better, even though I had just said that I had already been trying to do those things and it had put me into a deep depression because it was too hard for me? Why did the famT reinterpret my mom's words to say something fair and understandable instead of addressing the accusatory things my mom had actually said, and then say it was my literal interpretation that was the problem? That was not an issue of concrete interpretation of something intended abstractly (which is what happens when aspies interpret too literally). That was, instead, an issue of accuracy. The words my mom used meant one thing, but the famT interpreted her words to mean something else entirely.

    The problem here is that she's trying to teach me a skill that isn't appropriate in this context. One...emotional expression (the warm fuzzies) is extremely difficult for me, draining, and feels like an invasion that is particularly problematic given the PTSD issues I've been dealing with. Two...the relationships with my mom and sister have been so threatening that I don't feel safe enough with them to express vulnerability or emotionality of any kind, even in the ways that I might could, except for the very surface-level stuff I do to try to sound nice and friendly.

    If she were instead trying to teach us communication skills built more on facts, logic, word selection, accountability, boundaries, those kinds of things...that seems it would be more helpful, and more "middle ground" for where we're all at right now, and safer emotionally so that I could offer more emotional communication in the future (even if I have to fake it to make it happen).

    I will try to give her the benefit of the doubt here. But I tend to do this a lot with people...give them the benefit of the doubt and come up with ways where their behavior could make sense to them...and then I end up getting hurt. Given...she's probably not the psychopathic abuser my step-dad was, but I'm only beginning to learn how to have boundaries-lite with people, where I can hear what they have to say without taking it in as an all-encompassing thesis on who I am and what my place is in the world. And the fact that I don't feel safe in the family therapy sessions right now, because it seems I have a target on my back, makes it an incredibly complicated cognitive procedure to determine how to show up in these conversations in a way that keeps me safe while still contributing to the overall process.
    Anarchy, scout86 and Sideways like this.
  13. Nessa7

    Nessa7 Well-Known Member Donated

    Until I went back through some of your old posts, I was going to advise you not to. Looking back at posts giving examples of some of the patronizing things that your mother has done, your mother is already doing a lot of the things that I would fear that she would do if she knew about your diagnsis. Your mother seems like she would not want to be seen as discriminating against her daughter, so that might keep her from doing things like calling you "handicapped" at work.

    Another advantage is that it might let your therapist be more explicit in explaining things to your family. It could be easier for them to explain when your family's expectations are espescially unreasonable. (Personally, I do think your reactions in both of the scenarios from therapy you described in your first post were totally reasonable.) She wouldn't have to be as concerned with withholding information, so she might be able to explain her intentions more clearly.
    scout86 likes this.
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