Vulnerable To Criticism

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It's a pretty awful way to have to learn it, but obviously I need more insight into the impact I have on people and how I'm making them feel.

It's also a nasty lesson in my abandonment issues. He promised he'd stick with me, no matter what. And I've come to trust him. He's the one person in the world that I trusted, and now he's walked out too. And even though I haven't yet established whether he will agree to see me again, I can feel myself wrapping myself up in my anti-abandonment armour: don't trust anyone, how many times do I have to learn that!? I know that response is premature and unhelpful.

It's hard knowing how much experience he has, and the really difficult clients he deals with. I do feel a lot like I should be able to express myself, and when I'm in a bad headspace (as I was throughout the inpatient program) know that he can cope with that.

But he's human. I've clearly hurt him a lot, or something going on in the dynamic has hurt him a lot. It's so hard to have confidence in yourself and your own thoughts and feelings when you get that kind of response from a T. I mean, I think there are limits to what T's should be expected to endure, but did I really cross that line? Have I really been that awful without intending to be or realising? I thought, until this, that I had pretty reasonable insight into when my mood was so bad that I was just being a right b!tch...

I'm going in circles. But the feedback is all greatly appreciated. One thing is for sure, the current dynamic isn't therapeutic. I'm not sure how far I'm supposed to go to fix it. I'm not completely unempathetic - I don't want to hurt him.


Let's say you are really overly critical (and I don't know that you were, nothing you describe seems out of line.)

You know what can really help trauma survivors who get really overly critical with people? Therapy.

My trauma therapist says she expects her clients to get to negative transference and get really critical with her, even unreasonably so. When I did a trauma intensive program, and I expressed any problems I had with staff, you know what they did? They thanked me for using my voice.

That's what you are doing - you are using your voice to frankly do some of the best things that can be done in therapy. As committed as this therapist is to you, your therapist may simply not have the tools he needs to handle some of this. That doesn't make him or you bad, it just is.

And it's his responsibility to realize this, and set appropriate boundaries around what he can and can't handle, so that he doesn't impulsively walk out of a session. That's pretty unprofessional and untherapeutic, even if you were being overly critical at every single session.

I don't think you were being overly critical based on what you describe. But if you were being overly critical, there are two things that I can think of that you might want to consider about yourself and how therapy is set up:

Having two therapists at one time tends to work if one is the primary therapist, and the other is adjunct and only working on one issue or one set of skills. Like seeing a trauma therapist and an art therapist who just does art therapy. That can work out ok, and this may have been your goal. But if you are seeing two therapists without clear limits to one of them, then it tends to get weird fast and is generally not advised. It's also really hard for one therapist who is used to being a primary therapist to suddenly take a backseat or backup. Some therapists can do it, but this doesn't sound like one who can.

It might have also been just a really shit day for him with other things unrelated to you. He is human, and it does seem like he cares for you a lot.

I would look at perhaps if you are generally pushing him away, and why. It might be that there are other concerns you have, or that he's legitimately not feeling safe to you to be close with. Or it could be that it is an unhelpful defense mechanism that is keeping you away from dealing with other much harder issues or letting someone in to your struggle more. Or it could be that the way he acts or his position or role reminds you or stirs up someone from your past that wasn't safe. The way you describe working so hard to reassure him so that he doesn't abandon you reminds me a little of what a younger child would do with a parent. (By the way, I would probably try to do the same thing if I was in your shoes, this isn't a knock on you and is even normal for adults to do to keep a relationship working.) But it makes me think that the way this relationship is going, some negative transference *might* have been stirred up in addition to present moment problems in the relationship. That's normal in therapy, doesn't mean you have done anything wrong, but and can be a tool for healing with a therapist who has the skills to handle it. It can actually lead to what is called a "corrective emotional experience" when handled well.

I commend you for using your voice to express concerns you had to him. That's a good thing. I'm sorry he walked out in such a crap way.


@Ragdoll Circus, I've been chewing on this for a bit. From my perspective, you clearly care about your therapist, and I would put out there that his feelings being hurt--whether professional or not--speaks a lot about his capacity to care for you, his client.

While I absolutely agree with a lot of the points above, I have one more thing you might want to consider: making this part of your interpersonal relationship skill building. What I'm meaning to say is, if you really like him and want to stick with him, perhaps you can open dialog concerning this issue, and play it from ear from there.

I have a feeling that if you were to work through it with him, you may be surprised at how much better you feel and how much the therapeutic relationship has strengthened. (Alternatively, if you can't make it work but try, at least you have a solid answer as opposed to always wondering if he's the therapist you let slip by and regret later on.)


Maybe this is a bit off topic------

It seems like two therapists would just be better, we'd get more insight, work harder, etc-----

But I learned the hard way that this isn't always the best approach.

Two therapists means there is much room for conflicting therapies which contradict one another.

How do you decide who/what to listen to?

I've found that it's much better by far to squeeze as much as we possibly can out of one therapist, and then move on to another who can teach us something new.

Of course attachment issues would throw a wrench in it all if forming a strong (enduring) bond with your therapist is a goal.


I've been trying to put myself in your place. Which isn't that hard to do.

If my T did that (and it's not out of the question), my first reaction would probably be to wonder what I'd done wrong and look for ways to blame myself. After a bit, it would probably occur to me to wonder what he's up to. Seriously. Because a lot of times he does things I don't expect, but he generally has a reason.

He & I email between sessions and he encourages it. From what I've seen here, that's something that different T's handle differently and maybe they also handle different clients differently. I have problems trusting people and feeling any attachment to people. I don't always say what I'm thinking. I think he's learned that he'll get stuff in writing that I won't say (yet). He also encourages writing because he says it involves the higher cognitive functions of the brain. So you're more likely to be thinking instead of reacting.

We had an incident a couple where I almost ran out of the room. He didn't know that until I told him a week later. (He said he could tell he'd hit a nerve, but he had no idea it was THAT kind of nerve.) So, we talked about "running out of the room". I think this would apply to walking too. He said it's fine, as long as you come back. His idea is anyone in any relationship can call "time out" but they also need to call "time in" at some point. Obviously, we've talked about it and are both on the same page with regard to the rules of the game.

I've read enough of what you've written about your T to be impressed with him. I know, for myself, when I start guessing about what other people are thinking/feeling, I don't always do a very good job. I'd vote with @Riot that you look at it as an opportunity to work on your relationship skills. Have you ever asked him how he feels about the 2 therapist deal? Do they communicate with each other?


@scout86 - when I first told him (by text!) that this new psychotherapist had agreed to see me, he replied that it was good news. I was dubious (!) so I responded "So, things are good, right?" His reply? "Yes, things are very good". They haven't communicated yet to my knowledge, but I always allow free communication between my therapy team.

Having said that, a few years back I was working with a different paychotherapist, and this T came in mid-way. When I stopped seeing that psychotherapist, he told me that it had been "almost impossible" for the two of them to work together and that he wouldn't work in the same team as that psychotherapist ever again...

There is definitely space for conflict with 2 different T's on board. But their qualifications and experience and approach are all slightly different, which is why I tried to impress on him this time that I thought the 2 of them would be complimentary in their approach (because that's what I thought).

I emailed him on Friday morning about catching up next week. Still waiting for a reply...


There is definitely space for conflict with 2 different T's on board.
Yeah, I can sure see that as a possibility. I think I'd find it terribly confusing myself. I have enough trouble convincing myself my T isn't lying to me, etc. If I had an opposing view to listen too, I'm not sure I could sort it out. If they could actually work together, I can see possibilities for it being a good thing. I hope you guys work it out!


I have had to work pretty hard to get to a place of anything approaching trust with my therapist. I am REALLY bothered by the fact that he got up and walked out. I am impressed that you are still trying to talk to him and work with him. I would quit therapy. There would be no other therapist. There would be no new therapist and there would be no second chance with a therapist who walked out.
That's me.
It's not even a forgiveness thing for me. It's a trust thing for me. I commend you for continuing forward.


That's awful, it's not ok that he walked out of your session
We will agree to disagree on that one.

Not when you have a chain of emails which reduced you to tears.
The question that hasn't been asked... is what did you send your therapist to get a response of emails?

@Ragdoll Circus, I seriously doubt very much your therapist just sent you a barrage of emails out of the blue. What did you do? What did you send him? How many emails were sent both ways? Why were you sending him email, if so? Did you accuse him or make accusations against his treatment?

To me, what you have written on this site is classic BPD -- "help me, but I won't let you."


To me, what you have written on this site is classic BPD -- "help me, but I won't let you."
OUCH. I am not certain that this is appropriate at all.
1. You are not a therapist.
2. Even if you were a therapist, labeling a person online, without knowing them is not cool.

If I were to say that many of your postings look like classic narcissism, am I qualified to make that call? How is anyone here qualified to make any type of commentary on personality disordered stuff based on people's postings?

and up and left.
It seems to me like the question is this, and Ragdoll asking what she can do to help solve the situation, not, 'would someone mind telling me if I sound in my postings like a BPD'.
It seems to me like the BPD term is thrown around here at some with a touch of repulsiveness mixed in. I don't get it.


@anthony - yes, the emails definitely weren't straight out of the blue.

The first set I was in hospital and he was on leave. I was, for the first time, trying to be more candid with my doc about the details of my abuse (she was asking, I'd spent 7 years not talking about it with my doc, so I decided to try), and the flashbacks and nightmares I was having. Each time she saw me, she seemed fine, but would then go and call my T and have a complete meltdown (she has since conceded that my case is too complex and out of her area and we don't talk about my trauma on that basis).

All my T knew was he was getting these frantic calls from her threatening to dump me in the public system on an ITO. He would then email me telling me how angry she was, that she was on the verge of dumping me, that I needed to be more thoughtful of the impact what I said (??), to 'pull my head in'. It was pretty upsetting. Finally he sent me an email accusing me of splitting and that was behaviour that he 'expected from other clients but not from me'. After I lost it, I put it together that there was serious miscommunication going on because there was simply no way I'd been badmouthing him to my doc. So we figured it out from there between the 3 of us and I let it go.

This time, again in hospital, he came and saw me and I was (frankly) in a right bitch of a mood. Things were really difficult for me. He sent me an email afterwards reflecting on that and some of the things that I'd said and pointed out that some of it sounded like narcissism (ouch).

So I thought about that for a couple of days and wrote a detailed reply (standard for us - he gets me to write about topics and email him fairly regularly) explaining that I'd been a right bitch (that day and an appointment a couple of weeks prior), the reasons why I'd gone over the edge, apologising for that, and then reflecting on the way I viewd and interacted with the people around me, concluding that I didn't think I was a narcissist.

He gave a one line reply thanking me for the feedback, which was strange. He usually writes equally detailed replies. I'd been hoping (at the least) for some reassurance that he didn't think I was a narcissist. So I in turn said that I was hoping for a slightly more detailed reply and could we talk about it at our appointment the following week.

His reply: You do realise I have other clients, don't you?

That hurt a lot. In 5 years, I could count on one hand how many times I've had to change an appointment time, and if he's on time we joke about it. He's usually up to an hour late, and he knows I'm cool woth that because he likes to give his clients that time they need, and that extends to me. He also cancels, frequently. And he doesn't leave an appointment without reminding me to text or email "as often as you want". The deal is that I text/email whenever, and he replies when he's got time. He regularly asks me to email more often. I'm not imagining that.

I knew something was definitely wrong by that point, so I left it.

We then had the fated appointment where he walked out, because I raised the issue of his emails being really upsetting. Afterwards, I sent an email saying that we both seemed to be a bit strung out and how about we take a couple of weeks time out.

His reply to that email was "Let me know if or when you want to see me again". If??? I know that I'm mentally unstable, but I refuse to accept that I've indicated that I don't want to see him anymore. It was only a week or 2 prior that we'd talked about how I would stick with my current doc, despite her saying she felt out of her depth, because I needed her to write the referrals for me to keep seeing my T. That is, I'm sticking with a doc who doesn't feel she can help me just so I can keep seeing him. And he knows that's why I'm sticking with her, because we've discussed it.

Sorry for the essay reply, but I do want to try and give him a reasonably fair representation. The 3 months that went by between these 2 episodes were event free, very productive, all good...:(


Scratch that.

I just got a call from T's boss. T doesn't want to see me again. He thinks I should work with this new therapist instead.

Don't ever trust a T when they promise you they'll never give up on you.
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