Trusting The Process

Yesterday’s session ended in a difficult place. Most of it was okay. We were able to talk through the nightmare I had and although it was very uncomfortable for me, I stuck with it as she offered her interpretations. I thought she had a lot of very insightful (and very accurate) observations. Then she asked me what I felt about the dream.

I told her that what stood out was the helplessness. I’d obviously had this idea in my head that I would go to see her, tell her about my parents abusing me, and somehow she would be able to save me. But she couldn’t. She couldn’t save me from them in the dream anymore than the people in real life could (or chose to) save me. I’m not in danger from my family at this point, but I think the fear that she will somehow be rendered helpless still frightens me. I told her that I’ve been in that place before; looking back at a therapist who is standing there, helpless. It never ends well for me. I always end up being more than they can take on and they always end up abandoning me in some capacity.

Then I started asking her about “the process”. I explained that I normally do a full interview with therapists before I hire them. I have a list of questions that I ask to clarify their education, training, and overall vision of how therapy works. Every therapist is different in the techniques and approach they use to facilitate healing and growth; I like to know what that is and, specifically, how they see their role in that process.

Because I sought this therapist out in the aftermath of termination from Zooey, I didn’t conduct my usual interview. I skipped that and just let each therapist hit the ground running. I wanted to see them in action and assess how they responded to me and my needs right there in the moment. Rather than telling me how they would do therapy, I wanted them to show me.

And this therapist did very well. She was able to hold and contain a lot of the tremendous grief and anguish I was feeling at that time. She exuded strength, self-awareness and confidence that was reassuring. She tracked impressively well with my thought process. I especially appreciated that she challenged me right away while also being gentle and empathic. I ultimately chose to hire her because she seemed the most capable of keeping up with me and she didn’t seem afraid of the work.

I still believe all of those things and I remain confident in my choice of therapist. But as we transition to a higher frequency of sessions and I become increasingly vulnerable in this relationship, the “process” is not entirely clear to me. And whenever I bring up my diagnoses, specifically the dissociative disorder, she deflects it back to me. Which, I get it, that’s what therapists do. But it is important to me that I understand how she sees this playing out. One of the comments Zooey made when she abandoned me terminated treatment was that I “needed someone who could see the big picture; someone who could see the end” because she couldn’t.

As I expressed this to the therapist, she said, “But I can’t see the end, either. No one can.”

“I know that. I don’t expect you to be able to see the future, I just wonder how you view this; how you see it playing out.”

She kept dodging my inquiry and offering vague answers that were confusing to me. I was getting frustrated. She finally asked me, “Why are you bringing this up now? I wonder what is going on to make you question all of this?”

“I’m bringing this up because it’s related to the dream we’re talking about! I don’t want to end up left alone because you feel helpless. And I don’t want you to suddenly realize that you can’t see the end, either. I don’t really understand the work we’re doing and that scares me. But this is your job, so arguably you spend time thinking about what will work for me and how you can help me reach my goals, which is also something we never talk about…”

“My process is very open-ended, though. So we don’t talk about goals because what is most important is what’s happening to you right now. Your diagnosis is important if it’s important to you. And you’re always welcome to talk about it, but what I’m most interested in is how YOU feel about your diagnosis, in the moment.”

“Fine. But if you won’t talk to me about how you understand or use the diagnosis to inform this work, it’s hard to know if we’re on the same page. And if you aren’t sharing with me how you see this unfolding, how am I supposed to trust you or have any faith in you?”

“But this process isn’t about me, it’s about you. What I feel about it is not as important as what you feel about it. And I don’t think you necessarily need to have faith in me. I think you need to have faith in the process.”

“What does that even mean?! Also: yes, I absolutely DO need to have faith in you. Not only because I don’t really know what ‘the process’ is, but also because I can’t do this alone. If I could, I would. But I can’t, so that is why I hired you – to facilitate ‘the process’. And that is where the questions come from. I need to be sure that you’re capable of doing that and that you think it is possible.”

I can’t remember what she said next because I started to space out. I know she said much of the same stuff, trying to help me understand what she was saying. But it was just triggering me and I started to cry out of anger. I finally just stopped and stared out the window.

“Did I lose you?”

“No. I just don’t understand why you’re being so weird about this.”

“I’m not sure I know what you need from me right now.”

“What I need is for you to tell me that you believe in this; that you can see this playing out in the long-term and that you think this will work. I need to know that you believe in me. And I need you to stop pretending like this is all about me and you play no role in how this ends up because that is not true at all.”

“Andi, I absolutely believe in this. I believe in the potential for this process to be very healing. And I believe in that potential for you, specifically. I feel very responsible for my role in this and I take it very, very seriously.”

“WHY couldn’t you just say that to begin with? Why couldn’t you just tell me that when I originally asked?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I answered the way I did for a reason…”

“What does that even mean?”

“That perhaps the way I answered is also part of the process.”

“Or maybe the way you answered has to do with what’s going on with you.”

“Maybe it has to do with me and with the process.”

“I cannot even deal with this anymore and it’s time to go. But I’m so mad at you and that really sucks.”

“I know. But can you try to hold on that emotion? Maybe write about it or even just hold it until Monday, when we can talk about it some more?”

I just laughed and walked out. I wish I could say more about why I did or said any of these things, but I am still not entirely sure what the hell was going on with me.

…totally open to feedback on that.

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38 thoughts on “Trusting The Process

  1. Boost Connection says:

    Lot of stuff there. I am hearing that you want to understand what is expected of you and what you can expect from her/the process. I imagine not knowing what to expect is very scary for you. If you know, then you can stop yourself from getting too hurt.

    I think she definitely has the long-term in mind, but perhaps was finding it difficult to verbalize in a way that will not increase the pressure you put on yourself to get/feel better or to be something specific. Where you are is where you need to be. I feel that part of her plan is to meet you where you’re at while talking through those interactions with you to allow space for bringing acute awareness to patterns of thought/behavior and noticing where you might want to change those patterns that increase distress.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Life in a Bind - BPD and me says:

    Hugs will try and reply later kids running around at the moment. Although context and circumstances are different this reminds me exactly of me and my therapist. So very very much. Which in a way is reassuring. Because from what you’ve said your therapist seems amazing and despite the difficulties we have I think mines amazing too. So two amazing therapists who are frustrating and hurting their clients unintentionally but as an inevitable part of the process, must both be doing it for good reason , it seems to me , or we are both very wrong in our impressions (and I don’t think we are….). More later, hopefully!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thank you, dear. Glad to know I’m not alone in this. It is so hard because I definitely think she’s a wonderful and effective therapist, but we seem to be butting heads a lot. And I feel like most of that comes from my compulsive need to CREATE friction…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I went to their site and left a comment asking to join. The owner wrote me back explaining the guidelines and gave me permission to use the image. It should open up if you click on the image. If not, let me know and I’ll find the link.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jean says:

    I hope I don’t put my foot in my mouth, but……here goes….

    One thing that makes a client difficult for the average therapist is intelligence. If she can’t keep up with you, it is frustrating all around, and if she doesn’t recognize it, she will probably think it is something you are doing “wrong.” And I find you extremely intelligent. (I’m no slouch, BTW.)

    I think this woman is also extremely intelligent, and so you two are a good match. But I doubt if this is something either of you have ever experienced before, so it feels awkward and a little weird and mysterious.

    With others, you were ahead all the time, and they were following you by leaning on “process” or “doing the right thing.” With this therapist, I see you being a step ahead, and then her being a step ahead. She is fumbling because I doubt it she has had a client like you. Actually, I see you both fumbling.

    If the two of you can relax, see, and accept that you are peers IQ-wise, it will probably be a truly wonderful experience.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Andi says:

      Actually this is a very insightful and accurate comment. Thank you! I think that our intelligence does factor into how we interact with each other in sessions. And, yes, I am used to being one step ahead at all times. As much as I appreciate her ability to keep up with me, it’s also admittedly a bit jarring and annoying. Maybe this is just a necessary adjustment I’ll have to go through. Thanks again for the comment – gave me a lot to think about!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. La Quemada says:

    My therapist almost never talks about diagnoses and does articulate a long-term treatment plan. Like your therapist, E. is more focused on how I am doing in the moment with my own long-term healing process. She always emphasizes that my healing is mine, that she offers tools and supports but she can’t heal me. I some ways I think this made things take a long time, because I (rather passively) kept expecting her to “cure” me. And then after a while, it actually sunk in that it was up to me. I don’t know if that is relevant to your situation at all. But I have come around to the place where I am glad that she does not lay out a path for our work together. Another benefit is that we could let go of talking about the process or the diagnoses and focus all our time on me and my life. I don’t know if that would help you or not… please don’t take this as a suggestion your should change what you want… I am just sharing my experience and discovery that this kind of approach has been helpful to me.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks for your comment. I actually think that would be quite helpful. I see the benefit in pulling time away from focusing on diagnoses and technicalities of how therapy works and just digging into the work itself. I think part of my struggle is in the surrender; the letting go. Also, much of my experience has been framed within a psychological framework around pathology, so I think I find that comforting in its familiarity. But that doesn’t mean that alternative wouldn’t perhaps be better. Much to think about!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. plf1990 says:

    Lost for any useful words today, but this would have really stressed me out, too. You were seeking reassurance, not a deep therapeutic challenge. Whenever this happens with me and T and I lose my shit with her, she tells me to ‘use my voice’ and explain what it is I need to hear – she can’t guess. But I still expect her to guess.

    Not sure if that’s helpful but I just wanted to majorly empathise xxxx

    Liked by 4 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes, that’s definitely helpful. I like the way you describe that because you’re right. And sometimes I am literally just not capable of going into the deeper, more complex parts of the therapeutic process. Maybe I need to tell her that and ask her to just be patient with me in those moments. Thanks for your comment ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Rachel says:

    I’m going to be as gentle as possible while being honest. Please know that I care and my intention is to provide ideas that might be useful.
    I think you are terrified of being abandoned by her, and going through the extreme pain you felt from the last termination. I think you’re sort of fighting yourself in leaning into her and the process. A process that has no known ending or exact linear pathway. A process neither of you can predict or control or fully shape and plan for. I think your constant questioning of her and testing of her care and attention to you is your way of keeling distance and protecting yourself. I see you repeatedly test her, and she holds her own very well and does not get defensive. Remarkable, really. The constant testing is how you know to protect yourself, but Andi, it doesn’t work. It perpetuates that doubt, and keeps her at a distance that might seem safe, but doesn’t get what you really want. Which is closeness and that inner security. I know it is hard, I know. You have every reason to doubt and protect yourself. She is safe. If you can let yourself trust her, meaning blindly, you’ll gain the security you seek. But I think you’re going to have to stop testing her and her commitment and just go for it. The only way to feel connection and trust is to practice it, experientially. Meaning, maybe don’t question her care the next time you’re triggered and sit with the discomfort and tell yourself she cares and is in it till the end. All the reassurance from her still won’t build that inner security.
    I hope what I say makes sense, and is taken in with the loving support it is given. You are doing so well. So well. xx

    Liked by 5 people

    • Life in a Bind - BPD and me says:

      Wow. I know I said I was going to reply fully later, but I could never say it better than this, Andi. Particularly the second half. I can hear my own therapist’s voice in Rachel’s words, and she brings out the things I was going to mention, regarding reassurance and how it can only ever be a ‘temporary fix’ unless it can come from within. And we want that temporary fix SO badly, but at what point will we say ‘enough of the temporary’, or ‘no, not just one more time’, and start the painful painful process of doing exactly what Rachel (and my own therapist) says – learn by experience and by doing? Perhaps it is something about being fairly academic – I tend to think learning must be done from ‘theory’ (knowing about the process, or via ‘words) rather than by doing. And so learning something, particularly something as vital as this, through experiences, seems very uncomfortable. But the more time I spend in therapy – the more times my therapist and I ‘lock horns’ over this issue, and then talk about it – the more I am convinced she, and Rachel, and your own therapist, are right in this. Even though I hate to admit it and I hate what it means – that I won’t get the reassurance I feel I desperately need and am entitled to in the moment. That she WILL ‘use techniques’ on me, and that it will feel as though she’s not being direct or real, but in fact she will be trying to teach me something very very important, and it’s the reason she is there. You said you thought your therapist’s response was something to do with her – that is exactly what I said to my own therapist a month or so ago when we had a serious ‘falling out’ over exactly this sort of issue. And my therapist’s response was very similar to yours. She said she would always try and ensure she didn’t bring her own stuff into therapy, but that her way of responding to me and to my questions was part of the process itself. It feels so persuasive to us – the question ‘why couldn’t you just say it in the first place?’ ‘it’s so simple, all you need to do is use a few direct words, problem solved’. ‘Why can’t you care about me enough to be direct with me or to do this really easy simple thing for me?’. It feels so utterly obvious that the therapist should do what we are dying for her to do – that this is what we need, above anything else. But trust, as Rachel says, is so important. They see it differently – and they have seen this process play out, unpredictable though it is, many times before. Their judgment can be trusted, and if we can simply surrender to it, it can be immensely powerful in the long run. Sorry, having said I had nothing to add to Rachel’s amazing words, I have waffled on. Rachel, I just wanted to say thank you although your words were for specifically for Andi, I have taken a huge huge amount from them, and I KNOW I will remember them in future. You are wise and not afraid to be honest, with compassion. And those are beautiful qualities…..

      Liked by 3 people

      • Andi says:

        Yes, I completely agree with you, Rachel, and the therapist, haha. But that trust part…man, that’s hard. Gotta figure out how to just sink into the work and trust that it will take me where I need to be…

        Like

    • Andi says:

      Of course your comment makes all the sense! Thank you for this. I know you’re right as I’m reading this. I can absolutely tell that I am leading with fear and trying desperately to hold onto as much control as possible, as if that could possibly protect me from anything. You offer sound advice here and I am going to take it very seriously. I just know that it is going to be very hard to do. But…not impossible. Challenge accepted! xo

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rachel says:

        And I just want to say and reaffirm that it is okay you are trying to lead and control. Of course you are – you sure didn’t have anyone else up until this point to do that for you, or anyone you could trust to really lead you SAFELY and RELIABLY. You are wise for leading and taking control! And now you are learning you don’t have to, but change isn’t going to happen immediately. You’re doing so well in facing these patterns and being able to look at yourself honestly, yet with compassion. I just see a lot of promise and potential for growth here, and a lot of strength in current coping that has served you well and brought you here. So maybe the leading with fear can be thought of as a traveling companion on your journey that you’re parting ways with now.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Rachel says:

    I think you are projecting how afraid you are onto her; not referring to her by name, or personalizing how you speak of her. How you have very high expectations of her, and often it seems that she doesn’t do the ‘right’ thing because you are looking for reasons to doubt her. All of that behavior is coming from you, and feeding the fear. I think instead of focusing on what she is or isn’t saying, perhaps look at what you are doing or not doing.
    Again, I’m so impressed with you and this is not a criticism. I would feel criticized, but I think we have an understanding? xx

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes, of course we have an understanding 🙂

      Oh I’m definitely projecting, which is what pisses me off. I wish I wasn’t! I look at her and I see someone so utterly different from anyone who has hurt me, yet all I can see is her inevitable betrayal. WHY? Ugh, so frustrating! The fear…that is what I need to wrangle.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rachel says:

        It is frustrating, isn’t it? I get frustrated with how embarrassed I feel expressing needs and fears and admitting to another grown adult “I think you’re going to abandon me.” Awkward. And that pushing away and distancing behavior which is what we know to do, just makes it feel strained, and the strain and resistance feels uncomfortable. So the vulnerability is uncomfortable, and the defense mechanisms feel uncomfortable.
        I don’t know if I agree with having to “wrangle it” – maybe embrace it in a big bear hug 🙂 So it has no choice but to soften and let its grip on you go a bit.

        Like

  8. Rachel says:

    Okay my last thought. Promise. I think you are SO frustrated, because on some level you know you’re repeating old patterns. You know she is trustworthy yet you’re not trusting. So you’re caught at this juncture of ‘lean in, own my fear and go for it’ and stay put out of fear. I see this struggle, and I see tremendous courage in the asking of the question ‘what is going on with me?’ Often people can’t ask questions because they aren’t ready to make changes. Knowledge and insight precipitates that change, and I think you know what is going on. You’re just acting out of fear of change.

    Liked by 3 people

    • luverley says:

      Oh i have to reply now my god i am learning alot just from reading this blog and your answers and everyone’s response. I am so in this boat to and just need to trust and i Totaly fear change. And is very intelligent. Writes so nicely to.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Ha. I sorta responded to this in my response to your 2nd comment. Yes, I absolutely believe (logically) that she is trustworthy. But emotionally (and behaviorally, clearly) I cannot allow that to be true. Yet. Thank you for acknowledging the hard work I put into figuring this out. That means a lot. As does all of your input. I appreciate you so much! xo

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Anxious Mom says:

    I think what another post said makes sense–you’re obviously very highly intelligent, so maybe this therapist isn’t used to being lobbed the more difficult questions or being challenged and needed more time with it. It rather seems like she didn’t have an answer to your question and needed some time to come up with one, which is why she kept deflecting back to you until she got there. All the “I don’t know what you want from me” and being so strange about how her getting to the answer was part of the process makes it seem that way.

    I hope Monday’s session is less frustrating for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, E. I definitely think she has a challenge with me. Not because I’m difficult, but because I do have a genius IQ and it can be hard to match that in a psychotherapeutic setting. Most clinicians are ultimately intimidated by me and let that overwhelm them. I feel like this therapist embraces it, in many ways, but is also still figuring out how to navigate this particular dynamic. I hope tomorrow’s session goes a little better, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ellen says:

    I get really frustrated with these types of conversations also. My T’s responses make me so furious – so I can really relate to that part. For me, I have trouble sorting out what is my own anger from the past, and what part of it is real issues with the theory of therapy and my T’s take on it.

    I think you’re in a better situation with it though than I am. I also admired how you were able to stay with it – I change topics after a very few minutes because it all makes me so angry and sad. I think it’s good to stick with it longer the way you are doing.

    It sounds also as if she is not big on the ‘diagnosis’ part of things. To me that can be a good thing. She wants to treat you as an individual, maybe, not like a ‘case’ with ‘treatment goals’. Of course she would have to have that concept in the background though.

    Maybe you feel that if she was clearer about a plan, and goals, that would be evidence she could ‘save’ you, contradicting your nightmare? But in a way, the past has happened, and cannot be changed. I’ve found accepting that extremely difficult.

    My two cents. Probably not that helpful. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes! I definitely struggle with pulling apart historical emotions from “right now” emotions. It can feel nearly impossible to distinguish the two, which creates many problems. Thank you for noting that I stayed with the thought because that is something I’ve been actively working on. It’s very hard, but I do find it tends to pay off in the long run.

      She is not big on diagnoses at all. She finds that people are so variable in their presentations of “illnesses” that it can be more cumbersome than productive to use them. But I have always been boxed into a diagnostic label, so it is unsettling to have her frame my life in a non-pathologizing manner. Something I need to adjust to, I suppose.

      And, yes, I do think I’m looking for some clear cut plan that will tell me she can “save” me. But she can’t save me because, ultimately, I don’t actually need saving anymore.

      Must work on accepting the past and anchoring in the present.

      Yes, this was very helpful! Thank you so much 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. J says:

    I had similar experiences with my therapist of 4.5 years. Sometimes still do. Most of the time, though, she understands that when I ask things like, “are you sure I’m going to be okay?” “are you going to quit?” “do you like being my shrink?” (these are my standbys — there are months where these come out nearly unbidden at every session, then months where they don’t appear at all.) Obviously they indicate there’s some level of anxiety happening within me, but for the most part, I’m just seeking reassurance. Sometimes she keeps asking the whys about why I’m asking at that exact moment, but over the years she’s come to know that it’s mostly reassurance – and if it’s more, it’ll likely come out on it’s own – and just answers. The comfort I get from both the reassurance and the knowledge that the answers are almost always the same (though in fairness I occasionally shift the wording of the question and she occasionally shifts the wording of the answers) is enormous, and mostly what I’m looking for. I *know* with 100% certainty that she believes both in me and in the process and in the specific process of working with me, but sometimes (often), I need to hear it anyway. But, it took a while before she understood that and was comfortable with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thank you so much for this comment, J. I found it to be enormously comforting. Because, yes, I do need/want that reassurance. I want her to give it to me even when she knows I’m only asking because I want reassurance. I NEED reassurance because I am scared out of my mind all of the time. Perhaps we both need to be a little patient with each other and give each other a bit more leeway.

      Like

  12. Jean says:

    I had a thought…since you know you have a genius IQ and it looks like she does, too, why not just say so? That would get it out of the way. “Neither one of us has worked with somebody whose IQ matches ours, and it feels awkward to me right now. Can’t say what it feels like to you, except different.”

    Liked by 1 person

      • Jean says:

        I used to want to get every nuance of an idea expressed just right. I got it, but nobody else did! I finally decided to keep it simple, it was easier to communicate that way, and it was no reflection on my intelligence. It was real hard to do, because being direct was a no-no in my family and I had to practice a lot and put up with my fear.

        Like

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