Impasse

It would seem that the therapist and I arrive at a similar therapeutic impasse time and time again. I find that incredibly frustrating, but I’m also trying to imagine how I can use this particular experience to learn more about myself and grow. That is basically the whole point of being in psychotherapy anyway, yeah?

During pretty much every session, I say something that is riddled with self-loathing, cognitive distortions, or blatant inaccuracies. I don’t mean to do this, it’s simply part of my thought patterns at this point in my life and it stems from many things, least of all the influence of my severely fucked up family-of-origin.

She generally responds to these comments by jumping in to challenge me. She usually does that by either correcting the distortion (i.e. “No, it is not obvious that you’re [insert self-berating adjective]”) or pushing me to expand on what I’m saying, probably to help me see for myself how skewed my thoughts are (i.e. “Tell me more about [distorted perspective on a situation]”).

For the most part, I know (rationally) that she is doing this for a good reason, which is likely because these thought patterns bring me great distress and feed into my pain and suffering. By challenging them, she’s forcing me to find a different way to look at a scenario or to find an alternate explanation, that doesn’t center around my (self-declared) inherent worthlessness.

Yet still, it irritates me. Actually, to be honest, it hurts me. I feel so rejected in those moments and I feel like she’s not really listening to me. Because even though I know (with my normal brain) that what I am saying is inaccurate or distorted, it is still a very real part of how I see the world with my trauma brain. Once she throws out a comment that contradicts my thought, I feel really fucking stupid. Which then makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to keep talking.

And I need to keep talking. Because if I just brush it off as yet another distorted thought, that doesn’t really help me stop the pattern. It just creates feelings of shame and helplessness. In those moments, I feel as though she has brought the dialogue to a screeching halt because I can’t counter her with anything logical or rational. My only option is to keep moving forward with the thought I originally had. But once she has ultimately pointed out how skewed it is, I feel as though I can’t move forward because now it’s out in the open that I think stupid distorted things and it would thus be redundant to keep carrying on about it.

Which further creates a sense of loneliness and abandonment that is unbearable. When she interrupts me or challenges me mid-thought, it’s like a wall suddenly appears between the two of us to keep us apart. I hate that fucking wall. And this all can happen in mere seconds. The trigger is so powerful and instantaneous that it feels violent to me. The reaction I have to such moments feels eerily similar to being physically struck by someone. And the response that follows psychologically mimics the shock and fear that I feel after having been struck.

I don’t think she’s necessarily doing anything wrong. Her willingness to challenge me (and Others) is a lot of what helps the relationship feel solid, safe, and productive. But this constant locking of horns sucks. And I would really like for us to move past it.

I’m just not sure how. (Yet).

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39 thoughts on “Impasse

  1. La Quemada says:

    Could you just tell her what you wrote here? Then maybe the two of you could come up with a response she could use that would feel more validating but wouldn’t express agreement with the distorted thinking.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sassafrassthefeisty says:

    Have you told her how your challenges make you feel? Yes you can recognize the distortion, but in the moment she isn’t trying LISTEN as much as COUNTERING the thought. I had a wonderful therapist that let me verbal varmit and she never challenged me or question my thought process unless it was detrimental to my well being.
    I have no idea how your personal trauma has really affected you-I’ve only recently started to follow you, but I can tell that you are working very VERY hard-you and your wife-to navigate through this. It’s not easy to change distorted thought patterns, it takes SHIT TONS of work. Maybe by speaking up and telling your therapist that you need to finish a thought BEFORE she speaks may help you. It’s worth a shot ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. La Quemada says:

    (Hit send too soon). I know what you mean though. When I first opened up to E. about my “fuzzy” memories of abuse, and she believed me, I told her, “don’t say that, I’m not sure.” Then for several months, she always said, “these images which may or may not be true…” and I felt hurt because she didn’t express her belief. Basically in my case, I set it up so she couldn’t possibly give me a satisfying response. Since I decided to start “believing the girl” (end of June), this has changed because now we are both expressing belief. What an improvement.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jean says:

    What would be the response that would make you feel heard? If you can find it, then you can tell her. You could say “you are jumping in too soon to correct my distorted thinking, and it makes me feel unheard and stupid. I’d rather you said something along the lines of…”

    Would it be something like “it must be really hard to think of yourself as xxx” “how sad that they taught you to think yyy of yourself” “and so you feel xxx and yyy and zzz about yourself a lot of the time.”

    I just had a thought…maybe it’s an alter, a younger part, who bought what the parents said. And is briefly merging with you to say these things. When I have those kinds of thoughts, I don’t know what part of me is thinking them, but I know they are very very old thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I don’t actually know what I want from her in those moments, which I think is what makes it so difficult. I hope that in talking about this more with her, we can brainstorm something together that would feel better. And, yes, it could also be an alter (and probably is) because my thoughts feel all over the place. Thanks.

      Like

  5. Rachel says:

    I can’t believe you were able to put this experience into words so clearly and descriptively – particularly the part about the words causing you to feel like being physically struck. I felt the same way when my last therapist used logic when I was sharing ‘distorted’ (trauma-informed) thoughts and feelings. I felt wildly hurt and almost like I dissociated instantly. I feel for you, I obviously don’t know how you feel but how you described the experience really resonates. I know your therapist is doing that because she cares, like my last therapist cared. I also wonder how much of their need to counter the distorted thought versus simply saying ‘you feel really awful’ or ‘whose voice is that?’ (Meaning the abusers voice, not ours), etc. has to do with how difficult it is to watch someone suffer and not be able to instantly make it better. But knowing that the therapy process is the long-term solution, but those moments of helplessness are God-awful. I personally do not respond well when a therapist responds to my emotion with logic. Kills me inside.
    I love the idea of sharing this with her, because I want you to find a new way that will feel less triggering and hurtful. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks. It took me two days to piece it together enough to publish. I started with frustrated scribbles that evolved, lol. One of the things I’d written down was about how it seemed as though my need to be heard is at battle with her need to provide a certain kind of support and intervention (likely in an attempt to make it better somehow). Which it generally does in the long-run, but not until after I’ve felt horrible about it. It would be nice if we could maybe skip that part. Printing this out to bring today xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Anxious Mom says:

    Yeesh. As another poster said, I hope you’re able to show her part of this so that she truly realizes how this is impacting you. Sometimes people just need to vent and it doesn’t need to be picked apart, at least not at that moment. That’s what I tell my hubby anyway, when I go on a tirade about myself and he tries to argue over every little point.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Agreed. Sometimes we just need to be allowed to let it out, rational or not. And sometimes I just need her to see me for me, rational or not. I am planning to share this with her at today’s session. Thanks x

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Tina says:

    That would feel distressing for the exact reasons you described & I would have to ask my therapist to let me get my thought out & THEN we can circle back & address a few cognitive distortions. Otherwise I would feel like grading my paper is a higher priority than listening & letting me get it out. That would make me feel horrible.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. plf1990 says:

    Send this to her. This is really valuable writing. I used to get this too, and I can’t remember when it stopped… I think maybe my self loathing speech has lessened, and I think maybe I trust her more so I believe her when she challenges me on what I say?

    I know how frustrating it is though. The other day I was telling her about an awful dream I had – saying ‘you did, then you went, then he hurt you’ etc. and on about 5 occasions she challenged me on my language – that I talk like it actually happened, rather than it was a dream. I got very frustrated and went very quiet because I had told her it was a dream – but it felt real which is why I was talking in that way!!

    I know they’re both challenging us for good reasons – but just wanted to offer some support and solidarity with how frustrating it can be! X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks! Yes, it is SO frustrating. It would have been very hard for me to keep talking in your situation because I would have felt so shut down. It’s important to point out these things, but maybe let us finish first?? Thanks for the support xx

      Like

      • plf1990 says:

        Yeah. I think maybe it’s a balance between them tackling the thoughts (which aren’t fair for us to have, and have been taught to us by unkind people etc.), which is partially why we’re in therapy of course, to rewrite those thoughts. But then also, allowing us to just be heard. I know I never felt heard as a child and I think more often than not I just need to be heard.

        She can’t win, though – if I said something negative about myself and she didnt challenge it I would be heartbroken and think she thought the same as I do ha!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Andi says:

        It’s true. I get mad when she sits there and says nothing and I get mad when she responds to me in certain ways. I like when she validates me but I also hate it. Which is why there’s no simple solution to this, but still worth talking through some more.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Jen says:

    Let us know how it went! I also have found that sometimes I need one response from my therapist and sometimes another, and she can’t always discern it. One thing that has helped has been talking, talking about each time that didn’t or did work. I can’t usually tell her at the time though she can often tell from a change in expression or carriage that it wasn’t the right one at the time. More often, I can tell her the next session, or sometimes even at the end of the same session. I think her having lots of opportunities has helped her to be able to discern what response would be helpful at any given time — though of course we definitely don’t get it right every time yet….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Jen! I’m definitely going to write about how this conversation went once I can make more sense of it. I love the way you talk about your process here because it really is this sort of trial and error process wherein we’re just not entirely sure what we need or what will help, nor is our therapist. I think that what would likely help is for me to talk more openly about how I am experiencing her in the moment (which is extra challenging during these circumstances where I feel so frightened and rejected). Even if I could just move a little, tiny bit closer to verbalizing my needs in that moment, I think it could go a long way.

      Like

  10. Jay says:

    Ugh, yes, breaking patterns can be painful. It’s definitely not rejection, but it is like snapping an elastic on your wrist. You’re trying to retrain your brain to stay away from that kind of negative thinking, and when we feel that dissonance, at least we know it’s working!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      So very true, Jay! It is definitely a sign that it’s working, but it is so uncomfortable, if not painful. A necessary part of the process, I suppose. Thanks.

      Like

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