Provocative

After writing my last post, I spent some time thinking about the dynamic with my therapist surrounding the impact we have on each other.

I get that she wants to be treated with a reasonable amount of respect, and I am always reasonably respectful. But sometimes, yes, I’m also a bratty brat who gets snarky and passive-aggressive and (as she likes to say) “provocative”.

I don’t enjoy being that way, but it’s all a very real part of how I still react and communicate, especially during particularly tense or scary moments.

So I brought this issue back into session on Friday. I told her that I understood her perspective, but that I also want to reiterate that sometimes the snark is part of the message. It’s important that I’m able to communicate the entire message, rather than the sanitized “nice girl” version. I told her that I do see that I tend to be provocative, but that being provocative is often times the way I communicate how I’m feeling.

Which segued our conversation back to the idea of interpretation. I explained that I often act the most bratty when I’m afraid. Putting up a wall of sarcasm allows me to stay (somewhat) engaged in the conversation while also protecting myself. She said that was interesting and helpful to hear because in those moments, the message she gets from me is that I’m disengaging and needing space from her. Which is why she tends to back off a bit (which I then interpret as a rejection and results in a rupture).

So clearly part of what happens here is that we’re completely mismatched on how we’re perceiving a shared moment. I think having the added insight I offered her might help us navigate those situations a bit better (hopefully).

I spoke to how confusing it is that she keeps returning to this idea of me having an impact on her, because she also reminds me that she I’m not responsible for her feelings or well-being. I said,

“So this is really confusing for me. Because you keep telling me that it’s not my job to take care of you…that I don’t have to make sure you’re not hurt or burned out or bored. You say that it’s your job to take care of yourself and it’s my job to show up. So I do and I try to remember that I don’t have to take care of you. Except then you keep talking about how I have an impact on you; how you react to me in certain ways because my actions have an impact on you. So which is it? Because honestly, I’ve become so anxious and preoccupied with not wanting to have the ‘wrong’ impact on you…not upsetting you or whatever else, that I’m beginning to feel paralyzed. It gets harder and harder to feel like this is a safe space and you’re safe person to talk to. Because if you’re going to respond to my nastiness by being nasty back to me, that’s not safe. And I don’t like it. And it doesn’t match what you said earlier…”

She listened carefully and then said that she really sees why this was confusing for me. She explained that the reason she brings up the impact I have on her is not because she wants me to change it, or to be different, or take care of her. She said it’s because I have so often struggled with getting what I need from people. I tend to repeat the same things, especially in my interpersonal life, and it’s her job to help me identify those patterns and see where they can be adjusted. So her goal in bringing into focus how my behavior impacts her is to allow both of us examine if that was my intention and then whether or not such behavior truly allows me to access what I need/want from people.

It’s sort of an abstract concept for me to understand or articulate here, but I feel like we got closer to understanding each other. I still maintained that I would like her to be a bit more kind and compassionate towards me when I am being a brat, and she agreed to take a gentler approach.

I suppose only time will tell, but this conversation felt promising. It seemed to open up space where we hadn’t been able to reach each other previously. And the more I’m able to assert myself in composed, mature ways, the less I will need to rely on snark and sarcasm to shield myself from potential rejections.

Win-win.

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18 thoughts on “Provocative

  1. alicewithptsd says:

    Good job Andi, for sticking up for yourself and doing so in a reasonable way, even when it wasn’t easy. I can see her reason for pointing out that your behavior impacts her, although until you explained her thought process, I always found it confusing as well. I agree with you that having those snarky parts or attitudes met with kindness and compassion is really important. For me, I only know how to be the “nice girl” and how to behave appropriately. No other part of me but the good girl, the perfect girl was accepted or loved. It is crucial in my therapy that these snarky, willful, messy, parts be completely accepted. I really hope your therapist is able to give you that. She has been able to listen to your feedback and adjust things before, so I imagine she can now. I’m glad this session let you guys find more space than you have before. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. sophiasquared says:

    I’m glad that you are having this discussion with her and explaining your point of view. I agree with you 100% regarding the importance of being able to show the messy/angry parts without fear of retaliation or pulling back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    I feel the same as Alice, I was also a bit confused why she was seemingly pushing so hard on the whole impact deal. I get it a bit better now (I still think you get to be a total brat if you want, as part of therapy). My therapist told me something very similar yesterday – that I have an impact on her, the way I communicate my needs (even if I am unaware that is what I am attempting to do) matters, and I will repeat those behaviors in intimate relationships. So she wants me to be aware of my impact, so I can have healthier relationships and communication in other relationships I feel vulnerable.
    I’m glad you spoke up, that was quite brave of you to do. I see you working really hard to validate yourself, and I’m proud of you for that. Particularly when all the transference must trigger the dynamics with your parents of you not speaking up or being able to.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paper Doll says:

    This seems like it was a step in the right direction and I’m so glad you asserted your needs and that she seemed to hear you. I was also confused about her continuing impact statements but it does make a lot more sense now. Continued good vibes for healing conversations and coming closer together!

    But I do agree with Rachel when she says you are allowed to be a brat.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. La Quemada says:

    Really brilliant. I am so impressed that you were able to bring this in and talk about it. I know how hard that is. E and I have talked some about why I reacted so strongly to her. I feel I held back somewhat but at least shared some of it (not as brave as you). And that conversation helped me start to reconnect, and maybe it helped her understand a little more.

    Anyway, I think you are smart and brave. Maybe I can channel some of that and revisit my conversation with E.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Grainne says:

    Sounds like a good conversation. It’s great that you can sit with her and talk about these complicated things in detail, both working towards a change for the better. I imagine that will only strengthen your bond and therapeutic relationship.

    The other half of me is kind of annoyed for you though. I mean, I would think, as a therapist, that she would be able to ride out you being ‘snotty’ with her, understanding that the reaction has nothing to do with her, but with the emotional struggle you are going through at the time. I had a really amazing therapist who seemed able to read my mind at times, so maybe I expect the unreasonable. Also, I don’t set boundaries as clear and direct as you are able to so….I may be misreading things a bit. I just really want for you to feel taken care of and nurtured a bit….feel as if you’re being understood without having to explain so much of what you need so often. I suppose that’s not her role, exactly, but it would be nice in my opinion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks for that feedback. I definitely think we still have much work to do around this because I completely agree – she needs to find a way to communicate to need that it’s not personal. Even if she wants to use “impact” as a way to facilitate pattern changes, that needs to happen in neutral territory.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. S says:

    I really did not like when my old therapist used the word “provocative.” I told her that all behavior is provocative in truth, including what she said or didn’t say or did or didn’t do in sessions, but that the word provocative carries a cannotation of being difficult and is really only used in that situation. Would a medical doctor ever call a patient provocative, even if the patient was being absolutely impossible? Of course not. I pointed out that even she only used the word provocative when she was frustrated by something I said or did, while when not frustrated she would be more likely to ask why I was saying or doing something, or have what I perceived as a less judgmental term, even though I understood that she was not using it as such – at least, not consciously. It was something we both thought about for a while – how specific language can underscore a feeling of being out of sync, being difficult, too much, so on and so forth, all those core beliefs that so many of us already have…..for me, it while it was useful for me to often examine patterns in relationships, I closed up and became highly anxious and defensive with the particular term provocative. She was able to make the same points about patterns and relationships but using less charged language, after we had discussed it, which was helpful both to our relationship and to my ability to examine the issues and patterns presented.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thankfully, “provocative” is not a word I’ve been called very often, so I don’t have many associations with it. There are several words, however, where I would absolutely need my therapist to find another way to communicate what she meant. Words matter a LOT.

      Like

      • S says:

        You know, she was actually the first person to ever call me “provocative!” But for some reason it really struck me, possibly because she only ever said it a few times, and when she was extremely frustrated and I was feeling blamed. I don’t know, maybe it’s all semantics….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        Perhaps, but if her use of that word elicited a specific response in you, it would make sense that it then became a conditioned response for you when you hear it. “Manipulative” and “sensitive” are two words that send me over the edge no matter what.

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  8. e.Nice says:

    I sort of get it, but also not really…. I guess it is important to be able to learn how others perceive me and to check the messages I’m receiving and so learn how to communicate better (both receptive and whatever the word is for the opposite too). So it does seem like this work, discussing the relationship and your needs and responsibilities and all of that is important. Again I am impressed with your ability to express to her what isn’t working so well for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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