Violated

The thing I remember most about my last session with my therapist is her statement that I had violated her by sending my last email. Although I came into the session wanting to talk about this stuff, and willing to discuss the way I’ve been pushing the edges of the boundaries, I also apparently did not want to talk about it in the way she wanted me to do so, which caused us to lock horns and get into a massive power struggle for half the session.

She imagined I was trying to place all of my emotions onto her. She said I expected her to do all the work and I was seemingly unwilling to reflect on my own behavior. Which is absurd because if there’s anything I am consistent at doing, it’s self-reflection. She didn’t even mention the email until probably 20 minutes into session, at which point she said,

“I feel like you did to me what was done to you. You got angry with me so you violated me, you violated my boundaries.”

I screamed back, “Of course I did! When my parents felt frustrated, angry, scared, helpless, incompetent, powerless, or any other difficult emotion, they FUCKED ME! The way they dealt with intense emotions was to literally fuck me. So of COURSE I would manage my own emotions by violating you!”

I think she said she understood the connection, but since I violated her, she now needed to protect herself, hence the change in email rules.

I’m so furious. Not because she’s wrong – there’s definitely an element of truth in the idea that I discharge my emotion onto her in a way that was intrusive. But to whittle this huge, complex thing down to me simply wanting to violate her feels like it misses a whole lot. Because, yes, I think I did violate her (although that language feels a bit fucking strong in my opinion), but no, I don’t think I wanted to do that. I think it’s just so much a part of how I was raised and the environment I lived in that it’s almost a natural response. As crappy a skill as it is, it’s one of the tools that was most often used in my home life.

What I was wanting to do was be seen. I’ve felt a lot of strong, painful stuff coming to the surface. We’ve been talking a lot lately about sexual feelings and the link between sexual arousal and other things like compassion, love, nurturance, connection, etc. I’ve shared my urges to have sex with her, or somehow be sexual with her. It’s incredibly complicated and very hard to talk about, so I’ve had to actively and willingly stay with that pain even when all of my instincts tell me to flee.

I think I needed her to see how hard this is and I also needed more connection with her, or some way to better hold the connection when I’m not with her. I had reached out and asked for extra session time last week and the week before Christmas break, so it’s not like I wasn’t aware of that need and trying desperately to fill it in a responsible manner. But somehow it just wasn’t enough and I knew that. We both knew that.

Which is a theme that has come up time and time again for us – the idea that the connection I feel to her is limited to the time I’m in session with her. And the space between is then completely agonizing because I can’t find or hold into those good, safe feelings.

And for the vast majority of the time I’ve been seeing her, I’ve obsessed about the boundaries, attempting to be as controlled as possible and steer clear from any area that might cause her to shut me down. I’d argue that she’s spent more time trying to get me to chill the fuck out about the boundaries, rather than having to reinforce them. The fact that I was in a space that brought me to behave in this manner is very telling of how awful an emotional space I’ve been in recently.

And I felt like she just didn’t want to talk about that with me. Or she did, but in this very specific way that left no room for me to talk about what was important to me. And since she typically waits for me to talk about whatever “comes up” in sessions, it was especially jarring to be pushed away from where I wanted to go into a place I most certainly did not want to be.

I think back to the 3 or 4 sessions before I sent that email and it’s so clear that I was trying to have this conversation with her. I’d sent her an email several weeks ago requesting a phone check-in over the weekend. I wrote, “I just need to know you’re still there and we’re okay…” She wrote back and the very first sentence read,

“I’m still here and we’re still okay.”

She also responded to the phone request, but her response to my need for reassurance came through email, NOT the phone or in session. In fact, that single sentence was so comforting to me that I took a screenshot and made it my phone wallpaper:

img_1025

I used it to affirm that she was, in fact, still here and that we’re somehow connected to each other. Whenever I felt that connection slipping, I just needed to look at my phone and remind myself of her words. Which is something I told her, and I showed her my phone’s wallpaper, sharing how I’d been so comforted by her words and was grateful that she’d extended that comfort via email.

She told me she was glad I’d done that and thought it was a creative way to stay connected to her between sessions.

So, I mean, I might be totally crazy here, but this whole exchange feels quite a bit outside the realm of “logistics”.

She’s also responded to my voicemails via email. And just last week we had a lengthy conversation about how I’d kinda relaxed a bit in one particular email (which was about scheduling) to add some humor and she responded with humor as well. We discussed how it was a moment of mutuality, and I really enjoyed the way it felt to realize she’d caught onto my joke and found it funny.

Which, again, feels like more than logistics.

I’m not excusing my behavior and suggesting I was entirely right. But what I AM suggesting is that it just wasn’t as clear as my therapist apparently needs to believe. For me, I think I saw these slight movements into new email territory a bit unsettling and responded by testing the edges. Which seems natural, if not completely expected.

And she responded by retaliating against me and essentially saying, “Look at what you’ve made me do! Now I have to ban you from emailing me altogether!” And as a commenter pointed out, her statement that if I emailed her again she would block me seems like a challenge; like she’s daring me to push that boundary again. Because if she really means that I can never email her again, why not just block me now? What would be the point of leaving that space open?

This is all so upsetting and confusing and I’m just not sure what I’m going to do when I see her again on Tuesday.

 

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27 thoughts on “Violated

  1. plf1990 says:

    I’m sorry for my language in the following comment….

    She’s the FUCKING THERAPIST. The entire nature of her role is that it should be impossible for you to ‘violate her’ – and how DARE she use that terminology considering she knows about your background. How fucking dare she.

    She is the professional and in situations of extreme emotions or trauma, she’s the ADULT. You are the client and occasionally the child. She is being totally and completely unprofessional and out of order.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. dangerousvoyager says:

    I think you’re absolutely right that there is more to it than your T is acknowledging, particularly her part in it. I just read an article which describes this sort of thing really well, in particular the way a therapist gets drawn into the dynamic and has intense negative feelings not just around what is being ‘done to them’ but for what they are doing back (I’ve posted about it here: https://dangerousvoyage.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/enactments-in-therapy/). Not sure if it helps you directly, because the conclusion of the article was that the therapist needs to find ways to examine their own role and then bring this to the therapy, but it may help to validate your impression of what is happening. You’re in my thoughts – what you’re going through at the moment sounds incredibly painful and I admire you for bringing some of that difficult stuff to therapy and actually discussing it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thank you! I just read the article and it was very helpful. I think my therapist is likely refusing the transference and then dealing with some countertransference that leads her to feel abused, or violated. Thank you for linking your post- so helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. kat says:

    i don’t have any helpful advice but i will be sending positive and calming thoughts your way as i hope you can find a way to work this out. im so sorry you have to go thru all this bs.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Blooming Lily says:

    I wish your therapist would realize that under her feelings of feeling “violated” (an accusatory word that she shouldn’t have used with you), the actual violation runs much deeper in your life. She should be using this as an opportunity to explore and guide you through that – not focus on her own feelings.
    Sorry if that’s not helpful… this just makes me really mad because it’s so much like something J would do. She often told me that my desperate, childlike attempts to communicate were “not fair to her.” Ugh. I’m so sorry that this is happening.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      I wish she would realize this as well. There was so much opportunity for us to really talk about some important material and now I feel like all of that has been shut down and shamed…and punished, tbh. Which really sucks. Thank you for your support x

      Like

  5. Tina says:

    I don’t even know where to begin. Violated? That’s a heightened reaction on her part that she needs to explore. I can understand her saying that she doesn’t engage with attempts to manipulate by threatening self harm, but there’s a difference between trying to get a response versus express your thoughts to give the clinician insight into your feelings & thought process. Her response is counterproductive. I thought the idea of therapy is to be honest & open about your thought process. I didn’t realize we were supposed to “watch what we say”, “sugarcoat our truth”, “hold back or suppress our experience to protect the therapist.
    If you threatened to harm her … now that’s a violation!!! I’m upset with your therapist on your behalf. No. Actually I’m downright irate with your therapist on your behalf.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Yes! I agree that her reaction seems very heightened and more about her personal shit than whatever it is I’m brining in (or at least her shit mixed in with whatever I’m provoking). And I agree – although I certainly could have expressed my needs in a better way, the need is still being expressed and now she’s shut it down, which really sucks. Thanks for your support! xo

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tina says:

        It was an opportunity to delve into dysfunctional patterns of self sabotage …. not to take you over the coals & be punitive. For your sake, I’m afraid of where she might take this next. She knows about the pain, rejection, abandonment & lack of clarity around terminating that occurred with Zoey. I hope she remains professional. My heart goes out to you. I KNOW the vulnerability & uncertainty you feel around this right now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        You and I both. She is VERY aware of the dynamic I had with Zooey and has promised me that if we found ourselves in a similar place, she would do better by me. I sincerely hope she’s remembering that promise as she prepares to see me tomorrow.

        Like

  6. Nocturnal says:

    I find the word choice quite shocking too, even though, in itself, I am not sure that changing the boundary around emails is necessarily bad (but I may be confused because of my own struggles with emails), but the way she handled it seems really hurtful and not well thought at all, which is understandable (she’s human etc) but no less painful. I’m sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Right. So I don’t think the change around emails is bad, either. But I think the way it was managed was quite poor. And to use such a strong word with someone who spent her life being severely violated seems like overkill. I know she’s human and I’m willing to relax a bit on most things, but this is important, you know? Thanks for your support xo

      Like

  7. Paper Doll says:

    I hear your pain coming through in all of this and I want to validate that I see you in this situation, doing your best to cope and to understand, and I think you are handling it relatively well all things considering. And those emails were not simply logistics. I am not okay with her choice in word for so many reasons but mostly want to affirm I’m here for you, reading along, and to remind you that you have choices and support you in whatever you decide to do as you navigate this (that is in your best interest and keeps you safe, of course). Xx

    Liked by 2 people

  8. skinnyhobbit says:

    I hear your pain. Your therapist did NOT handle that well. Wanting to “push” or “test” boundaries is normal and natural for childhood trauma survivors like us. We were violated, our boundaries ignored. Our pain ignored. You were screaming out your pain to her. She should have reacted like mine (and I did “worse” then you. I found and then I private messaged her on her public social media page) – validated the desperate need for connection, the pain leading to that desperate act, the needs around why I messaged.

    Then we talked about flexible boundaries when I was calmer, I hated myself so much for breaking boundaries. I needed to have her understand and validate why I’d messaged her.

    I’m so angry with your therapist for effing screwing up big time. She shamed you. She made it all about her, rather than understanding and talking about why you emailed.

    I’m so sorry she did this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Andi says:

      Agree. I was absolutely screaming out my pain to her, and although I’d been trying to stay rational and “adult” about it, she didn’t see or hear me, so of course I then started “acting out” my needs via this stupid email. I would have been so touched and comforted if she had just acknowledge how much I was suffering and needing to connect to her and be seen by her. I believe we should always lead with kindness and empathy, but she really failed on that front here. I sense that she was trying to make this about me, and examining my motives, but I also sense that her motives for pushing me in that direction had more to do with her own blindspots. It’s such a tough space to be in. Thanks for your compassion. x

      Liked by 1 person

      • skinnyhobbit says:

        I don’t think the email was stupid. You were in great pain and needed a way to feel connected, to scream out your pain. You didn’t verbally abuse her in your email , you simply screamed out the distress you’re in. I didn’t see you blaming her or making her responsible for your emotions.

        Where you’re in is not easy.

        Liked by 1 person

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