How to speak about the unspeakable.
Warning: this post is unsavoury so if you’ve just sat down with a nice bowl of something or a warm cup of whatever…maybe give this post a miss. On the other hand, if you like a good tragedy or psychological thriller…carry on reading.
I started this blog to help me remember my sessions and figured maybe someone wondering what REALLY happens in therapy might want to read it. But I didn’t factor in things like how this Monday I uncovered my deepest darkest most shameful secret in regards to the …ugh I hate this word…incest I endured. So what do I do? How do I blog about what is taboo? And taboo to the point of turning people away in disgust and horror?
Also, I’d rate the session a 0.00000001 out of 10 for enjoyment. It was pretty awful to the point I didn’t make any useful notes afterwards. What I did do is hop in the car and immediately send Psychologist J one or two (was it more?) rage emails. Then I drove home, sent another rage email, picked up my son from his Grandma’s, dropped him at group therapy, returned to my car in the parking lot of the block of factories and called Psychologist J in tears. He said to me “I read your emails and the piece of paper you left with me in session and I just want to say, if you only hear one thing, I want you to know that what you’ve alluded to is a very common reaction to an extraordinary situation. It’s especially common for people whose perpetrators were attachment figures like parents. It is the dark heart of trauma. It doesn’t make you evil or a monster, it makes you human.”
But still I can’t bring myself to blog about it, after all, I am still coming to terms with it. On a side note, I love how he described it as “the dark heart of trauma”. Can you tell he’s a writer? His first degree was in journalism. Then he decided to throw that all away and spend his time listening to crackpots like me.
So I will gather up some memes and euphemisms and blog around it. Yes, I say, let’s do this, let’s circumvent the truth together!
Psychologist J had texted me on Friday to say he was happy to answer a bunch of questions for the inner critic in session on Monday and then he would also put it in writing for me. So that’s what I THOUGHT the session was going to be about but as I drove to my session I suddenly worked out why that part of me is so resistant to trusting anyone. And the reason for it was the horrible secret that can’t be blogged about. Maybe one day, but not today. But a secret to do with the incest that the critic fears will happen again and therefore the only way to prevent it ever happening again is to never EVER trust anyone or form any attachment to anyone especially a man.
My last blog post was about how the new couch attacked me. So I arrive knowing that I am going to try the long couch today and stay the fuck away from that monster of a couch. To no avail really. The session kind of went like this.
On another side note, I really don’t care for the rest of Darby Hudson’s poetry. But he’s a published poet. Like an ACTUAL one not self published with 15k followers on Instagram so I’m alone in my dislike.
I will spare you a repeat of the last blog by summarising what happened next. I sit on the long couch. It feels bad. I tell Psychologist J it feels bad. I don’t know where to move to. He offers me alternative seats. I turn them all down for the same reason as last time which is those are his chair spots. He says the EXACT same line as last time “well technically they’re all my chairs”. The couch is making me slump which starts of a memory of being small and ashamed. My body starts to hurt especially my back and arms. I start to dissociate and freeze up. He starts to ask me questions like do I know who he is and where I am. He says maybe we will have to make the best of the bad chair I’m on and maybe it will just be a tough session. Now my body is REALLY hurting and I’m aware of what’s happening in the flashback. He sees my face and comments that I appear to be wincing in pain. He asks me if I’m wincing about him. I shake my head no. He asks me if I’m in a memory. I nod. He tries to ground me. He takes the initiative of moving away and goes far off to a far distant corner of the room and continues to try to guide me out of the flashback BUT he isn’t aware of the DEEP DARK SHAMEFUL SECRET I have recalled just before session so every time he says anything that sounds like him and I are doing something together I freak out.
For example he says “Can you see the chair with stripes on it?” I move my head to the right at glacial speed and nod.
“Can you see the red blanket?” I move my head a fraction further to the right again at a snails pace. Why won‘t my head move?
“Can you see the plants in the window?” ARRRRGGGGGHHHHH that’s too far right. I really struggle to turn my head but actually my head has barely moved at all. I finally see the plants and nod.
“You see the plants. We’re both seeing the same plants.” DANGER DANGER DANGER. Must not do anything with a male!
I start shaking my head no over and over and over. I must not do anything with him. I must not do anything with him. It isn’t safe.
He keeps trying to ground me to the present saying its 2020 and I’m safe and what I’m recalling has happened in the past and that if I ground myself to the present the flashback will stop but if I don’t ground myself I will just be re-experiencing the past which isn’t helpful.
At some point he asks me if I can’t ground myself or if I won’t ground myself. He works out from my nods and shakes I can’t. And after another series of questions he works out from my nods and shakes that I’m afraid of him.
A large portion of the rest of the session is a TOTAL BLANK…..How did he end up sitting closer to me in a chair to my left? How did I end up out of the flashback and talking but feeling like the critic? It is as much a mystery to me as why people voted for Donald Trump.
Somehow we were stuck talking in circles. There was a lot of whispering on my part and some tears. And I might have told him a bit about I what was happening in the flashback earlier in the session. Next I was saying something about how I couldn’t participate in therapy and that I couldn’t tell him why. He asked me if I was scared to say why and I said yes. And perhaps he tried to encourage me to talk because I wasn’t doing much talking and I said I couldn’t talk and if he knew the thing I couldn’t tell him then he would understand why I couldn’t participate or tell him the thing. Then he was encouraging me to tell him saying maybe I should take a risk and also I should think about how would I feel if I got to the end of the session and didn’t talk. I think he said what about if I tell him and he reacts well and I said that would make it worse and it would be better if he reacted badly. He said we had been at a place like this before: where I can’t tell him something and I can’t tell him why I can’t tell him but if I told him then he would understand why I can’t tell him. I said I only just worked it out before the session started and had written it down on paper. He asked did the other parts want him to know and I said yes but I didn’t want him to know and so he said he would only read it if it was ok with him. I said no I couldn’t tell him and see his reaction and I would email him later. And he said it would be better to talk about it now since therapy is what happens in the room. This felt like he was taking away my only option for a loop hole in what seemed to be an unsolvable situation. And then he said we were out of time and I left the note with him and then went to the car and sent the rage emails.
So he knows and I know what the secret is, but it isn’t something that can be shared though if I was some well known mental health activist with a wide readership I might share it just so all other survivors like me who carry the same dark secret would know they aren’t alone. He might say it is common but I have been unable to find anything about it when I google. It is something only trauma therapists know. This doesn’t seem satisfactory. How many other people are carrying this same dark heart?
Anyway, I will bypass the most rotten core and share something slightly less revolting but still pretty vomit worthy. Grab your bucket and read on.
A google search revealed no information at all to confirm what Psychologist J said about the shameful thing being “very common” but I did find an article about how child abuse affects your sexuality that I found captured so much of what I thought was only how I felt. What a relief to discover my issues with sex and intimacy were not special or unique at all – incidentally this is topic I will never blog about in detail except for large sums of money…waaaaaaaay too personal and unnecessary to share. Besides no one other than my husband needs to picture me in the bedroom.
But I sent J the article and a series of revelations. The deep dark unmentionable secret coupled with the article explains why I still find myself cold and aloof around men. I simply CAN NOT form comfortable friendships with men. If I am friendly towards men, I find myself almost putting on an act. It’s almost as though I vanish and the critic appears and pretends to me.
But the memories the inner critic holds also explain how I feel around women. Here is the vomit bit – I was young, very young, younger than 5, when my father was, how did Psychologist J put it, making me engage in an “extraordinary situation” and my mother stumbled upon it happening but instead of doing what a mother should do, she did nothing other than hate me for it. I was to her, the “other woman” and she treated me as though I was an adult who had enjoyed it or consented to it and thus, I internalised that reaction.
Suddenly it made sense why whenever I started a friendship with a female I always felt like I was hiding a terrible secret but didn’t know what it was. I always feared that the woman would find out that I was a monster and hate me. There was always this dread and fear I couldn’t shake. With most women, this fear is enough for me to not bother to reciprocate any attempts at friendship with me. But I have learnt that if I tolerate the fear, it eventually goes and I form a friendship. But I have only persisted through this fear with a select handful of women who I consider my very dear friends. Now I see what the fear was: I feared they would react as my mother did, only I had forgotten that my mother had seen it and reacted that way. Oh brain, you silly thing.
Psychologist J replied to my email confirming that the connections I’d made all made sense. Yay me.
So it seems that the worst sessions often end up helping me work out the most stuff. This seems to be how therapy works at least with attachment trauma, according to Psychologist J anyway. You attach to the therapist and re-enact old and/or forgotten misattunements and ruptures. Here I would insert stuff about transference and counter-transference if I was Freud or a qualified psychologist or even just the person who wrote the Wikipedia entry I read rather than just a layperson who frequently experiences transference by projecting ‘daddy issues’ onto Psychologist J. Ugh. So awkward and disturbing. The healing part, I suppose is when the therapist doesn’t react as you expect them to. Sometimes there are discoveries, ruptures are mended and wounds are occasionally healed. I suppose it isn’t too dissimilar to exploratory surgery. Let’s poke around in here and see what rotten bits we can find and remove. So I suppose I return on Thursday for another poke.
Effects of Abuse on Sexuality. Help for Adult Victims of Sexual Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.havoca.org/survivors/sexuality/effects-of-abuse-on-sexuality/
Lahav, Y., Seligman, Z. & Solomon, Z. (2017). Countertransference in the face of growth: reenactment of the trauma. Pp 58-59. Sussex Editors. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316456044_Countertransference_in_the_face_of_growth_reenactment_of_the_trauma.
Levy, M. (1996). A Helpful Way to Conceptualize and Understand Reenactments. The Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research. 7(3): 227–235. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3330499/