Laying it all on the line

What have I got to lose?

Hi Linda,

I really need to say some things about the last session and if you decide you’d rather wait until the session before reading it then I’ll read it to you at the start of the session but it feels very important to me that you understand how I feel about a few things you said. I understand that you are straight talking and I really value your authenticity but along with that direct nature this relationship still needs to be therapeutic for me. My experience of you on the whole is that you have been very supportive and compassionate in previous sessions so I believe you’ll appreciate me being honest about this and you’ll be willing to discuss it with me.

I want to preface this by saying that all of what I’m about to explain boils down to my attachment trauma, childhood abuse and neglect. And I think that when I’ve been asking you if you are prepared to work with me long term and that this could get intense etc, what I should have been saying specifically is, ‘I was doing deep attachment work with Anna around early developmental trauma that was often intensely emotional and pre-verbal and that work was ended prematurely and I want to continue it somehow… is it within your remit (albeit through a different modality) to work on that with me? It is very slow and delicate work and takes time and patience and a lot of compassion. If not then please can you help me deal with the grief of losing Anna and support me until I find a therapist who can focus on the more in depth long term recovery from childhood trauma.’ I know that on one of your websites you do list trauma as something that you can help with but I understand that complex trauma is a specific issue and I think we just need to be upfront about whether it will work out with us long term or not.

In the last session, I feel like you were taking quite a harsh stance with me as if you had lost your patience with my grief and wanted me to draw a line and move on. I am grieving the loss of Anna, my therapy mum and the person I was most deeply attached to who knew all the sides to me that no one else knows. On Wednesday, when I recalled a session to you that was really meaningful because I wanted to share one of the things I’m grieving losing you responded by telling me, ‘that’s finished now, it’s over, your work with Anna has finished and you’re working with me now and I work differently to Anna.’ If I had come to you because I’d lost my sister who was my best friend and confidante and I was recalling how much I loved talking to her and that no one knew me like she did, would you have said to me, ‘that’s finished now, she’s gone, you can’t have that anymore’? I really need to explore the grief that I’m feeling, I need to go into all the details of everything I miss without you reminding me of the obvious fact that she is gone. I’m not going to be able to heal from this loss by being forced into accepting it. I need to be allowed to reminisce and grieve all the things I’m missing and be given the space to explore that in detail. I know I’m working with you now but I need to talk about everything that I miss about working with Anna.

When I say that something has hurt my feelings or that it’s made me feel defensive, I’ve noticed that you respond by pointing out that I am easily and frequently triggered and that I’m sensitive. Rather than making an observation that in your opinion I am sensitive, it would be more helpful to explore what it is that’s hurt my feelings and how I have interpreted it in my mind. Maybe exploring the life experiences that have lead me to believe that people will inevitably be criticising me and look at the role my inner critic plays. Telling me I’m sensitive feels like gaslighting, that I am overreacting and that my feelings aren’t justified. I grew up with a really insensitive mother who would mock and humiliate and criticise me then call me overly sensitive for being hurt by what she’d said. So being called sensitive is a personal trigger for me. Pointing out that I am constantly bombarded by triggers also feels like gaslighting. I think you’re trying to show me that you see that it must be hard for me to experience life like that but what it feels like is that you’re saying there’s something wrong with me and the way I interpret people. Of course life would feel easier if I didn’t take everything so personally but it’s not just going to magically disappear. Again, it would be helpful to look at how my system is reacting to these perceived triggers and find a way to tend to the parts of me that are still responding as if they’re in threat. Pointing out to me that I find it hard to tolerate hard emotions also feels like you are telling me that I am the problem. Finding it difficult to tolerate emotions is what attachment trauma is all about… no one was there to coregulate with me so I would daydream and dissociate or self harm. I don’t have a baseline pre trauma that I can go back to… there was no caring, supportive other to help me. I literally learned how to feel the feelings the past couple of years with Anna in a very drip fed, carefully controlled way… Anna would call it baby steps. And what’s happened now is this grief has burst the dam and made me feel all of the abandonment pain all at once, more emotional pain than I’ve ever felt before and so no, I don’t know how to tolerate or process it by myself.

I also don’t understand where the therapeutic value is in telling someone a week after they’ve lost someone significant to them that loss and bereavement is selfish. I know that’s an accurate statement but how does it help me in that moment? When I am still cycling through shock and I’m crying because my session is the only window of time in my life where I get privacy and space to be fully seen and to express the feelings (because every other minute of my life is taken up by tending to my kids needs) I don’t need to be told that I’m selfish, I need to be told that you understand and that the way I’m feeling makes perfect sense.

You have met me in this bizarre moment in time which looks nothing like my normal life. You have met me in crisis, in lockdown, during a worldwide pandemic in the midst of losing my therapist. You’ve experienced me as someone who cries a lot and gets overwhelmed very quickly and wants to opt out of life. Anna worked with me for two and a half years and never experienced me like this. Had you met me three months ago you would have met someone who was enjoying life, seeing friends a couple of times a week, going to the gym three or four times a week, teaching, working hard at being a good parent, maintaining a weight loss and fitness journey and on top of this was exploring self development and healing from childhood trauma with her therapist. I was able to analyse myself and was not overly sensitive because I had built resilience with Anna. Within a couple of months my whole life as I knew it has fallen apart. It’s like you’ve walked into a warzone, the bombs fell the week before and devastated the local area. A woman is standing among the wreck of her home picking amongst what’s left. She has lost her closest loved one and as you talk to her a bit she cries and finds it hard to take any observations on board or constructive criticisms and so you call her sensitive and note that loss is selfish. I feel like I’m living in the most difficult time of my life right now and on top of that I’ve lost the one person that would help me deal with and process it all. I think it makes sense that I would be feeling emotionally raw and needing a sensitive and compassionate supporter.

This email might be more evidence for you that I’m sensitive and have a filter that alters what people say because you didn’t mean any of it the way that I have interpreted it… but surely that is where the work is? Also, it’s not about you feeling understood, it’s about me feeling understood. This email might be an example of how things can get intense with me and something that you’re up for working with. Or it might make you decide you are not prepared to change how you work for me. I have looked up person centred therapy and it might be that it’s just not the right modality for me. It is really important that we lay that all out on the table and figure it out now before I get deeper into the attachment. I do hope that even if you feel you can’t work with the deeper attachment stuff, that you will still help me deal with the loss of Anna and not terminate our work immediately. I’ve found you really helpful the past couple of months and what I have written here is specific to the deeper work and it’s very important to me. I’m also aware that this may prompt an important conversation about the boundaries of between session contact. And I guess that’s also an important thing to iron out if we are to continue working together. It is another things I am grieving the loss of… I don’t expect you to work the way Anna worked but I do need to grieve the things I’m missing.

I hope all of this makes sense.

Speak to you tomorrow.


20 thoughts on “Laying it all on the line

  1. slantgirl

    Damn, girl! You went for it! This is kind of amazing. broadly: it sounds really rough, of course, that Linda’s style is triggering all of these things, and that you are stuck doing this work of really apdating to each other, especially when you just want to be with the person you’ve been working with for years. That said, it’s amazing that you were able to see it all so clearly as a clashing of styles and propose all of these little strategies for attunement. I love that you just put it all out there, no shame, no holding back. Asking for exactly what you want and need! I think Anna would be very proud of you, and see and email like this as the product of your work together.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It absolutely is a product of Anna’s encouragement and strengthening. She told me to use my voice! And I didn’t do all that work and be so patient and so painfully open to Anna’s empathy and care to have it ruined in a heartbeat by someone who doesn’t understand trauma. Maybe she does and I’ve misunderstood. But I’m not gonna risk it. Today has been shit again. Tonight felt productive, writing this out. And I really have nothing to lose, I already lost her. Worst case scenario Linda leaves as well and then the search continues! Thanks for being here as always SG 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow Lucy this is so difficult and surprising… and unfortunately familiar. I just “laid it all on the line” with my therapist today, just a few hours ago in session. I was shocked to come on WordPress and find out you are dealing with the same exact thing. My therapist was compassionate and empathetic and present for a few weeks, but something happened and I don’t know what it is. If there was any wrong decision she could make to wound me… she has been making them saying they are to protect me. And now here I am again not knowing if this is going to work out for me. I can tell you one thing, looking for a therapist over the past 6 or 7 months to help me grieve the wounds from my past therapist and all the past wounding, abandonment, and loss it has triggered in me has been a huge education. Not many therapists can deal with this kind of wound. The ones that got it didn’t have the empathy and compassion to deal with my past complicated complex trauma. When I found this therapist she was empathetic and compassionate and I was so happy to have found her. I was afraid to talk much about my previous therapist because of what I experienced with so many other therapists. I finally told her everything… which was blatantly obvious that I was harmed and treated unprofessionally and deeply wounded. And then everything changed. She can’t even see that I am grieving deeply. I was clear and direct and honest with her today on everything that I feel. Unfortunately our session was over. She asked me to bring all my notes to my next session and she wants to address all of my concerns. The problem is I don’t feel in my gut that she is being honest with me. I told her today if she doesn’t trust me because of what happened with my previous therapist that I have a right to know that so that I can make the decision that is right for me. I am devastated. I hear you Lucy and I feel everything that you wrote here. I am also very passionate and can be intense and feel so deeply. It seems hard for most therapists to handle that. I read this article the other day about being unintentionally gaslighted, especially as a very sensitive person:

    It might be helpful to  you and fits with what you just wrote. This one might be helpful in dealing with all the disregulation of your emotions right now:

    It should NOT be this hard to find compassion for this kind of wounding. I told my therapist today that therapists see their profession as being a healing one, but this is not always the case. The wounding that can and does happen in therapy is real and maybe even of epidemic proportion. It seems hard for therapists to face this and deal with these wounds. I told her that most people who are harmed by a therapist don’t return to therapy for the same reason most women who are raped don’t report it… it is too painful and wounding to be misunderstood. I am so sorry Lucy…. truly sorry. I was not expecting this from Linda…. not from someone who has had a front row seat to your wounding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for this Blue, I’m so sad that you’re having to deal with this. For me personally I feel desperately sad that Anna set the bar so high and I don’t think anyone will come close. I just want her to come back. I will see how this goes, with being this honest with her. But the bottom line is she may not be able to be what I need. I’m which case I’ll need to find another. Which I know is not easy. But in honour of Anna I need to keep moving forwards 💙

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lucy, the wounding you are experiencing is very different and anyone with half a heart should be open to you. It just may not be easy. I am really hoping for and anticipating many good things for you Lucy! If anyone can do this, you can! 💙

        Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a fantastic email and it’s so evident how aware you are of your needs and what you will need going from therapy going forward. My heart actually hurt for you more reading this than the previous posts in many ways, because it really highlights what you’ve lost in Anna. You are incredibly brave and resilient also to know that you want to continue the depth work you were doing with Anna, even if not with Linda. I hope L responds well and that you can have a constructive conversation around these issues tomorrow. I also hope you don’t mind but I talked to K about what happened and your loss of Anna on Monday – she did her training in Edinburgh and some of it was in Glasgow which I think is where you are, she said if you struggle to find another therapist to do this depth work she could find some recommendations. I said you were working with someone else but that I’d ask you if that ended up being a temporary thing xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. CB I’d really appreciate some recommendations. Are you on Instagram I can’t remember? If you are can you DM me please if not can you email me
      (I rarely check this so let me know on here if you email me).

      I don’t know if Linda has it in her to be what I need. If she usually goes down the tough love line and that maybe works with her usual clients I just don’t know… going on her description online I wouldn’t have chosen her because her main focus for working with clients is not what my issues are but I went to her because Anna sent me to her. We’ll see what the next couple of days hold! Thanks very much for this btw 💙

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I deleted the insta account I used for therapy stuff, but I’ll message you from my personal one as I think I can trust you not to disclose my identity online lol. I’ll ask K on Monday as we’ve already done our email check-in today, but will message you later anyway xx

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I can really see why Linda’s approach is not really very holding right now, to say the least. This is such an important email. I hope she treats it with the upmost respect it deserves but I’m sorry you’ve got to go through these challenges when you’ve got so much on your plate already 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great email L. At this point what do you have to lose? I hope L responds positively but if not it’s useful information and you can think how you want to proceed. It’s easier to be direct before the transference and attachment goes live!! I think it’s great you were able to express all this. Hope you’re hanging in there and I’m sorry that some of what L said in your session felt invalidating. The loss of A is enormous. I’m still only just getting going with the processing losing Em and that’s happened in January. I used my whole extra session on weds in a mess about what’s happened… so you’re not just going to snap out of it and move on in a couple of weeks! Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks RB. I thought I’d be nervous about tomorrow but I’m not. I guess I feel like she can dish the ‘no bullshit’ attitude (which is how she describes herself) so she should be able to take it. And I feel right now that my coping adult is on board to stand my ground and advocate for myself tomorrow. I keep trying to imagine what Anna would say in session and she’d say ‘what do you want to say to Linda’ then I’d explore that and then she’d ask what I’m afraid of and why I’m hesitant. She’d ask what I need. She’d tell me to trust my intuition. She’d say ‘well done’ for sticking up for myself. I think she’d be really sad to hear what Linda said and I’m so desperate to text her and tell her and ask her for other recommendations. But I won’t. I’ll stick to the boundary, though it is the hardest thing. I just desperately want her back. I’m so scared I’ll never find someone as good as her.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The fact that you’ve internalised so much of Anna’s validating voice is brilliant and that you are strong enough to speak up when things feel off is brilliant. Let’s be clear, here, we pay for these sessions – a lot of money – you have to be able to express what you need to say. You know, just coming from someone who spent years not saying what she needed to say 😅..ha. Really hope she takes on board your points and you have a connecting conversation about it. X

        Liked by 2 people

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