How do I fill the void?

Dpblusee left the following question in response to the “Therapy isn’t enough” post:

I don’t believe I have ever felt true, authentic love in my life until it was evoked in my therapy (which, for me, feels more like I am perceiving it and asking for it than receiving, since the T can’t truly give the parental love, in that way as you describe, that is needed to fill the gap).

If I never received it and didn’t know what it felt like until now, where can it come from to fill the void that was left from childhood? I would imagine it can never truly be filled, so how is this wound healed?

Instead of responding in the comments, I thought this would make a good topic for a post, so with her kind permission, I am going to answer her here. For most of my life, I carried within me the sense of a terrible abyss, a void, which threatened to swallow me up and destroy me. I can still remember the shock when I realized it was no longer there, and my amazement as I shared that realization with BN. So, while there may not be a way to fill the void, I do believe there is a way to close it.

The first thing I want to address is the authenticity of the love received in therapy. Dpblusee described it as perceiving and asking for it rather than receiving it, since a therapist cannot truly provide parental love. I agree that a therapist cannot truly provide parental love but not because they do not authentically love us. Rather,  the time during which we can take in our parents’ love, absorb and make it a  part of ourselves in a deep and integral way has passed. Children are growing and developing at a very rapid pace when young. While the human brain always retains its plasticity, it more easily and quickly responds to changes during our formative years than during adulthood. We are laying down the groundwork, forming our neural networks, creating our brain structure, so that there is not an already formed structure with which we need to battle in order to learn. That is why whatever happens to a child is “normal.” It’s normal because nothing else has ever happened. It is not until we go forth into the world and see other’s experience that our own may be seen differently.

So, no matter how deeply committed a therapist is to our well-being, no matter how much they may love us, or how far they are willing to go in pursuit of demonstrating that love, it cannot be enough, because in some sense, we have no place to put it; we cannot integrate that love into an unconscious, “felt” experience of being loved and of being worthy of that love. This is a difficult lesson on both sides of the couch. After all, if what is missing was parental love, then if we are loved now, everything will be fixed, right? It can look like that to a young, inexperienced therapist as easily as it does to a client (sometimes for the same reason of avoiding the grief of facing the loss). BN once told me that he had to learn the hard way that he could not provide a tissue box (parental love) for his client (he was using props :)) no matter how much he wanted to, but he could provide a coffee mug (unconditional “agape” love) which while not enough to make the loss disappear WAS enough for a client to heal. If a therapist does not recognize this important distinction and sets forth on a mission to provide that missing parental love, they find themselves in the position of trying to fill something that can never be filled. The client, who has been looking for this love their whole life, will cling to the amazing possibility of finally completing their life long quest. Eventually, the therapist wears down and has nothing left to give and so pulls back from the client, breaking, once again, the implicit promise made to the client. And so they become another person who promised to love and care for them, who instead abandoned and hurt them. And trust, which was already the most difficult thing in the world to achieve, becomes nigh impossible. It is why the boundaries are SO critically important. A therapist must try their utmost to never hold out the promise of anything they cannot deliver. They must be cruel to be kind. Better to be told up front you cannot have something, then to be told you can, only to have it snatched away. Again. Never was the BN swifter to speak, then when he had to tell me no.

So I believe the love we experience, or maybe more accurately, the experience of being loved, that we have in therapy is very real. And for many of us, it’s the first time which can make it difficult to take in. So instead, we tell ourselves we are making it up, or its an act on the part of a professional, or it’s emotional prostitution, an illusion we buy. It has taken me a very long time, but I have come to believe that it is an authentic, deep relationship, between two people, both present in the room, uniquely engaged with each other and at the heart of the transformation is love. Yes, it is unlike any other relationship we have, and it is bounded. But all of our relationships are bounded, just not in a way we notice as much as we do in therapy. And it is those boundaries that guard the relationship and the people in it so that the depths of true intimacy can be safely reached.

So how do we heal? We need to be attended to in order to learn that we matter, that we are worthy. And we need to be loved so that we know we are loveable. But here is the mistake we make. We believe that the worth, that our mattering, that our lovableness is conveyed TO us by the other person. In other words, we will FINALLY be worthy, and matter and be loveable BECAUSE our therapist loves us, and we matter to them. We focus on the person of the therapist instead of on ourselves (for most of us a repetition of a life-long well-taught pattern). Which is why the boundaries so confuse us. Because obviously, no matter how much we matter to them, they have people in their life who do not have the same boundaries with them, who we know matter to them, and are more important to who they are then we are. As a matter of fact, an important boundary in therapy is that our therapists cannot allow themselves to need us, because then our therapy would become about them. And here’s where the deep confusion sets in.

Because we know this is not the love of a parent. We know we do not matter to them the way we wish to. We know that we are not at the center of their world the way we had longed to have been with our parents. But what we are receiving, real love, real attendance, real care is close enough to evoke our sense of loss. I did not truly understand what I had lost, until I was given what I needed to heal from BN. He taught me what it felt like to matter to someone. To know that someone cared enough to attend to my feelings and words and actions until they understood me. To care about my needs and reflect back to me that they were legitimate and not onerous. That I had a right to have them, express them and work to meet them. That asking other people to meet them was a good thing to do. That hearing no would not destroy me. That I could be vulnerable and have someone not exploit that vulnerability and even protect me. Is it any wonder that there have been times when I have moved into the heart of my grief, I have found that my deepest wish is that BN could have been my father? He is the closest thing I have ever known.

So the real truth is that I have always mattered, I have always been worthy, I have always been loveable. I did not need BN to pay attention to me so that I could matter, I needed BN to pay attention to me so that I could LEARN that I mattered. It is not about our finding the right person, it is about discovering the truth about ourselves. That is the heart of the healing. That we receive the love and care and attention, are even allowed to depend, on another, until we can learn the truth about ourselves. That we should have been loved and protected and cherished. That we are worthy, that we deserve love, that we have legitimate needs, that we matter enough to recognize our losses.

For that is the dark side of healing. Once we start to recognize the truth about ourselves, then we also recognize the injury that was done to us. No one gets upset about a trash can being thrown about and dented, but we would be horrified about someone doing that to a Ming dynasty vase. To see our worth, is to see the fault and lack in our caregivers. It’s a painful reality to face. And part of facing it, is going back, time and again, to our therapist, learning to trust their love and care, so that when they meet our needs, we can take it in. And when they don’t, we can identify a loss and our need to grieve. In other words, our needs and expressing them, are NOT the problem, but it does not necessarily follow that all of our expressed needs can be met. It’s a painful confusing process. It’s also why it is so imperative for them to hold steady and be clear. We are in the middle of a difficult, complex sorting process.

We also have to accept the painful truth that though we heal our wounds, we will bear scars. These are real losses and  need to be accepted and grieved. But in grieving, we heal enough to stop avoiding our feelings, or holding them down. We stop looking for what we cannot find and instead can look forward to what we CAN find and we can have. We can learn to live fully going forward. Even having our grief be important enough to be heard and listened to is part of that process of healing.

Healing is not the same as never having been wounded. For a long time, I was working towards achieving a sense of security and worth and feeling loved that would be indistinguishable from that of someone who had experienced “good enough” parenting and secure attachment. In other words, I believed that “earned” secure attachment was identical to secure attachment attained with our primary childhood caregiver. The day I learned differently was painful in some ways, but also incredibly freeing. It was exhausting trying to get somewhere I couldn’t reach, not to mention continually feeling like a failure because I couldn’t get there. Because our worth was not reflected properly when we could integrate it on a deep, unconscious level, we will never have the reflexive sense of our worth and being loved that someone with secure attachment would. There will always be certain times and events to which my first reaction will be to hear negative messages about myself. But I have learned a reflective sense of my worth and being loved with which to answer those messages. I have my learned, earned sense of what is right to put up against the lies I have carried for too long. And the longer I do so, the quicker I am to respond and the less time it takes me to fend the lies off. I believe as we grow, the difference between learned and earned will become imperceptible on the outside and not anything that will slow us down on the inside. Although I can still experience episodes of deep insecurity or self-loathing, I am no longer characterized by them and actually have long periods of feeling happy and comfortable with who I am. It’s still new enough to be thoroughly enjoyable (not sure that will EVER wear off. :))

So we may never know security and a “felt” sense of our worth, the way some people do, but there is a strength and sweetness to that which is earned which they will never know. Do you truly appreciate food, if you have never known hunger? And while I am not glad that the abuse happened to me, I now recognize and accept that it is part of who I am, that healing from it has formed strengths in me and given me understandings I would not otherwise have. I have made my peace with my past and usually can leave it where it belongs, in the past.

So how do we close that void? We walk into our pain, and our grief and we feel them and express them to our loving other, over and over, until we have said enough and been understood enough to learn we matter, that we are worthy and that we  no longer have to say any more because we have healed.

  1. September 11, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    What a fine, fine post! Eloquent and elegant. I plan to share it with some colleagues and patients. Tha k you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 26, 2015 at 8:58 am

      How do you go through this transference and the pain of dealing with the loss of it and manage your every day life at the same time?


  2. September 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Welcome to my blog, thank you so much for commenting! You’ve made my day. 🙂 I have read and enjoyed your blog for a long time (hence your presence on my blog roll) and am incredibly flattered that you would have described my post the way you did. Thank you for taking the time. ~ AG


  3. September 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Wow, that is very complicated. What is it like to have a therapist love you? My therapist doesn’t love me, I am just a client and I pay him to listen to me. Has your therapist actually told you that he loves you? I can’t even comprehend what it is like to have a “relationship” with a therapist, and I’ve seen mine for 4 years. I suppose he cares about me in some therapist way, after all I show up every week and I am a steady source of income for him.


    • September 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      Hi Harriet,
      Welcome to my blog, thanks for commenting! As far as having my therapist love me, sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s heartbreaking and sometimes it’s both at once. As far as whether he has told me that he loves me or not, the answer to that is actually kind of complex, so if I may refer you to two earlier posts: The L Word Part I and the L Word Part II. As for your therapist, I would not be so quick to assume that this is just about money for him, especially over a period as long as four years. I would highly recommend reading the post I link to in here Great article from a new blog I just discovered for the best explanation of the role of payment in therapy I have ever heard. If these don’t answer your questions, please feel free to come and ask for clarification. This might be an important topic for you to discuss with your therapist. ~ AG


  4. September 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you AG, I appreciate your response and I briefly looked at the posts you linked to, but I am at work and am supposed to be working (LOL) so I will read them in more depth later. But I did want to say that my therapist seems different than yours, he doesn’t like to talk about the things that you talk to your therapist about, so maybe that is why we don’t have a relationship like you and yours do. We don’t talk about how I feel about him, or how he feels about me, he likes to keep things more about me and my problems with my life. I am actually taking a break from him and just recently found a new therapist who seems totally different in her style of therapy, more about feelings and less about problem solving, so it should be interesting to see how this therapy can be different. He did help me a lot in 4 years, so I’m not saying his therapy didn’t work, but I can’t say that we had a “relationship” or that he particularly cared about me aside from a 45 minute a week client.


    • September 12, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      I can certainly understand how you wouldn’t want to read those posts at work, Harriet, I’m not exactly terse. 🙂 That does sound very different from BN. It’s hard for me to comprehend working with someone for four years and never discussing the relationship. I agree that it will be interesting to see where you go with the new therapist.


  5. Kashley
    September 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I enjoyed this post especially, AG, because it resonated so much with me after my last session with T. It means so so much (more than I can ever express) to have T as an ally with me. She’s proven she’s trustworthy and it’s an amazing thing that she’s sat with me week after week for 2+ years just waiting for me to be able to feel comfortable enough to fully trust her. I’m still not even completely there, but she’s still by my side. That in itself is healing. But you’re right…it doesn’t fill the void. It’s helpful to know that you’ve closed that void and found healing even though it seems like nothing can overpower the pain of that void.

    Anyway, thanks for yet another insightful post. 🙂


    • September 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm

      I really understand that it means more than you can ever express, I have the same problem. 🙂 That patience, that willingness to attend to us while we learn is utterly priceless. But at the same time it’s not enough. It can be difficult to hold both at the same time. I’m glad that you found it helpful. ~ AG


  6. September 11, 2012 at 7:23 pm


    Thank you. Thank you.



    • September 12, 2012 at 11:25 pm

      You’re more than welcome. I saw BN today and it turned out that I was working through some things in writing this that I didn’t connect with until I was talking today. I am really grateful that you asked the question and got me thinking about it. ~ AG


  7. Izzy
    September 11, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    Amazing post, AG.


  8. anonymously
    September 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Sorting this out, the mixture of accepting the deep connection and love present in this unique and boundaried relationship and grieving that there are parts of our pain and loss that are necessarily untouchable in the now, has been a major feature of my therapy for some months now. Approaching the grief can be as liberating and healing as it is terrifying and painful. It always encourages me to hear what sort of experience of self might lie ahead if I can manage to bring these losses and wounds into consciousness, face them, touch them, let them be a part of me in the way I could never bear to before. Thank you, as always, for sharing your journey with us.


    • September 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      That’s it exactly, it’s not just terrifying and painful, it’s liberating and healing. I can often remember feeling a sense of relief that I was finally able to express my grief, that they were my feelings and deserved to be heard. You are doing good work and I am glad that this is an encouragement. ~ AG


  9. True North
    September 12, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Great post. You are right in that there are lots of times I’m so focused on what is not going right or the way I want it to and so suspicious of my T that I am missing so much of the good that he offers me. The protection, understanding, care and yes, even empathy! We almost always talk about our relationship and my T does not shy away from the “L” word. He asks how it can NOT be part of an intimate relationship between people who spend years together? It’s me who backs away and gets scared when he tries to talk about it. For sure, being traumatized by my last T has a lot to do with this. But I am really trying to “hear” him when he tells me how he feels and to find a way to accept all the good things he offers me. It’s a work in progress. Thanks, AG.


    • September 13, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      You have a wise T and I’m glad he doesn’t shy away from it being love. It’s understandable that you do. Our experience of love was mixed at best and there are good reasons we can find it scary. And it’s a difficult lesson to learn to be able to hold both the good that we have now and the loss of what we didn’t have then. Both are real and valid and should be honored. ~ AG


  10. September 12, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Thank you, AG, this was wonderfully said.

    Taking the chance to let someone in enough so that you can see the caring and connection in their eyes is one of the scariest things that I have done. It feels so incredibly vulnerable to over and over decide to let down the barriers and reveal your authentic self, so that the other can interact with all of you, rather than just the surface. And I think that it takes allowing that deep connection to occur for the type of learning that you describe to be able to take place.

    On a personal note, for some time, deep inside, I wished that my T was my mom. Recently, I was astonished to discover that I no longer wanted for her to be my mom, but rather a much loved and involved aunt. However, I very, very much want for my mom to be more like my T. It is a reasonable desire, but I can’t allow it to turn into a goal, because that is not who my mother is. And I can tell that it is going to hurt like the dickens to get all of me to accept that realistically, despite the fact that I love my mother and my mother loves me, she will never be able to be there for me in the grounded, attuned, and authentic way that my T is. Too often, our loved ones had limitations that hurt us as children and continue to cause pain now. Learning to accept those limitations is gut wrenchingly painful.


    • September 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      So incredibly terrifying to let someone in. I had always longed so much for that relationship that I had no idea how much it terrified me until I started to get it. In many ways, healing was a journey into the heart of fear. I think your description is perfect.

      As for your mother, I understand that struggle. The struggle to see our mother for the person they are and not who we so desperately wish they would be. It is painful, but like most painful things in therapy, also freeing. When we stop expecting that which we cannot get, we can sometimes appreciate what is there, But it is very painful. i remember at the end of a session once when we had been discussing an interaction with my mother and BN was explaining the principle of accepting what I could and could not get, I told him I would be fine, I just needed to find my balance. And I will never forget that he stopped and very compassionately said to me “yes you will, but you’re not supposed to have to find your balance with your mother.” So Cat, I’m sorry, you’re not supposed to have to accept that your mother will not be grounded, attuned and authentic in the way your T is. I know you need to accept that, but I am sorry for the necessity. ~ AG


  11. liz
    September 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Thank you. Just thank you.


    • September 17, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      You’re very welcome. And welcome to my blog, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. ~AG


  12. Jenny
    September 13, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    “I did not need BN to pay attention to me so that I could matter, I needed BN to pay attention to me so that I could LEARN that I mattered.”

    This really spoke to me. I’m nowhere near having learned that lesson and I didn’t even truly realize that that is the lesson I need to learn until I read your words. My own therapist is helping me get there – he’s steadfast in his commitment to me and repeatedly does things that show me that I am worthy of help and that I do matter. It’s hard to accept, though, after 50+ years of not feeling like I mattered. But it’s almost the foundation of the work we’re doing.

    Thanks for showing me that it can be done.


    • September 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      I’m glad that you found this encouraging. I am also really glad to hear that you have a steadfast therapist, as you just read I think that’s an important quality. As for learning the lesson, it was a long, hard road for me. In many ways, I am glad that Dpblusee asked this question, as a lot of things coalesced in my understanding while writing it. I don’t think I realized this was the answer UNTIL I tried to describe my experienced. I think it’s a difficult concept to grasp and even harder to live out. But I do believe you’ll get there. ~ AG


  13. September 20, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    As I read through your words, I am amazed with the similiar experience I have witnessed and experienced with my therapist. We needs to talk and acknowledge what these experiences feel like since there is virtually nothing written on this topic. Thanks for your courage.


    • October 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Hi Carole,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Please accept my apologies for taking so long to respond, my work schedule and personal life have both been quite demanding and I am just now coming up for air. I am glad that what you read bore witness to your own experience and validated what you knew to be true, that is important to our healing. I hope to talk with you further. ~ AG


  14. September 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    AG, I love this post. You articulate so clearly the truth I am also learning. This was my favorite part: “So the real truth is that I have always mattered, I have always been worthy, I have always been loveable. I did not need BN to pay attention to me so that I could matter, I needed BN to pay attention to me so that I could LEARN that I mattered.”

    I am so glad that you know your value, and that you have (and recognize! that part is sometimes tough) those long periods of happiness and comfort in your skin. And although you don’t need to hear it from us to validate what you know… you matter to me too. 🙂 Christine


    • September 22, 2012 at 1:19 am

      (((Christine))) Thank you, your timing was superb, I really needed to hear this today. I am not adverse to the occasional injection of outside validation. 🙂 I am very glad it resonated so strongly with you, when I get that kind of feedback, it gives me more confidence in the work I am doing. I was a very long time learning this one. ~ AG


  15. September 23, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    Sometimes going to therapy seems like rocket science for me, thank you so much for breaking it down in pieces, and for doing it so beautifully.


    • September 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Good thing I’m explaining therapy, as I’m not so good at rocket science. 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, really glad that you found this helpful. ~ AG


  16. Little Blond Girl
    September 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Thank you for this. I continue to struggle with finding my way through the grief, with accepting what I had or didn’t have, and what I can and can’t have now. It seems like an uphill battle that I may never see the end of. I thik I will have to come back and read this over and over again, at different stages, because there are different pieces that speak to different parts of me. The struggle to accept that I can’t have my T as my dad is incredibly difficult.

    I hope you are okay and working through your recent pain. Your poem was beautful, because it was honest.


  17. September 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Take heart, it is a really long uphill battle, but not an impossible or insurmountable one. Therapy is a lot like a helix, you circle around again and again but each time you return, you go deeper, until eventually, you do heal. You find what you need in order to live fully and it’s worth the pain and effort; at least I found that to be true. And thank you, I am doing okay, I am finding myself doing a lot of grieving again but am getting good support from family, friends, and BN. ~AG


  18. Godwhyme
    October 11, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    Thank you. Now I am somewhat relieved. Knowing that I too can heal, gives me hope.


    • October 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      I was so relieved to see this comment and know that you came back to read, I really would have felt terrible to think I had robbed you of hope. Thank for saying this. ~ AG


  19. Gel
    October 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    Hi, I’ve just found your blog today. I love this post and I look forward to reading more.

    But this topic is very current for me. In fact I just posted my musings at my blog on the topic of ‘what can you do if you didn’t get the positive bonding from your parents that is so important for forming a sense of self OK-ness’. The post was getting really long so I turned it into a part one, needing more time to ruminate on it. Then I found your blog through Living While Healing (also a great blog), and this post is so relevant to what I’m processing right now.

    Your writing is helping me to recognize that what I missed out on when I was a baby (the sense of security and worth and feeling loved etc), I will never be able to replace but that doesn’t mean I can’t heal. I don’t have a wonderful therapist like you do. I’m seeking through other avenues. But I know I have some rough stuff to face and walk through….I appreciate hearing your story and seeing that it is possible by your example.
    Thank you!


    • October 25, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      Hi Gel,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. My apologies for taking so long to reply. Both my work schedule and my personal life have been very demanding as of late and I am just coming up for air. I very much appreciate your kind words, its a real encouragement for me. You sound like you are right where you should be, doing the work you should be doing, sorting out what you didn’t have, but learning what you need to heal. I feel honored to be part of that. ~ AG


  20. Cat
    February 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hi AG

    So thought provoking and just where I am right now. Couldn’t even start to list the number of parts that ring true. The idea of my therapist feeling love for me is very scary and I shied away from that thought, not sure why I can Bremen her once saying that she thought she cared more about me than I cared about myself and I felt really uncomfortable. I am at a sort of crisis point just now which is all about attachment and what she can/can’t give me so this gave much food for thought. Thank you.


    • February 12, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      Hi Cat,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I am very glad that you found the post so helpful. Healing can be very difficult, painful and confusing and its understandable that you are struggling especially given your background. Hang in there, your present therapist sounds like a good one. ~ AG


  21. willow
    January 22, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    This blog kind of blows me away….stepping up in the responsibility to love ourselves…the dialectic at work….beautifully written, thank you.


    • January 24, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Hi Willow,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! I really appreciate your taking the time to say this and encouraging me. ~ AG


  22. muff
    January 25, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    After a lot of pain is validated and accepted by our T’s, eventually we do become REAL/visible. We matter to ourselves in a good way. I was thinking today of how much water has gone under the bridge to get this far in therapy. This calmness, and enlightenment within is surely a form of self love. It is something our western society needs to know more about for the sake of all new born AG’s, Muffs and……..


  23. Willow..
    April 10, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Rereading a couple months later, I think I need to read this everyday for awhile and see if I can let some of these thoughts soak in. How long did this piece take to write, it is very involved and deep…and much appreciated….


    • April 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Hi Willow,
      Its funny you asked about this post. I tend to let myself think for a bit about what I want to say before I start writing. In this case, since I was attempting to answer someone’s question, I remember it being on my mind, on and off, for a few days. But when I actually sat down to write it, it was one of the easiest times I’ve ever had writing a post. If I remember it correctly, I did a first draft one evening, then revised and published it the next day (I go through an edit process where I put up a preview, read it through, then keep returning to the original to make changes.) I do remember hitting a lot of places where I realized I needed to add something else, but there was really a sense of a lot of things coalescing for me as I wrote this. If I had to pick one, this post would be my favorite I’ve ever written and I had a strange sense (which I obviously got over 🙂 ) of really having nothing more to say after this was done. In a sense, this truly feels like a summation of all that I have learned. I am glad that it has resonated so deeply with you. xx AG


  24. April 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I just commented on another of your posts, something specific I was looking for, and then I followed a link to this one, something I wasn’t looking for. Oh, I wish I had the words to explain what this did for me. I started crying somewhere in the middle of your paragraph that starts with “So how do we heal?” and I kept on crying all the way through the next four paragraphs. I cry plenty, but not usually (maybe never before) from reading someone else’s blog, I have often accused my therapist of being psychic. Now I feel like accusing you of the same thing, and you don’t know me! Quite a feat! Thank you for posting this. You put my own experience into words for me. You clarified for me why it was so good and so important. You are a very gifted writer.


  25. April 22, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Guinnevere,
    Welcome! (I responded to your comment on the Erotic Transference post first 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing with me the effect reading this had on you. It is very moving to me that you would find it to be so powerful. I am truly glad, again, that it has provided you with an expression of something you have been feeling. I’ve had that happen, when I can feel something so strongly within but have no words to put to the experience then someone comes along, often BN, and puts words to it. It can be an incredible relief. I am glad you found that here. ~ AG

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Willow..
    May 11, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    Hi AG, this continues to be an interesting posting for me,,,,”And it is those boundaries that guard the relationship and the people in it so that the depths of true intimacy can be safely reached…..” So, the true intimacy is one of kind of one sided ( client) emotions? Just wondering….I’ll keep reading…thanks…


  27. Willow..
    May 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    …”To see our worth, is to see the fault and lack in our caregivers. It’s a painful reality to face….” I would just add, and maybe you say it,,,to see our worth we truly were/are and not to be the distorted person/child they wanted us to be….


    • Willow..
      May 12, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      So to do that, do we have to find fault in them, or “just” grief in us?…tnx..


  28. May 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Willow,
    I think the intimacy runs both ways in the sense that you cannot go that deep with someone unless they are also open to you, but yes, it is one-sided in that only the client is revealing the depths of who they are. Therapy is intentionally frustrating in that you can learn how to have a deeply intimate relationship, but can’t have a complete one. This lack is what sends you back out into your life to seek the fullness of relationship there with someone who does not have to maintain the same kind of boundaries that a therapist does. The therapeutic relationship is easier in that we do not need to concern ourselves with the other person’s feelings, but harder in that we cannot know the other person’s feelings.

    And yes, I deeply believe our worth is inherent, a constant that has always been and will always be true. Someone can teach us not to believe in it, but cannot take it away or mar it. They can only treat us as if we are worthless until we believe it. The work of therapy is unlearning the lie.

    As far as fault versus grief, I think that’s probably a very personal thing. I’m not big on the blaming thing, but have also had to process a lot of rage for things my parents did. What I eventually have settled on is that my parents are human and while I can see where their behaviors came from, I am also aware that they failed me in significant ways, and I have a right to acknowledge that truth and mourn it and feel any other way about it that I feel. The crucial point to me is that we understand that what was lacking resided in what we were and were not given, not in who we were. The shame of abuse does not belong to the abused.



  29. June 30, 2014 at 1:17 am

    Wow! I’m speechless and full of tears. This spoke to me on every level and helps me tremendously in understanding this healing journey. So many times I find myself looking for the nearest exit because of the hurt and pain and think ” this can’t be how it works?!” Thank you so much for sharing your insight. Your healing has made you a true healer of others.


    • June 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      I think I have said it elsewhere before, but this post is my favorite of everything I have written. I am so humbled and glad that it touched you so deeply, thank you for taking the time to tell me that it did. I certainly understand the question “this can’t be how it works?” because our normal, healthy instinct when experiencing that much pain is that something is wrong and should be stopped. The instinct is correct, its just that facing the pain is the way to make it stop. I hope that this will give you hope to continue your healing. I am sorry that it is so painful, I know it feels like it is beyond endurance at times. ~ AG


  30. July 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Wow. That’s an amazing piece of writing and so full of hope and wisdom. I need hope that I can heal, so thanks v much for that xxx


    • July 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm

      Welcome to my blog and thank for such kind words. I am happy that you found hope here. ~ AG


  31. Willow
    July 30, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    “And it is those boundaries that guard the relationship and the people in it so that the depths of true intimacy can be safely reached.”
    That’s the polarity in play, right? Boundaries..guarding. Depths of intimacy can now be reached….

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 30, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Good to hear from you. And absolutely it’s the polarity in play! One of the paradoxes at the heart of therapy (and there are many) is that I need to be limited in my relationship with BN in order to define the space in which I can move freely about. Yes, the boundaries hold me to a contained space, but within that vessel there is perfect freedom to be exactly who I am. Boundaries sometimes feel like those optical illusions that you can look it and at one period in time see a vase and then you look again and see two faces. I can hate them and the pain of knowing I can’t move past them and then it flips and I deeply understand how necessary they are and even how caring. It’s a difficult concept to come to terms with. ~ AG


  32. Cheryl seronick
    February 22, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Your response to”how do I fill the void” really hit home. I am going through transference and I am constantly miserable. I fight with myself to obey the boundary rules and I constantly break them. I think of my therapist ALL THE TIME. I can’tell imagine life without her. She pretty much knows how I feel aND like your therapist, she keeps reinforcing the boundaries. Do you have any suggestions to help me get through the day. I walk an hour twice a day, I am keeping busy being on the board of the HOA where I live and I am on committees at church. My therapist suggested that I keep busy. How long does this pain go on? I hear what you have to say about transference but how do we live through it?t


  33. Dpblusee
    July 16, 2016 at 1:06 am

    Hi AG,

    I am going through a very difficult phase of my therapy as I am, at the same time, nearing a pivotal threshold in my life in which I am legitimately extricating myself from my past and my trauma. I am finding currently, as I move out of my past, that my trauma is attempting to reassert itself with a new viciousness. This has served to further illuminate how painful my childhood reality was. Because of this I continue to struggle to understand why I have not yet internalized the belief that I matter after many years with a very warm and caring T.

    I decided to come back to this post tonight because this topic and your post has always stayed with me. After reading it once again, I have a better understanding of what you say above and it touched me strongly and brought new tears to my eyes. Thank you for your eloquence and insight and most of all for your courage to share your own journey. Thank you.

    Best to you,


  34. NobodyIsNormal
    July 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Hi AG – you don’t know me but I feel like we have such similar journeys. I’m on my 6th T and this one clicked – much like you and the BN.

    I had both done the work to be ready for it but she also holds the space for me, and we connect well.

    I was struggling so much, found your blog, and I’ve pored over every single post from the very beginning.

    I wanted to tell you that your words and your posts mean so so much to me, even years after you posted them. I am not alone. For allowing your healing to contribute to mine, I thank you.


  1. September 15, 2012 at 7:00 am
  2. November 12, 2015 at 8:38 am
  3. May 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

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