Why keep going back?


***Trigger warning: Religious content, I talk about my Christian faith in pretty specific terms late in the post.

A reader emailed to ask me a question whose answer I thought would make a good topic for a post. So with their kind permission, the question is below, followed by my answer.

I would like to ask how you got through it.  I mean when the feelings became so intense with your therapist, how were you able to keep going back?  What stopped you leaving?

This is a really good question. There were so many times I threatened to quit, or told BN I wanted to quit. I lost track of how many times I said (often out loud) “I cannot do this anymore, I can’t take it.” Sometimes on the way to therapy. I wish there were a simple answer to this question, but it was, as usual, a complex interplay of a number of factors. Experience, fear, attraction, desire, longing, faith, hope, determination and belief. One at a time, all at once, or some subset were what kept me going.

One factor was definitely my experience in therapy. BN was my second therapist; I had worked with my first therapist through several bouts of therapy over a span of 22 years. (I would go for a few years, then take a few years off). During that time I dealt with basic boundary issues and finding my voice, then recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of my father. Fought through the disbelief and processed the trauma. Through all this work, my life and my ability to function got slowly better. BN once told me that I used therapy very effectively to live my life until I could find someone with whom to heal. So by the time I got to BN, I had a pretty strong conviction about the efficacy of therapy. I had the experience of feeling like I was making no progress for a very long time, only to be able to look back and be shocked at how much I had moved. So when it felt like I was never going to get there, I would remember other times I felt that way and turned out to be wrong, so I kept going. In a very real sense, I built up my strength and resources over those years so that when I finally faced all my long buried feelings, I had more endurance and faith in the process.

Fear was another strong factor with me. The second time I went for therapy was driven by my fear (which took decades to work through) that I would become my parents, especially my father. It will come as no surprise that I carried a lot of repressed rage. Our daughters were 22 months apart and when my older daughter turned four (the age I later remembered as when the abuse started), I was really struggling with a lot of anger. I am very ashamed to say that one day I lost my temper with the children and literally kicked our dog in order to vent. That incident terrified me, both that I would hurt something innocent and the look of fear on my children’s faces at seeing mommy so out of control. My husband will tell you I never came close, but I was really scared I would start physically abusing my children. At that point in my recovery, I had conscious memories of my father’s rages and violence and was convinced I was following in his footsteps. So I went back to therapy to learn to handle my anger so that I would not hurt my children. Then I learned that there was so much I had to learn to be a good mother. Developmentally I have often been only a half step ahead of my children. I know that my own issues have affected and even hurt them, and I have asked forgiveness for that, but I also know that I am a much better parent for having done the work in therapy. Not least because I taught my children that it was a good thing to get help if you need it. It has always felt like my children’s well-being was worth any pain I faced. I sometimes thought I didn’t have the strength but I always saw the need. My children did not chose to be born, I had them. Their needs have to come first. I know, too intimately, what happens when a parent puts their own needs first; I didn’t want my children to experience that as fully as I did. (They have, of course, experienced it. I am human and subject to my own selfish moments when I do put my needs first, but I try not to be characterized by it.)

Never underestimate the power of positive transference. BN became my attachment figure, and so I idealized him the same way a small child idealizes their parents. He was the wiser, stronger other who could do no wrong, had an answer to every situation, was fearless and could fix anything and everything wrong. Yes, intellectually I knew this was not true, but I felt it emotionally. So strongly in fact that I had to pass through the adolescent phase of being angry at him when I realized he actually wasn’t perfect nor could he make all the bad stuff disappear. (BN told me early and often that emotions could often be irrational, but that shouldn’t stop us from expressing them.) So as damaged as I saw myself, I saw BN as an all wise and loving figure whose opinion should certainly carry more weight than mine. He told me with no equivocation, that I could heal, that I was capable of living a full life. He once actually said to me in a couples’ session that he refused to believe I was any less capable than he was to live a full life. I’m not sure there was anything that would have been more powerful for me than to be spoken of as his equal in any way. So for a long period, if I felt despair, I trusted in BN’s hope and belief. I knew he wouldn’t lie to me so if he told me I could heal, then I must be able to heal, I just had to keep going. That part was helped immensely by his patience in reassuring me over and over that it would take time and a lot of repetition to heal. I did eventually let go of the idealization (OK, most of it. What can I say, I don’t get to see him irritable or grumpy so its hard to let go of completely. :)) but it happened gradually as I came to see my own capabilities and strengths and did not need him to be perfect any more in order to feel safe.

The romantic/erotic component of my attraction also served its purpose. My feelings for BN, my longings and desire for his company were very strong. (Honestly, I often felt like a thirteen year old with that first giddy all-encompassing crush. I really am amazed at times that he didn’t just bust up laughing at my behavior. The man has great self-discipline. :D) I wanted so much to see him, to spend time with him, that I would go despite the very real terror of what I had to face. So as painful as those feelings of attraction could be, since the boundaries prevented them ever coming to fruition, they did keep me coming back. No matter how scared I was, or how much in pain, it was still good to see him and spend time with him. And every once in a great while I would have one of those delightful sessions where you look back and just celebrate the progress. At times like that, I would just be overflowing with gratitude and it felt as if I was almost glowing. I felt warm and accepted and loved. I would look at BN and think how very beautiful he was in every way. I could run a long time on a session like that and keep coming back in the hope it would happen again.

My fear of loss drove me towards therapy as much as it could drive me away. Seeing BN as my attachment figure awoke all my unfulfilled needs. Needs that were experienced as a matter of life and death, because they were a matter of life and death when I first experienced them as a child. So once again, although I knew intellectually and factually that I would NOT die if I lost BN, I very much felt that way. In some sense, I needed him more than I needed to not experience my pain. So when I really did want to run away and quit, the thought would quickly follow that doing that would mean I would lose BN which was too terrible to contemplate, let alone choose to do.

There were also times I ran on sheer will. I knew everything I felt, but chose to believe those feelings were not reality. The pain would not kill me, I was strong enough to heal, the process would work. So even when I didn’t feel that, I would ACT on those beliefs trusting that my feelings would catch up. I talked about this in Bass Ackwards.

Pain was another thing that pulled me towards therapy as much as it shoved me away. You hit a point in healing where you dismantle your maladaptive behavior, but you have not yet learned new, healthy ways to cope. You have become too self-aware and conscious of both your behavior and long denied feelings to bury it all again. So you are in a great deal of pain but the only way out is forward. I talked about this principle in Lake Loop Trail. If I am going to be in pain either way, and I was, I would rather be in pain moving forward, then stay in pain indefinitely. You can use your energy to maintain or use your energy to heal. Healing is better, because eventually that energy is freed up to use for other things. Freeing up that energy then gives you the strength to go even further and deeper. I remember once talking to BN about my wanting to run from the relationship again as getting closer felt too dangerous and how frustrated I was to be back in that place again, feeling these feelings again. His response was to say that once I felt this scared when I was this far away, holding his arms wide, while now I was this scared when I was this far away, holding his fingers open by a few inches. It is important to realize that we do not, nor can we, heal all at once. But the healing we do, each strength we gain, each skill we learn, is fuel to continue forward.

Another important factor was the support of family and friends. I have been very blessed in having a husband who is very encouraging about my going to therapy and has sacrificed a lot in helping me to heal. He was patient and understanding when I got sidelined by the stress of healing and was not available. And when I would want to give up, he was there to tell me to keep going. I also had friends come alongside of me in healing, that understood what it was I was facing, and could tell me to keep going when I wanted to give up, who would remind of my progress, or argue with me when I decided BN really hated me, or I had been going to therapy for too long. I do not know how my healing of the last five years would have happened without the support of the folks at the Psychcafe forum and the close friendships that have grown out of my membership there.

I also do not underestimate the effect of BN’s skills as a therapist. No matter what I talked about or how I felt, he was a steady presence who was right there with me helping me to face whatever I needed to face. And he had an amazing gift for normalizing everything I was feeling. So many times I expected to be met with ridicule and scorn, only to be met with acceptance and care. Every time I risked to expose more of myself and got something so much different from what I expected, made it just that scintilla easier the next time to open up. I kept coming back because BN patiently, and non-defensively, proved he was trustworthy.

Last, but certainly not least, was my faith. God promised that He can work all things to good for those who love Him and that nothing can snatch us from his hand. I did not believe that He would leave me in darkness. While I have certainly wrestled with the problem of pain, I believe He is a loving God and would bring healing. In the end, while I can tell you HOW the healing happened, I am not sure I can say I understand WHY the healing happens. BN and I have discussed it on numerous occasions, the mystery at the heart of healing. Somehow, for a human being, to sit with another human being and be heard and understood and accepted, heals. My own theory is that when we come together in that way, when we experience that connection, we create the space into which God and His love can flow. Ultimately, I believe that while BN and I both worked very hard to bring ourselves to that place, it was the power of God, the true source of love, that did the actual healing. I know not everyone would agree with what I am saying or how I am saying it, but I offer it as my truth, a truth that served to sustain me through my struggle to heal. BN does not see it in quite the same terms; he just recognized that there is an infinite source of love outside of himself. He has told me that the older he gets, the less he feels like he knows, but he is comfortable with not knowing. As I am experiencing that myself, that I am not as certain about a lot of things these days, I find it easy to live with. The truth is the truth, in some way this comes down to semantics Romans 8:38-39 says:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There was nothing that could separate me from the love of Christ, not even the abuse of my father.

This was a very personal list. In some ways, part of healing lies in our finding what it is that keeps us going, that gives us the strength to face the pain and do the grieving. Each of you will discover your own reasons, some of which I will share and some I will not. But I hope you take strength from knowing that there are reasons, that it is worthwhile going back and sticking with it. You are worth sticking with it.

  1. LIttle Blond Girl
    February 14, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    This too is something I have struggled with. Walking into his building, thinking what am I doing here? I must be nuts! But each time I keep going back. It’s a push and a pull – towards and away from. Almost always ending in my return. Over the last 15 years I’ve been seeing my T, I have taken years off, needing to run, but in the last 7, though I’ve wanted to, I haven’t disappeared for years. For me one of the helpful things is having a set time, a regular session, so that it’s there, every week (at least now – it wasn’t always weekly), something that is habit/security, something I do, even though I’m scared, even though I feel like I can’t anymore. And I share it with him, how I feel, that I don’t want to be there, and why I don’t want to be there, but that I do want to be there, and why I do. And that I don’t think I can do it anymore, but that I also can’t imagine my life without him in it – and the latter wins out because the attachment is strong. And we talk about whether I should quit, is this as good as it gets, what do I need, how much our relationship means to me.

    And I too, in my better moments, have been able to see how I’ve healed and changed. How going there and seeing “good enough parenting” has allowed me to be so much better of a parent/wife/person/self. I can’t imagine that I’d be the parent I am now if it wasn’t for therapy. And my child is most certainly worth that (so am I!).

    It’s scary, there’s no doubting that. It’s hard work, there’s no doubt about that either. But I found once I realized how much it was going to take and how much it was going to hurt, I was already very attached and so I was in a bind, stay and have the relationship but have to feel/process the pain (though not always, we do get those wonderful “break” sessions where it’s not about pain, but just about being there), or leave, lose the relationship – and still feel the pain (just in different ways – cus we all know, time just doesn’t heal all wounds…).

    Thanks for the post.

    Like

    • February 14, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      LBG,
      You totally get what I was trying to say and your description of what therapy is like for you rings very true with me. You are doing exactly what you need to do which is to talk about ALL the feelings, even the one’s about wanting to quit. And what you said at the end? Love is the answer to pain. Why do we get attached and let people matter when we know ultimately we will lose them? Because what we gain from the relationship gives us the strength to face what is an unavoidable loss. Safety doesnt lie in never getting hurt or being in pain, it lies in knowing we have what we need and the people we need to handle the hurt and pain. Thanks so much for all that you said. ~ AG

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  2. Ann
    February 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Your blog hit so close to home. After over 30 years I have moved back to my hometown. Like you, God’s love has helped sustain me during intolerable depression in the past. Unfortunately, most of my family express a very narrow view of who is ‘ in’ with God and who is ‘out’. I thought 30 years was long enough to live close to family again, but it has triggered me so badly. ( mostly intense ‘free floating anger’). The hardest part is I no longer experience God, my greatest source of comfort. I am spiritually empty. Meanwhile I listen to family talk about how blessed they are for having such good lives, that the world is coming to an end soon, and how “others don’t know God”. I am working with a great therapist in dealing with my current issues, but I sure miss God. I am working on centering prayer and experiencing God in the now. Of course my family worry that I could be misled-especially since it comes from Catholic tradition! Sorry for the ramble, but I do believe God is instrumental in healing, just not “God in a Box”. Thank God for a patient and loving husband.

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    • February 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Ann,
      I love that, not “God in a box.” I used to be so much more certain I knew the exat truth, but I’m not now. So I’m an odd duck in that I still carry the beliefs but don’t feel liike I always fit in with the people who believe the same things I do. At the same time, I carry a strong conviction that I am exactly where God wants me to be, doing what He has called and prepared me to do. All those years of healing had a purpose. Brave woman moving near family even after 30 years. Most of mine are 1200 miles away (a quite comfortable distance.) And just remember that even if you cannot feel Him, God is still there. I hope you find a sense of His presence again soon. ~ AG

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  3. liz
    February 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Once again, your words resonate so strongly, even if our experiences have been so different. If I had to make a list of all the reasons that kept me from quitting therapy, it would look a lot like yours.
    At the beginning of my therapy, and for a lot of time after, I used to get out of every session thinking: “This is the last time, I am never, ever coming back!”. Then I proceeded to inform friends and relatives that I was definitely quitting, that it had been ridiculous and stupid just to think I wanted to start something like that. And week after week I kept going back. There have been times when my obsession about quitting led to huge fights with my therapist, and times when I made appointments and literally didn’t show up. And despite all that, I kept going back, even when going back felt like a failure, or embarrassing, or pointless, or just plain stupid. I tried to rationally explain to myself all the reasons why therapy was useless, or making thing worse, or too scary, or I focused on all the ways my therapist had let me down, still I always felt I had to go back.
    In the end, I think that beyond all the reasons you listed, there is a “gut feeling”, something inside, an intuition that keeps us going forward.
    Sometimes the pain really seems unbearable, sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by everyday life stuff we don’t have enough energy or time to dig through our minds, sometimes our therapists do something wrong, or forget something, or show up late, sometimes they don’t understand what we’re saying and we feel frustrated, sometimes healing is just so messy and chaotic and hard to notice while it’s happening it all seems toomuch to take, yet I believe that if we listen carefully to ourselves, if we try hard enough to put all the fear and anxiety and frustration aside for a moment, even when it sucks, we just know it’s all worth the effort. As you wrote several times in the past: you just have to trust the process.

    (sorry it came out so long, I got a bit carried away :-D)

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    • February 14, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      Liz,
      Not long at all (have you read my posts?! :D) I really enjoyed what you said and agreed to it. BN and I have discussed that drive for life. That a plant deprived of light will grow around and through obstacles to get to the light. I often think that the reason I survived the trauma was that something very stubborn in me refused to lay down and die and wasn’t about to let my father win, so I was going to heal, come hell or high water. I very much value that in myself, although there are also moments I can hate it, when laying down and giving up can look so peaceful. I sense that drive in you. ( And can I tell you just once more I am absolutely astounded by your mastery of the English language. :)) ~ AG

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  4. February 14, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    It was a personal post, but so much of it rings true with me, too. What keeps me going back is the pull of wanting to meet those previously unmet needs over the fear of what might happen if I get too close. Because the love in a relationship like you have with BN trumps any pain that you may feel because of it. It’s completely the same for me. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    • February 14, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      Kashley,
      Thank you, I am glad it rang true for you. And your right, my relationship with BN, ok, my love for him (still hard to say :)) does trump anything. I know that I can face anything with him by my side. And I haven’t had a chance to comment on your blog yet, but you are doing amazing work! I was so glad to hear that you worked through that. ~ AG

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      • February 14, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        Thanks, AG. Please don’t worry about it at all! 🙂

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  5. February 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    …made me cry… a lot… amazing post.

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    • February 14, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      RL,
      I hope that was crying in a good way. Thanks for taking the time to encourage me. ~ AG

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  6. February 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Great list. I think there are quite a few things that are the same for me also but my biggest thing is actually part of my training as a child to be the good girl and do the right thing. My T said that currently that is serving me well. I still need to have an appointment booked as I wouldn’t ring to make another.
    My faith is a very big part of keeping me going, even when not all of me agrees with how I see it. Knowing that God knows what I am going through and will never leave me. I also cling to ‘God works all things for the good of those who love him.’ I somehow know that out of all this mess God has a positive way to use it to be able to bless & encourage others who may be hurting.

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    • February 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      Grace,
      Thank you! Excellent point, I left that one out. That drive to get it right and be a good patient really did provide a lot of motivation. Of course, eventually I had to work through realizing that I didn’t need to be that good girl, just myself (which scared me to death frankly). And I totally agree that God brings good out of our healing especially in being able to have compassion and extend a helping hand to others who are struggling to heal. ~ AG

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  7. marleym6
    February 14, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    You are stronger than me Ag. I gave up on therapy. The attachment pain was just too much. And towards the end…the boundaries became unclear. What a mess.
    I liked what you said about using the energy to heal. I will hang on to that for a while. Thanks
    Mayo

    Like

    • February 16, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Hi Mayo,
      Its good to hear from you! I’m sorry to hear that you quit, but understand it. You know that as wonderful as your therapist is, I always thought he could have been clearer about his boundaries. While a therapist having more open boundaries can feel very good, I do think in the long run it can make the grieving process more difficult because letting go of that hope of finally finding what you’ve been looking for, even though its impossible, is painful enough, without getting hints that it might be available. Its hard enough when they have clear boundaries. The therapeutic relationship can be a difficult one to accept (I am very much struggling with it right now) but at least when the boundaries are clear, you know what it is you are dealing with.

      And I am glad that you were encouraged by what I said about energy to heal. You may not be going now, but you may be ready to go back someday. ~ AG

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  8. February 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    HI AG,
    One thing I wondered while reading your post was did you become attached to people in your life prior to Boundary Ninja…teachers or anyone else? The more and more I’ve read of your posts lately the more in-depth I hear coming from you and it has become even more relatable than before. The scripture you quoted is so true…nothing can separate us from the love of Christ…some feeling like that occured to me earlier today. Thanks for such a great post!

    Like

    • Chronically Transferred
      February 15, 2013 at 12:21 am

      Thanks for this post AG!!

      Like

      • February 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

        You’re welcome CT, still so glad to have you around again! 🙂

        Like

    • February 16, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Hi Hopeful,.
      One of my major breakthroughs in therapy was in realizing (based on reading Geneen Roth’s When Food is Love) was that BN was the next man in a long line of relationships, where I did not see the person, but who I wished them to be. There was enough of a hook to hang my hat on so to speak and once I did, I ran with it. Whenever a man acted towards me in such a way that my hope of finally being loved enough was activated, I hung on for dear life and often was obsessive about the relationship. Until I realized, one more time, this wasn’t it and went looking again. Seeing this pattern while I was working with BN finally brought this pattern to consciousness in a way that made me realize that not only did I need to look at it, but that I was safe looking at it. Because BN, unlike the other people this happened with, was willing to talk about it and was not threatened or uncomfortable about my feelings, because he knew their source. He knew it wasn’t really about him (to quote “I know I’m not that #$%^ing wonderful.” :)) but about me looking to get my needs met. So that allowed me to let the feelings surface and see where they came from, and understand the losses. I had to learn that some of the things I was looking for were no longer possible to get (no matter how willing someone was to try to provide them, I no longer have the capacity to take them in the way I did as a child). It hurt more than anything I have ever done before, but it is freeing me up to stop looking for that which I cannot have, and consequently my relationships are healthier and I can see and enjoy what I can get now.

      I’m glad that you are able to relate to what I’m writing, thanks for saying so. ~ AG

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  9. February 14, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    So much of this list also applies to my experience… This in particular jumped out for me, though: “So for a long period, if I felt despair, I trusted in BN’s hope and belief. I knew he wouldn’t lie to me so if he told me I could heal, then I must be able to heal, I just had to keep going.” There were times when I would say to my T, “I don’t see that and I can’t believe that, but I know that you believe it. For right now, that is going to have to be good enough for me.”

    And then there is the pure will and desire to survive and find ways to thrive… When all of this first came out 20 years ago, I was absolutely flooded with memories of the abuse. I was in a state of pure crisis and desperate for some relief. I knew that I could not tolerate a life that only consisted of reliving the emotions and sensations of being abused and trying to manage the emotional states that resulted. If I couldn’t find a way to make things better, the only way out that I could see was to kill myself. Instead, I found an in-patient program that concentrated on the treatment of PTSD and dissociation where I started to learn the skills that I needed in order to make my life tolerable. My T has since said that while she saw how much pain I was in and how desperate I was for it to stop and she knew that I had a suicide plan, she wasn’t ever really worried that I actually would commit suicide because the will to live and heal ran so strongly in me. I have had more than enough taken away from me, taking away all of the wonderful things that might happen in the future just was not going to happen. And since the birth of my daughter, I have thought many, many times how grateful I am that I kept on going and how the world would have been a poorer place if she hadn’t been born.

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    • February 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

      It is amazing how stubbornness can be an asset during the healing process. The will to live and fight forward despite everything inside of us wanting to do everything but. I find it hard to understand at times yet it certainly helps when pushing through.

      Like

    • February 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Cat,
      I very much agree with everything you said. I think the best way I know how strong my will to live can be, was in facing how very much I wanted to die but somehow managed not to. There was a long period, during which I was recovering the memories and processing the trauma, that I struggled with suicidal ideation, much of being memories of wanting to die. I actually discovered how angry I was at God for making me live! (I am now grateful for that, just for the record. :)) BN and I have discussed that a true measure of the pain caused by the abuse of a caregiver is shown by the fact that it can overcome somethings as strong as our will to live. You’re right part of the reason I kept going was that I wanted to live, but I didn’t want it to be a living hell. So the only thing to do was get better, and that meant I had to keep going even if the only hope I had was BN’s. It was a good experience because it later allowed me to tell a friend who was in a terrible passage, that I would hope for her, since she had none. I was incredibly moved and touched later when she told me that it had actually helped. It’s why I have that quote about hope in my sidebar. Thanks Cat, I always feel like you really understand what I am saying, it feels much less lonely. ~ AG

      Like

      • February 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

        That is exactly what I meant! I couldn’t bear having life be a living hell for the rest of my life, so I knew that I had to keep on looking for the help that I needed until I learned the skills that would make life bearable. After I did that, then I could start to deal with actually healing.

        I have a huge amount of admiration and love for Mama Bear and she offered me a connection that made the beginning of the journey possible for me, but to be honest, she had no idea what she was getting into when she started working with me. She will readily admit that she was completely unprepared to deal with someone as traumatized and dissociative as I was. She didn’t even know how to recognize that I was dissociating at first, until she described what was going on in supervision. I had to go elsewhere during that crisis period in order to learn how to start to have some hope of dealing with the symptoms. Soon afterwards, I moved to another state and worked for 2 1/2 years with a trauma specialist. By the time I moved back here, my T had learned a lot and she has continued to study since then. Recently we were talking and she said that she really wishes that she had known then what she knows now, because it might have saved me a lot of pain. On the other hand, she was always someone who provided a real source of contact for me and was steady and safe. That was probably more important than certain skills.

        Sorry, I’m blathering… I should get up and make scones and then go out to the chili cook off and the library.

        Like

  10. Gel
    February 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    AG,
    There is always a golden nugget or two in your posts that really grab me, and this is one from this post that I cherrish:

    “…..the mystery at the heart of healing. Somehow, for a human being, to sit with another human being and be heard and understood and accepted, heals. My own theory is that when we come together in that way, when we experience that connection, we create the space into which God and His love can flow. Ultimately, I believe that while BN and I both worked very hard to bring ourselves to that place, it was the power of God, the true source of love, that did the actual healing.”

    I have spent a lot of time at AA meetings over the last 6 years. This is what i experience at those meetings….Through the meeting structure and having the shared purpose of sobriety and especially cultivating our spiritual connection with God or a power greater than our individual selves. Many times at meetings I have marveled at the ‘space’ we create there into which God speaks to me through the group.

    I love how you put things into words. It really is a service to others Thank you!

    Like

    • Gel
      February 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      AG,
      Would it be OK if I quote you in a post I want to write for my blog about this topic of the mystery of healing?

      I would us the part that I copied in my comment above and I’d link to your blog. or however you’d like it to be referenced.

      Like

      • February 15, 2013 at 4:37 pm

        Gel,
        You’re welcome to use the quote (I’m flattered). I would appreciate a link back to my blog. Thanks so much for asking first it was very considerate. Forgive the briefness, buried at work (hence the other comments to which I have not yet replied. :)) ~ AG

        Like

    • February 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      There is always a golden nugget or two in your posts

      If only you didn’t have to dig through so much dirt to find them! 😀 (sorry couldn’t resist, thank you for that.)

      BN and I have talked many times about this, that as much as we can know the process and what you need to do, and have both of us encountered it many times on both sides of the relationship, we still do not completely understand it. There is a mystery that I can recognize and accept, but have no explanation for. I am glad that this resonated so strongly with you, helps me feel more sane. 🙂 ~ AG

      Like

      • Gel
        February 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        Oh my gosh! I didn’t imagine you could take it that way….that i’d have to dig through so much ‘dirt’ to find golden nuggets….No Not how I see it all…In fact just the opposite…I see all your writing as very fine writing with huge amounts of value. I sometimes resonate with a bit or two that – in my current state – seem especially relevant. And actually I come back to read later because I know I’ll get more out of what you have written.

        In a way it is funny to think of the bulk of your writing as dirt…when to me it all is some of the best writing I have ever seen. So I’ll think it of it as rich live soil.

        Like

        • February 16, 2013 at 2:35 pm

          Gel,
          SO sorry to worry you, I absolutely knew you didn’t mean it that way. I just have a quirky sense of humor and can’t resist a good crack. It was just the image that popped into my head. I very much appreciated what you said about my writing (and now I am blushing, you are too kind.) Odd thing about the internet, you forget people have never met you in person. I have this tendency to joke a whole lot and forget how it can come across in print. I was not offended in the least (quite the opposite) and very much appreciated what you said. ~AG

          Like

          • Gel
            February 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

            Ah! OK…Good!…and I have a tendency to take everything literally and totally miss it when people are joking. Now I get it. Thanks!

            Like

  11. True North
    February 18, 2013 at 1:37 am

    AG… this was an awesome blog post and covered so much of what I have experienced. Especially the will to hang on because of the attachment to T and never underestimate pure, dig in your heels, stubborness. I am the friend you lent your hope to. And it really made a huge difference. I’m glad I was able to tell you that. I love that quote because it’s really hits home. I now try to lend my hope to others that are going through pain and grief, especially from termination and/or abandonment of a T, so that they will eventually find hope of their own. Thank you for writing about all the reasons to keep going to T and doing so very eloquently. Hugs

    Like

    • February 19, 2013 at 12:23 am

      (((TN))) You’ve outed yourself!:D I’m very glad you told me too, it really was priceless. And I love watching you pass on your hope to others. Especially since you pulled through it so courageously, I really think its an inspiration for others who have been through that hell. “Life begetting life” to quote BN. xx AG

      Like

  12. GreenEyes
    February 22, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    AG does this ever get better? I’m stuck in a place where I can see my whole life being riddled with pain and despair. Thanks xx

    Like

    • February 22, 2013 at 11:33 pm

      (((GreenEyes))) It does get better I promise. Not fast enough, but you do pass through the pain and despair and find the other side. It won’t always feel like this. I know it can seem almost sadistic, but expressing these feelings, your grief, your despair and your pain and being heard and understood, allow you to heal. You will find hope again. It was so much more than I ever expected to have.

      BTW, one thing you may want to consider is that these feelings are memories. That there was a time when you experience pain and despair as something endless, over which you had no control. That there was no hope of the abuse stopping. There really is an existential despair that can settle over a neglected, abused child. So although these feelings are very immediate (traumatic memories have that quality) that this is as much about how you felt then as it is about you feeling it now. You are no longer powerless, and yes, there are things you will never be able to have, BUT you can heal enough to get what you need now and going forward, so that you can oepn yourself up to life. When we stop avoiding our pain and grief and instead grapple with them and learn to feel them, we also stop avoiding our joy, our fulfillment and our contentment. I know the pain feels like it will kill, unfortunately it won’t, but someday you’ll be grateful for that fact. To quote Winston Churchill twice: “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” and “Never, ever, ever give up.” You can heal. Borrow my hope as long as you need and when you’re ready, pass it along. xx AG

      Like

      • Gel
        February 23, 2013 at 12:13 am

        AG and GreenEyes,
        I’m jumping in here – I hope that is OK.
        As I read your exchange I felt it applied to me now too…. In that I am newly abstinent from an eating disorder and so I’m facing a lot of painful confusing stuff that includes childhood abuse trauma. So when I read Greeneyes question I felt I was also asking it. And then when I read AG’s reply it came into my soul in such a good way. I felt hungry to hear your perspective and your hopefulness. I wasn’t even aware of how much I needed to hear the encouragement. So I want to thank you both.
        Especially this part: “…That there was a time when you experience pain and despair as something endless, over which you had no control”….That partly what I’m feeling is a memory and not the truth about how my life is right now.

        So thank you for writing this.

        Like

        • February 23, 2013 at 12:28 am

          ((((Gel))) You are always welcome to speak. Reading this just overwhelmed me. Greeneyes, do you want hope? You spoke of your despair and it brought hope of healing to another person. We are not meant to be left in darkness. You have given a gift out of your pain. Life always begets life. You survived what was done to you as a child, you will survive this and learn to thrive. I deeply believe that you CAN heal.

          Like

  13. GreenEyes
    February 23, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Thanks AG. I wish I knew how many more trips to the cruel depths of existential despair are left. Knowing you weren’t loved or wanted is, well there aren’t words for how devastating that is. My T has promised to be there no matter what and I know he means that but I also have doubts somewhere. And even if he holds true I don’t see how it’s enough to heal. I don’t see how anything could help the abandoned, neglected, unloved and abused child inside.

    Like

    • February 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

      I do understand and have experienced the pain of knowing I wasn’t loved or wanted and you’re right, there are not words for how devastating that is. But what you need to learn is that you’re not being loved or wanted had NOTHING to do with you. The problem was a very serious deficit in your caregivers. They treated you like you didn’t matter and weren’t lovable for so long, you learned to believe the lie. ‘And it is a lie, straight from the pits of hell. The truth is that you are worthwhile and matter immensely. Your therapist listening to your pain and being with you through it is how you will learn that. No, you won’t be able to get to the place that someone with good enough parenting, and secure attachment is, but since there is nothing wrong with you, just that you are having reasonable reactions to unreasonable circumstances, what your T can provide is a caring, focused other with good boundaries who can help you complete your development and learn to have healthy relationships now. This will allow you to get your current needs met going forward. So though you have deprivation in your past, you do not have to continue that deprivation going forward. And you will have additional strengths that will grow out of your healing. The abused child needs to hear that she WAS abused, that what was done to her was wrong and that she does matter, that she deserves and can find love, and that she can have meaningful relationships in which she is not abandoned. I know it feels impossible, but you can get there. But and this is an important but, this is how you are feeling right now, that it is hopeless and its very understandable that you are feeling that way. I am glad that you are expressing it. In no way do I mean to minimize what you are going through.

      Like

  14. GreenEyes
    February 23, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Regardless of why my parents didn’t love or want me (and I believe they were traumatised and unhappy people and I’m not to blame for their atrocious parenting), it doesn’t change what happened. I think I’ve lived in varying degrees of existential despair most of my life so when people talk about healing its like telling a blind person they will one day see a beautiful sunrise or the roof of the Sistine chapel. There is no way to believe it. And is life on the other side of despair really that great anyway?

    Like

  15. February 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I think I’ve lived in varying degrees of existential despair most of my life so when people talk about healing its like telling a blind person they will one day see a beautiful sunrise or the roof of the Sistine chapel. There is no way to believe it.

    Then you deserve to learn what it looks like. And just like a baby learning to see, at first its a jumbled mess of way too much data, but eventually you learn to sort through it and make sense of your sensory input. The human brain never loses its plasticity, its just harder to change as a adult, but you always have the capacity to hook up your synapses in new neural networks to carry new knowledge. We are not doomed to live in our pasts.

    And is life on the other side of despair really that great anyway?

    If you are asking if its all sunshine, lollipops and unicorns, no. Its not perfect and its not the completely pain-free, struggle free, I’ll never get hurt again and my needs will be met without my asking place that we start out looking for. That we desparately long for because of what we didn’t have. But it’s better by orders of magnitude than I was living before. I was so busy holding down all the feelings and memories that I couldn’t bear to know, that my whole life was focused on protecting myself and avoiding things and not feeling. And there’s a very important fact about feelings. Though they should never completely drive us, we need to use our reason, they are essential both in the information they provide us and the meaning they give to life. When we can learn and accept that we will not be completely safe, but we can handle if something goes wrong, then we can risk, we can explore, we can go over the next hill not knowing what’s there but learning that often its something wonderful. I still have crap days, I can still have times where I struggle with my past, but I am no longer embedded at that, I have a lot of days I am just grateful to be alive. I have experienced a sense of being loved, worthwhile and accepted that I thought NEVER to know. I have found a sense of home and belonging. The world has gone from being gray to being in technicolor. I am free now to be who I am, and though I may not always be happy with all of me, at least I can be me. I can think about what I actually want. And I have made the wonderful discovery that doing what I really like and want to do, leaves me feeling very fulfilled. I don’t have all the answers, I have no secret formula for avoiding pain, all human lives are sometimes painful, but now I know its going to be ok. The pain won’t last forever and then I’ll get to the good stuff again.

    And you’re quite correct, right now you have to run on faith, because you have no concrete experience to trust in, you are heading for a destination you are not sure exists or that you will like when you get there. But someone like me, who has been where you are now (and please trust me that I really have been there) and has gone to the other side is saying that I think, for me, it was worth the pain I went through to get there. Only you can decide if you think its going to be worth it for you to risk that pain. It may not be, and that is your decision. Not one I would ever presume to make for another human being, the pain is too steep. That’s the best i can offer.

    I am sorry, Greeneyes, for the deep pain you are going through. I think it is probably the most terrifying thing in the world right now to allow yourself hope that it will ever get better, because deep inside you believe that will only give you one more thing to lose and increase the pain. I felt that way once. You will find whatever way is right for YOU to go. And you will still be worthwhile and valued no matter what you decide to do.

    AG

    Like

  16. March 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

    I’ve read so much from you , AG, and for the first time feel compelled to comment on this post; some of it made me cry. I have been in therapy for five years, two hardcore. I am the queen of “never going back…..and I mean it this time!”.. .for tons of reasons, mainly trust issues. First T looked like mom, second T was arrested for fraud and did time. He was seeing me after his license was pulled. I called the state when I saw him in handcuffs on tv. I had my current therapist’s number in my wallet for TEN years before I got the courage to call. He has never given up on me, nor, do I believe he would. I have put him and myself through hell, but have learned and healed so much from understanding why I have tried to “get away” over and over…very painful to endure. He never fails to bring me back from the brink with his compassion, genuine care and deep commitment to our relationship. He allows me to email him 24/7, which has been a treasure. He knows I need that connection and doesn’t miind. After what happened last week, I know now I do mean a great deal to this man. I am beginning to see I am worth fighting for and I do have value. When it is ingrained from the beginning of your life that you have no value, from the people who you value the most (parents), one tends to believe it because she is living it. The therapy process is so very difficult to experience but I look back at my writings on it and am stunned at the emotionlal progress I’ve made. I can only share it with my husband who is developing a better understanding of what it’s about. My sisters (6) couldn’t care less, but one. I have no friends with depth and do feel very alone and wish there was a support group for people in therapy. It is such a unique and special journey. I will say to anyone who struggles constantly with wanting to quit…DON’T. Please don’t stop. Many times it is deeply unconsious motivations which we hold. When you feel those frightning or angry/confusing emotions, the theraputic task is to name it as an emotion and understand it as an emotion, not to ge caught up in it as it were your helpless destiny. Otherwise, you will feel victimized/judged/criticized and will blame your therapist for your pain and try to get away from the therapy just as you may have wanted to get away from the original emotions as a child. Keep trying. Really great website AG!

    Like

  17. March 10, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Hi VeryHopeful,
    I am so glad you decided to comment, it’s nice to “meet” you. You have such a strong drive towards healing to have such terrible experiences with therapists (so sorry!) but still have the courage to head back in again. Thank you for sharing your experience, much of what you said resonated very strongly with me, and I am sure will provide hope for other people who read this.

    As far as a support group of people in therapy, I am not sure if you mean in person, but if you are looking for an online community, I would check out Psychcafe forums. There are a lot of members there dealing with healing from long term trauma, who really “get” it. It can be helpful to go there and have people understand and you can learn a lot from hearing other people’s insight and experience. I wish you the best for your healing. ~ AG

    Like

  1. February 19, 2013 at 12:57 am

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