Ask AG

This is a section of my blog devoted to your questions. I have found that a lot of my best writing springs out of conversations and interacting with people. So if you have a question you would really like to ask or even just a topic you would like me to address, feel free to post a comment here. Some questions may be answered here while others may generate a new post on the main page.   Thanks so much for asking!  (and for your patience in getting a response :))

Hat tip to Purple Dreamer for the suggesting this page. If you haven’t yet seen her blog, check it out, it’s well worth your time.

Looking forward to talking to you. 🙂

  1. May 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Hi AG,
    I like that you have this “ask AG” stuff now. I wonder if you have any suggestions on books you may have read on re-parenting onesself? Very uncomfortable with what this implies to me with just the words but it has been suggested to me. Please help with any knowledge you have on resources. It looks like I’m first to “ask AG”…yeah yeah!

    Thanks in advance,
    Hopeful

    Like

  2. May 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Hopeful,
    Thanks for kicking things off! Now if I just had a good answer for you… 🙂 I never really approached therapy from a standpoint of re-parenting myself. For me the key that unlocked things was learning about attachment theory and seeing my behavior through a prism of being deprived of what I needed to complete developmental steps and adapting behaviors that helped me to survive the lack of security and the abuse but that those same behaviors were now a cell of my own devising. So I stopped seeing myself as pathological but instead responding the way a normal human being does when horrible stuff happens to them. It shifted things. So my approach to repairing it was a combination of allowing myself to attach to BN so that I could implicitly learn from him the skills I needed to, especially around identifying and expressing needs, taking responsibility to get my needs met, and boundaries. I also had to learn the concept that while I am responsible for expressing my needs and attending to myself, I will always also need other people to help me meet those needs. Very foreign concept, I was always trying to be so independent, when the real goal turned out to be interdependence (sometimes I am need, sometimes I am fulfilling the other person’s needs).

    But key to doing this was learning to gain what David Wallin called psychic space, to be able to discern the difference between our feelings and reality rather than believing that our feelings always were reality. Doing this required a lot of mindfulness and self-compassion. I really like Dan Seigal’s acronym for how we should approach our own thoughts: COAL. Curiosity, Openess, Acceptance and Love.

    And while the therapeutic relationship is an odd duck (to quote BN :)) it is closest to a parental one. I saw BN as filling the parental role of providing somewhere safe for me to explore who I was and learn to attend to my own needs until I grew enough to do so on my own. There are limits to that analogy since we are no longer children and cannot expect 24/7 care nor can we take in that kind of care on as deep a level as adults as we are able to as children.

    So I am going to point you to one of my earlier posts on books that I have found valuable in learning all that. This was how I healed and I don’t know if anyone else would do it this way but I am hoping you might find some things here helpful.

    The post is Helpful Books.

    There is one other book I would highly recommend that I read after I put that post up which is Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. She also has a Ted talk that is well worth your time.

    All my best,
    AG

    Like

    • Red Tomato
      May 7, 2013 at 7:34 pm

      Not re-parenting, but I just ordered the book, In Session:The Bond Between Women and Their Therapists. Are you familiar with it, AG?

      Like

      • May 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

        RT,
        Ah that’s an oldie but a goodie!! I actually read that a long time ago when I was first struggling to understand my rather intense feelings about BN. Its one of the rare books out there that talks about the relationships and these feelings from a patient’s point of view. I think its greatest gift is that it goes a long way towards normalizing these feelings. Glad you were able to find a copy, it went out of print and was very tough to get for a while (in fact, I ended up giving my copy to someone who couldn’t find it.) Great suggestion!! AG

        Like

  3. May 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Thanks so much AG. I can’t approach it from that angle either. I will check out some of the things you’ve talked about…I did begin reading the one by David Wallin but as you said it is more for therapists and such so I couldn’t get into it as much but I will check out the others. Thanks again.
    Hopeful

    Like

    • May 6, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      You’re very welcome Hopeful, I hope you find things that will aid you in your healing in the pile. 🙂

      Like

  4. jwd50
    May 6, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Hi AG,
    Have been reading you for awhile now and wondered why you don’t talk about medications. They have been a tremendous help to me; maybe even more than talk therapy. In any case, I really admire you for your honesty with all you’ve been though. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Like

    • May 6, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      Hi jwd50,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for posting a question here and such a good one to boot. I haven’t addressed meds for two reasons, one of which is that people have really idiosyncratic reactions and a drug that works wonders with one person can be a nightmare for another. But as I am addressing this, I realize I do not have to name particular meds. The other reason, quite honestly, is that I have been on medication for over 15 years so its just not something I think about much anymore. But I think it would actually make a great subject for a post, so would it be ok if I put it in my list for posts for the main page? Thanks again for writing.

      AG

      Like

  5. jwd50
    May 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Great! Thanks! Look forward to it.

    Like

  6. May 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Dear Attachment Girl,

    I am wondering if you have any insight on a psychotherapist’s role when a patient is demonstrating persistent, self-destructive behaviors? I’m referring to damaging, non-suicidal behaviors that artificially regulate emotions– such as self-injury, eating disordered behaviors (restricting, purging, etc.), reckless impulsivity, or drug/alcohol abuse (though this last one might be slightly different, I guess, since it compromises your mental capacity more extremely).

    I personally have jumped from “problem” to “problem” for years, replacing one with the next. All of these behaviors perform the same, predictable functions: they distract from emotional pain; perpetuate cycles of victimhood from childhood; increase dissociative numbness or, paradoxically, make me “feel real” again; provide distraction/oblivion when flashbacks or self-hate are too much; and so on. All the usual unpleasantness.

    So, what’s my therapist to do?! He can’t force me into a higher level of care, and even if he could, he repeatedly says that no one can make me stop. We have been in a headlock about these issues for the 4 years we’ve worked together. He says only I can stop destroying myself, and recently he said, “I have zero empathy when you say you feel hopeless and helpless because this is ALL your responsibility.”
    Part of me *knows* this is true. Part of me is devastated. Part of me turns it into “of course, all my childhood abuse is my fault, and all this pain is my fault, too… because I’m a worthless piece of garbage.” Part of me wants to weep and beg for help. Part of me wants everything to be different, while part of me doesn’t want to change at all. I feel like every move I could make or thing I could say is wrong. Egad!!

    Overwhelming, I guess I feel failed by my therapist. I have this whiny little girl voice crying, “he’s letting me torture myself to death.” And then I feel shameful and pathetic about that, because of course this is all my own psychodrama and it’s stupid, and I’m not stupid. On and on and on, for years. He says, “Why do you even come to therapy??” And I don’t know. But I always show up, twice a week, right on time. He says, “you’re torturing me by forcing me to watch you suffer.” But this doesn’t seem fair! Is it?

    I would greatly appreciate any thoughts or insights, though I apologize if this is not the type of thing you had in mind with “Ask AG” or if you have covered this already. In closing, I just want to express an emphatic THANK YOU to you for keeping this blog and providing endless resources, personal experiences, hope, guidance, and support.

    All the best,
    Alex B.

    Like

    • May 16, 2013 at 4:17 pm

      Alex,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for your question. This is definitely the type of thing I had in mind for this page, although I must admit this is a hum-dinger of a question. It’s a complex topic and is affected by a number of factors, so with your permission, I would like to write a post on the topic. Life is quite busy at the moment with the end of the school year and my elder daughter graduating from college, but I will post in as timely a manner as possible. When I do, I’ll also respond here and provide a link. Thanks so much. ~ AG

      Like

      • May 16, 2013 at 8:18 pm

        Oh– I would love to read a post in response; thank you! I will look forward to that very much. I actually can’t wait to tell my therapist tomorrow that I posted this at all. 🙂 Congratulations to you and your daughter, and enjoy the commencement festivities!
        — Alex

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        • May 18, 2013 at 11:56 am

          I am so glad that you felt safe enough to speak here and even happier that you see it as the accomplishment it is. Thank you for the congratulations, my daughter has worked very hard and we are very proud of her. Now I had better get back to work on that post… 😀

          Like

        • June 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm

          Alex,
          Just wanted to let you know that I have a post up in response to your question. What’s a therapist to do? Thanks again for asking, it was very helpful for me to think through this, especially in light of the work I am attempting to do right now. I hope this helps. ~ AG

          Like

    • Kayla
      May 30, 2016 at 2:49 am

      Dear Alex B.
      I am so sorry this therapist is so incompetent and truly knows so little about trauma. I hope you can find someone with a much better skillset. I recommend therapists trained in Somatic Experience and especially Touch Skills for Trauma. In the meantime read Bessel Vander Kolk’s book The Body Keeps Score.
      A nervous system that is hijacked by trauma cannot simply choose to stop coping behaviors. That is why you’ve merely been trading one for another. The root cause is not being addressed, which is the biology of an unregulated system. Sounds like your current therapist is doing further harm by berating you. It’s like telling a blind person to squint and try harder to see and if they still can’t see well then it’s their choice not too. It’s bullocks and ignorance. Harmful, damaging ignorance. Science has proven the brains and nervous systems of self harmers are different. Thank goodness for neuroplasticity. But if we don’t change the physiology, we can’t change the behaviors. Body and mind are not separate. The whole “it’s a choice” rhetoric is ignorant and abusive. We are not victims. But we have no choice when it comes to stopping the self harming. Our choice is to heal our biology so we can stop the behavior.
      This is my perspective from my experience.
      Mahalo

      Like

  7. GreenEyes
    May 21, 2013 at 5:59 am

    Dear AG

    im wondering if you are wiling to share some of the strategies you used to cope with grief and abandonment feelings when things got rough during your recovery.

    hugs and thanks xx

    Like

    • May 21, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      (((GE))) Wow great question, it’s going to take some noodling, partly because I used so many different things (when desperate I’ve been known to grab on to anything including the kitchen sink. :)) I will work on a post (behind the one I am working on for Alex) but it may be a bit as we are going out of town for four days the end of this week to attend my daughter’s college graduation. I am also managing some stuff of my own that is taking more time and energy than I want it to, and honestly, its interfering a bit with my getting the writing done. Thanks for asking, its a great topic and I’ll make every effort to get to it in a timely manner. 🙂 xxx AG

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mrs. Sharkey
    June 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Hi AG! I was wondering what your thoughts are on Intensive Dynamic Short-Term Psychotherapy (IDSTP)? I’ve been doing a lot of reading about various forms of therapy since I started working with my therapist, and I came across this one and found it all very disturbing. The therapist confronts the patient is a way that comes across to me as very accusing, asking things like “Why are you keeping me useless to you? Do you want to work with me or not? What are you going to do about this resistance?” If the patient doesn’t “cooperate” by spilling the beans immediately, the therapist threatens to terminate the relationship. A lot of the language used is very punitive and shaming; “resistance” is “dealt with firmly”. The therapist shows “disdain” and “intolerance” for the things that are blocking the patient from speaking.

    Just reading some excerpts from books about IDSTP was quite triggering for me. I thought the therapy room was supposed to be a safe place. How can it be when the therapist pushes you and bullies you? How can it be when the therapist runs the show and threatens to terminate you if you don’t do exactly as you’re told? When I have a hard time talking, I am not being “resistant”. The word, to me, implies conscious and deliberate choice, and I am not struggling because I think it’s fun or entertaining. I am struggling because I’m trying to undo decades of unhealthy behaviour patterns that were formed when I was far too young to have any control over the process. I do not need to be “dealt with firmly”, nor do I think my struggles are me “acting out”. That’s the kind of language that parents use to describe a misbehaving child. I am not a child and I am not behaving badly. Most of all, I do not need to be re-traumatized by being thrown right into a situation that is the exact mirror of my childhood.

    I’ve spent so much of my life pushing myself out of my comfort zone according to the timelines and agenda set by other people – my parents and teachers, and pretty much any other adult authority figure in my life. Other kids too sometimes. I refuse to do that in therapy. I refuse to be pushed and bullied. What I want out of therapy is to finally, for the first time in my life, unfold myself and my story at my own pace. Luckily, my therapist believes quite strongly in the value of slowness in therapy and letting the patient set the pace.

    Curious as to what your take on all this is and what you think BN would think of it. 🙂

    Like

  9. June 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    Mrs. Sharkey,
    I have never heard IDSTP but it sounds absolutely horrible from what you describe. I guarentee you that they get great results in short term with victims of childhood abuse.The dynamic is a familiar one and the patient has neither the voice or skills to argue with the therapists perceptions. So my guess is that people desperately try to conform to what their therapist wants and probably do so for a bit but not because of a growing organic understanding, but rather because they’ve added a new list of rules and scolding voice to their already excellent collection. But down the road, my guess would be that the problems re-emerge because they weren’t really dealt with, just shoved back underground with the aid of the therapist.

    I cannot really speak for BN (I want to exercise care here, since he has no voice in this place, I know he would never comment to correct me, so I want to be clear this is MY opinion) but my guess is that he would not like it. He drove me absolutely bonkers in the beginning of our work, because I was trying SO hard to figure out what he wanted and give it to him and he refused, quite stubbornly I might add :), to give me a clue. The point wasn’t to it some one else’s way, even using a healthy model, but to have the space in which I couild discover who I was and what I wanted. His underlying philosophy is that he keeps himself as open as possible, in the moment and being with his client, and then follows where they lead. And as for waiting, he told me once he had a client who didn’t talk for a whole year. He waited for her to be ready to speak. Don’t get me wrong, he can push me, and pretty hard, at the right moments when I need it, but he has also been incredibly patient on how long it is taking me to learn some things. I once told my husband in a couples session that BN had already explained a principle to me eight times (my husband was struggling with the concept) which was why I got it better. To which BN replied “eight of 808.” Little did I know he was being literal… So yeah, I would go looking for another modality. 🙂 ~ AG

    Like

    • Mrs. Sharkey
      July 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

      This modality was developed by a Dr. Davanloo, who felt that traditional psychotherapy took too long. His stated goal, which you can find in a lot of literature about the development of IDSTP, is to get the patient to confront their painful feelings as quickly as possible and at the highest level of intensity that they are able to tolerate. One of his first students, Dr. Patricia Della Selva, has written a couple of books about IDSTP that are considered canon if you use this modality, and in one she states that she had told patients who are having trouble confronting their painful feelings that “there are many therapists in the phone book who will sit and take your money and just listen while you talk, but I am not one of them.”

      The more you tell me about BN, the more he reminds me of my own therapist. Like you, I was desperate to know the rules in the beginning, so that I could follow them and “be good”. It drove me nuts – NUTS, I tell you! – when my therapist kept saying that there are no rules. First, that made no sense – there have to be rules! Secondly, that made me feel very unsafe. I might do something wrong! And then the world would end!

      Like

      • July 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

        LOL! I know right? Life as we know it would cease to exist! And then, nothing happened. I am amazed at how much of therapy has been me expressing terror of some circumstance occurring and BN responding “so?”

        Like

        • Mrs. Sharkey
          July 22, 2013 at 9:41 am

          Yes! It’s simultaneously anti-climactic and also a relief. Very odd headspace to be in.

          Like

    • Ms. Sharkey
      July 22, 2013 at 12:11 am

      I have no problem with a therapist being challenging – that’s their job, after all. My therapist has asked me plenty of difficult questions, but always in a way that is compassionate. He doesn’t scold or blame me if I struggle to answer, or if I sometimes can’t answer at all. He assures me that we can always revisit the question later, and we always do.

      Like

      • July 22, 2013 at 12:46 am

        Hi Mrs. Sharkey,
        I have removed the comment you were replying to, as it is a person who has been very abusive to me online and whom I do not wish to allow on my blog. If you wish me to remove your comment just let me know. ~ AG

        Like

        • Mrs. Sharkey
          July 22, 2013 at 9:40 am

          Hi,

          Thanks for letting me know. I did sense something a bit “off” about his/her comments.

          I’m happy for you to leave my comment, as my observation still stands and it might be good for other posters to read that a therapist can be challenging *and* compassionate. 🙂

          Like

          • July 22, 2013 at 9:41 am

            Works for me! Especially because I think that is very true. 😀 Thanks for being so understanding.

            Like

  10. Ann
    July 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    Talking about therapy rules. I still don’t know how I will know if and when to terminate. I’d like to think there is a specific science which predicts how long therapy takes, but I guess this is asking too much! :). I benefit from it greatly, but I can’t imagine a time in the future where I wouldn’t benefit. I still love your blog. Xoxo Ann

    Like

    • July 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      (((Ann))) I can offer my sympathy and empathy, but I am afraid, no solutions. I have literally been struggling with that one for years. Especially with BN. I so fear to wear out my welcome that I am always struggling with whether I should be there. I’m in the middle of another bout right now. I actually had a very important “last” session with BN (hmmm, that might be a good future post) when I decided I was done. I left for four months, but have been back on and off ever since. Sometimes weekly, sometimes every couple of weeks, but fairly steadily. I am thinking I am just never going to be done (whatever that means). I’m glad you love my blog as I love having you here. If you have an ephiphany, please share! 🙂 xx AG

      Like

  11. Little Blond Girl
    July 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Hi AG,

    Here’s what I’d like to know – and I’m sure somewhere recently on your site, I read that you were trying to figure out if you were if you were running or just needed a break and that’s how i feel these days, like i need a break – i need some distance from my T (who told me today that boundaries are good things because they make it a safe place, after i told him that the problem was that he wouldn’t give up his boundaries – hey I’m struggling!) – part of me knows it’s running, but part of me also is just so tired and i feel like i need to work some things out on my own – but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea because maybe I’m doing the opposite of what i need. I’m so confused. How do you figure it out and when do you know it’s okay to just take a break – and is it okay to leave to take that break? Of course, part of me thinks maybe I don’t want to go back – maybe I’ve just done as much as I can do. Any advice on figuring the mess out?

    Thanks and I hope that made sense! 🙂

    Like

    • July 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      LBG,
      I started to answer this here then realized I had a lot to say. 🙂 So if you don’t mind, I am going to put in the hopper for a post. I still owe GE one on managing grieving (which I am working on now) and then I should be able to answer this one. I’ll put up a link here when I publish. In the meantime if you figure out a definitive answer, let me know. We could make millions! 😀 And it made total sense to me, but as I have said elsewhere, I am not sure how much comfort that should give you. 🙂 xx AG

      Like

  12. Little Blond Girl
    July 10, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks AG. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Luckily (or not, depending…) I am off on vacation in a couple of weeks, so am getting a break anyway – and life seems to be throwing me other curves with respect to my health which may have me cancelling at least one of my T appts before I go so I can see a specialist – so maybe life is giving me a little rest from the process…do take care of yourself and be gentle with your own process.

    LBG

    Like

  13. Heartbroken
    July 18, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Dear AG,

    What do you think of this? Is this hooey, like so many quick-cure claims, or is there some scientific validity to it?

    http://www.attachmentexperts.com/

    Like

  14. Marijke
    August 22, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Hi AG,
    Could use some input from you – and everybody else around.
    Yesterday morning I sent a text message to my T to thank her for a particularly powerful and loving session the night before. We hug intensely, at times, when I feel the need and am able to express my deep longing for connection. We were really close, and she was exceptionally self-disclosing this time too. Anyway, I’ve been doing great work since having her as a T – since January.
    The message went like this: “Thank you for the great session yesterday. It was a very healing experience for me. I am slowly learning to believe that I may be as lovable as anybody else. Glad you’re my T. Enjoy this sunny day”.
    My feelings about the session and my urge to thank her, felt very honest and genuine but now – 36 hours later – she has not replied, and this silence is triggering whole trains of thoughts. There are the reasonable reflections like “I should consider my thank you as a gift, a gesture that I decided to make and as such does not need confirmation from her”. But then there are the very immature thoughts of thinking of myself as a silly attention seeking cow and “will I ever grow up? Or out of this?” Or, “Maybe she’s staying silent to give me time to think about my actions/decisions” Which is working, all too well! Or, “can’t she just reply saying thank, or anything. Isn’t that the polite thing to do? Don’t I deserve some acknowledgment of some sort? Isn’t she being too distant here?” Whatever…The overall feeling is one of sadness for not being mature enough to just write it down to experience and not let it destabilize me so much.
    I’d appreciate some feedback on this one. And also on the very important question: shall I bring this up in next week’s session?

    One more thing. I’ve been reading a quite revealing book by Irvin Yalom: “The gift of therapy”. I find it incredibly helpful to get a grips with this therapeutical relationship idea (an odd duck indeed :)) I would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.

    Big hugs from overseas.

    Marijke

    Like

    • August 24, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Hi Marijke,
      Boy, did you come to the right place! 🙂 (Sorry it has taken a bit to respond, work is cranking back up and I’ve been recovering.) I spent a very long time struggling around contact using email (we text very rarely and under unusual circumstances). I have lost track of the number of sessions BN and I have spent going around about email. I am not sure if this will also be true for you, but I will share my insights into my own behavior in hope that some of it transfers.

      BN is usually fairly good about responding to emails but response time is anything from 8 hours to four days to never. What was really interesting is that if I call his answering service and leave an “emergency” call, he calls back within an hour. Yet I would choose to email knowing it wasn’t as reliable. So through much discussion, I realized that emailing was connected to how threatening it felt for me to ask for what I needed. If I askd for a call and didn’t get one, then the pain of being told “no” was evoked (turned out I had enough of that as a kid, and had learned to only ask directly if beforehand I knew the answer was yes or to be manipulative about making my needs known so I could discount it as a misunderstanding if it didn’t happen.) This came to a head after I wrote an email to BN which he didn’t answer. I told him “but you know I always want an answer!!” He told me that I was trying to protect myself from the vulnerability of asking. I was also trying to make him responsible for my needs. What finally worked for me is that when I email, I ask explicitly for a response or I do not expect one (and I have even written back after an email that elicited no response to say “changed my mind, need a reponse.”)

      It really helps me to think through why I am really emailing. I can find the first 24 hours after an appoinment very intense in terms of longing for more contact, especially if significant work was done. While I believe your thank you was very sincere (can’t begin to tell you how many of those I’ve written) I am wondering what kinds of anxieties got evoked by moving closer to your therapist? I often feel the impulse to flee (which manifest in endless creative ways) after I move closer. Could you have been looking for reassurance that moving closer was really ok? I completely understand all of your feelings and your expectation of a response, but normal rules of politeness do not count in therapy. Not to mention that it is important that we articulate our feelings and not act them out. I could use emails as a way to act out. Being very honest, while I thought it was a lovely, touching thank you, I’m not sure it would have merited a response (BN would have either not replied or literaly sent back “You’re very welcome.”)

      I also emailed at times in an attempt to get around the boundaries. I would write deep revealing emails, I think in the hope that BN would so what he never would in the office, and open up about his feelings in return. Never did. I also wonder if you may not have been trying to see if it meant as much to your therapist as it meant to you?

      Bottom line though, I think this is REALLY important to address in session, being very honest about all of your feelngs around not getting a response and explore what this is bringing up inside you. It’s how you use the therapeutic relationship to understand yourself. Please let me know how you get on. And I am sorry, I know there’s nothing quite like the awful tension of waiting for a reply (and very sorry if I made it worse by being another person who didn’t get back to you right away.) xx AG

      Like

      • Red Tomato
        August 24, 2013 at 4:34 pm

        Thanks for posting your thoughts about this, AG. Email and my expectations (hopes, desires, needs, wants) of T have been hot button issues for me. I appreciate hearing your thots and hard learned experience. I hate how painful it can be and am somehow always amazed at how universal these feelings are. I liked, too, that you said rules of etiquette don’t apply in therapy. I’d never thot of that but how true.

        Thanks, AG, for taking the time and energy to courageously share your experience.

        Like

        • August 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm

          Glad it helped RT, this is not easy stuff. BN is a very skilled, caring, empathetic therapist but still at times the pain is breathstopping. I must say though in looking back, I have ended up appreciating the boundaries he has held. I have also deeply appreciated his outside contact policy. I’m hoping you can find someone that suits you in that area. ~ AG

          Like

  15. Marijke
    September 2, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Hi AG,
    Oh yes, it transfers! Resonates loud and clearly even. I liked “…response time is anything from 8 hours to four days to never”. Well, never it was in my T’s case. I understood by myself really, and you’ve pointed it out too: it didn’t merit a response. Understanding why I wrote it was a lot more interesting as a ‘growing exercise”.
    What did I need? I needed to express my affection for her, and sincere gratitude. This – I feel – makes up for about 70% of the feelings and thoughts around sending the text. The other 30% is a weird and fluctuating mix of several less ‘pure’ intentions of which you’ve mentioned some. Longing for more contact, I know about that one :). And getting some feedback/reassurance/confirmation that our connection is real and continues to exist in between sessions. I figured out myself in the days after our session (past the 24 hours buffer period – I absolutely loooved that notion. It’s so recognizable!) that the only way to get real answers to these questions, is to just put them to her. I used you (sorry!) for backup confirmation, that’s how insecure I am!
    I have an absolute repulsion towards asking for what I need. I too got loads of no’s as a child, or I had to beg and plead to get anything. This left me with feelings of humiliation, unworthiness and fear of rejection when it comes to asking. So as a rule, I don’t do asking. Not in a straightforward way, anyway. Your exposé about the elaborate ways you developed around getting your needs met, sounds particularly familiar.
    Does getting closer feel threatening? It probably does, even though I just keeping craving for more. The fear is that of being rejected, of being too needy, of bumping into the boundaries in a way that hurts.
    All this said, I would have been over the moon with a “You’re very welcome.” as an answer. And I’m going to tell her that too. Might even get my anger triggered, which is still not budging much, but it’s there and eating me from the inside.

    I wrote all of the above before my session. Here is was happened during:
    She started off by thanking me for my message (haha!) and I just told her about everything that went through my head because of her not replying. Even that I thought she could have just thanked me or some other brief reaction. And of course, it was all right. She acknowledged all of my feelings, confirmed that yes, she had also been very touched by the way ‘our souls met’ (her words) and that our bond was real. And that a therapeutic relationship is a perfect ‘testing ground’ to express ALL our feelings, without being judged, condemned or rejected for them. The relationship stands. She has expressed herself in a similar way before, about taking advantage of having a therapist as some sort of home base, some safe place where you can recharge, re-centre en test different behaviors without…
    So that was good. It’s funny, I have all this maternal transference stuff going on (even though she, like your BN, does not like that word) and we do get really close, even physically, but in the back of my mind, I KNOW that I won’t ever overstep the boundaries of our relationship. I’m gay, and have always felt attracted to older women (why am I not surprised :)) and she’s like about 12 or 15 years older, so the perfect age category, but … she just not my type, haha! I do love her profoundly and even told her so – she said, “me too” – but it’s so professionally perfectly delimited AND sincere that it’s absolutely perfect the way it is. Even with the occasional longing for more contact, or fantasizing about more time together, the knowledge that I can just talk about all these feelings with her, takes away a lot of that kind of emotional pressure.
    Please don’t apologize about replying late. Off course the tension of waiting is awful, but ‘delaying gratification’ helps to grow too, so it’s alright. And we’ve all got lives and times when we just can’t be there for everyone all the time.
    Take care

    Marijke

    Like

  16. liz
    September 7, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    Hi AG,
    I’ve been thinking about asking you and everyone else around here about termination for a while now. Anyone wants to share their thoughts or experience on ending therapy?
    (I’ve come to terms with the fact that the work will never be completely done by now, so when I say “ending therapy” I mean something along the lines of “I know your door is always open and all but I want to try and do stuff by myself right now, for as long as I can/until the next objectively really big crisis happens”)
    Hugs to you all,

    Liz

    Like

    • September 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Hi Liz,
      I actually went through a termination with BN, it just didn’t take. 😀 Looking back, both BN and I have come to the conclusion that I needed to make sure I could go out and survive on my own and I do think our work together shifted. I think it took me almost a year to work through the stuff that leaving brought up and we had a very moving, intense “last” session before I left on a four month break, the returned to therapy for probably another year of going once every three to eight weeks (I would basically call when I needed to see him). It’s only recently I have returned to weekly appointments because I am dealing with some very intense material. When I have time, I’ll try and dig up some posts on the forum I wrote while going through that and the posts I put up about our last appointment and put something together on termination. I really need to get my butt in gear and get some writing done. You are all providing ideas faster than I can respond to them. 🙂 But FWIW, I think working through a goodbye (even of the “I know your door is open” variety) is VERY important work for someone with childhood issues. We all face goodbyes and being able to process one in therapy (I’ve actually had two since my first T retired while we were still working together) is invaluable. xx AG

      Like

  17. Ann
    September 21, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    AG, I have a question which may be confusing, mostly because I am confused. Last session, my T and I discussed primary emotions that could be covered up by secondary emotions. (ie, judgemental and unhelpful emotional defenses that block or interfere with deeper, more accurate feelings buried underneath). After the session I started to unravel and feel terrified and sad. Then I felt angry at my T for provoking these feelings. I had a trip planned for this week and won’t see T for a week. I have struggled since then and even started to have a panic attack in a crowded restaurant.( I have never had one before). I am feeling unbalanced, scared, unprotected, and even repulsive. This is new to me and with the help of my husband I am holding on. Have you ever had a time like that after a session? This hasn’t happened in the two years I have been seeing him. I am very angry at him now, though I suspect this feeling is misdirected. Mostly I am confused by my reaction-feeling sad and unsafe. Any thoughts? I know you are busy, so no hurry. Xoxo Ann p.s. I don’t text or call between sessions.

    Like

    • September 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      Hi Ann,
      What you are describing is, unfortunately, all too familiar to me. So the good news is, you’re not alone. If your T is anything like BN, and I am guessing s/he is, then they probably sensed you were ready to be pushed outside your comfort zone and start to become conscious of your defenses and start to let them down in order to allow you’re denied/less accessed painful feelings emerge. What you described feeling: unbalanced, scared, unprotected and repulsive sounds to me like the feelings evoked in an abused and/or neglected child. It sounds to me like your discussing your (possible) defenses is allowing you to let your deeper feelings emerge. And some of those deeper feelings are actually memories of feelings, the unprocessed trauma of a child faced with too much to handle. It is those feelings that we split off and defend against in order to survive and keep our parents “good” and therefore safe to be near. You feel overwhelmed now (and panciky) because that is how you felt THEN.

      And the anger at your T? Probably composed of two things: the buried and denied anger at your parents for leaving you alone with your feelings just as your therapist helped you uncover these feelings and then left you alone to deal with them until next session. (Sidenote: your T is doing so for very different reasons that your parents but emotionally speaking it can feel the same. and question: do you not text or call because it’s not something your T allows or you choose not to do so?). The second part, which is something I have struggled with, is the irrational, but very powerful, anger at BN for providing enough safety for these feelings (which are horribly unpleasant to experience) to emerge. If the rat bastard hadn’t provided that safety then I wouldn’t have to deal with these feelings right? OK, logically not exactly Einstein, but humanly speaking, it’s how we feel.

      As for dealing with this, it helps me to get some room between my feelings and myself and recognize that if these feelings are from the past, then so is the sadness and lack of safety. I don’t mean the feelings aren’t very real and they do need attending to. But it can help provide containment to recognize that you are not powerless or lacking in resources now. It sounds like you are doing a lot right, by reaching out to your husband and coming here to ask this question. You need connection to help you regulate these feelings that are coming up.

      The other thing that helps me (I just discussed this in my dealing with grief post) is to negotiate internally and recognize that while these feelings need to be recognized and processed, that in between sessions may not be a safe place to do so, so I am going to put them away until my next session. Not with an aim to silence them forever, or shove them away, but simply to wait until I am in a place where I feel safe truly unpacking them. And remind yourself that you have already survived the situation that evoked these feelings. That as intense as they are, they are ONLY feelings, which will pass through you, and you will remain. You will not always feel this way. I hope at least some of this resonates with you and might help. Please let me know how you get on. xxx AG

      Like

  18. Marijke
    September 23, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Hi AG,

    My wife and I have been in a marital crisis for over two years now, of which I’ll spare you the details. Recently, therapy has made me see the underlying dynamics in my relationships with other people – including her – and how most of these are really not about my needs. Fear of being rejected/abandoned is THE main theme behind just about everything I do. An emerging sense of self-worth (through therapy) goes along with that growing consciousness. Somehow, I don’t think that’s a coincidence :).
    Do you have some insights to share about how being in therapy has changed the dynamics in your relationships in general and with your husband specifically?

    Big hugs from overseas,

    Marijke (Shaman)

    Like

    • September 24, 2013 at 12:57 am

      Hi Marjike,
      This is the short answer to let you know I read your question. 🙂 Therapy, and my growth resulting from it have had a profound effect on my marriage, actually on all my relationships. At the heart of it is the fact that as I have learned who I am, I have also learned what I need and what I want, which has affected the dynamics of my relationships. So, yes I do have insights, but must confess between work and therapy, it might be a bit before I am able to expand, but I promise to when time and energy permits. Thanks for the hugs and I am sending some back. Hang in there. FWIW, about seven years ago, my husband and I went through some really serious problems but managed to pull through (because both of us did a lot of hard work) and I can truly say that things are better now then they have ever been. xx AG

      Like

    • XXX
      September 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

      I felt the need to say Ditto to the struggles in a marriage. I went to the T for trouble with that and the attachment to her was almost instant. The amount I have learned about my self in such a short period of time is literally nauseating, but I always knew it was there just could not connect the dots until after I gave birth to my 1st child and the feelings came roraring back. I think my huband thinks i’m a fraud sometimes, and he struggles to support me. So I wanted to say Thank you to everybody here for understanding. Understanding seems to be in short supply these days for me.

      XXX

      Like

  19. Marijke
    September 24, 2013 at 3:38 am

    Hello AG,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply. And please take all take time you need to do whatever you need doing to meet your own needs. I can wait – I’m getting better at that all the time :).
    Take care

    Marijke

    Like

  20. Li'an
    September 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

    Hi AG, I’m wondering if you have experience with somatic therapies. I do not, but am feeling led to try something different to help with the integration of suddenly remembering what I knew, but didn’t actually remember myself. I have done really well with my current therapist and want to continue with him, but he does not do these types of therapies (and I don’t think I could handle it if he did, interestingly). I’m wondering how it works to do body work with somebody else but maintain my current relationship with my T. A both-and approach. Thanks for any experience you may have on this.

    On an unrelated note, I read your post on shame and found myself thinking of Tyler Perry, who seems to me one of the most beautiful people. I am not a fan of his work, overall, but became aware of him in a broader way when he wrote an open letter to the young men involved in the Sandusky trial last year. Last week I saw him on the CBS morning show reading a letter to himself as a child, and it felt very healing for me to watch him acknowledge his younger experience and express so much love, appreciation, and gratitude for the boy he was. I recommend watching it as a model of self-love and self-care. Probably it is on YouTube or CBS.com.

    Thanks for your website and postings. It really is a gift to many people, more than you likely know.

    Like

    • October 2, 2013 at 10:17 pm

      Hi Li’an,
      Welcome to my blog! I have never done any somatic work as when I started therapy way back in the day, it was really unheard of. But I do know a member on Psychcafe, Catalyst, who does she two therapists, one for talk therapy and one for somatic processing. I do know that the two therapists are in contact and do try to coordinate care. Would your therapist be willing to work with someone else who does this kind of work? I do know that Catalyst finds having both types of treatment really useful. I think the key will be finding someone who is willing to work with your present T and talk to him about his willingness to work with another therapist. But the type of work is so different that I truly think they can complement each other. Good luck and I’d love to hear about how it goes.

      And I’ll try and check out the video, thanks for the info. Thank you also for your kind words about the blog, I appreciate the encouragement. ~ AG

      Like

  21. Elizabeth
    October 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Hi AG,

    I am EH. I have had a long life of 30+ foster homes, been sexually abused by many, have no family and am 52 years old. I am PTSD & DID and have been n therapy for 20 years with the same therapist. My last abuser who I took care of dies about 2 years ago and that is when I truly have opened up. However, my therapist will be retiring in a few years and the fear is so overwhelming and all I can get out of this information if that she can help me to heal by giving me self-worth only to be left on my own yet once again.

    There are no support groups locally and I have been trying to cope with a physical illness that has kept me locked in my apartment. How can I believe that going through all this pain I have been lately, to only feel better about myself only to be left alone yet once again!

    My logic understands, but my Gd, the rest of me sure does not get just filling myself up with self worth, love or what have you and than I will just feel better about being alone still just because I like myself?

    Please, if you can offer any hope here I would greatly appreciate it!

    EH

    Like

  22. Elizabeth
    October 27, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Hi AG,

    Well after that panic attack, I have spent quite some time reading all the information and responses and it has helped me get an extremely better understanding of a lot of things which I have not been able to comprehend for many years. All I can say is great job!!

    I can apply a lot of things to where I am at currently in therapy and this has eliminated a lot of fears I have had throughout the process.

    EH

    Like

    • December 10, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. Forgive me for not responding sooner, as I have been away for a bit. I am very sorry for all that you have suffered and the pain I can only imagine that you have to face in order to heal. I do not think that in the end you will be left alone; I believe that as you heal you will learn to allow other people in. Thank you that in my absence, you kept reading! I am very glad that what you learned here has given you more insight into yourself and lessened your fears. I wish you well on your journey and hope you will come back to let me know how you get on.

      And FWIW, my first therapist retired and at the time it felt like the worst thing that could have happened, but it turned out that the considerable healing I had done with her, laid down the foundation for me to heal with BN. I know a therapist leaving can feel so threatening, but it can also be the next step in your healing.

      Peace, AG

      Like

      • Elizabeth Henderson
        December 10, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        Hello – it is funny I just got your email as I was reading sue information on your site! Since I had written the emails to youI have been searching and experiencing an awful lot. I still have troubles with my T gone day being gone and logically I understand why and have tried to let this go so I can work on what started out to do! The word “Healing” is like a foreign word to me as I don’t know what exactly that would feel like. I am in my 50’s, have no family, no husband, cannot have children at this point, 2 friends (acquaintances) so losing my T is a very hard thought at times. I haven’t found anyone online (or in person) who has healed from their experiences and all I want to know is all this worth it going through the pain? I don’t know what feeling content and at peace mean which is what my T says I am working towards.

        At any rate, I will keep checking your site as I do think you have a great way of explaining things that I personally can understand and relate to which I find very beneficial in the process.

        Your words are inspirational and I can honestly say this for all the things I have read online and in some books that do not truly ever explain much of anything but are just looking for another dime.

        Best Wishes,

        Elizabeth

        Like

  23. December 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I just found your website … I am hurting as I know you all will understand because my therapist of 7 1/4 years has moved away. I was so totally enthralled by him -so in awe – so sad now – am going to a grief counselor therapist in his Samaritan Counseling Center to work out unresolved questions about how therapists feel, did he “care” about me, are we all 50 minute friends and then therapists forget about us – lots of questions. Have written a book over 35,000 words so far using him as the “hero” – a lot of people experiencing transference and “loving” their therapist would enjoy this book based on fact and fantasy – can’t wait to now be able to read all your posts and hopefully work towards closure. What is it they say “We experience grief because we have experienced love” – I miss him so much – I feel sometimes like a tightrope walker – he was my safety net – now there is no one to catch me if I fall.” Like to write and have written poems too which I could share with him over the past year. It’s tough. But wouldn’t have given up the past 7 plus years for anything no matter how much hurt I feel now.

    Like

    • December 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Hi Judy,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. Grief is when we pay the bill for all that we gained from a relationship, but as you are recognizing, it is a price well worth paying. I am sorry for your therapist moving away, as I said in the comment above, my first T retired before our work was done. I do believe that your therapist cared for you. The fact that the relationship is bounded in ways different from our other relationships makes it no less real. Which is why you are grieving, as letting go of an important relationship is a true loss. Your grief honors that which you had with him. But the reward of grief is that as we let go of the way the relationship used to be, we “get” the person back. You will learn that you carry him with you in many ways. When I think of my first therapist now it is with gratitude and love. I have not spoken or communicated with her in any way, but am still certain that no matter where she is, we still love each other. I am glad you are reaching out in so many ways to work through this. ~ AG

      Like

  24. SheLongedForStarsInHerHeart
    May 4, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Hi AG, first of all I have learnt a lot from what you write both here and on the psychcafe forum. I entered in therapy two and half years ago and I can honestly say that reading your many explanations was one of the bigger factors that convinced me that I could enter therapy and that it could work me. So thank you for sharing so much about your own therapy and explaining the process in such accessible form.

    In any case, my question for now, has to do with validation. I am struggling with this in my therapy. I think that there are two factors at work. 1) my therapist is not very vocal with validation and empathy. In particular, if something hurtful happens in therapy (it could be actually hurtful or it could be hurtful because of my perception of it, transference, etc.) then if I bring it up, there is no validation for my pain. And 2) When there is empathy or validation, I have a hard time taking it in. So it could be that my validation and empathy registering mechanism is faulty/underdeveloped. On the other hand, my hurt, pain, danger registering mechanism is probably in over effective and over developed.

    My question is how important this sort of validation is in therapy? I want that validation. I crave it madly. I am certain that the craving has to do with a lifetime of feeling invisible, feeling that my pain is invisible. So in many ways, my therapist is on the receiving end of something that she does not have much to do with her. In any case, the intensity of what I feel when I do not get that validation does not have anything to do with the situation with her. At the same time, when I try to bring up the pain, it seems to backfire. I have no idea if it is the way I bring it up (I express pain in a way that feels like an attack to the other person) or if it is her misperceiving what I do (she can’t see the pain or the need behind the action or she can see it but thinks it will make me dependent to say something about it). Maybe it is a combination of the two?

    I know that my defensive walls are up all the time. And the one time I did express my pain (it was pain related to intense shame actually) in the way I was experiencing it, she did say that she was sorry that I was in such pain and that she had not intended that. I nearly fell off my chair because this is the first time she said something like this. The whole session felt very good because 1) she said this and 2) I did not feel invisible and the shame was not hidden.

    But it is very hard to be in this zone. It is .such.hard. work. And since then there have been several other sessions where I could not do that and the pain, shame, invalidation, hurt, kept piling up. A lot of the time, I end up “frozen” when something hurts me. It is as if something caves inside me and I am unable to think through what I want to or need to say. More importantly, I am unable to stay in the relationship with her (where she is someone on my side). I am unable to see her.

    So what is the role of validation in therapy? What is the role of expressing the need to be validated? What is the role of not being able to express needs properly? I guess these are vague sort of questions. But I am not even sure what it is that I am trying to ask.

    In any case, thank you for reading.

    Like

    • SheLongedForStarsInHerHeart
      May 4, 2014 at 11:43 am

      I want to add that my therapist and I have done some good hard work over these 2.5 years. I have come from a place where I did not feel/enjoy life to one where I feel it is possible. I actually doubt that all these confusing feelings would be coming up if the experience had not been positive on so many levels. But then there is validation, feeling invisible and frustrated stuff, which just blocks things at this point.

      Like

      • May 4, 2014 at 11:00 pm

        SLFSIHH,
        Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. May I first say I have always loved your username? Thank you for what you said about reading my writings, I am very glad to know it has helped you in your healing.

        As for validation, I think it IS important that our feelings are recognized and heard and understood. I think that it is through the process of being attended to by our Ts and having them understand and accept and normalize our feelings that we learn our worth. But there is a real problem if we never had that before, which is that it is truly terrifying to expose our feelings and make ourselves vulnerable enough that we say what it is that really needs to be heard. If our only experience of our early caretaking relationships was that we were invisible and our feelings didn’t matter, then we learned to be ashamed of our feelings and needs a long time ago such that expressing them is a very dangerous thing to do. And our expectation is that if we do dare to express them, they will be met with indifference at best and punishment at worst. You can understand why this would make you relucyant to speak.

        It is difficult to say from what you are describing whether your T is failing to provide that validation or you are failing to take it in, or some combination therein. Only you can really be the judge of that, which is part of why this is so hard. It is difficult to know what is really going on when we know our past is really distorting our perceptions. I found a few things telling though, one of which is that you said that in the 2.5 years you have been working with your T, you have done good work and seen yourself move towards being able to enjoy life, moving from a place of no hope to believing it can happen. That tells me that something is right in your alliance. The other thing that really stood out of me is that the one example you give of a time when you really got what you were looking for, was also a time you really opened up to her about what was going on. So when you risked to say how you were really feeling, despite the fear (and I do not in any way want to minimize that fear), you got the response you were looking for.

        Our therapists, no matter how insightful they are, are only human and they can only know us if we choose to let them see us, despite the fear. I have often had the exchange with BN of telling him it is incredible how well he understands me, to which he inevitably replies it is because I have shown him.

        My best advice? And I know this is not easy. Print out the comment you made here and take in into session. There are a lot of possible reasons why you are not getting what you want. You may not be really asking for it. You might be and your T is missing it. You may be hiding your feelings better than you realize so that your T really doesn’t understand the depth of what you are going through. Shame can be really terrible and the only way to move through it is to do the exact thing it is telling us not to, which is to allow ourselves to be seen. Being as open and as honest as you can be about your feelings is usually the most productive.

        So talk to your T about this struggle, about feeling like you need validation, that you have often felt invisible and that you feel like it is lacking in the relationship and see what she says. Her reaction will tell you alot. If she remains non-defensive and stays focused on your needs and feelings and can discuss it, then you know you’ve got a good T and you might lean more towards believing it is your own defenses getting in the way. But if she reacts poorly, and gets defensive or starts blaming you, that’s a good indication that she is not going to be able to handle transference very well. A therapist has to be able to not take our feelings too personally, especially if we are projecting. If they treat it all like its about here and now, then how do you sort through your past? On the other hand, if they treat EVERYTHING and all of your feelings as if they are only part of your past, then they can miss actual things they are doing wrong here and now. I wish you the best and please let me know how it goes.

        There are a couple of posts I want to recommend in case you haven’t see them: Learning developmental skills: Identifying and Expressng needs, Say how your feel anyway and Bass Ackwards

        AG

        Like

    • SheLongedForStarsInHerHeart
      May 6, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Thank you so much AG! I wanted to let your reply seep in a little before I replied.

      First of all, it makes me smile that you still remember my username from only posting once about 3 years ago. And since it is a username that I really like but which also makes me feel a bit exposed and vulnerable (with underlying shame) it is very nice to have it appreciated.

      It was really helpful that you verbalised (and in the process also normalised) how it can be hard to really know what is going on, specially when the past is there to distort perceptions. I did not realise how much I had been struggling with this and how I had actually been feeling ashamed of this. I think that I was probably living with the idea that others did not experience this. It is very confusing. Maybe the confusion is normal and acceptable…

      This therapy business is so strange in so many ways. I have seen (and T and I even discussed this) that she and I do not seem to do so well with words. Misunderstandings, pain, fear, etc. also seem to overwhelm me when I think about the process. But when I try to focus on the experience, then things sometimes seem very different. Strangely enough, I used to think of myself as as an “experience/feeling” person. But this is very different. And it seems like I am not used to giving importance of trust to this experience. So this adds to the confusion.

      In any case, I will let things sit a little more before I write more. But I did not want to leave the message without reply. BTW, your discussion with Ann in the One Among Many post have also been very helpful to me.

      Like

  25. SheLongedForStarsInHerHeart
    May 6, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    The second last sentence of the second last paragraph should read: I am not used to giving trust OR importance to this experience. That was a typo. What I mean to say is that I seem to tend to give more value to the thinking/words, rather than the experience. Yet, it seems that the thinking/words might be misguiding me and the experience might be more reliable.

    Like

    • May 7, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      It is very confusing. Maybe the confusion is normal and acceptable…

      I truly hope it’s normal, as I have spent much of my time in therapy feeling confused! LOL When working through an issue, I often find it very confusing and its usually at its worst right before a breakthrough. And then you feel like “D’oh” how could I not have understood that? So if you’re actually working in therapy, I think you spend a lot of time feeling stupid. 🙂

      But seriously, I think people with significant injuries, especially long-term childhood injuries, very much struggle to know what is going on in the relationship and how much is actually the behavior of their therapist and what is their own expectations based on their past. This is actually the part that makes therapy healing. Because we do NOT only do this with our Ts, we do it in all our relationships. We formed a impression of how relationships work and what to expect based on our early experiences. The first two years of life, before our frontal cortex is completely online, these are actually implicit memories laid down in our limbic system, so we are not conscious of these assumptions and beliefs. Therapy provides a labratory, where the other person (hopefully!) keeps their needs and feelings out of the room, so that you can examine what goes on between you giving you a chance to bring those beliefs and expectations into consciousness and dump the one’s that do not work for you anymore (much easier said than done). I very much experienced this in couples’ counseling as it turned out that both my husband and I were coloring our perceptions of each other with things from our past. There were really four people in the relationship. Me and my past and my husband and his past. I often went straight past my husband to what happened in the past. I cannot tell you how many times I risked a new behavior only to learn that what I was absolutely certain would happen, didn’t. No one had told my husband that he was someone else part of the time. 🙂 And he has told me the same.

      And I understand what you mean about thinking you were a feeling person. I considered myself a very emotional person and had no idea how assiduously I avoided my feelings. That was part of the problem, I was so terrified of being overwhelmed by my feelings, that I would hold them off until the pressure became unbearable and then would explode everywhere to the complete bafflement of the other person whose bad timing put them on the other end of my reactions. When we do not have “good enough” parents we do not learn how to regulate our feelings as well as being left with feelings we weren’t able to process. So when we do start feeling, it gets pretty scary and we want to run. Sorry to keep sending you to posts, but I think these two would be helpful also: Learning Developmental Skills: Emotional Regulation and Time to Run: The Power of the Amygdala.

      And take all the time you need to mull this over. This is not easy stuff, because we are working through so much fear of being in relationship, so be gentle with yourself. I’m glad you found the discussion with Ann also helpful, I can see where it would have bearing.

      Like

  26. JLB
    May 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Hi AG,
    I am new to your blog and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I feel like I could have written several of the post myself. I have read through June of 2013, but I wanted to ask a question. Forgive me if it is answered in a post that I haven’t gotten to you. I have having this terrible struggle between my inner child and my adult self. My inner child wants for the abuse that happened to me as a child to never have happened. She wants to find that unconditional love that she never received. She wants someone to hold her and tell her everything is going to be ok. She wants to be able to express all of her emotions, however wacky and intense they are. And most of all, she wants to securely attach to her therapist. Adult me is very wary of attaching to anyone (because I am certain I will just get hurt or abandoned again). And adult me knows, on an intellectual level that many of the things that my inner child wants just aren’t possible. Since they seem unreasonable to me and mostly impossible to obtain I have a hard time bringing the feelings and emotions into the therapy room for fear of how stupid/childish/ridiculous, etc it will seem. Do you have any ideas to help, or is it just a leap of faith that I am going to have to take and then deal with the pain and discomfort that comes with it? I feel like I want to be seen and heard, but at the same time I want to disappear sometimes and wish that I hadn’t said anything. Thanks.

    JLB

    Like

    • May 14, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      Hi JLB,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. You sound really normal for someone with insecure attachment. 🙂 Therapy is the process by which you sort through the unfulfilled longings and identify which ones are no longer possible to meet, and those which can still be met. The ones that cannot be met you need to face as a loss and grieve. Loss can be more painful that unfulfilled longing, but facing a loss heals and frees us to receive what we can instead of fruitlessly searching for that which we cannot have. But some unfulfilled longings can be filled: being accepted and treated as worthwhile, attaching to a stronger, wiser other and finding a secure base, learning to identify and express our needs and get them met, etc. You can complete some of the developmental steps that you could not do previously because you were not given what you needed. So although you cannot change what happened in the past, you can honor your longings and needs as having been appropriate and not shameful and learn to go forward from here getting what you need. A fuller life is possible.

      There is a lot of pain involved in this sorting process because so much of what we went through has to be shut down and put away and its painful to allow ourselves to remember and feel it. But I think the pain was worth it in the end. And it does take faith because it can be hard to understand how the process will ultimately help and the very things we need to do in order to heal also terrify us (the part of you certain you will only be abandoned again.)

      I have a few posts to recommend based on what you asked here (sorry if you’ve already read them, wasn’t sure if you were working forwards or backwards 🙂 ) :Disorganized Attachment or why you think you’re crazy but you’re not,
      Therapy isn’t enough
      , How do I fill the void, Sorting the Past, and Therapy Lesson #6: Say how you feel anyway. Sorry to hit you with so many (and I know most of my posts aren’t short) but in a sense my whole blog is written to address your questions. See if these help, but feel free to come back and ask more questions if you need or want to. ~ AG

      Like

      • JLB
        May 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

        Thanks AG. I have mostly just started on my therapy journey, so all of what you write is helpful and insightful. It totally sucks that we can’t get what we missed out on.

        Like

        • May 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm

          JLB,
          It really does suck and it’s important I think, to let ourselves feel that; its a reasonable feeling. One thing I really love about BN is that when I have looked at him and said it sucked, his response has been, yeah, it does. But here’s how I think of it so that I will still deal with things.

          I am sitting in a large pile of crap not of my making. But I’m still sitting in a large pile of crap and I have two choices. I can continue to sit in crap, or I can start cleaning up the crap. It’s not fair to me, but in truth, I’m the only one that can clean it up. So yeah, sometimes I stop and just get really pissed and throw a tantrum that I have to clean this up, but once that’s out of my system for a bit, I go back to cleaning it up. because I am NOT going to spend the rest of my life sitting in crap. That would mean my abuser won. The best revenge is living well. 🙂 Hang in there. ~ AG

          Like

  27. Betty
    May 15, 2014 at 9:04 am

    Hello AG,

    I first would like to say I have truly loved your blog as I have and am learning a lot in between therapy and somehow how this all is supposed to work along the way from a patients view. One thing I am having a huge issue with trying to understand is if children grew up and others gave them what was needed to be a somewhat normally balanced person like actually holding them, nurturing them, interacting with them and teaching them along the way, for those who have been alone since birth and have never had any of this, any thoughts on how to technically fulfill this yourself?

    I have lived in 30 foster homes since birth, lived with a set of foster parents and was abused until I was well, 50 years old and when the foster mother passed away I have only had my therapist (I had seen her off & on for 20 years though). I have DID and the issue I am having is she keeps telling me I need to fulfill these things with these parts. I can’t physically hold them, teach them or nurture them like a “real” child so I have been at a lost on how I can even come close to accomplishing these things. Also, right now I don’t have a communication with them which we are still working on.

    What is worse is when I get to a certain point she will say at this point in therapy I would be with other people which would change things. I don’t have friends that can support me with this and no family at all. I have been homebound for about a year now as it appears I have a degenerative motor neuron disease (looking at ALS/PLS or HSP). So I have plenty of time on my hands currently but can’t seem to get to the next step to try and well child rearing for alters.

    I have read a lot of things on your blog that has helped over the last 9 months or so which has helped me substantially but I am stuck. Any thoughts you may be able to offer? I would greatly appreciate it if you do but if this is out of your league I understand.

    BH

    Like

    • May 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Betty,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for commenting. I am grateful that my blog has been of any help for you and appreciate you saying so. I do feel a bit out of my league but only because you are dealing with so incredibly much. I am truly sorry for all that you have been through and have nothing but admiration for your drive for life and courage in continuing to work to heal from all that. A lot of people would have just laid down and given up. I do not have DID so I am not sure how good any advice I give would be, but I can share with you what worked for me when I was dealing with my child state (see was a four year old girl I called Little AG who I knew was a part of me but felt separate because she carried the memories of the abuse).

      The technique that most worked for me was to realize that my adult part, although it could feel overwhelmed, has a lot more power and a lot more resources (knowledge, a therapist, freedom to make my own choices) than that child part ever had. My child part also never had anyone to attend to her pain, her feelings or her memories. So I ended up engaging in a lot of self-dialog (which for you is obviously going to have to wait until you can establish communications with those parts). The first thing I had to do was start having internal dialogues where I told little me that I really was safe and it was safe for her to come out, that she would not be rejected or punished by me for what she needed to say. I also had to reassure both her and myself, that I really was strong enough to face what happened. So it was about communicating my own sorrow and compassion for what happened to me, for recognizing and telling her that she/we did not deserve to be treated that way and when she pressed on me to either stop and listen or at least tell her when she could talk (if it happened at times where I really needed to function as an adult then I would literally tell her that I really wanted to hear what she had to say and how she was feeling, but that right at that moment some other stuff had to get done. But that I wasn’t asking her to stay quiet forever, I just needed her to wait until we were in a safe place, usually with our T, and then she would have a chance to speak. I would also do visualization of her either climbing up in my lap and holding and rocking her (which could feel strange because as I became more integrated, I could feel it from both sides) or seeing her climb into God’s lap and having Him hold and rock her. The main point was to picture a safe place for her to be and assure her that I was now capable of keeping us both safe. This feels really inadequate in the face of what you’re dealing with but I hope it may help even a small bit.

      But here’s the tricky part, I do not think we start taking care of ourselves, or know how to, until we are in relationship with someone who cares enough for us to teach us our worth and implicitly, through experiencing their presence, teaches us how to contain and regulate our feelings, express our needs, and nurtures and teaches us so we can complete our development in order to learn to be responsible for our own needs, but even then we still need others to meet our needs, we just can take care of ourselves if no one else is immediately available. We need to have that done for us, before we can do it for our inner child (they can be parallel processes, we just need to be a step ahead as the adult). I truly believe a therapist can be that person, but we are also going to go through a very difficult process of mourning what we did not get, which is now impossible to get. So essentially, I do not believe we can go back and make up for not having had that available when we needed it. But we can finish developing and learn to get what we need going forward.

      So being dependent on your therapist for awhile to learn how to take care of yourself makes sense to me. Where I see you being in difficulty is that part of our goal should be to take what we learn about being in relationship and take it outside of therapy to have better relationships there. But from what you are describing you don’t have anyone. I am very sorry that you are so isolated, I know through my work on the Crisis Line that some people really are without resources. And being homebound due to disease gives you very few avenues to widen your support base. I am wondering if you ever use any Crisis lines? We certainly have people who call our lines just when they need to be able to reach out and know someone is there, and be able to have someone listen while they talk about how they are feeling. I know this is not the same as having a friend come over, but it also better than being alone with your feelings. The people who volunteer where I do are genuinely caring and concerned and want to be there for people who need them, like you. I am also wondering if it would be possible to look for support organizations in your community for people with your disease or those who are homebound.

      Last but not least, I know there are several members on psychcafe who have DID. Draggers is a member of psychcafe who is open about having DID. If its comfortable for you, think about posting there. You would even be able to private message Draggers and be able to discuss how she has handled doing this in her healing. Tell her I sent you. 🙂 If I can be of any more help or you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I wish you all the best in your healing. AG

      Like

  28. Betty
    May 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Hi AG,

    Thank you so very much for your response as I can’t feel you how much I appreciate it!! I will say thank you for taking the time for such a thorough and personal response from you! As I wrote, I have learned quite a lot from your posts and also others!! Not to mention I find your writings easy for me to understand and relate too which within itself helps a great deal.

    I did reach out to Draggers as suggested!! I have been trying to reach out locally for things but unfortunately without a diagnosis for the physical thing I am unable to get any assistance. Also, there are no support groups in my local area. I am trying to join a volunteer program to be a volunteer (reaching out to those who are homebound) and also trying to have a volunteer come in once a week to visit. This is in progress so keep your fingers crossed I can achieve both!!

    Part of my issue is I am not good with imagery which has hindered my work in therapy. My T and I have worked around it somewhat by using props (dolls, stuffed animals, etc.). Did it take long for little AG to trust you and feel what you were talking/imaging, etc.?

    Well thank you again and I will keep reading as I do enjoy your posts as they are extremely well written 🙂

    Like

  29. Betty
    May 18, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Hi AG,

    After reading the above post I was wondering how you were able to determine accepting having an attachment with BN versus being independent? I am always saying to me T, please give me the tools and I’ll fix things myself, yet recently I find my feelings have attached to my T which really has me in a huge conflict of needing versus wanting to do things on my own!

    BH

    Like

    • June 4, 2014 at 11:28 am

      Hi Betty,
      I deeply struggled with being dependent and tried to shame myself out of it six ways to Sunday. But the more reading I did about attachment theory and development, the more I realized that all human beings go through a period of dependency because a lot of emotional skills are learned implicitly, right brain to right brain, by being in the presence of someone more adept in the skills you are trying to acquire. If you look at my , you’ll see a list. General Theory of Love was especially crucial in getting me to understand (BN read it after I talked about it and we used it a lot in our work). It’s so scary because the first time we were dependent, we were severely injured, so even though it’s necessary, it feels like the most dangerous thing in the world to do. Like so much of therapy, it meant walking into fear. ~ AG

      Like

  30. Jillann
    July 24, 2014 at 9:37 am

    AG,

    I wonder if you would be willing to share how and when your children became aware of your history and therapy needs? I have kept my depression and hospitaliation for ED from my kids. They are teenagers. My therapist has really encouraged me not to keep any more secrets. I do feel the painful dissonance of having one facade as mom and another when alone. I don’t want them to ask me questions about the ED and I don’t really want to share my history with them. That leads me to believe it is best to keep this part of myself hidden from them.

    Curious what your thoghts are.

    Like

    • July 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Jillann,
      I have a rule that I do not discuss my daughters in depth on my blog out of a respect for their privacy so while I think you are asking a really important and worthwhile question, I am not willing to answer it here. I hope you can understand. I can discuss it with you privately through email or PM, but would also ask for your patience, I am working long hours and have also received a lot of emails and PM recently so I am feeling a bit buried at the moment. I do think that once you feel your kids are mature enough, its a good idea to give them a general idea of what is going on, but its a tough line to walk, because I think hiding it completely is not a good idea (and usually futile anyway) but too much disclosure can be harmful also. It’s not about you needing to stay hidden, but it is about not meeting your own needs through your kids (which i think is your motivation for keeping it private and is a good one). I’ll try to elaborate more to you soon. Thanks. xx AG

      Edited to say I just should have said “yeah, what DBS said!” 😀 Thanks DBS!

      Like

      • Jillann
        July 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm

        Thanks AG,
        I’ll look for your PM sometime soon.

        Jillann

        Like

  31. gentlewind
    August 9, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Hi AG

    I can’t tell you how helpful your blog has been. I found it a few months ago and it has helped me immensely in understanding myself, my relationship with T, etc. Yours is the first blog I’ve read that describes feelings that I have had for my whole life, and feelings related to T that have felt so shameful. The way you explain it, I see that these feelings are just normal when you have insecure attachment due to severe abuse. Reading your blog has been a healing gift that has made me feel less alone.

    Anyway, I’ve been healing for 15+ years with a therapist like your BN. She’s very consistent, caring, boundaried, etc. I wish she was a mom, and have had that wish forever. I’ve grieved the loss of a good mom for years. I have done really hard work. But I have not fully accepted that T won’t be my mom yet, I have tried and tried but it hasn’t clicked at the 100% level. I would say it’s about at 80% which is immense progress but still brings immense pain.

    I know you’ve written posts about how you view your T’s real children, how hard it is. I have experienced the same and right now this issue is rearing its ugly head. I’m jealous of one of her children who seems to have an easy, blessed life that I’ve wanted but never had. I’ve worked and worked on it but the feelings remain. It got triggered recently because my T happens to be very wealthy, and one of our issues to work through this year was a fee increase she passed my way. In my mind, I still was paying a lot, $140 an hour, and over the years, could’ve paid for another house for as much as I spent in therapy. I know in the adult part of me that it’s a way to pay back like you wrote about, and that it’s my parents who have caused me to spend that money to heal without giving back in any way. They also gave me the gift (sarcasm intended) of money issues because my dad was violent over any dime spent. So T raised my rates $20 per hour to 160 per hour several months ago. It hurt a lot because I confuse money with love and I know she doesn’t need the money at all, she is extremely wealthy. Well we talked about it, which was exceedingly painful and shameful, but I was able to mostly get past it.

    But recently, more shame here, I was googling her family, and saw her child just bought a 1.5 million house a mile away from me. It threw me so badly. I am exhausted from working to try and support my family while healing and working through so much pain. Then I see that price tag for the house, and all my jealous, unfairness feelings, and resentment about the fee increase came roaring back. On top of it, he has lived about an hour away and to have him and his family right on top of me in my neighborhood just kills. Her grandkids, who I am also jealous of in longing to be loved like she loves them, are nearby and all of it hurts so badly, and the fact it hurts also feels shameful.

    I’ve worked on it inside myself a lot, have grieved a lot, and have talked about it with T, as painful as it is to do. I work on trying to heal the shame and feel the grief and it helps for the short term but doesn’t last. When I work on it, I see the trigger—-my mom chose my dad every time over me and he was so entitled and I was suffering and needed her help more, and she chose him. Anyway, I think my feelings about the fee increase are mixed up with the trigger I just described. My T is charging me more for money that ultimately will go right to him, and it burns inside I see the similarity and yet, the feelings remain at such a high pain level.

    I hope it’s ok to have been so specific here. Just wondered if you’ve had similar feelings and/or have any thoughts or advice.

    Thanks again for your terrific blog. You should definitely write a book!

    Like

    • August 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Hi Gentlewind,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting! Sorry for the delay in replying, I am working a lot of OT right now, including Saturdays, so there’s not a lot of time left over for anything else. I want to tell you that my strongest response to what you wrote was “wow, that is one tough row to hoe.” I think that you are being introspective and owning your own issues, you are recognizing your therapist’s right to her boundaries and to set her fees, but you are also aware (which I think is a really good thing!) of how difficult it is to get through the rate hike, and of the feelings evoked by seeing her son buy such an expensive home and so close to you. The two most important things I can tell you is that although the shame you feel is probably very strong, you have nothing to be ashamed of. I find it hard to imagine someone in your position who would NOT be struggling with how you feel. To be very honest, money is not an issue I have really struggled with. Not because of any quality of mine, mind you. It’s just that we have really excellent insurance so I pay only a fraction of the cost of therapy and my husband and I make good enough money and BN is modest enough in how he lives that there is not a huge disparity in our lifestyles. I don’t think I’d do so well if I were in your position. (I am curious, when you spoke to your T about her rate hike, did she give you a reason?) So to have what I consider a very natural jealously and longing centered around her family to be made even more complex by these money issues has to be really difficult. And I don’t know if it will help with the shame, but I have done some pretty extensive googling on BN and seen family pictures (I’ve talked to him about it). I think it’s normal for us to want to know more about their lives. And I think we pay for it by making the kind of discovery you did here.

      The second point is that talking about it is so important. And it’s ok to keep going back and talking about these feelings, and being angry and grieving and expressing longing until you don’t need to any more. These kinds of feelings come up for me periodically when I run into triggers. The last time was when I saw a very tender picture of BN with his granddaughter on vacation. It evoked some very deep longings and a deep sense of grief (she was acting towards him in a manner which indicated how safe and loved she felt; it was the perfect picture of what I never had. So painful that even typing this is bringing back the pain). I remember feeling so terrible being jealous of six year old. BN understood and we worked through the feelings. I know it can humiliating and shameful because we learned such a long time ago to feel ashamed of our needs and longings, but the best answer to shame is to talk about it. You need to experience that what you are feeling is reasonable considering your history. How could you not feel sad and angry and jealous seeing someone else have something, seemingly so easily, that you have longed for your whole life? The truth is that healing from trauma is to clean up a mess you did not make. And it’s ok to sometimes be angry and frustrated about that. So, I know this answer sucks beyond belief, but you need to just keep doing what you’re doing. Talking about your feelings, facing your pain and grieving. I so, so wish I had a better answer for you. I wish you the best in your healing. I am very sorry for the pain you are in and the difficulty of the work you are doing. ~ AG

      Like

  32. gentlewind
    August 11, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Thanks so much AG. Your reply did help a lot, just by validating my feelings and understanding them. I very much appreciate it, it honestly brought tears to my eyes in feeling validated.

    Just to respond to your question about T’s reasons, every time she gives me them, I get a bit foggy, but her reasons have been that she never wanted to have a sliding scale practice, that I was at the lowest rate by a lot and even the 160 is still a discounted rate (I think her normal rate must be 180 or 200) and that she has left me at lower rates throughout my time with her. Also, she felt she needed to respect her value and worth and if it wasn’t working for her, which it wasn’t, then she felt it would not be in my highest good. It’s so tricky because she’s always gone over and above to help me, I’ve had tons of email access and she takes time to respond. She charged me when I was emailing more for one hour a week I think but she spent way more time emailing me, really every day when I was going through horrific flashbacks which I am now past and don’t need to email as much anymore.

    She has been the most rock solid therapist over so many years, I’m lucky to have her, but this fee increase is the one issue I honestly feel like she’s wrong about. It feels wrong to me. I wouldn’t care as much about it if she needed the money. The other thing in her defense is that her son is a doctor and she says it’s all him buying the house, not her (I’m sure there’s some family money in there from grandparents dying, etc. but I didn’t’ want to push that point with her :). No matter though, the house just evokes the contrast for me, and ultimately, she doesn’t need the extra $40 a week I pay now and the money is going to end up with him in the long run. It sounds shameful to me to hear my own self saying all this stuff and to hear how much it gets to me, that so you’re right, I need to work on the shame!

    Anyway, those are her reasons, it’s the one area in over 15 years that I’ve truly disagreed with her. But I guess since she has the power, I just need to grieve this one, like you said.

    Thanks again. I’m so grateful for your understanding.

    Like

    • Holly Katz
      August 16, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Hi AG

      A quick update—took your advice and even quoted you as I talked it out with my therapist this week. It was excruciating but healing—and now feel better… until the next trigger with her. Thanks again, your email was super helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

  33. October 16, 2014 at 6:03 am

    Hi, are you on twitter?

    Like

    • October 30, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      Hi Candy,
      I am on Twitter as @AttachmentGirl but honestly, just use the account to send out new posts alerts for my twitter followers. Between the blog, the psychcafe forum and my correspondence, I just don’t have the capacity to get really involved. 🙂 ~ AG

      Like

  34. October 16, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Hi. I have loved your work since I first discovered it. I have learned many things. I would like to send you a copy of a book I’ve written, which should be published next week on Amazon, because even a few phrases I found in your writings. I would hope you like it. Sometimes it’s gut wrenching writing about yourself, your feelings and your therapist. The name of the book is “Real Life – Real Pain – Real Love…Insights into Therapy and Transference from a Patient’s Perspective. I just wondered if there was some address I could use to get it to you. You may remember I wrote about my therapist’s moving out of state and how hard it was, how much I miss him and the void his leaving left in my life. Hope you don’t mind I wrote you. Thanks.

    Like

  35. aimie
    October 24, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Hi ag,
    I’m 18 years old and have only recently become aware that I have disorganised attachment. I was brought up by my mother who was bipolar until I was five and then was taken into foster care. I had already developed an insecure attachment at that point and although my foster parents weren’t my mother I expected them to behavior like my mother so I would behave in certain ways so that I would get the reaction that I was familiar with. This meant I would be afrais and would shut down. As a result because I never felt emotionally secure I didn’t develop a sense of self or really get to know myself. I have struggled with low self esteem and self worth most of my life. But now that I understand why and I’ve spoken to my foster mam about it all I am willing to change this but it is hard as I’ve been this way for a long time. I guess I’m just looking for advice and support. 🙂 please respond.

    Like

    • October 30, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      Hi Aimie,
      Welcome to my blog! The bad news is that having a bipolar mother (her disease more than likely interfered with her ability to be available to you in the way you needed) and then moving into foster care more than likely led to insecure attachment (the low self esteem and self worth are both strong indicators). The good news is that you can heal and change that and have an “earned” secure attachment and you are looking for help at a very young age. Having an “earned” secure attachment isn’t the same as having “good enough” parenting, but it is enough to live a full life. The things you are struggling with, low self esteem, not having a sense of self and having a difficult time in close relationships all make sense to me in light of your history. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with you. You are having normal reactions to unusual circumstances. I just published a review of a book that I think would make great reading for you: Book Review: How We Heal and Grow. I would also recommend reading my posts on Disorganized Attachment and Lessons I learned in therapy. The other thing I would recommend, if you have the access and resources, would be to enter therapy. I think it can be helpful to have a therapist who understands in working through these kinds of problems. When we are dealing with unmet needs and drives from our early years, the intensity can get very high (because at the time our needs were literally a matter of life and death), so the level of emotional needs that come out are best handled in a therapeutic setting where the boundaries help you to sort through your own feelings without having to deal with someone’s (not always clear no matter how well intended) own reactions to how you’re feeling, especially them taking it personally as insecure attachment often causes deep trust issues. I would try to find a therapist who is more experienced and has dealt with long term childhood problems. I wish you the best in your healing. ~ AG

      Like

  36. Lily Revere
    October 29, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Hi ag,
    I am thinking about returning to therapy yet again to try to find someone who understands the material involved in my disorganized attachment recovery. How would you recommend that I go about finding someone like BN? Thanks for any insights you’d like to offer.

    Like

    • October 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      Hi Lily,
      If you’re in the US, a great resource for finding a therapist is the Psychology Today website’s Find a Therapist feature. You can search by zip code and there’s usually a lot of good information in the profile that can help you make a decision. If you are dealing with long term childhood trauma, I recommend finding a seasoned therapist with at least 15 years of experience. I also think approaching new therapist’s as an interview process, where you are deciding whether to hire them for a job seems to work well for people. Many therapist’s offer a free 20 minute phone call to look for preliminary fit. Asking questions about their background and experience has a two-fold purpose. It provides you with important information but it also gives you a feel for the therapist’s competence. If they’re not ok with being questioned or talking about their experience (especially up front where there is not yet any therapeutic significance), then they’re not going to be good at staying non–defensive and keeping their own feelings out of the room. Really competent therapists, who are confident in their abilities, are fine with being questioned, because they have nothing to fear. There is a great list of questions on Psychcafe to ask when looking for a new therapist which you may find helpful: Questions for a New Therapist. Last but not least, give some weight to your “gut” feel. A good alliance is often one that feels pretty good right from the start, in that there’s good chemistry. I wouldn’t go totally on that because when we’re looking for a safe haven, we can overlook red flags, BUT it’s certainly an important piece of data. Good luck with your search and let me know how it goes. ~ AG

      Like

  37. November 2, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    I am a 73 year old woman. I am an identical twin. Is there anything out there about twins and transference?

    Like

  38. kelly
    December 5, 2014 at 4:05 am

    Hi AG, so far you and your blog have been a great help but I’m feeling a little lost and confused and could do with a little guidance if that’s ok. I will try not to ramble!

    I saw my psychologist yesterday but have really been struggling recently I have a tendency to go back and forth where being protective is concerned making it very difficult to “open up” and let the feelings and emotions flow. Instead I shut them down or just ” leave” the room entering a void of nothingness is the best way I can describe it.

    Although I do think he is a good T I do get very confused and feel we jump around a bit without really finding any answers along the way. Following a letter I wrote regarding my feelings toward him and how I want him to make everything ok I had shut down emotionally at that point – following this did manage to write three pages on how his response had left me feeling. we had started to go through (this being the first time I think we had done this, a little background I am recovering from a stroke last Christmas which was why I started seeing him but a result I find that I struggle to remember what’s happened and what is said) up until yesterday I thought the jumping around was all in my head but the focus was centred around the stroke and how it has changed things in my life – completely different to my writtings. I shut down during the session but afterward it all overflowed. Its very easy for a T to say fall apart with them so I can be put back together in his office – doesn’t always work out like that. In fact there has been very few times I have fallen apart with him.

    He also told me that after next week he is away for three weeks and to honest I don’t know what to do anymore about any of it, I have thought about ringing as i wont get a response via email but don’t think I should, I’m feeling really lost and I’m scared I don’t know how to just feel and not shut down, I tend to fall apart when alone as being told repeatedly growing up only “weak pathetic people cry” stays with you. I’m sorry I have rambled and I could go on and on and on so ill stop there. Thanks kelly

    Like

  39. Np73
    January 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    AG – i am a 40 year old woman dealing primarily with PTSD, depression and dissociation. i have been in therapy for much of my life; however, it wasnt until about 2 years ago that i finally found someone capable of reaching me and i am beginning the painstaking process of healing from years of childhood trauma. You have been an incredible source of comfort and support since I discovered your blog several months ago. I am so grateful for your honesty and courage; i don’t think I’d be as brave without having experienced some of your personal suffering and experiences through your amazing writing. I am deep in the attachment and transference stage and I would very much appreciate you describing what we should expect at the other end or on the other side so to speak as now I am having the hardest time even imagining not needing my T and not wanting to give him up – ever. I feel sometimes that he is all i need and that feels too intense to be healthy. I have a very supportive husband who also happens to see him (he found him first) anf we have a very honest relationship. But I can’t shake the feeling that I am too consumed with my T. I wonder if I will feel differently once I’ve learned healthy attachment. My T seems to think so. Will i ever reach a point when he is not my most prominent thought? When I don’t long to be with him? Thank you AG. I hope you had a very nice vacation.
    Imaginer333

    Like

  40. March 1, 2015 at 12:18 am

    I have been following your blog for awhile now. When I am struggling I often search through your posts hoping to find some insight, hope, and a little reassurance that I am not alone. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and share your experiences.

    My therapist is about to retire. She gave a four month notice. I feel like my heart is breaking. Inside it feels like she is just like everyone else. It feels like a death because our days are numbered. And after the last appt, she will be gone. We will not be able to speak to her. Support will be gone.
    She has found us a new t, an hour commute. (Winter could be tough.) The thought of having to open up to someone new, learn how they work, allow them to see how things work inside, it feels completely overwhelming and lonely. We have seen this new t twice, trying to make the transition easier. But it is really hard to let walls down.
    It is really hard not to feel angry and abandoned. Intellectually, I get it. She is the t and I am simply a client. I am happy for her. I wish it didn’t feel so awful. And wouldn’t be so daunting to think of starting over.

    I did send an email to the therapist that was angry. She doesn’t respond to email and is now away for 2 weeks. I feel awful that I allowed it to be sent.

    Have you ever dealt with a t retiring? Or know how others have?

    Like

    • March 1, 2015 at 5:41 pm

      Pinkmom,
      Glad you asked, my first therapist retired and also gave me four months notice. Your feelings sound very similar to what I felt. I also understand the fear of starting with someone new (but in reality, you don’t go back to the beginning, the things you have learned and your growth go with you, but I know it’s really about having to learn to trust someone else.) And it’s ok that you’re angry with your T, you’re entitled to any and all of your feelings. I actually think this would be a really good post and was wondering if you’d be ok if answer your question that way? I am struggling a bit right now myself but should be able to have it up some time this week. FWIW, I did survive and even flourish and went on to work with BN and have wonderful memories of my T, so as overwhelming as this feels right now, there’s hope. Just let me know if a post in ok and hang in there! ~ AG

      Like

  41. March 1, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    As AG knows, I am in a similar situation…but I saw my T for over 7 years and the loss is indescribable. I have written a very personal account of the feelings I have lived through and still experience in a book I have published on Amazon. Luckily, I have a great woman therapist now who is very nice and understanding and empathetic and I feel very trusting of her, as she trained under my previous T. If you private message me or AG to get my address, I will be glad to send you a copy of the book (for free). It gets better, but is so hard, only those of us who have experienced this type of loss (like a divorce or death, isn’t it?), can understand the heartbreaking loss which no one in our circle of friends or family could relate to, therefore we don’t tell them, but suffer in silence. If AG thinks it’s ok, I would be glad to have you contact me.

    Like

    • March 1, 2015 at 5:44 pm

      Judy,
      It’s incredibly kind of you to offer and if Pinkmom is ok with it, I can act as middleman and provide information either way. Pinkmom if you’re interested, you can email me at ag AT boundaryininjatales.com (there’s a link on the front page) and I can give you Judy’s email address. ~ AG

      Like

  42. March 2, 2015 at 2:41 am

    Thank you, AG and Judy, for the very kind responses. I will shoot you an email. And I would not mind if you answered in a post. Whatever works for you, when you are feeling up to it.

    There is so much that I could say about the retirement, I am not even sure how to begin. I have really struggled to allow tears out (they mostly remain stuck and frozen) and I have to say that I think I have cried more (alone) since t announced her retirement than I did in the five years prior! I feel very ashamed about sharing these emotions with my therapist.

    Another blow was that I also lost my back up therapist through not very ideal circumstances in the last month. It just makes things really hard. And Judy is correct, it is not something that friends or family could ever understand. So it is very lonely and isolating and triggering.

    I really appreciate your responses and I will be in touch via email.
    Thanks again,
    Pink

    Like

  43. March 2, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Please don’t be ashamed Pink. Slowly, so very slowly, it gets better. Would love to hear from you. You and I are just 2 of many who have lost a T who has been so very important to us … it’s not just losing T, but losing that “connection”…the “relationship”. Often a “connection” we have never had with any other human being. I know mine knew more about me than any other person in my life. It is true grief….like a death in our family. There is no timeline for getting through the Stages of Grief and there should not be, as we are all different with unique emotions and “history”.
    I think the world of AG and her posts. She lets us know we are not alone with our feelings. Such a special person.

    Like

    • March 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

      Thanks again for your kind words. I feel a little less crazy about my feelings, but still trying to wrap my brain around not being ashamed. I have a hard time even giving myself permission to have the feelings that are started to happen, which creates it’s own set of issues! I do know that if I allow some feelings that it will bring relief in the end, it is just hard to trust myself with it.
      I am not sure how to send a private message on this site. Feel free to message me, or I have also sent my email to AG.
      Have a great day.

      Like

  44. Communication Girl
    March 12, 2015 at 2:28 am

    Hi AG,

    I, like so many others on this blog, feel comfort in knowing that there is someone else out there feeling similar to me. I was curious what your thoughts are about how to release stubborn emotions. For me, it is crying. I can’t cry with my T. Honestly, I don’t really cry on my own that often, and when I do the pain is unbearable. I can tell my T anything. I’ve told her I’m jealous of her daughter who gets to be loved all the time by her. That some days the really young part of me just feels like burrowing myself into her arms as tightly as possible. There is really nothing I can think of that I haven’t shared with her in session. I feel our therapeutic relationship could not be better. So why can’t I cry? I feel the need to. It’s like the tears are just under the surface of my eyes, but there is an extreme terror to let them out in front of her. I know there isn’t one answer to this, but I was curious if you ever experienced something similar with a locked up emotion.

    Hugs, CG

    Like

    • March 19, 2015 at 11:12 pm

      CG,
      Allowing myself to express my emotions has been an uphill battle and one I’ve been working on for a long time. I think BN’s most oft repeated phrase is “AG, it’s ok to let it out,” I would literally stop breathing when we started working together because i was trying not so hard not to let the feelings out. BN would remind me to breathe. 🙂 I’m going to think this one over to think about how I learned. I’ll either answer here or write a post (depending on how long the answer is. 🙂 ). But be assured what you are going through sounds familiar to me. ~ AG

      Like

      • communication girl
        March 20, 2015 at 1:51 am

        Thanks AG! Although it is very frustrating not being able to release the pain, I’m glad I have found others who I can talk to about it. Great to hear from you. I always look forward to your posts 🙂 hugs, CG

        Like

      • October 31, 2015 at 2:18 am

        Thank you both. Thanks for your site, AG. This is something I’m also currently struggling with in therapy (psychoanalysis). I feel the tears and the sadness, but it’s hard to release. I get anxious and scared and something stops me. It’s really painful. ;-( I’m assuming it’s related to what seems to be a disorganized attachment style, but I’m not quite sure how. Looking forward to any more wisdom you all might have to shed on this troubling dilemma.

        Like

  45. Moto
    April 5, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    AG,

    There is a post you wrote and in that blog you talked about CSA and how it is not our fault. I remember (I think) that you said…nope not that reason either. I have been trying to find that post and I can’t! T and I have been going round and round this whole thing and I wanted to read that post again. He says it’s about me wanting control (I mean do they always have to be right!). Anyway, if you could send that link to me I would appreciate it! I hope you are doing well!

    Like

    • April 5, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Moto,
      The post you’re looking for is What I Learned in Therapy Lesson 4: It wasn’t my fault. Don’t feel bad about struggling with this one. I have been revisiting this one in therapy lately but on a much deeper level. Session before last we went so deep into the need for control that I went into an existential crisis, feeling like a turtle ripped from it’s shell, exposed and defenseless. But I think I’m in a better place. I eventually want to write about it as soon as I can find the words, but just know that there were good reasons we believed this then, but it’s only hurting us now. But giving up that illusion of control? Terrifying and painful stuff! Hang in there! xx AG

      Like

  46. Moto
    April 5, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Yes thank you! That’s the exact one! I can’t wait to read about it when you can put words to it!

    Like

  47. April 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    Hi AG,

    I wanted to ask you about this for a long time, but I wasn’t sure if I could, since it’s such a sensitive issue. How did you recover your memories about your abuse? How did they come back? I just entered a very confusing stage in my therapy, and it feels I might be about to recover some repressed memories too. I can not describe how terrified I am now.
    Maybe it’s not the case… I don’t know. I just want to know what could happen.

    Thank you

    Like

    • April 13, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hi Perfectionist,
      Welcome to my blog and thank you for the question. I am planning on answering, especially as I know it can be a confusing and overwhelming process, but right now am dealing with a very full plate (my husband is working OT on night shift and a dear friend’s father passed away and we’re going to be having some of her family stay with us for the services in addition to the fact that my husband and I were close with her parents and so are mourning in our own right, so my reserves are a bit low). I will be back to either answer here or put up a post on the topic (this is not the first time I’ve been asked this) as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience. ~ AG

      Like

      • April 13, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        Hi AG,
        thank you for your reply. I am very sorry you are having such a difficult time. I hope everything is gonna get better soon!

        Like

  48. Helen
    April 19, 2015 at 11:02 pm

    Hi AG. I am enjoying reading through your blog, although it is a bit triggering. You obviously put a lot of work into it.
    I just read an early post about honking your going crazy- it talked about attachment to your therapist and how it can help to find a therapist who allows outside of appointment contact. I had this, but I found that the more I could contact her the worse it got. It was like I just needed more and more and more of her- the nicer she was, the more I wanted her. It culminated with me self harming badly (which is not something I do a lot). As I’m sure you’ll understand, it wasn’t a choice like, if I do this then she’ll do x, y or a but it was definitely tied up in the pain of wanting my AF and not being able to get all I wanted. Anyway, my fantastic therapist put an end to me being able to contact her whenever and now we have much much firmer boundaries. Thing is, reading your post, I get scared, if I can’t control my ability to contact my AF, then will I heal? Right now, I desperately want to contact her but can’t/ shouldn’t. If I did, I don’t know what I’d say, I just want to know she cares and is there but she would say that I know this, that she has proved it to me time and time again. I’ve been seeing her 5 years and part of me thinks she is taking a step back, asking me to start standing on my own 2 feet more, but I don’t feel ready- I still need her reassurances and support. Mind you, if I did call her now, I’d probably feel pretty crap after, feeling like I had broken the rules etc etc and the. It would be worse. Argh too hard. Any words of wisdom???!!
    Thanks,
    Helen

    Like

    • April 20, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Hi Helen,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting. I really understand why you’re struggling, having that kind of boundary moved, even for the best and most justifiable of reasons would be difficult and painful for any client, and even more so for people with attachment issues. I also understand you wanting to just reach out and know your T is there. Most of my phone calls to BN are under two minutes. We both understand that I just need to hear his voice and be able to experience him being there, we don’t do a lot of processing on the phone (there have been a few longer calls here and there during real crisis situations.) I will say thought that BN once told me when we were discussing the boundaries around contact, because I was worried about contacting him too much, that if he thought it was too much, we’d discuss it. Not because I’d be in trouble but because if the frequency got too high, it would be a sign that the contact wasn’t working and we’d need to try something different.

      Is your therapist willing to discuss your feelings around this? I do think that respecting the boundaries she sets is very important, but you should be free to discuss how this change has made you feel without her getting defensive about it. I think discussing what it is you think you need and how to provide it, while respecting the boundaries she has put into place, would be a good approach. There may be other ways, such as her leaving a voicemail on your phone, or giving you a handwritten note, or some object from her office to help you hang onto the connection when you’re not seeing her. FWIW, I have been seeing BN for over nine years and still do occassionally contact him between sessions, although I will confess I also do not do so as often as I used to, although it really is dependent on what I am going through at any given time. And I don’t think healing is about whether or not you can contact your therapist, its about whether you can be heard and understood so that you can learn you matter. The yes or no of any particular situation isn’t as important as being able to express our feelings about the yes or no. The best thing to do is to talk to your therapist about how you’re feeling, for as long as you need to. There are good reasons these longings are so intense for you, you are just not yet conscious of the reasons. Talking about the feelings are how you bring those reasons into consciousness which then allows you to make changes. I hope you are able to find some relief. ~ AG

      Like

      • Helen
        April 20, 2015 at 10:48 pm

        THank you for your swift and lovely response. I just read the ‘crazy’ post again and I thknk I will be reading it many more times. I want what you say you have at the end, ‘an earned secure attachment’. My relationship with my therapist is going that way I think but it is hard work and at the moment I am scared stiff that we will never get there- that I will live with these attachment fears forever.
        Keep posting- you have a new follower!!
        Thanks,
        Helen

        Like

  49. Emma
    May 1, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Hi AG

    I have just started reading the book ‘who is it that can tell me who I am?’ I am finding bits of myself that resonate there about her relationship with her analyst…. I wanted to share it with you in case you had not read it 🙂

    Emma

    Like

    • May 1, 2015 at 10:53 pm

      Hi Emma,
      Thanks! I have not read that one and always love book recommendations, I will have to check it out. Very thoughtful of you. 🙂 ~ AG

      Like

  50. Willow
    May 31, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Hi AG….not sure if my question will make sense,,,but I am looking for the blog you wrote abt the ‘why’ do this whole thing,,..the therapy, the process and the hoped benefits….I think I might have asked you in the comment section of it if you felt it was worthwhile….I am looking through the blogs but can’t seem to find it.,,any ideas if you have the time to answer? Thank you, hope all is well..

    Like

    • May 31, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Willow,
      I went back through your comments and I think the post you are referring to is Coping with Grief and Abandonment Part I. But I also wrote a post explicitly on why I keep going, which was Why keep going back?. Last but not least, another post where we had a bit of a discussion that is somewhat related to this topic is How do I fill the void?. I am hoping one of those were the post you were looking for. If not, let me know and I’ll see what else I can come up with.

      And thanks, I am doing well. Life has been hectic and therapy has entailed some very deep, difficult work so I’m not around as much as I would like. But I am heading out Wednesday for vacation and very much looking forward to some time to relax and recharge. For more details, you can see the post I just put up. 🙂 ~AG

      Like

  51. FullMoon8
    June 18, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Hi AG,
    I’m new here and blown away in both good and bad ways, as I”m glad to know others have experienced this pain only to heal and also now sad that I realize I have heavy attachment needs.
    I am now doing the dance with my therapist, as in “I’m done seeing you because it’s easier not to deal with this or I really need to keep coming because it’s helping me know myself.” My transference is fading a bit, but is still present after 8 months.
    He, like your BN is strong and solid, and I am grateful to have him, as painful as it is.
    How do you deal with the resistance. I either want him all the time or not at all. The 7 days til my next appointment are unbearable.
    I hate myself for wanting to/needing to email him. He lets me and I always tell him he doesn’t have to respond. So it’s kind of like a journal entry, but a little better and it sort of soothes me.
    I’m torn between forbidding myself to contact him between appointments or to just stop fighting it and accept that is where I am and what I need.
    So hoping for some answers. Do you have a Listicle for this, something along the lines of how to not contact your Therapist during the week, or top 10 tips to beat transference . Have seriously thought of locking my phone/computer or wearing handcuffs til I ride it out . 🙂

    Like

    • June 20, 2015 at 10:16 pm

      FullMoon8,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for introducing yourself. I am glad that you are finding some insight here. I do have a few answer for you, but I’m afraid you’re not going to like them too much. 🙂 First, contacting your T between sessions: if he offers it, it is his boundary and it’s good to take advantage of it. To quote BN “you never know when the need for your attachment figure might arise.” I really, really struggled with contact, consciously because I feared becoming too dependent, but unconsciously, because it was terrifying to actually reach out and ask for what I needed. As soon as I express a need, I feel like i am too much. Reaching out between sessions was a chance to reach out and express a need and experiencing that not only was it met, but it strengthened the relationship. I also find that paradoxically giving myself permission to contact my T means I need to do so less often. Knowing he is available helps. We have also perfected what BN calls my “patented one minute phone calls.” I don’t process a lot during calls, I just call to connect and sometimes ask for reassurance. Doing so has been an important part of my healing. If you haven’t read it yet, my post Identifying and Expressing Needs might be helpful. The best way out, is through.
      As for the transference? Keep going back, be as honest as possible about your feelings even if you feel like the only thing you are discussing is the relationship. We were wounded in relationship and we heal in relationship. Paying attention to what goes on between you and your therapist is how to learn to know yourself and become conscious of your unconscious actions. Our ‘stuff” tends to play out in the space between us and our therapists. It’s ok to be dependent for a bit, it’s ok, and normal and healthy to need other people. I’d recommend reading “The General Theory of Love” to gain some understanding into how every human needs other humans. For those of us who did not get what we needed as children, our T provides the opportunity for us to learn that moving close and experiencing connection are positive things. It’s very hard work because what you need to do is also what feels like the most dangerous thing to do. If we grow up getting what we need, the attachment is a taken for granted, every present reality we live in and pay no attention to, even while it enables us to explore and question and learn about ourselves. Part or the damage that happens through abuse or neglect is that we focus totally on the attachment. is it there? Is it real? Are we too much? Can we really be ourselves? Is all of me acceptable” One of the goals of therapy is to learn and take our T’s care and acceptance and even presence as a given which we can depend on, so that we can learn and grow.

      ~AG

      Like

      • FullMoon8
        July 8, 2015 at 1:44 pm

        I ultimately had to leave my therapist in late June due to the transference. My therapist never provided the insights that BN does. I would think that would make it much easier. I actually feel freed up, relieved, feelings I did not expect, so I kind of know now that it was a good thing to terminate. I’m thinking it was love and not transference. The therapist did not remind me of anyone in my past and the only thing that seemed to happen each time I went is that I would fall further and further in love. I look forward to finding another therapist, one that does not intentionally pour on the tricks!

        Like

        • FullMoon8
          July 9, 2015 at 4:58 pm

          It happens to be a woman that he was so kind to refer me to in his practce , but a different building, so I won’t have to bump into him! I think the fact that he and the woman work together is a good thing as I can sign a release for them to speak! She and him started the practice so I feel like i’m being referred on in a genuine way to the care of someone he respects , knows and works with! I think it will be a good move for both of us!

          Like

  52. FullMoon8
    June 20, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    AG, thanks so much for this response about my newly identified attachment needs. Lots of work ahead.
    I do worry that I’ll abuse the generosity of being able to email. I can’t even think of going to a phone call as that would be the trigger of all triggers.
    So for now I just hope to keep reading your blog and accept I’ve just started the journey to feeling attached in this world. Thanks for the recommendations for further reading.

    Like

  53. FullMoon8
    June 20, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    What does your “needing reassurance language” sound like? Is it like this?
    “Feeling a little unsettled here, feeling like I could use a boost of “you’re doing great”

    Like

  54. FullMoon8
    June 20, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Also does BN read your blog? He sounds really cool.

    Like

  55. FullMoon8
    June 21, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    AG! Nevermind I found the actual dialogue you say in your Identifying and Expressing Needs post. You are an amazing person , writer, so generous with your info so we can all heal faster!
    Thank you.

    Like

    • June 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Fullmoon,
      Glad you found it, it’s pretty representative of the kinds of calls we have. And as far as my blog, BN has read some of it. Actually when I started the blog, I sent him a link and he said he was going to read it, but then didn’t for four months! I ended up actually telling him that I was angry and hurt about it (terrified the whole time that I was violating a boundary or being too demanding) and he handled it beautifully. Then made sure he had read it before our next session. He had enough feedback and thoughtful comments that it is obvious he read at least several of the posts (eek!). There has been a time or two since then where he has read because I specifically asked him to, but if he stops by on his own, I’m not aware of it. In fairness, he does therapy all day, I can understand why he wouldn’t want to read about it later and there’s very little I write here that I don’t being into the room. But overall, he has been extremely supportive of my writing. I also started volunteering on the crisis line in response to a suggestion he made. When it comes to living a fuller life, he tends to be very supportive. 🙂

      AG

      Like

  56. communication girl
    July 1, 2015 at 12:43 am

    Hi AG!

    Several months ago I asked you about how you dealt with stubborn emotions that won’t come out in therapy. For me it’s always been hard to cry and/or be angry. Well, after almost four years with my T, I finally cried in session. I had imagined it would come out in waves when it finally happened, and that I would feel embarrassed. But, it was very manageable (not overwhelming) and felt safe. I had begun to think I would never be able to cry with my T. I feel so relieved to have made this step as I feel it is a sign of extreme trust for me. My work centers around being seen and shame, so I know for me to be seen in such a vulnerable state is huge.

    I really wanted to share this with you. I don’t have anyone in my life who will understand how important this step is for me. I feel a kinship with you as I’ve followed your journey. Thank you for the vulnerability and courage you share with all of us.

    Hugs,
    Communication Girl

    Like

    • July 5, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      CG,
      Thank you so much for sharing this! You’re right, this is a MAJOR step forward. To risk being vulnerable and allowing our shame and our needs to be seen can be such a terrifying step to take when we have so much experience which tells us not to do so. BN calls it the hellish bind of healing because we must do the very thing that our whole being is crying out we should not do. I appreciate your kind words about any help you may have received from my writing, but it was your courage that made the difference. I am glad that you are able to recognize and celebrate this accomplishment. It is truly lovely that you felt safe, I hope you continue to experience that. xx AG

      Like

  57. FullMoon8
    July 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    HI AG! Hope you are doing well and sitting tight with all your family happenings! I just wanted to ask what you call BN
    Is it Dr. _____, Mr._______ or First Name. I don’t need to know his name, but was just wondering what title you may use or does he allow you to use his first name?

    Like

    • July 17, 2015 at 9:45 pm

      Hi FullMoon8,
      I call BN by his first name and he uses mine (very effectively, I might add. He tends to say it when he’s trying to emphasize something important or to comfort me). My husband saw BN for a number of years before we saw him together or I saw him individually so the first time I met him was because I went to one of my husband’s sessions. He called BN by his first name so that’s how we were introduced. BN is an Licensed Certified Social Worker which means he has a Masters of Social Work which in the States (not sure where you are) means four years of post graduate work. There is no formal title for a Master’s degree, so my only two choices would have been Mr. or his first name. But my husband was on a first name basis already so it would have been a bit awkward if I used “Mr. BN.” 🙂 Although I do want to add that even if he had a doctorate, we would probably be on a first name basis. BN has a lot of humility and works from a “wounded healer” perspective, meaning that he recognizes that there are two human beings in the room who both have their own stuff, it’s just that in our relationship he is in the role of addressing my needs. We’re not particulary formal with each other and have even been known to do a bit of gentle teasing at each other’s expense. 🙂 ~ AG

      Like

      • Fullmoon08
        July 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

        Wow Great reciprocity…a true relationship. I wish you could share his info. He’d probably be inundated with calls 🙂

        Like

  58. LJ
    July 20, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Hi AG
    Thanks for the great site. I’m currently in therapy (4 months) and learning (fast) about my attachment issues. Whilst the awareness is great….. On a logical level I can see why I am the way I am, I’m struggling to do this and maintain a relationship with my significant other…. My heart is telling me to have some space and look after me but my partner has become the focus of my attachment and I cannot bear to say goodbye….. This is so overwhelming it terrifies me. Any insight you can give would be very much appreciated LJ

    Like

    • Fullmoon08
      July 23, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Hi LG! My issues seem similar , can u tell more? I have a beautiful
      SO , but want to grow & detach right now, they are eilling to allow for that, but it is very painful.

      Like

    • July 24, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      LJ,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for coming. I am glad you like my blog. It’s hard to provide insight into your situation with so little to go on. If I am understanding you correctly, the growing awareness and understanding you are gaining in therapy is leading you to believe that you need more space from your partner, BUT the thought of actually leaving your partner is terrifying and painful. It’s like you know the right thing to do, but it’s really scary to do it? There is a really strong dynamic among childhood trauma victims (not sure if that describes you, but am assuming that if you are discovering attachment issues, there was some form of neglect, or abuse in your childhood) to stay close to people they are attached to, even if that person is not good for them to be around. As children, we must stay near our caregivers or die. So no matter how bad our parents are or how badly they treat us, we learn to adapt and conform to their expectations in order to stay close. So making it work no matter what the cost is a survival strategy from childhood that continues to drive our behavior as adults. BUT, we are no longer helpless children with no resources. We will not actually die by moving away from someone, no matter how much it feels like we will. Have you discussed these feelings with your therapist? I think it’s the perfect thing to take into therapy. If you do come to the conclusion that you need to move away from your partner, you will need a lot of support. I hope this may have helped in some way. ~ AG

      Like

  59. Elphaba
    August 8, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks AG for leading me to your blog. I am learning a lot by reading it! But I’m still afraid of transference. It’s so hard!

    Like

    • August 13, 2015 at 12:01 pm

      Elphaba,
      So glad that you feel like you are gaining understanding from reading here; thanks for taking the time to say so. And it’s perfectly sane to be afraid of transference! Healing from these kinds of injuries can be painful and difficult. I have always said that therapy for this is not for the faint of heart! But healing is possible and I think in the end makes it worth facing our fears and going through the pain. ~ AG

      Like

  60. marleym6
    August 11, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Good morning AG
    Just a note to follow up on your last (wise) response to me. (I agree in theory) I recently tried finding a Christian counselor. My Church has a list. After speaking with the head of the spiritual care team together we decided on a PsyD. Because of my unsettled ending with sweet T, I decided to research the person that was suggested through my church, after making the appointment. (Even that was a daunting task) well, my research showed that he was suspended but he was still practicing. Not only did I have to share this with the church, but also I had to call and cancel my appointment. I figured no one would be in the office at 7 AM so I chose that time to call. Turns out, that was his cell phone and I woke him up. Not a good or safe thing. The PsyD had an affair with someone he was training. I learned a few things though. Did you know there is an app called license verification? You can look up anybody to see if they are licensed in their field. Also I learned that you can read lots of stuff on the New Jersey Board of psychological examiners website. You can look up doctors in your state to see if they have any disciplinary actions. It’s all there right for the public to read in detail . I told my church, and they are investigating. But I have not heard yet . Keep doing what you are doing, AG. You are providing a wonderful service. Thank you .

    Like

    • August 13, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      marley,
      Good to hear from you! I am sorry that your search for a new therapist took such a scary turn. Thanks so much for writing this here, as I think it is very useful information for anyone looking for a new therapist.

      And may I offer a suggestion. I know your faith is very important to you and central to who you are, but would you consider seeing a therapist who is not a Christian counselor? It gives you a wider pool to choose from and often a better trained one (I am not saying there are not fully qualified Christians who practice as therapists, my first T was) but there are also a lot of folks in the church who work as counselors but have not actually been educated in psychology. Any truly competent therapist should respect, support and work within your worldview. BN has beliefs different from mine in some essential ways, but in many areas I see us overlaping but using different words to describe the same thing. But in any case, he has always respected my beliefs. Keep looking, I hope you find a therapist who can help you heal. xx AG

      Like

  61. KH
    September 19, 2015 at 4:40 am

    Hi AG!

    I found your blog awhile back and it has helped me sooo much so I thank you! I had a question and I was hoping you could give me some advice. Sometimes in sessions when I am feeling intense feelings like shame or anger I lose my words and can’t talk. My therapist could ask me a hundred times what is going on for me but I literally can’t talk. In my head I know what I want to say but it’s like it doesn’t translate into words for me. this big black cloud just wraps itself around me and I can’t verbalize anything. It’s sooo frustrating. The longer this happens the more frustrated I get and then I just shut down. Which makes waiting a week for our next session excruciating. I feel so dumb when this happens because I have no idea why I can’t just say it. I know I can trust her and She is also so gracious when I tell her something new that was really hard for me. Does any of that make sense? I just don’t understand why I can’t form the words to anything. So frustrated.

    Like

  62. kelly
    September 19, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Bless, it is the same for me, I really struggle to talk and tell what’s going on in my head, sometimes i cant even say what’s happened in my week so I understand your frustrations completely.

    I find I have a little run when its easier and then its like I get scared that I’ve said too much or something, worry about what he thinks, that I will be rejected or abandoned etc. Ive spoken about this, and was told that due to my early experiences that I shut down and applied a filter on everything I said so not to say the wrong thing.
    Cant say that’s much help but I take a notepad with me, sometimes I can write a few things down, I may not be able to speak those words but I can sometimes had the paper over. Ive often written letters or sent emails between sessions which can also be useful.
    Good luck take care

    Like

    • KH
      September 19, 2015 at 8:09 am

      I write emails too. And last session she had a notepad for me and I was able to write what I wanted to say and give it to her. I wrote an email a couple of days ago and sent it. I thought about the email and what was in it and panicked. I called her and asked her not to read it. She said she wouldn’t. Everything just gets so jumbled I can’t organize anything to talk about and the more she asks what’s going on the dumber I feel because I can’t talk. :-/

      Like

  63. kelly
    September 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

    I understand that feeling all to well, sadly I dont have the answers if I did id gladly share. I even questioned if he was the right person to take the journey with, deep down I know he is – he knows so much but I struggle with the deep stuff, the stuff he wants and needs me to get to, but the more I struggle to talk the more I shut down the more I ” beat myself” make things worse. I also panic over email content I could barely get in the door on my last session! I “talk” with him all the time, ive told him everything, but his not there, I’m hoping that one day I’m surprised and here his voice, hoping AG has some advice! Take care

    Like

  64. D.
    October 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I’m uncertain if this is where to ask a question. I happened upon this Website and was floored by some of the writing.I read words I’ve never been able to express.

      A very long time ago, I was date raped. It was way before there was a term for it. For many  reasons, I never told anyone. Now, for the first time, I'm in therapy trying to deal with my child's addiction problems. I'd do anything to see my child live a different life so when my T. said some things didn't add up, I was honest & for the first time in my life, told someone that I was raped. I didn't go into any details.This in itself was overwhelming. After the session I drove to my job in a mental fog. I can't remember much of anything except evidently I left my car running in the parking lot with the doors wide open. Had know idea until someone came to get me.
     I'd love to be free of the anxieties and limitations this has left for half a lifetime. I'm ashamed to say that I can't even call the male addiction counselor that was recommended because I'm terrified of being alone with a man  in a closed room.  When my T. tried a basic boundry exercise I freaked. It took all my strength to return to therapy. We're working on some other things but I know it's the elephant in the room. I'm filled with guilt & shame. I've modeled a life of distrust & isolation for my child and can't help but believe this had a major influence in his becoming a addict.  How do I explain that my fears come from a rape that I've kept secret for over 30 years?
    

    Are some things too far gone to work thru? Is there a way out after all these years?
    Anytime my T. & I get near the subject, I can’t seem to get past the anxiety attacks.

    Stuck

    Like

  65. EJ
    December 10, 2015 at 3:42 am

    I am really struggling with my transference it is so bad that I want to kill myself. I have cancelled my sessions with my therapist because I can’t cope not getting any love back. Now I am so depressed because just the thought that I won’t see her again is too much. I feel like a wild animal running loose and my therapist can’t catch me. Did you ever feel like you want to punish yourself for feeling all thsee emotions towards your therapist?

    Like

    • Emma
      December 10, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Yes I regularly feel I want to punish myself for feelings towards my therapist…it’s truly painful and awful feeling that…. The anger is towards your therapist (some person in the past in reality probably) but your therapist can hold that for you if you let them..

      Have you told your therapist? If not I urge you to go back and give it a chance. The fact that you are having such strong feelings about your therapist means that you have hope I think that they may be able to hear you… Anger about your unmet needs. You have invested in the relationship, let it hold you…. It’s the work that needs to be done…: above all be kind to yourself…. Therapy is bloody painful
      Emma

      Like

  66. Kayla
    May 30, 2016 at 2:33 am

    Hi AG,
    I have disorganized attachment. I worked with a spiritual teacher for 6 years who I felt had my back and was reparenting me only to find out he wasn’t at all. He told me to stay in a relationship with a pothead and that I had to abide by this guy with his sexual perversions and potsmoking because ‘when do we want God to give up on us’
    When I finally broke it off with the guy and started to question my spiritual teacher he became super verbally abusive and then refused to see me anymore as a client. This was so retraumatizing to me I developed severe PTSD. For the first time in my life I had night terrors and stopped sleeping. It’s been 3 years and I still don’t sleep. I’ve seen countless trauma therapists in 3 different states and most of them retraumatize me even having knowledge of attachment theory and SE. My current therapist knows all about attachment and even is studying NARM but I feel too far gone for 2x/week sessions with her to make any difference. It’s been 6 months and I don’t feel any less suicidal. I guess my question is if you know of anything I can do about the spiritual abuse either legally or to help heal from it. Thank you

    Like

  67. HopelesslyAttached
    May 31, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    AG, I absolutely love your blog. It is the most real thing out there.It has truly helped me see I am so not alone. So many of your feelings, I could have written…. But, I do have a question. I’m curious how your husband reacts or responds to the strong erotic/attachment feelings you have for BN? Has BN involved your husband in sessions to help him understand? How does your husband deal with your issues, therapist, etc. I think I’ve learned I will always stick with a female therapist.

    Like

    • June 1, 2016 at 10:39 am

      Hi Hopelessly Attached,
      Welcome and thank you for the kind words, I am so glad that you are finding the blog helpful on your journey. I have not been around much of late, but I once posted a comment about this topic in response to a reader which I think provides a good answer (but update us to 30 years, we just celebrated our 30th anniversary last month!) https://boundaryninjatales.com/2011/12/08/what-i-learned-in-therapy-lesson-5-the-relationship-of-love-and-pain/#comment-499

      And my husband and I saw BN for couples’ work before I saw him individually (he was actually my husband’s T first, if you wish to hear the full story, you can find it here: The Beginning Part I) so I was very open with my husband and told him about my feelings just after I had told BN for the first time and we discussed the feelings all together on a number of occasions. I am very blessed in that my husband, through his own experiences, understands where the intensity of these feelings is really coming from and works hard to be accepting. I understand your reaction in staying away from a male therapist, but to be very honest, for me it was vitally important that I work with a male T at some point. Issues came up that truly needed to be addressed in order for me to heal, that I could avoid when working with a woman. My dad was my abuser so obviously a male T was more triggering in his symbolic role. But I needed to do the work I did with my first female T to be ready to do the work with BN. I’m definitely NOT saying this is true for everyone, just that it was for me. I wish you the best in your healing.

      AG

      Like

  68. HopelesslyAttached
    May 31, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    Therapy has got to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s funny how we feel weak because when you step back therapy is for anyone but the weak!

    Like

    • kelly
      June 1, 2016 at 1:13 am

      Couldn’t agree more, to walk this path and complete this journey takes incredibly strength something I’m only just beginning to truly see yet those feelings of being weak and pathetic remain as strong as they were as if I am still that small needy child. I wish everyone who visits this site whether its hope, support, reassurance or guidance they are looking for the very best on their journey dont ever forgot how courageous and strong you truly are we may not feel it but it is within us all after all we survived!

      Like

  69. HopelesslyAttached
    June 1, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Very well explained. You are one lucky woman. My therapist could also be titled BN. Sometimes, I’m thankful for those boundaries and sometimes it’s makes me furious. Do not have the romantic feelings but I do struggle with feeling connected to her once I leave therapy. She is a great counselor and also allows me to email. Do you still feel the need to email as much? Has it gotten better? Sometimes, it’s my way to try to feel connected. Although, she doesn’t email back like BN. Certainly going to try the transition object. Going to talk to her about it today. Thank you for your blog. Some of the entries I read I think, I could have written that. It is so helpful to me to realize I’m not crazy with all these feelings.

    Like

  70. Sydney
    September 15, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Hello, found this blog by googling ‘ how to heal disorganized attachment’
    Any advice on how to know you have found the right therapist ? There is a therapist who I saw some years ago when I had a breakdown ? Who does abandonment therapy based on the masterton approach. She refers to people as patients and the world of choosing and paying for adequate therapy as the market place. I trust (or put her on a pedastal ?) with the fact that she may be constant and unchanging but then the way sh refers to people as patients doesn’t sit right with me, at this point I don’t believe patient refers to someone in a transient way rather someone that suffers from an illness. I spoke to her on the phone about the cost which for me is a lot, over $100 a session and I need to see someone weekly I suffer somatic memories and non epileptic seizures when things come up and I understand the feeling of thinking you are going to die or the feeling that the terror your experiencing is actually far worse than death. It’s unbelievable.
    I haven’t started to see her but I said to her I really don’t think I can afford that amount and explained why and she said that she believed that it wasn’t really about that that if she charged me $10 less or $20 less I would still have the stress I am experiencing and that if I wanted someone who would charge less then she would find me someone who was capable and willing to work with me at a reduced rate ( one of her students)
    What do you think ??? I need help now due to no support and in a horrible situation where my husband and I live together separated with our 5 year old daughter, I disassociate also and find it really hard with the stress to distinguish the now feelings from the past and whether he is psychologically abusive or its my triggers…
    Any advice, seems anyone good is too expensive for me and I don’t want someone who’s not as I’ve experienced retraumatisation from inexperienced therapists
    Thanks
    Sydney

    Like

    • Cat Jacobs
      September 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Sydney, For what it’s worth, I have been through it and have some standard advice many people find helpful. 3 years ago events precipitated a horror-filled time of my life that was diagnosed as PTSD (waayyy too late). Prior to that, much developmental trauma and disorganized attachment on board. Dissociation, severe depression and panic attacks, night terrors – all of these I am very familiar with. I could not for the life of me find a good therapist for over 2 years. Many of the people I saw (I sought out trauma therapists) were incredibly retraumatizing at a time when I could not afford that on any level: emotionally, psychologically, finacially. And yet, here I am. Even after being hospitalized for suicide I am still here and finally found a good therapist. My point is, the search may take a while, may take years. I didn’t think I had years. I almost died and wanted to die ALL the time for over 2 years straight.
      Although my current therapist is versed in attachment theory I have no attachment with her after a whole year. I keep going because she does Trauma Touch Skills. I have found that the PHYSICAL component of somatic healing is vital. To that end, I would even recommended a Cranial Sacral body worker before a standard attachment therapist.
      You need your nervous system to rewire pathways of resiliencey. That rewiring happens for some people through the relationship but for people with major somatic stuff the rewiring needs to happen on the physical level first before the relational. This is my earnest opinion.
      A person is less likely to form a deep attachment to a body worker and so it’s a really good place to start to build capacity in your system. Also, it’s much cheaper than therapy. Other types of bodywork that are gentle and very helpful for somatic regulation are: Bowen Therapy, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais in addition to Cranial Sacral.
      Also, if you are in a major city in the US (LA, Seattle, Minneapolis, Austin, Chicago, Portland) you can find a therapist specifically trained in Trauma Touch Skills. Usually these therapists have completed the SE (Somatic Experiece) training already so are versed in Attachment Theory and polyvagal theory.
      I sincerely hope this helps.

      Like

  71. alisonquigley
    September 16, 2016 at 2:18 am

    I love this blog. I am a novelist and would like to mention it in my upcoming novel called Trapped. I would like to be in touch with you on a more personal forum, so we can discuss. Thanks AG.

    Like

  72. June 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    How did you get your blog up and going? I have been at it 2 years and I’m not doing something right. I just want to help people

    Like

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