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But therapy can take us a long way: Learning Developmental Skills Part 1

November 23, 2011 4 comments

This was going to be the second part of a discussion on how therapy is not enough. I talked about how therapy isn’t enough to make up for the loss of the unmet needs of childhood which are impossible to meet now because we are no longer children and unable to take in the kind of love and care on a deep enough level to completely wipe out the loss. Even if someone was willing to re-parent us, the behavior a parent exhibits towards their child is not appropriate for an adult. But the second half of the equation, that I wanted to address here is the developmental steps that were skipped or distorted by not having our needs met or being taught certain skills because our parents did not know them either. This is also a big part of why therapy can be so painful even though no one is doing anything wrong this time around. I had been planning on covering all of the developmental learning in the rest of this post but as I outlined what I wanted to say, it became evident that the post would become a twee long even for me. So instead, this is the beginning of a series. 🙂 Continue Reading

Therapy isn’t enough

November 21, 2011 27 comments

Therapy isn’t enough. Never has been, never will be. The Boundary Ninja would often say that to me when I would bring up my pain about his boundaries. I had all the classic complaints. How could I work through what I needed to in only 50 minutes a week? How do I open up when I need to and then pull it back together to walk out? Why couldn’t he hold me and comfort me when I was in pain? Why couldn’t I see him outside of therapy and know more about him? Why couldn’t I live under his desk? 🙂

Now the first time he ever told me therapy wasn’t enough, I must confess gentle reader, that what went through my head was “What the f***?!?! If you know that, then why in hell am I here?! I have no f***ing idea what you’re talking about?!?” Took me a long time to express that (I do believe I cleaned up my language when I asked. But maybe not, I could sometimes really rip loose in the BN’s office. Mainly because the first time I ever used the “F” word in front of him, when I calmed down I apologized for my language. He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to apologize for that, adults talk that way when they’re angry, we sanitize things too much and I should express myself however I needed to. I have often wondered if he ever regretted saying that. :)) He said many times to me (he had to repeat most things to me about 13563 times as I am slow to catch on) that therapy isn’t enough, and honestly, I thought it was extremely puzzling for a long time. I mean, I heard the words, but had no idea what he meant by them. But I eventually learned their truth. Continue Reading

What I Learned in Therapy Lesson 4: It wasn’t my fault

November 7, 2011 16 comments

Therapy Lesson One
Therapy Lesson Two
Therapy Lesson Three

Therapy Lesson #4: I wasn’t responsible for the sexual abuse nor did I deserve any of it.

This was a VERY tough lesson. It’s a very tough lesson for most victims of abuse but especially so for people who experience long term abuse as children. So many of the circumstances around abuse and developmental truths about children can feed into the perception on the victim’s part that they “deserved” the abuse, they “asked” for the abuse or they are some kind of pathetic target for abuse because there is something fundamentally warped in them. We can have a very good cognitive understanding that it wasn’t our fault, but to get that emotionally? Long uphill battle. There is an almost incomprehensible level of shame around this subject, which doesn’t make it easy to talk about. But the only way to break through shame is to talk about it. Terrifying to say the least. Couple this with the fact that so many victims actually believe that if they get close to someone and let them know what happened, they’ll infect them with their “darkness.” So it took a very long time and being told over and over and experiencing compassion from so many people around me to learn this one. Continue Reading

Disorganized Attachment or Why You Think You’re Crazy But Really Aren’t

October 14, 2011 176 comments

People with insecure attachment: avoidant, anxious or disorganized, tend to have a much more interesting time in therapy than people who formed secure attachments in childhood. I want to talk about insecure attachment and its affect on therapy, with an emphasis on disorganized attachment since that was with what I struggled. Human beings are born unable to care for themselves in any way; they are totally dependent literally as a matter of life and death on their caregiver, usually their mother, but whomever it is that is responsible for caring for them as a child. (That’s so our heads are small enough so that a baby can be delivered. Can you imagine delivering a child with an adult sized head? Time out for all the readers who have delivered babies to wince and say “OUCH!” Okay, everyone back?) There is a biological imperative for the child to stay close and there is a corresponding biological imperative on the part of the caregiver to respond to the needs of the infant. Thus the two humans, infant and caregiver, form an attachment bond. Humans form attachments throughout their life, but none as profound or far-reaching as the one they experience with their parents. That bond, formed while we are developing, has the power to shape both how we see ourselves and the nature of the universe in which we live. Continue Reading

What I learned in therapy Lesson 1

October 7, 2011 5 comments

See here for Lesson 2

See here for Lesson 3

I was once asked on the psychcafe forum the the 10 most important things I learned in therapy. I couldn’t hold it down to ten. 😀 I went back and dusted off the list and thought it would be good to go back through it now.  I was in therapy with my first therapist for three separate runs of therapy over a span of almost 22 years until her retirement about five years ago. I took a year off, then started working with the Boundary Ninja (who was originally my husband’s therapist and had been doing couples’ work with us. Which is material for a whole ‘nother post. :)). Once we keyed in on my attachment problems, the work really took off. Last September, I made the decision to stop going regularly. The Boundary Ninja is a therapist of the “once a client, always a client” school of thought and his door has remained open, including emails or phone calls and when I feel the need, I contact him and go in for a session. I have went up to a four month gap between sessions but probably average seeing him about once every four to six weeks, with emails and occasional calls in between seeing him live. So this seems like a good time to revisit what I learned from the Boundary Ninja.

Before I begin discussing the lessons learned, I want to say that the most difficult thing to explain about healing in therapy is that it isn’t about “knowing” it’s about experiencing being with another person. So much of what I talk about below totally gonzo confused me when I first learned it. I used to tell the Boundary Ninja, that he was talking in Russian when he started explaining a lot of this to me. But staying with my feelings and continuing to express them through the confusion is how I learned it. And I must give credit here to my therapist who is really an incredibly gifted, compassionate man doing exactly what he should be.  Whenever you find yourself thinking that I really know what I’m talking about, I can guarantee it’s because I am quoting the Boundary Ninja. 😀
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Helpful Books

October 7, 2011 14 comments

I am a compulsive reader, always have been. So if a problem rears it’s head, my first reaction is “is there a book about this?” Part of it, to be honest, was an attempt to stay in my left brain and intellectualize away from those messy, confusing feelings. I really struggled with the fact that I couldn’t get through the healing process just by understanding it. The Boundary Ninja often said that if it was just about knowing the facts, that when a client came through the door, he would be able to just hand them a book “How to Heal” and say, have a nice life. 🙂 I often found that to be incredibly frustrating. Later, as I came to understand that the real healing in therapy wasn’t about what you knew, but about what you experienced with your therapist, I kept reading to keep my left brain occupied and out of the way (not to mention the fact that I just became fascinated about the brain, human development and psychotherapy). But, as the Boundary Ninja and I once discussed, it wasn’t just about distraction. My ability to understand the process and the necessity of experiencing the feelings helped me to find the courage to actually feel.

Below is a short list of books I found especially helpful along the way, with a short description of why. As for General Theory of  Love,  I’ve pushed this book so hard I really should consider contacting the publisher and asking for a commission. Big Grin
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Boundaries, Dependence and Interdependence

October 5, 2011 14 comments

We often discuss boundaries in terms of the therapeutic relationship but the truth is that all healthy relationships require boundaries. Boundaries are what tell us where we end and where the other person begins; what is our responsibility and what is the others. Boundaries allow us to concentrate on the things we can actually control and not take on things we cannot.

Even though boundaries are present in all relationships, they are more noticeable in therapy for several reasons. The first is that the therapeutic relationship is a weird duck, unlike any other type of relationship we have, although it can take on characteristics of other relationships: parent, friend, mentor, lover etc. Because of the unique nature of the relationship, we run into boundaries in places we usually wouldn’t which makes us take notice. Not being able to know about the other person’s thoughts and feelings can feel very unnatural and therefore is more noticeable. Another reason they are so noticeable is that therapists are trained (or should be in theory) to be very conscious of boundaries and to hold them clearly. The therapist needs to be especially conscious of the boundaries as they do not come naturally in therapy, and in some cases can be a boundary which occurs in no other type of relationship. Continue Reading

Welcome to Tales of a Boundary Ninja

October 5, 2011 9 comments

Welcome to Tales of a Boundary Ninja. I am a long term therapy client who has learned a lot along the way, from a lot of sources, the most important of which was a really superb therapist I affectionately call the Boundary Ninja. (H/T to Strummergirl for the name!) This blog is a place for me to share the insights and knowledge I have gathered on my healing journey. Which leads me to the required disclaimer. Attachment theory was key to my healing and I approach most things therapeutic through an attachment lens. This is quite clearly NOT the only modality available for psychotherapy, nor is it the approach that will help everyone. I believe each person pursues a unique healing path, which unfolds for them and will never take quite the same route another person’s would. But sometimes we get within shouting distance of each other and being able to share about the stuff that is similar can help us steer more clearly and give us strength for the road. So take all this for what it is worth, one struggling, chaotic,  messy human being’s gleanings. And awesome quotes from a quintessential therapist. Enjoy!