“Right, Tolerable & Ultimately Helpful”

E doesn’t think I need to quit therapy. She is sure we can rebuild trust.

“It’s been a pretty easy relationship, up until now,” she says. “Easy for both of us. Then we had this rupture. But it’s not the end of anything. It’s just part of the journey.”

She tells me that she’s not going anywhere; she’s invested in this work with me. She wants to start by assuming that what has been happening “is right, tolerable and ultimately helpful.”

Tolerable??! I suppose it won’t kill me, but it does drive me crazy, interferes with my ability to concentrate, and has resulted in me taking time off from work that I really shouldn’t be taking.

E insists it is tolerable. I don’t have to think there’s something wrong with me for being so activated. I don’t have to apologize for it. I don’t have to worry about her commitment and willingness to walk through all of this with her.

“Trust that I have a glad heart in working with you, which I do,” she tells me.

“I want to believe that,” I say, “but I’m not there right now. I don’t really know what is happening to me.”

“Well, can you trust that I want to be with you through this? That would be a great place to start.”

It’s not that easy though. I can’t just let go of all the agitation and say, okay, yes, I trust you are on my side. It hasn’t felt that way recently. Instead I respond, “Hmm, do you though? I’m being a pain in the ass, I know it (and I’m sorry). But those doubtful, hurt, confused, angry, suspicious feelings are so strong.”

I think she got it then. She became softer and more tentative after that. She asked more questions.

We have a sort of truce now. Both of us are gentle with each other. I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but I don’t want to brush this all under the rug (as I so often do with many people). I explain that to her, and she says I don’t need to worry about her feelings; she has a great professional network for support, if she needs that. It’s good, but I don’t know how straightforward I can be.

Realizing that I want to soften my message to her about how angry and misunderstood I’ve felt makes me see that I still minimize things in my communication with her. She sometimes thinks I am feeling better than I am, and then I feel she doesn’t see my pain. But there’s something holding me back from fully describing what I’m experiencing. I think I am embarrassed because a mature adult should not be pouting and hanging on to perceived slights the way I have been doing.

She’s trying to help me feel more connected again. She texted me a short hello this morning. I think we are backtracking to where we were a few months ago with our texting, where I ask, are you there? And she says, yes, for sure. It’s a funny little dance but a part of me finds it touching and comforting.

E is probably right–it will ultimately be helpful for us to go through this.

Side note: Isn’t it amazing that therapists have any clients, given that all the helpful stuff feels so bad?

dont talk

17 thoughts on ““Right, Tolerable & Ultimately Helpful”

  1. I am curious why she texts you. Because then if she doesn’t reply isn’t that confusing. It seems it would be easier if she did not text you but maybe those are just my feelings.

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    • I think it’s just become part of the way we connect. She usually responds, although in the past month sometimes she hasn’t, and I’ve felt confused by that, it’s true.

      Last week I thought about the texting and wondered if we should stop. There is a lot of potential for misunderstanding via text. But it’s also nice to communicate briefly in the moment. I don’t know; I’ll just see how it goes over the coming days and weeks.

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  2. I agree with E that you don’t need to quit. Hope you feel that way too. I am proud of you for letting those hurt feelings have a place and not forcing them to go faster then they are ready. I think that is ultimately helpful. You’ve had your boundaries crossed and your heart crushed before, so this is practice, to set up your boundaries, to learn to communicate with someone who does have your best interest at heart. It does suck. A lot. And for that I am sorry, but I do think this makes sense as part of your journey. Keep holding yourself and the hurt parts with compassion and gentleness.

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    • Thanks, Emily, for the encouragement and your belief that this will be a valuable part of my journey. I am confused still about what it is I am learning from this. Is it something about how I communicate with her? Is it that I should not expect too much? Or maybe I am supposed to really trust that certain people will be there for me even if a trigger from my past makes me feel they are not there? Something I have to puzzle over for a while longer, I think.

      I will work on following your advice to hold the hurt with compassion and gentleness rather than disapproval and judgment. It’s good advice. (I may send it back to you some day!)

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  3. It frustrates me that she’s trying to tell you how to feel (i.e. that you have had an easy relationship, that it is tolerable, etc – that would drive me crazy!) but I’m also glad that she softened when you truly showed her your pain. It is also hard for me not to minimize my pain (because I feel like an adult shouldn’t react over such little things) but something my therapist pointed out that changed my whole view of my therapy is that there’s still a young child in me that didn’t get what she needed, so of course I will react to little things until we help that child heal – and therapy is a safe place to have those reactions and explore them. Not sure if that is helpful for you, but just wanted to affirm that whatever you feel is valid, even if it isn’t “acceptable” in the adult social world. xxx

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    • Yes, this is helpful, thank you, to think of therapy as a place where maybe I don’t always have to be my responsible adult self but instead can let out the pouting, alienated, angry child and learn to care for her.

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  4. I reread this. Sometimes i reread posts a few times to make sure i am not reading it based on how i would feel and seeing it as you feel. Hearing you say that maybe she doesn’t know how much pain you are in because you are holding back because of how you think an adult should act just makes me hurt for the parts of you that feel like they cannot fully be heard without judgment . If those feelings aren’t heard they cant be validated and you deserve to be validated for everything you are feeling. In therapy we shouldn’t have to act like anything. We should just be able to be true to ourselves and let out what we’ve kept in for so long. Therapy is difficult though because we are facing fears. We are letting emotions surface that have been buried and we want to make sure we will be treated with gentleness as we do. I am truly hoping your therapist continues to be gentle and that you feel safe telling her everything. For me personally, therapy brings up so many emotions i dont always know where to direct them or how to feel about them. Im still processing todays therapy for myself. I get too analytical and start thinking…did she really care…was she really listening….instead of just accepting what i felt and leave her out of it. If that makes sense.

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    • Thanks for coming back and writing more. I haven’t come to any conclusions about what this whole experience really means for me. But the comments from several people have me thinking. Maybe therapy can be a very safe place to express emotions you have never allowed yourself to articulate to anyone (or even admit to yourself that you have). I have sometimes tiptoed in that direction but other times I really shut the door. But there’s more to think about–well, too long for this comment; it will have to be a future post.

      Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting and making me think.

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  5. Oh Q, this has been a really painful and tough few weeks for you. (I read your last few blog posts) I’m sorry E has not been connecting with you, that she has been distant and just not getting it. It’s always hurtful when the person our little parts trust and depend on doesn’t get it. I’m glad you were able to stick with these feelings all these weeks— Go Q!!– and get E to listen to your message of feeling hurt and alone. That is so important. I have a hard time, too, letting all the little girl’s true feelings out, because they don’t mesh with how the adult “should” act. I’m working on that currently, too. It’s hard. But worth it. And that little girl deserves to be heard. I’m hoping things have been ‘right, tolerable and ultimately helpful’ because you deserve all three. 💟xx

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    • I know! I can think, oh yes, I will take care of that little girl. But then when she has a feeling or idea I think is embarrassing, what do I do? I try to make her be quiet. I assume no one, not even a therapist, will want to hear what she is feeling. Not so helpful.

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      • Yes, exactly. It’s not so helpful when we assume no one will want to hear what the girl is thinking or feeling, or that no one, not even our therapist will be able to listen without judgement. Maybe we will each learn how to let the girl speak her mind better this year. I mean, really, when you look at how far we have come…..from never even letting the girl speak her mind at all to now at least wanting to allow her to speak and attempting to let her speak….I don’t know, I think that’s pretty huge. 💟xx

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  6. Eating broccoli is helpful too, but we sure don’t have to like it. I’m glad she’s trying, but that doesn’t negate the fact that she’s been missing the mark and that has been horrendously difficult.

    Is the embarrassment all internal, I wonder? Does it all come from Self-Loathing, or does part of it come from Anxiety? “If I tell her she’ll think I’m stupid.” “If I get mad, she’ll be mad that I’m ungrateful and she’ll leave.” Just wondering. It is a scary thing, expressing feelings to the person you depend so much on.

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  7. What is the embarrassment about? That’s such a good question.

    I think if I were to list my “positive characteristics,” I would say I am calm, tolerant, mature and understanding. I can be judgmental, but I notice it and usually manage to let it go. I don’t hold a grudge. This is what friends and colleagues tend to think of me, and I think I like that picture of myself.

    If I admit that I got pissed because E said things that made me feel I didn’t really matter and that I scrutinized things she said looking for words that would reinforce that impression, I am undermining that self-image. If I say, yes, it’s true, I spent an entire month raging at her (mostly internally) and feeling rejected, then I am proving all the good things wrong. I am showing myself to be childish, self-centered and touchy. That is definitely ammunition for Self-Loathing.

    And at the same time, the fear that E was rejecting me was terribly sad and painful. And I guess I also thought that if I told her my feelings, she would have even more reason to reject me.

    So I guess Self-Loathing and Anxiety were both affected. And to the Self-Loathing, I need to bring some compassion, to be able to say, “You don’t have to be your calm and mature self all the time. There are times when you won’t feel that way, and that’s okay. It’s part of being human,” etc.

    And to Anxiety, afraid of losing my therapist, the conversation is about trust, I guess. That she doesn’t need to be afraid because we can trust E. Except I wasn’t getting the message that I could, so I wasn’t able to reassure her.

    Hmm. Thanks for asking this question. You are very insightful.

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  8. I think working through it might be productive in the long run, though I know if I was paying for therapy I would probably want value for money in the here and now… At least it sounds as if you’re able to be completely honest with her. I recall how shocking the sense of disconnect was – I was not expecting that of her at all – so getting to the bottom of it would at any rate be illuminating, and give you an idea of just how much or how little help she can be.

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  9. I don’t think it is possible to just make yourself trust or feel that trust again if you don’t. And rational or not, whether this is about her or the relationship or not, it doesn’t matter. This is therapy, things get triggered and that is part of it. And you don’t have to agree to trust her now, or ever. I think you will feel trust again, but it sounds a bit like she was saying that more for herself, rather than attuning to your fears and needs to express the healthy skepticism arising. That is okay, she is human and allowed to have her experience, and, she is a therapist and it is her job to hold your experience with acceptance and care. Which I think she does most of the time. But you don’t have to agree to anything until you are good and ready! And I think that would actually be really therapeutic for you to allow yourself to do.

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