Here I am, trying to settle my head down to writing about the second MBT Therapy Assessment. There is an acute awareness of the avoidance tactics deployed by spending most of my PC time reading and writing on other people’s blogs.
Avoidance – procrastination – fear – are some of the words that are at the forefront of my mind. It is a year, almost to the day, when I first started writing on the net. I only visited one particular Forum and spent most of my time reaching out to others. I became an Administrator and this further reinforced my reasons for attending to other members, rather than my own issues.
The first assessment, which I wrote about in “The Therapist that Bugged Me”, was still swirling round in my head. I was tired, grumpy and very paranoid. Travelling there, I was struggling against entering into a full-blown “Splitting” mode. Something about this kind of therapist unsettles me. There are a few moments of panicked desire to abort the whole idea and look for peace elsewhere. Thankfully, I’m mature enough to recognise the cop out. I’ve been here before. If I want to get better, I need to start somewhere.
I arrive almost 15 minutes late – which is usually for this kind of appointment – she greets me with not only the identical persona, but also dressed in exactly the same floral twin set skirt and jacket. This time I notice the material looks nylon and rather worn. Walking behind her to the therapy room, again she is wearing 6-inch cream high heels, her very thin legs wobbling with each step. We go in silence.
Sitting looking at each other, once again, she looks bored before we even start. There is no friendliness or warmth. It almost feels like I’ve been dragged back in time to the first assessment. I am almost ready to ‘have a go’ for her silence contributing towards my discomfort.
Her bland face asks me a question, which immediately puts the paranoia at ease, “So, have you had any thoughts from our last meeting”?
I’ve had loads of thoughts. Some I have posted, others swirling around in my head, but I cannot recall any, except…
“Every time I go into a therapeutic setting, childhood trauma is what drowns out everything else”
Surprisingly, she speaks again, “What is it about this kind of setting that triggers those memories”?
If I had the slightest inclination of how she would react, I might have chosen my words more carefully, but I said, “I don’t know”.
This was the catalyst for what feels like a heated and very uncomfortable discussion. At one point I am wondering who’s issues were being triggered. It has always been an assumption that the vivid memories of childhood trauma were simply just there. Nothing in particular can trigger flashbacks. Entering into any therapy room is like kicking up dust from the past, but she evidently disagrees.
“Perhaps the trigger is the relationship/interaction you have with the therapist. You expect to be rescued – that the Therapist will help you feel more at ease”. I get a sudden pang of paranoia, wondering if she’s read “The Therapist that bugged me” post. She adds, “Perhaps, the fact that the Therapists don’t rescue you, conjures memories of your parents not rescuing their little boy”.
She allows a minutes silence for this to sink in, but the paranoia is stuffing cotton wool in my brain. I still cannot fully grasp what she is trying to say, or trying to get me to say. However, something is ringing true, so I decide to stick with it
“The fact you also construe me as cold and irritable is probably what triggers memories of your parents being as annoyed and distant when all you wanted was to be rescued”
We pause for a few eternal seconds, she stares, and my paranoia continues to overwhelm any coherent thought process. She is evidently ‘on a roll’.
“To say ‘you don’t know’ why these memories are so prominent is like throwing up barriers; maybe you don’t want to know”. She stares with an inquisitive expression, eyes boring a hole in the side of my head
My head was reeling. Initially, I thought she was talking rubbish, but my subconscious is pushing me forward, trying so hard to understand. It feels like my brain is in a knot. If it wasn’t true, why am I ready for throwing a drama and walking out? I understand that by saying “I don’t know” IS pushing people away, but she appears particularly irritated by it.
I start to convince my warped thinking that this is more about her. At the same point, I am worried it is going against me. I desperately want the MBT therapy course; it’s specifically designed for people living with Borderline Personality Disorder. I need to work towards change and could really do with the guidance and support. But, am I ready to let them in?
This week she has a lot to say (but she still looks bored and miserable), “Do you think that perhaps this childhood trauma – the stuff you’re not prepared to talk about – is actually an avoidance tactic for dealing with the here and now”?
I get more defensive, “It’s not that I don’t WANT to talk about it. Saying ‘I don’t know’ is more like a reaction. We have no relationship and neither do I feel particularly comfortable, so you could say it is an avoidance statement for this present situation”
Her hair reminds me a bit like – sorry for spelling – Worzel Gumich’s, Aunt Sally, bleached so much it’s dry and fluffy like straggly straw. I don’t like her much but I feel – in that moment – she is reading into something that isn’t there. She then says something about my fear of her abandoning me (classic BPD trait) Huh, I feel like saying, “Don’t flatter yourself darling”, but worry it might be going too far and flushing my chances down the drain
She glances behind me to the clock on the wall, “We have two minutes left”. She looks keen to get me out of there and, once again, my paranoia strangles any further thought process.
I am relieved to discover that they are accepting me onto the course, anyway. There is an educational session for 10 weeks, where we not only learn about MBT and Mentalization, but also assess whether or not the further 18 months therapy course is suitable. I have the feeling she is doubtful, and was not for rescuing me, so I left in the same cold manner as I arrived.
In retrospect…. Well, I’m still struggling with any retrospect…. I’m still trying to untie the knot in my brain and grasp the enormity of her very plausible conclusion. It’s something I need to work on. Hearing what others might think would help…
You are far braver than I. I tip my hat to you.
Wow. I don’t think I’d deal with this situation anywhere near as calmly as you did, my friend. Just from your description of her manner I find her persona difficult, and I don’t even know her.
To be honest, reading only this blog so far, it appears as though she is at least partially right. You were already setting her up to fail before she had spoken by relating this session to your first. It was your own initial blog that gave you additional paranoia almost as though you wanted the additional barrier there. Sometimes in life you need to do something that scares you in order to grow. Letting someone else in is scary but I think you would feel much better for it. Good luck with the course, make the most of it!! S xx
Stephanie… many thanks for your comment. I would tend to agree with you. While irritated with the Therapist, I did realise that she had struck a chord. Letting people in will be a mammoth task, but I realise it’s necessary.
Stephanie. I have tried connecting to your blog but your profile doesn’t have a link. I’m not sure if this is something to do with me or maybe you don’t have a blog….? I see we are both Glaswegian!
Based on your description of her, I would not have been comfortable either. And, by the way, I believe an ” I don’t know” answer is sometimes just that, the person does not know. It sounds like she has some of her own issues.
Thanks for your comment. You are spot on. Sometimes “I don’t know” is a simple passing statement. Some people say “er” or “Um” when they are mulling over a question. I just happen to say ‘I don’t know’. It’s not a barrier because, while I am mouthing the words, my brain is processing….
I think she is noticing my avoidance tactics, but maybe in the wrong characteristics. I did see her cringe when I said; “I don’t know” and can only assume it comes from her own past.
*doesn’t think I like her very much* >:P
Your physical descriptions of this therapist make me laugh. You notice and remember a lot of details!!
Does she only do assessments, which I assume are very short-term? I wonder if she comprehends the importance of the therapeutic relationship. My therapist is very warm and understanding and calm and patient. He reminds me often that his office is a safe place.
Maybe it’s different because it’s an assessment (I’m not familiar with these) but typically therapists don’t tell the clients what they are likely thinking or feeling. Since it is highly unlikely that she just happened to come across your blog, it’s odd that she would assume that you think she is cold and irritable, assume that you connect her behavior w/ your parents being annoyed and distant, assume that you think or want your therapist to rescue you, assume that you feel she is not rescuing you, assume that you connect not feeling rescued by your therapist w/ not being rescued by your parents…. etc. She talks too much!
I think it’s only natural for people in therapy to think about their childhood. When we enter into therapy, we open ourselves up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable (like a child) in the presence of a therapist -the person seemingly with all the answers and the power (like a parent). It makes no difference if the therapist is cold and irritable or warm and understanding -the feeling of being a child, childhood is likely to spring to the forefront… in my opinion. It could be that feeling of vulnerability is what stirs up childhood memories and not any sort of connection between your therapist being cold and your parents not rescuing you. Just another way to think about it, of which there are many.
Then again, I wasn’t there and your therapist may have picked up on cues I can’t see. So, I can’t completely disregard her thoughts. I’m just a bit leery of a therapist who seems to be telling you what your probably thinking. But, this is an assessment and not therapy… I’ve never had an assessment. And, she has offered up things to think about. Anyway, I’m glad you get to participate in the course!! 🙂
By the way, I’m totally for rescuing you!!
*Cat accepts the rescuing*
Thanks RL for your thought-provoking post.
I am a people watcher. When I was a child, I would need to watch my parent’s faces for signs of irritability. It gave me an uncanny ability to read people’s moods. I forget little, especially the appearance of someone I don’t much care for, although, I do feel guilty for being so cruel.
*titters with wickedness*
In my experience, some Therapists may have fantastic theoretical training but they will always lack warmth and an ability to connect.
Assessments are different to therapy. There is more conversation and questions. It is a specialist service for BPD and they have limited places.
Of course, I’ve been mulling over the session for a few days and think you are right. The childhood vulnerability stirs up because of the environment. However, she has a point about it allowing me to divert from the here and now.
Overall, she is noticing my avoidance tactics – which I plan on writing about later – but she is perhaps too sensitive on the statement, “I don’t know”. I did wonder if her husband does that at home!
This made me think of an assessment I had years ago. Now, I don’t have as good of a memory for details and such, but I do remember the guy was a total jerk. From the time I stepped into the office I could just feel his disapproval and judgement. In the end it all boiled down to his theory that all I had to do was go on a diet and my problems would be over. It took me years to get up the nerve to try and get help again. I’m glad you were able to stick it out and get into your program.
I am glad that you can relate. Some are not cut out for it.
Thanks for reading
Doesn’t seem promising to me, but hats off to you you made it through the assessment and got accepted for treatment. I don’t believe insight by itself heals – it needs to be in the context of a trusting relationship. Otherwise we could all just read the book and save a lot of money. If she was good, and this was real therapy, she would be trying to win your trust and understand you from your own point of view, at least in the beginning stages of therapy. Your description of her is very funny though!
Lol Ellen, funny yes, but maybe a little wicked!
I think by the nature of the assessment; it feels right that she should openly question whether I am ready for entering this sort of treatment. However, at the back of my mind, it still troubles me that she made little effort to help me feel comfortable. I don’t know (there he goes again with the “don’t knows”), maybe the assessment is designed this way or perhaps she is just one of those crappy therapists.
What I value from the entire process is that it opened up an entirely new perspective of avoidance.
It also made me realise that whenever I say, “I don’t know”, I am not putting up barriers and shutting down any chance of discussion, but it is merely an idle statement made while processing the question. Shame I will not get the chance to ‘sock that one’ to the miserable woman!