This is Therapy for You

I read a blog post recently by Dr Gerald Stein where he uses a number of metaphors6681968-spider-s-web to explain how a Therapist and client develop their therapeutic relationship. My favourite is…

“Therapist and patient, when they are well-matched and both working hard, spin a spider’s web as the session begins. The fibers are fine, almost invisible. With time, the net grows. If strong enough and recreated session after session, the strands thicken and better bear the weight of personal disclosure. Yet they still can be torn and retorn.”

“This is not necessarily a bad thing. All of life must be tested and resilience can only grow out of disappointment. We live in a world of unreliability. Nothing is permanent and yet we seek permanence. So we weave the web — together. With familiarity, the strands are more easily rewoven when a rift develops. Confidence grows. A safety net seems possible.”

My Therapist, Paul, was back from sick leave yesterday and we talked about everything I wrote in the two previous posts, The Absent Therapist and The Abusive Therapeutic Relationship.

The continuity struggles under the weight of cancellations, but I do believe Paul is a good Therapist. I didn’t need to explain how it affects my programme, he already knows, although I was still encouraged to talk openly and express any anger, if needed.

thRZYLIYW2I had no reference point for his absence, but this was due to my snotty attitude of, “not wishing to know anything about my Therapist.” I realise this is a clever tactic to keep Paul at arm’s length and he seemed pleased that I am beginning to let down my guard. He said, “You’re welcome to ask me anything.”

The recent time off is due to a couple of nasty viruses, which affected appointments. I believed the assurances that this is not the norm, he and his family are all well, and there are no foreseeable cancellations.

His absences may well trigger a whole range of highly emotive memories, but he’s not to blame for my state of mind, there is no animosity. If therapy takes place within the Client and Therapist relationship, then this is an ideal opportunity to work through some of my own problems.

Do I feel better? No! Unfortunately, this raises a number of questions regarding why I’ve endured so much abusive-type behaviour in the past, especially from certain family members. I’ve always gone back in attempt to repair the relationship, even though it’s not in my best interest.

Apparently, every family has a “whipping boy” and I am definitely the fall-guy. NothB4NN7O9P matter how hard I tried, my best could never please them. I have listened to why our problematic relationship is all my fault, and I endured their pointing fingers for too long. Like the good little whipping boy, I never learned to fight my corner.

Things are changing and I no longer find their attitudes or accusations acceptable. It conjures a lot of anger for so many different reasons, past and present. This has always been a very self-destructive emotion, which made today a little more difficult to get through. I don’t know how to unravel it or let it go… but this is therapy for you.

You can find Dr Gerald Stein’s amazing post here

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36 thoughts on “This is Therapy for You

  1. therabbitholez

    Breaking that cycle of being the whipping boy, is challenging to say the least, when your in the midst of it, you not only expect to be blamed, but eventually your sobeaten down emotionally and you can end believing all they say is true.

    Bullies target because they realise you have no voice and when it’s family, others within the circle will follow through fear of becoming the next target, and round and round it goes.

    What is not considered is the overall effect on you, which reaches beyond childhood, as you unconsciously repeat those patterns and tend to gravitate towards people that are abusive in some way, it becomes the norm, however yet again you have no voice.

    Your working on that, and the latent anger is beginning to surface which is a good thing I think, so weave those fine threads to get you back to life.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I did believe every one of their spiteful words, but the trouble is, they wholeheartedly believe in them too and that is the part I find so difficult, so much anger. I need to work towards really not caring for their opinions, I don’t even know why they bother me in the first place.

      I agree, anger surfacing can only be a good thing, but it is such a self-destructive emotion and I need to learn to process it better than this.

      Thank you for your feedback 🙂

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      1. therabbitholez

        The anger will spur you so it will be constructive for you, as for those people that were in your life, they no longer matter what’s eating them up inside out is far worse and they live with it, you know you don’t have to.

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  2. therabbitholez

    Forgot to add, great article and I particularly liked this:

    Perhaps therapists should recite a disclaimer to the most damaged patients at the outset of treatment:

    I want to understand you, but I am imperfect. I will not make a clean catch of everything you say. You might have to repeat or rephrase. You will test me, but I am helpless without your willingness to trust — to help me help you. This is asking a lot. I apologize, but there is no alternative. I will disappoint you, but I am earnest. We must keep trying to weave a beautiful fabric, like a magic carpet. One that will help carry you until you can fly without the support of a tapestry to bear you aloft.

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  3. Priceless Joy

    Your last paragraph punched me in the gut because of my own family issues. I put up with it for much too long. I have been the “whipping girl.” I’m not sure there is a complete “letting it go” because, well, it’s family. I have an idea in my head how I feel my family (rather certain members of my family) should be or how I want them to be. I have accepted the fact they are not going to change and the best thing for me is to hold them at arm’s length. If I think about the things they have done it becomes rage inside me so I don’t think about it. Otherwise that rage will turn into depression. I no longer put myself in the position for them to continue their sick games.

    I’m glad that you were able to talk to Paul about how his abrupt absences have affected you. I hope with your therapy you will come to a comfortable place where your past no longer hurts you the way it does now. I am not going to say, that in no longer hurts you, because I know that hurt will never completely leave. But, I hope you can feel good about yourself because obviously they have destroyed that part of you. Feel good about yourself Cat because you are a truly wonderful person.

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    1. Cat Post author

      The trouble with keeping them at arm’s length is they eventually come out the woodwork and ask to meet me in London. Sometimes I did, other times I refused and was always branded selfish and how I should make an effort to see my “loved ones” I’ve taken it over the years but the time is coming when I will need to set the record straight and maybe then, they’ll leave me the heck alone.

      I have every confidence I will work this through in therapy, but contending with the anger in the meantime is always the difficult part. Thank you, Joy, for your lovely comment

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  4. EmWell2

    “not wishing to know anything about my Therapist.” I am so with you on this. As far as I am concerned, my therapist does not exist outside of our appointment time. humorous, impractical thinking like this makes it much easier to share her with others. I’ve never been good at sharing

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    1. Cat Post author

      He exists outside therapy time, definitely, while I’m working through stuff in my head, but keeping a distance is avoiding any kind of connection. Thank you for commenting 🙂

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  5. cardamone5

    I am sorry that you were the target of your family’s blame. Unfair, and abusive.

    I am encouraged by your discussion with Paul. I hope that relationship’s web becomes as strong as described to help you release your anger, which by the way, is not a comfortable emotion, but is most destructive when directed inward. if you are experiencing it, but not suppressing it, you should be ok.

    Love,
    E

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Elizabeth… the trouble is, I don’t know if I am supressing or experiencing the anger. When I “experienced/observed” the trauma, it seemed to dissolve, but this anger has been fizzing for a long time. There comes a time when I need to let it go, but that’s the part without instructions.

      Thank you for your feedback, it gives me something to think about! 🙂

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      1. Ziya Tamesis

        Can you direct the anger at something other than yourself? Physical exercise, music, art? (I find working with clay surprisingly helpful: it’s destructive and creative at the same time.) It’s energy; if you can get the energy flowing you can use it to do almost anything. (Note to self: like clean the apartment.) I think yes, you’ll need to let it go in time, but now it’s something to work through. Just keep grabbing it and pushing it out. Maybe write letters you’ll never mail to the people you’re angry with, about why you’re so angry with them? That can be very cathartic and might help you gain even better insight.

        Anyway, I was so glad to read you were able to talk your therapist about all this stuff! That’s really awesome! Go you!

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        1. Cat Post author

          Anger is a nightmare, I need to learn to process. I don’t know how I will get past the childhood/parents anger, but I do know healing comes from observing the feeling. Only a few months ago, I didn’t know how I would ever get past the trauma and here we are already leaving it behind, so I hope anger runs in the same direction. Writing letters is a good idea, although I avoid this just in case I get TOO angry, but I think something like this needs to happen. Thank you, very helpful 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      Thanks, sadly too many of us relate to the whip! It is an amazing article and really helps me to understand the therapy process. Thanks for commenting

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  6. Glynis Jolly

    My family doesn’t have a ‘whipping boy’. With this said however, one other person and I have become the ‘whipping boys’ in the family we’re married into. In my opinion, it all has to do with the respect family members have for each other.

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  7. mandy smith

    I’m glad you had that talk with Paul, Cat. Now that you’ve put it out there to him, you have a right to expect change. I think when we’ve been knocked down as children by family, we don’t allow ourselves to believe we deserve respect. I wonder if we become almost prey for the bullies. (Sometimes bullies are “nice”, too.) They can smell the low self esteem. And they don’t always believe it when we start turning it around (sometimes coming out as anger) and we want respect. I look at the anger as a positive thing. Though I know how bad it feels–I’m the same way. I just feel if someone has a virus, they know long before and hour before their appt with client. Paul has some work to do, too…

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    1. Cat Post author

      I think we must have a neon sign above our heads that reads “kick our ass if you please!” If the head of the family is a bully, it can soon trickle down the line and before you know it, everyone is trying to kick our ass.

      As for Paul, well, I will resist saying “I think things will be different” because it sounds too much like that abusive relationship, but I must not tarnish him with that brush just in case it is unfair. We certainly understand one another a little better and I am looking for change. Time will tell, Mandy. Thank you for supporting me! 🙂

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      1. mandy smith

        I will always support you, Cat! One thing I know–you are not a weakling, and if you have to spout off at him I know you will. That’s sort of cool that despite being bullied, we are a forgiving sort 😀

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  8. Susan Irene Fox

    Cat, long ago when I was seeing a therapist and discussing some family issues, she finally blurted out one day, “Why do you continue to see these people?” I must admit, I was initially taken aback, but frankly, it gave me an entirely new perspective. We had built up enough trust that she could be completely honest. I was able to get the distance I needed between me and family to heal. By the time I chose to come back into their lives, their approval no longer mattered because the relationship was different, and defined by me.

    Just wanted to share there is hope, both in your relationship with your therapist, and in the healing process. The journey looks different for everyone, but expect in the hope.

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    1. Cat Post author

      “Why do you continue to see these people?” I have asked myself the same question, Susan. I did stop seeing them 10yrs ago. We’ve met maybe 3 times. They do try to meet up more often, but I keep them at arm’s length, but I do take a lot of agro for that and the blame for our bad relationship is on my shoulders, as far as they’re concerned. For some reason, that bothers me a lot and is precisely what I am trying to unravel.

      Thank you for sharing your experience, it’s very helpful

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      1. Susan Irene Fox

        Blame is a different animal than responsibility. Taking blame makes you guilty of something, places a cloak of shame on you. Taking responsibility makes you an adult who chooses to place healthy boundaries around your relationships.

        Bless you, sweet Cat; have a peaceful weekend.

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    1. Cat Post author

      The article is very good and there are some other little gems throughout his blog, I think you’ll appreciate.

      Thank you for your kind and supportive comment 🙂

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  9. Ellen

    Great work bringing up the absences and your feelings about that in your session. Glad Paul’s answer seemed satisfactory. He’s a good therapist, so it’s great that there’s nothing going on to hinder your progress. Although it feels bad, it’s probably good that this opened up the issue of abusive people and your family. I also was a scapegoat in my family, though when I think about it, no one came out of there very well off. Anger is natural in these situations.

    Seems like you’re making all kinds of progress. And I really liked that article also – there is something so kind and soothing and hopeful about it. Spinning a spider web is a much nicer thought than, say, hacking away at gory past memories. I like the way it makes the relationship of client/T central.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Yes, Paul’s absence and the abusive type similarities did opne a can of worms about other things and sent me into one of those chaotic episodes when everything, I mean everything, is churning through my mind…. so, I guess, if I feel broken, it must have been a good session 🙂

      I loved the article and he does have a few more throughout his blog.

      Thanks, Ellen

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