A Painful sense of Exclusion

There are some weeks at group therapy when I’m calm and confident and participateth2X9CWT00 in the sessions as much as anyone will. On other occasions, I sink into this dissociative dark hole of silence.

I find this kind of experience incredibly difficult to understand. The two group leaders seldom recognise when I am struggling, or maybe their professional opinion doesn’t believe a rescue mission would help.

During last week’s group, I wanted to discuss losing faith in myself, but as the other members were talking back and forth, I started to feel that their issues were more important, more interesting, than mine were.

Whenever this type of experience unfolds, it feels as though my body transforms into a cold dark shell, with no feelings, no emotions, or a voice, almost like watching myself from behind. The inattentive nature of the Therapists only adds to that sense of exclusion and I feel worthless.

Maybe I need someone to connect with, ask questions about what I think and feel in that moment. I am either ashamed or too vulnerable to ask for help – again – because it sounds as though I’m being a selfish brat, demanding undivided attention, and expecting everything to ‘revolve around me’.

When we were growing up, my sister and I didn’t have an opinion or a free will. My mother used to bemoan, “You had a strong willpower that was difficult to break,” and, “It’s always got to be about you.”

Mum and Dad are both narcissistic type people and “perfect” in every sense of the word. Their way is the only way, which they enforced with violence and intimidation throughout our childhood and emotional blackmail into adulthood.

While my sister learned to comply early in life, I was always the rebel and ultimately became an easy target of all three of them. I suppose it was safer for my sister to join forces with the abusers, so I grew up with a strong sense of those three against me, and nothing much changed with time, other than their tactics for exerting expectations.

I talked to my Therapist Paul yesterday. It’s becoming quite clear that there’s a strong connection between the relationship I have with my narcissistic parents and the experiences of feeling excluded in groups.

I told Paul about my secret lifetime belief in my own heartless selfishness… “I am a selfish man who is inconsiderate of other people’s needs and `wants everything to revolve around me.” I have carried this distorted guilt around for too many years.

thCRZ1VW5DSo, how do I resolve this? This is what group therapy is all about. It represents our mini world where the problems we encounter are similar to the ones we experience in our personal lives. The theory encourages an open discussion about my feelings and as I begin to change within the group, so do my relationships with people on the outside. I only wish it were that easy.

Tomorrow morning is group therapy and for the first time in nine-months, I am dreading it. I don’t trust or connect with these group Therapists, so I cannot be certain of their support if I flounder. Nevertheless, if I want to challenge these demons, then I need to find my own voice to break down that painful sense of exclusion.

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45 thoughts on “A Painful sense of Exclusion

  1. edwinasepisodes

    You are not being selfish by wanted to have certain topics discussed in group therapy, and certainly the others are not more important than you, You are not worthless at all, and it is awful that you feel like that. I hope that tomorrow your group session goes better , and that you do manage to speak out if you want to.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Forcing myself to talk in group is the only way to overcome that damaging belief of worthlessness and, yes of course, I was able to say what was on my mind today. I don’t always have a problem, it’s just sometimes the silent bug attacks. Thanks Edwina

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  2. Priceless Joy

    Sounds to me like a huge part of your problem is that you don’t connect with your current group therapy therapists. Try making attempts to connect with them and get them to connect with you and if that doesn’t happen, can you request new therapists? I would hate to be stuck in therapy that I cannot connect with the therapists. Just a thought… can you tell them how you feel about them?

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    1. Cat Post author

      The therapists haven’t exactly instilled confidence in a few of us, but that’s partly playing out since our own childhood garbage, so the only way forward is to talk it through. Unfortunately, the therapists can’t be changed, but maybe that’s just as well. It forces us into challenging our biggest fears. Of course, I can and did tell them how I feel about them, I have no problem speaking my mind. However, when I am struck dumb in that silent mode, confronting them is furthest from my mind. Thank you, Joy, you are always very supportive

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  3. sensuousamberville

    Have you ever had any schema therapy Cat?

    How would you rate your self esteem? Trauma, traditionally evokes a lower self esteem, an aloof tendency that will have a selfish or narcissistic tilt. There is a higher self focus. A protectionism that was learned through trauma. Hide and protect. Sheish there is so much that this would be a post rather than a comment. This is somewhat complex.

    What I am hinting at, is your secret is not really a secret, it is expected with your childhood trauma, during your formative years, when your schema was shaping, that relationships, the learning of how they function, would be somewhat maladaptive. Your fear to point out that you would like to be poked when quiet, is a part of this too. Cat I am not rating or judging you, I actually see a very unselfish person in blogging, here and on other blogs you comment on. But your feelings, your inner core is what you feel, this is part of your schema. It shapes how you react to things. Why you will maybe drop hints during group, as an example, to see if they are caught, and then be disappointed when they are not, or not reacted upon as you had hoped, rather than standing up and saying hey I want to talk now and I want you to listen. But this is just a tiny part of your self schema, but also a clue where therapy could tilt to.

    If when raising something to your therapist, they allow you to flounder, you need a new therapist. But… Be very clear, speak what you want to say, try not to hint.

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    1. Cat Post author

      I only know a little about schema therapy, but imagine that aloof tendency comes from a protective need to hide feelings, particularly hurt.

      I know deep down that I am not selfish, although I may have my moments! But, it doesn’t stop that inner battle with those early narcissistic messages. These two group Therapists are not the best, but neither are they too bad. I try not to focus too much on their “shortcomings” and more on what they represent in my own life. We are stuck with them until the end, so might as well make the most of it.

      I don’t always have a problem speaking out, apart from those mysterious silent episodes. I was able to say exactly what was on my mind at group today. I didn’t need them to throw a lifeline because I threw one to myself and that probably carries more weight than anything does. And this could be why they left me to scramble to the shore alone in the first place.

      Thank you, Amber 🙂

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  4. littlevoicetalks

    Gosh. Tough place to be. Therapists can really help or hinder. Maybe you need to speak up and have that sense of being able to find that courage and know it comes from a place where you are speaking of your needs rather than having them smothered like you did by two narcissistic parents. Maybe, regardless of the therapist and group reactions, you need to push through this and what happens off the back is part of what you need to deal with too. I have no doubt if you’d have voiced your concerns as a teenager you would have been met with contempt and put downs. If the groups reacts similarly (which I should hope not), then maybe holding your ground and seeing your needs met to its conclusion and dealing with any negativity may bring healing??

    Hard. I know it’s hard. I find humans hard. I find all interaction hard and after today, the temptation to live in a box under my bed is very appealing. However, I guess I’ll just keep doing what I do and relive the moment when a lady trumped very loudly this evening during my pilates class. I nearly did admonish her for very blatantly not having her pelvic floor engaged but I couldn’t really say much through trying to fix my face from laughing!!

    Parp, parp!! xx

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    1. Cat Post author

      I read your comment before going to group this morning and knew that, no matter their reactions, I needed to push forward and claim space, show that vulnerable side and ask for my needs to be met in some way. The group were excellent and the Therapists good in their own little ways. Of course, it’s more about overcoming the narcissistic childhood messages and they merely represent a part of that. We don’t necessarily realise the extent of healing until after the event, but I imagine the entire experience will play a big role in the future. Thank you so much for your feedback, it helped immensely 🙂

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  5. ziggy40

    Dear Cat,
    Sometimes even therapists need you to speak up…mine told me once…I’m human can mind read. I wish to strength in group…I can understand the fear. Sending you support..lol
    Love Ziggy
    p.s hope this not a ‘put down’, I wish you hope and healing

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  6. Ellen

    This brings back painful memories of group therapy for me. Yes, the group is supposed to bring up your early life experiences, and so what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. And it may be hard to see the therapists realistically, when your deep woulds of the past are being triggered. Are they a bit aloof and uncaring? Or was that your parents?

    Man, I don’t know. I remember the pain of group as so extremely intense, so in my case, it didn’t work and nothing resolved through group. However. I’m very much hoping you will have a different experience, if you venture, as you are contemplating.

    It’s so hard to tell present from past when we are triggered.

    I can tell you, though it likely makes not a lot of impact – it’s very unlikely that you are anything that your family said you were. They were driven by their own unexamined demons, in a way that had nothing to do with who you really were. My family was similar in that respect. It’s easier for me to see the situation for you than for me, but I think they were similar. I believe we have to figure out for ourselves who we are, and not accept our family’s scapegoating. It’s always a temptation though to slide back to their wrong and hurtful opinions though, for some reason.

    I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow in group. Break a leg!

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Ellen… I thought about your group experience while writing this post and I have always felt our family experiences are very similar, so I hear what you are saying loud and clear. It’s only in the last few months I have realised that perhaps their opinions were wrong after all and maybe they are right in some respects, but it is difficult to siphon the good from bad, so I just need to trash the lot, but it doesn’t necessarily stop that inner battle overnight, as we both know, but I reckon I made some good headway this week.

      One of the T’s is aloof, the other a little scatter-brained, but the distance that lies between us reminds me of my parent’s dismissiveness. I am fortunate of my own ability to analyse and identify the similarities because I am not so sure these two T’s would have helped me through it. The other group members were, as always, very supportive of one another, but I try not to focus so much on the Therapists shortcomings and more on what they represents in my own little world. If they had thrown me a lifeline whenever the silent bug attacked, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to work it through this far. As one said today, I threw myself the lifeline today and that carries more weight than anything they can ever offer me. Thanks, Ellen 🙂

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  7. cardamone5

    You are not selfish. This is a distortion produced by your illness. If group doesn’t feel like a safe place to be yourself, then trust that instinct. Utilize individual therapy, and maybe switch groups…is that possible? When I was in the middle of my break downs, I could not distinguish bad therapy from good, and allowed a lot of unnecessary, unprofessional words to impact me. When we are down, we are especially vulnerable to those around us. Take care of yourself.

    Love,
    E

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    1. Cat Post author

      These two T’s don’t necessarily make me feel safe, but then I try to look for the reasons why I am finding them difficult to deal with. On this occasion, the distance represents my parents. Unfortunately, we are stuck with these two until the end of the programme, so it’s best to make the most. Thank you, Elizabeth 🙂

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  8. Glynis Jolly

    I believe that every person has a selfish streak running through them. How much a person lets that control his or her relationships with others is solely up to that individual. My mom wears the streak proudly saying that if she doesn’t take care of her own needs and wants first, she can’t do a good job of helping others with theirs. I do see her point, and because I am my mom’s daughter, I tend to be the same way. I do think I’ve curbed the bluntness she exhibits though.

    I’m not a fan of group therapy, although I think I do understand how it can be helpful. It’s so much easier to bear your soul to close friends who you trust so much. Learning to open up a little with acquaintances/strangers is so difficult, but sometimes is the best thing for you — even though your doubts about them are great.

    Be strong, my friend. ❤

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    1. Cat Post author

      What I have realised this week is that a great deal of this is about feeling selfish for asking them to meet my needs and selfishness carries a lot of messages of greed and guilt. I seem to have this huge problem asking for help. Groups are tough, but this is a perfect example of how they can also be helpful. I have often struggled in certain social settings and now I understand why, hopefully I will be able to work towards changing the mind-set. Thank you, Glynis 🙂

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      1. lynettedavis

        I can relate to having a huge problem asking for help. This, no doubt, goes back to our childhood. For me, I don’t want to take the risk of putting myself out there. When I do ask for help, I’m almost 100 percent sure that they will help me. I also have a huge problem with waiting. I hate to have to wait for someone to respond to my needs…

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        1. Cat Post author

          I totally relate to this, Lynette. If our needs and opinions were not important as children, how do we then believe in our own self-worth in adulthood?

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      2. lynettedavis

        For those of us who grew up with a narcissist household, trying to get even the simplest of our needs met was considered selfish. “You’re hungry? You’re so selfish!” Our narcissists parents didn’t think about our feelings and we were forbidden to express our needs. After all, we weren’t supposed to have any feelings, let alone needs–our sole purpose for existing was to make them feel good. In their minds, anything that we “needed,” required “taking” from themselves to give to us which made us selfish in their eyes. The true definition of selfish is “seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regards for others,” which incidentally is also the definition of a narcissists. So really, they were using projection on us unsuspecting children. Now that we’re adults and out of the control of our narcissist parents, we should attempt to get our needs met. There’s nothing wrong with that and we should not feel guilty when we do. This is called being human. Cat, I sense that you, like most of us ACONs internalized the term “selfish” and felt conflicted in group counseling because you wanted to get your needs met, but they didn’t even notice your needs. I like the idea of group counseling to help us shed some of our internalized beliefs. However, there should be some type of system where everyone gets a chance. Otherwise, we’re just living our childhood all over again.

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        1. Cat Post author

          Hi Lynette, I agree, we do deserve to have our needs met as adults, but the selfish complex from CH does often stand in the way, probably more than I realise… maybe this is actually why I isolate so much.

          Group therapy does represent our mini world including family dynamics and it can be very triggering. The Therapists won’t rescue, but I am slowly learning that they will support us to work through those demons. Thanks Lynette

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  9. mandy

    Sorry I’ve been sidelined with personal stuff, Cat, and took a while to get here. When I read this, I’m again reminded: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I’m always the quiet one in groups. And the longer I go without speaking, the less important I feel, or that what I’d like to say is. I can mentally work myself into thinking no one cares, would ever care about my stuff. Eventually I convince myself they probably don’t like me, don’t want me there . . .what the hell! It’s a mind trip that is crazy, but so easy to do. The reality is that the group really does want to hear, but I think people and the leaders are trying to respect our space and not make us feel pressured. And eventually, we do become invisible, while the yakkers, the “Me, me! Call on me” types take center stage. It’s hard to value our need to be heard when we didn’t come from a place that allowed it, Cat. Maybe start squeaking a little louder?

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Mandy… when I talked about this in the group, everyone felt the same, so we are by far alone. I think some people tend to deal with it better than others do and, yes of course, there are the “me-me’s” Thank you 🙂

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      1. mandy

        It’s unfortunate when we are stuck with the leaders we’ve got and they are adequate. Well, you know, just like in elementary school, there were the line leaders–those who always pushed their way to the front, and then there were the ones who let me. (That would be me! ugh 😦

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  10. mincs1

    Hey Cat, it sounds like you are very insightful about yourself and how you are dealing with the world. You are teaching the rest of us through sharing your story, so thank-you for that. I hope you have a great day 🙂

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      1. Cat Post author

        It’s a great pleasure and worth every letter when I hear someone can relate and take something from it. Thank you

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  11. therabbitholez

    Cat, is it any wonder growing up in that toxic enviroment that you come to believe their propoganda, you were simply trying to have your own voice, nothing at all wrong with that, people like that see that and it scares them, and the only way they can show their power is to intimidate you, well they can’t do that anymore.

    As for being selfish, well I suppose getting away from the toxic would be viewed as selfish by them!!! but anyone who reads your words in your blog and the insightful comments you make on there’s, it would be clear that you are very unselfish.

    Group therapy seems to be a minefield, I think to many personalities vying to find their voice, but I’m sure you will find yours over the babble.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s only in recent months when I realised they always accuse me of being selfish whenever things aren’t ALL about them. It’s hard to know they truly do believe their own propaganda and that’s what I am trying to let go. There’s no talking to narcissists. Thanks for your kind words of support, I am soaking up every letter 🙂

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        1. Cat Post author

          That’s spot on. It was one of my first major realisations early on in therapy. It seems such a small deal, but not when we lived with a self-absorbed parent who branded us selfish. Thanks 🙂

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  12. spartacus2030

    I dunno.. I’m such apushover when it comes to depresoids… I’m really very much in favor of people to begin with. I mean. even though i
    m a depressoid, I love people anyway, find them very interesting!

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  13. Pingback: Snotty Cow | My Travels with Depression

  14. lynettedavis

    “It’s becoming quite clear that there’s a strong connection between the relationship I have with my narcissistic parents and the experiences of feeling excluded in groups.” This is very interesting because this is exactly what I learned from writing my memoir–that whatever relationship we (adult children of narcissist parents) had at home, we tend to replicate that relationship in all areas of our adult life, in one form or another…

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    1. Cat Post author

      This is one of the most difficult aspects of the group, the past does tend to play and other group members become the people who trouble us the most. Knowledge is empowering and can only bring us healing. Thank you, Lynette

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