therapy woes–when T inadvertently hurts your feelings

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Sherry Arthur

I’ve been working at trying to be a little bit braver when it comes to T. After telling him I loved him, you would think everything else would be easier, but it hasn’t been. :/

I want so much for things to be different and to be able to just put whatever it is out there, feel okay with it and trust in that part of me that says it’s going to be okay. I don’t want to withdraw my head in fear and be that scared little tortoise that gets stuck in that hazy little shell.

On Friday, T said some things to me, about me; that I hide behind my hat and don’t look at him; that I keep my hands in my pockets and that I cover part of my face when talking to him. Even though he said it wasn’t criticism and that he just wanted me to know that he notices it, it felt like criticism. It also left me feeling bad and self-conscious with a little bit of ‘well fat fucking chance I’m ever going to look at him now’ thrown into the mix.

In a nutshell, he hurt my feelings.

I know he didn’t do it on purpose and he simply inadvertently touched on something painful. I also knew it was bound to happen that eventually he would say something I didn’t like. Even with that knowledge, it still doesn’t feel very good.

I’m working really hard not to be a big baby and get all pissy about it and I’m trying my best to look at it from his side because the one thing I have learned is that when T says certain things, it’s usually important and he’s often trying to show me something that maybe I don’t see so well. Sometimes I miss things when he talks, but sometimes I don’t. What he said on Friday? I didn’t miss it.

I’m sitting here wondering if it’s important to try to understand the fear that makes me hide. Do we need to talk about the eye contact (almost as awkward as telling someone how you feel about them), or why my hands are in my pockets? Do those things even matter? They must, because otherwise it wouldn’t be on my mind.

When it comes to my hands the problem is that I don’t know what to do with them most of the time. All I know is that they just can’t be. When I was small, I didn’t really have anyone or anything to hide behind and showing fear was an unacceptable thing. I learned that if I kept my hands in the open they would tremble and let others know that I was very afraid. I tried to fix the problem by sitting on them or crossing my arms. I would end up being punished for the arm crossing because it was seen as being defiant. Showing defiance in my household was even worse than showing fear.

Eventually, I learned that if I could keep my hands busy they wouldn’t shake. I also figured out that if there was nothing to occupy my hands with, I would simply tuck them into my pockets or pull them into my sleeves. My hands feel secure inside my pockets but they don’t lie flat. Instead, I roll my fingers into tight little balls of fury, so much so that my fingernails bite into my palms. There they stay, quiet in my pocket, dead weights, immovable no matter how much I will them to open and safely tucked away from others.

Then there is the lack of eye contact. I’ve been trying to pinpoint where my lack of eye contact originates from. When I was small, I had a desperate hope to gain some control over an uncontrollable situation. When you are forced to interact with those who abuse you on a daily basis you have no other choice but to develop certain coping strategies. I learnt to ignore people, to avoid looking at them. That strategy helped to gain some form of control, an illusion of not entirely being here.

I avoid eye contact because I learned that it was my escape, at least partly, from the things that were happening to me and around me. The thinking runs along the lines of ‘I can see you only if you can see me, too’ and vice versa, and unless two people make eye contact it is impossible for one to see the other. It’s impossible for them to exist.

Even though T hurt my feelings, there is something I would like to tell him:

thank you for never forcing me to look at you. Even though you’ve noticed that my eyes don’t meet yours and although you’ve probably wanted to scream ‘look at me’, you never have. When I was being punished by my father or being held down and abused by those people… they kept saying: “Look at me!” But I never did. It means a lot that you’ve never tried to make me do that—I just wanted you to know.

I have a session today and now it feels even more awkward to look at T. When someone points something out it always seems to create one more elephant in the room. I feel challenged by it all but I’m working really hard on staying present.

I’m sure, like always, we’ll figure out a way to get through it together.

10 thoughts on “therapy woes–when T inadvertently hurts your feelings

  1. Did you have therapy? I hope you got some way towards getting through this. I totally get why this would hurt, however it was intended. One time I was really dissociated my T said to look at her and connect and I couldn’t so she closed her eyes so I could look at her – that really helped. Maybe something to try? X

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    • I went. It was okay, I suppose. I think it came down to feeling like he was mad at me and that’s why he said those things (he wasn’t, its just how I was feeling) and then I was scared he was going to leave because of it.

      I don’t seem to have a sense that all is good between us yet–maybe my feelings are still a little bit hurt by it all. Maybe we’ll have to talk a little bit more about it on Friday.

      I like the idea of him closing his eyes. Maybe I’ll have to ask him to do that. Thanks for the suggestion!

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      • For me, pretty much everything comes down to fear I’ve done something that will make my T go away. It is so frustrating and sad. It also sounds like some good things may come of it too – as my T always, sometimes annoyingly when my heart is breaking, says, ‘nothing in therapy is wasted’!

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      • Ouff. The annoying T responses. I totally get what you mean.

        Yesterday when I told him that what he said hurt my feelings and he responded ‘I’m glad you are voicing your feelings’. All I wanted was him to say ‘sorry’ even if I knew it wasn’t intentional.

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      • Ugh, annoying T responses drive me nuts. As if voicing our feelings makes everything magically okay. Like when I say I’m worried she will go away and she says ‘I hear that fear’ agh!!

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    • He said he didn’t mean to hurt my feelings by saying it. There was a lot of new information that he never knew about that came out of it though. So, I guess it was a beneficial thing even if it doesn’t feel like it.

      My feelings are still a little hurt, but he apologized and I know he meant it so we can still talk some more about it on Friday.

      Bonus: I didn’t wear my hat today and although it was super uncomfortable I made it. Thank goodness for sweaters with pockets.

      Still didn’t look at him though……baby steps!

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  2. This brings back so many memories of how terrifying hard it was to express feelings and own them. Of course it was instilled into me as a child, that I had no worth or right to talk about the traumas occurring. It caused great fear to break that taboo in any way, that I had feelings of any kind and they require respect. But in doing so you find your way ‘home.’ Good work!

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