Therapy today: Being left in silence

I’m having one of those therapy saturation point days. This happens every now again; I just feel like I can’t handle it anymore. I feel like quitting because it is all so hard and seems to get me nowhere.

I’ve written a fair bit about my problem with silence in therapy. A little bit is fine. It gives me the chance to think about what I need to say and how to say it. But I often have these days when the silence drowns me. I get sucked into it and the longer it goes on, the harder it is for me to break out of it. The more I sit in silence, the further away the words get.

In the silence, this fear builds up inside me and I get so scared I can’t speak. I can’t even move. I didn’t quite realise it was fear until today, when I accidentally described it that way. J pointed it out, because apparently I had never said it before. But basically, when I switch into that vulnerable child place I am afraid to speak.

My session with J today comprised a lot of horrible, painful silence. Sessions like that leave me feeling hopeless. They leave me convinced that nothing will ever change. It is so gruelling to experience these silent sessions, it makes me loathe therapy. Today I wanted to run away.

I think what made the session really tough was J explaining to me why she leaves me in the silence. After I’d sat there awkwardly avoiding eye contact, nervously searching for words, I eventually had to kill the silence by telling her how much I hate it. She acknowledged that it is horrible for me, but then went into her reasons for not ‘rescuing’ me from it.

Logically, I understand the rationale. Something incredibly difficult is coming up for me and I have to find a way to work through it. If J keeps intervening by asking a question, I will be able to keep avoiding whatever that difficult thing is. And she is often merciful and does reach out to save me from that lonely, scared place.

What was really hard was hearing another message in this. I guess the young part of me heard her say she wasn’t willing to rescue me. That part heard her clearly say, more than once, that she would resist the urge to save me from that horrible place.

During the session, I didn’t quite grasp this. I did feel angry with her though, so somewhere I picked up on it. I left feeling like therapy is only going to be awful from now on, so I don’t want to do it anymore. It seemed like an extreme reaction.

But when I think about what I went through as a child, it is no wonder that hearing this from her was painful. When I was just 11 and dealing with the aftermath of being abused by my older brother, nobody wanted to rescue me. I was alone with that horror. I was alone with shame and fear and grief. Nobody helped. So many adults knew what had happened, but nobody tried to save me. I felt utterly abandoned.

I still struggle with feeling abandoned by people who I wish cared enough to help me. I still feel the intense pain of my truth and my feelings being rejected by the people I love. It’s hugely painful and it hits me in the guts at some point every day.

J is not like those people. She hears me and accepts me. I trust her. I believe that she cares about what’s going on for me. But today I couldn’t handle her ‘cruel to be kind’ approach. Sometimes I just want her to say she will save me from all this. I know it isn’t realistic, but it’s hard not to hope that somehow she can and will rescue me.

Photo: Holly Lay, Creative Commons.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. bethanyk says:

    Oh my gosh that would be very difficult for me. It would make me angry I think

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to silences being really difficult in therapy, because silence and withdrawal was so often used as a punishment when I was a child. I’ve discussed it a lot with my therapist and now that he understands the extent to which I find it distressing he is more flexible about using silence. There is some value in not jumping in straight away when a bit of an awkward silence will prompt you to talk, but there is a point beyond which it’s just cruel and isn’t going to achieve anything other than re-traumatising you. I think it would be useful to talk about it some more with your therapist, because you’re clearly describing here that part of you would benefit from the experience of being rescued.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Laura says:

      I did talk to her some more about this on Tuesday. It was difficult for me, because I hate feeling like I am being critical of her in some way, so the topic was hard to raise. I just explained how the last session had impacted me and why I thought that was. We discussed her use of the word ‘rescuing’, which she had meant in a clinical sense but I had received in a different way. I did feel a little better after we talked about it, but I still know I am going to have to battle that silence alone. J said I am not alone in it and that she is alongside me and watchful of me, but it is hard to feel comforted by that.

      Liked by 1 person

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