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A key word that you will see:

Fragmentation: a mental process where a person becomes intensely emotionally focused on one aspect of themselves, such as “I am angry” or “no one loves me,” to the point where all thoughts, feelings and behavior demonstrate this emotional state, in which, the person does not or is unable to take into account the reality of their environment, others or themselves and their resources. This is a term that my therapist and I use and is on the continuum of dissociation.

Monday, February 28, 2011

PTSD: Trauma Reaction

As a natural part of therapy, we often think and feel that what a therapist is doing is like someone significant in our life or who we want or need them to be.  Well, therapist's are not all good, or all bad, are not our father, not are mother, are not perfect and all giving, are not withholding, etc.  They are human with the same ability to do things like you want them to be and also make mistakes.  All of it is something helpful as it shows us how we think, feel, behave and cope under such circumstances. 

Interesting, I just wrote this in third person.  Hmmm....I think that this is a touch subject for me.  I know that I haven't been writing on personal level in the way that I usually due for the past couple of weeks.  The reason is because my relationship with my therapist and therapy have been quite difficult.

I kept getting stuck and ending up in this loop where therapy was hopeless, I'm never going to get better, I won't meet my goal of going to school...it just is hopeless, so I am going to terminate therapy.  (Note: Borderline Personality thinking...all or nothing; all good or all bad.)

Anyway, during one session that I became stuck as my therapist, in my mind and a little truth, that he was telling me these things.  In frustration, he leaned forward and raised his voice.  This was not helpful to say the least.  I immediately went into protective mode and just shut down.  He later apologized and we talked about it.  I also called and terminated therapy (Again, Borderline Personality behavior).  I was angry and afraid that he was going to do the same thing again which is what my parents did to me.  We also talked about the flashbacks that this triggered.  So, everything was fine since we talked about it and he apologized and we moved on.

Afterward, we kept coming to a place where I would do something or state a generalized feeling.  So, he would ask something like, "do you want to stay there, is it helping?" I would answer, "no."  (Note: I have been coming into session already defensive) He then would try to get me to engage in doing something different like change the way I was sitting or to get me thinking differently.  I would keep saying, "I don't know or what do you mean."

I became really hopeless about therapy and life in general last week. I thought that I was never going to get better because I kept doing the same things.  I couldn't seem to do what my therapist was asking and we both were getting more and more frustrated.  Inevitably, I cancelled my sessions and eventually we spoke on the telephone enough for me to come the next day to figure out what was going on.  He did initiate that I only get this way when I don't feel heard and that maybe what I've been saying is that I really don't know what to do and he wasn't getting it. 

The next day, we talked about the situation including how he kept thinking that I was being "stubborn,"  but he noted that he thought that I actually was in protective mode and couldn't get out of it...that I could not cognate which is what he was trying to get me to do, but I really couldn't do it.  He said that I kept going into this loop of needing to protect myself and things are hopeless and never going to change.  The world was critical and dangerous.  This was true when I was growing up, but not now.  Nonetheless, I automatically go there.  It was my way of rocking and hiding in my closet in a ball when I was growing up.  He says, it is like I go immediately to DEFCON 15.

He told me that this was a trauma reaction and that I couldn't change it, but hopefully I could notice it or the duration would be shorter.  But, basically that I couldn't control going into the trauma reaction.  He indicated that this was what I've been doing since he "got in my face."  He said that that experience was more traumatic than he or I thought.  I guess it wasn't all better after all.

The trauma reaction is that I immediately go into defensive mode and shut down and am NOT able to access my cognition which he kept trying to get me to do.  I hear everything as criticism or an attack.  I feel vulnerable and raw.  I am actually UNABLE to do anything differently until I feel safe enough again. 

He also stated that it was much the same way of when I disassociated when one my last day a coworker worker, came into my office and pushed me up against a wall and then I found myself sitting at my desk writing my documentation.  My reaction was not this severe, but it is the same idea that I couldn't stop what I did in the same way that I can't stop my trauma reaction.

I feel much better that my therapist and I figured out all the ins and outs of what has been going on between the two of us.  However, I am disturbed that I have a trauma reaction that puts me into a place where I do not have control over.  And, that it is so strong. 

My therapist said, "Duh, I finally got what you were communicating!"  By the way, he isn't the perfect parent...he definitely makes mistakes!!!   Shatters my fantasy!! LOL!!


Wanda's Wings said...

I can so relate to being on constant alert. I hoping that you continue your fight. you are worth fighting for healing.

Rufty said...

Heya CC :)
This strikes me as a really useful and worthwhile post for you (and me).
I get how frustrating it is when you get "stuck" in therapy. I could bang my head against a wall sometimes about it!
I find it difficult to stand back and see objectively what is going on and so I find this a particularly inspiring post.
It reminds me that when I feel stuck in therapy it's because I need to look a little more closely at the obstacle which is holding me back. In reality I know how easy it is to avoid digging deeper to really uproot the obstacle, to stand back and have a good clear look at it. But I guess that's why therapy is a process and it sounds like you're moving in the right direction - and doing some hardcore digging!
Sometimes I wish I could record my sessions with K so that I could look back at them later (*cringe*) and be able to see and analyse my reactions and actions. In the moment of therapy you're reliant on the feedback you receive from the therapist, which -of course- is tainted somewhat by their own experiences and judgements. I sometimes wonder if I could watch one of our sessions later from a more objective stance if it would not eliminate the need for so much to-ing and fro-ing over the following sessions to figure out exactly what I was reacting to and, critically, how to address the real issue. But then, the interactions with your therapist are all part and parcel of the learning curve that is therapy...Like you said they are only human - which is good, because humans are who we need to interact with!
Hope I'm making some sense this morning (as much as I ever do at least;)..not sure I'm quite "with it" yet, but fancied a ramble and I'm afraid you got stuck with it! That's what you get for being interesting :)

Clueless said...

Wanda, thank you. You are also worth fighting for your own healing.

Rufty, Thank you again for your comment. To me it isn't so much looking more closely as looking at the bigger picture because it only makes sense in a larger context.

Yes, therapy is a process that if working is quite difficult and needs to be in an interaction with a human.

I would bring up your desire to tape or video your sessions with K.

Don't worry about rambling and you do make sense. Take care of yourself.

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