First things first. I’m going to have to stop calling my new therapist DBT Therapist because she’s using a range of different approaches – DBT, compassion focused therapy and schema therapy – so I’m going to go with Therapist 2.0* (this doesn’t mean better therapist, it means different therapist!)
With all the emotional turmoil that followed Saturday’s session, I was really apprehensive going in today. I wasn’t worried about what might come up during the session, but rather how I would feel afterwards, and for the next week. It was tough. On Saturday we had looked at some of the coping strategies I’ve developed over the years (being a good girl, doing the right thing, not expressing myself, questioning myself, putting my own needs to one side, repressing, minimising) and today we were looking at what she called the ‘unintended consequences’ of those strategies. The biggest one as far as I can gather at this stage, is that while these strategies work short term, they actually consolidate and reinforce whatever it is I’m trying to protect myself from.
She gave me a couple of examples. If one of my kids came home upset because they felt left out or that one of their friends wasn’t listening to them, would I tell them they were pathetic? That they need to stop being so needy, that then people might actually like them? No, of course I wouldn’t.
Another one. A friend is having problems with a colleague at work, feels they are being dismissed out of hand, that their opinion isn’t of value. Would I tell them to stop being so needy, so pathetic? Again, no, of course not.
So what about me? Ah, well, you see that’s where it’s different. I’m not a child, and I’m not my friend. I absolutely cannot apply that logic to myself. Talking about it with her, even thinking about it now, I want to dismiss it out of hand. What a ridiculously first world problem!!! My opinion isn’t of value. So what? What right do I have to actually believe it would be? (This is the thought process that goes through my head). So I get angry, which pushes aside the need to be heard, which makes me feel worse, and so I come full circle.
We talked about Therapist for a bit, about what it is that I miss about her. I called it kindness. When Therapist 2.0 suggested it was her compassion, that was me in ribbons, instantly, so I suspect she was on the money. I am completely unable to show myself compassion. And again, writing that, and thinking about it in the session, I’m getting angry. So what?? Why do I have such a need for compassion? Why does it matter so much? Even as she was trying to get me to identify what it is that I miss about Therapist, I was busy getting angry with myself because then the emotion goes away. Or, is repressed. Again. And what happens to repressed emotion? It has to come out again or it festers.
I have homework for the next week. I’m to look out for anger and criticism of myself when I’m distressed. I’m to try to identify what I was feeling before I got thick with myself, and what exactly it is that I’m saying to myself. Then I’ve to notice how it makes me feel, and whether or not it helps. It’s going to be a long week………..but do you know what? It’s going to be worth it.
*as an aside, I think that the absolute shambles that was the HSE attempt at providing dbt has actually worked in my favour, because I suspect I’m now working with one of the best people in the field. I would never have been able to do that without your support. Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it.