I don’t know how open and honest you may be with the therapist(s) you’ve seen, but I’ve often had a lot of problems. Last year I wrote here about one constraint that often held me back – the fear of expressing strong emotions. A few days ago, I realized, when answering a question at Health Central, that there have been other barriers to talking freely. That prompted me to put up a post on my blog there about truth-telling in therapy. I hope you’ll take a look at it.
I mentioned three problems in the post but then the reader comments reminded me of a couple more. Here’s a brief overview:
Needing Approval: For a long time, I felt so much shame and worthlessness that I needed the approval of others to feel justified about being alive. To get that approval from a therapist, I instinctively tried to be the model patient. That meant showing steady progress, even if I was in a despairing relapse. If I were to tell him the truth, I was afraid he’d give up on me, get angry, tell me I couldn’t handle therapy – or I don’t know what.
Empty and Numb: There were times when I couldn’t imagine having anyone’s approval for anything I did or said. Instead of talking openly, I’d be thinking that I couldn’t do therapy any better than I could do anything else. I was empty, nothing to say, nothing to feel. Whatever I might bring up wouldn’t be worth the time. What’s the point of trying?
Certain I’m Faking: In another mood with matching frame of mind, I didn’t even believe that I had any real problems. In a way, I was internalizing stigma and prejudice about depression. – I’m not depressed enough to be here. I’m a fraud, pretending to be sick. I’m making things up just to avoid life. He’ll find out I’m a fake and get rid of me. So I have to be careful what I say.
Wanting to Run: Then there were the times I felt the urge to get out of therapy, convincing myself I didn’t need it anymore. I couldn’t very well confess to feeling bad when I was desperate to stop all this talk about feelings and relationships. Everything was looking up, I’d say, and assure him I’d be able to handle things on my own. Just let me out of here!
Locking Up the Beast: Even talking about strong emotions I was feeling at the moment stirred a deep fear. On some primitive level, I was afraid of releasing a destructive power I had locked within me. I worked hard at suppressing almost all feelings, presenting an impassive face to everyone. Most people thought I was incredibly calm no matter what was happening, but the opposite was true. There was no way I would let myself go in a therapy session.
So telling the emotional truth in therapy was hard when I couldn’t see around these powerful constraints. It wasn’t always that bad, though, and there were times when I could work effectively with a therapist. I’m thankful for that!
What has your experience with therapy been like? Does any of this sound familiar?