I decided to give therapy a try again. I looked for a low-cost center in my area, and resolved to call. I haven’t called yet. I presume I will.

It’s so hard to do this alone.

There is also an element of this work–my approach to it anyway–which is to gradually challenge myself. Being seen feels disallowed, and I am frightened to do it, so maybe I’ll do it and work at calming what happens when I feel seen.

I know what I’ve done in the past is to show to myself but cope with the feelings about being seen by numbing them, which I think means I also don’t really know at an emotional level that I was seen in the first place. Unhelpful.

I keep rehearsing how a session might go, trying to work out ahead of time how I might respond. I don’t expect it to be easy. I think typical therapy might be designed to cause me the kinds of difficulties I have in the first place. I was watching a video about a method for helping children with complex trauma recover, and I realized the language is very blaming towards the child. The normal language of psychology sees the traumatized person as defective, and it slides very neatly into the sense of defectiveness left behind by abuse.

It doesn’t lead to real resolution.

This isn’t to say that it has to be like this, but it does mean if I don’t a lot of options due to cost, I can expect to need to deal with that, and to have to carve out space for my point of view, which I see as being different from what is typical.

With C, I see her difficulties as being exacerbated by problems in communication, and they are not just on her end, but my end. She is unclear what she needs to communicate in the first place, and often what comes out I can’t understand. When we have shared experienced which are known already, it’s easy to add to talk about them. She is communicating about something neither of us understand. It is shared, but we both don’t know what it is.

So for example, she had asked for money. We had set up how she would get the money and talked about how much it would be. She told me in one of our recent chats, “I won’t take money.”

I said, “That was said to hurt me. It does hurt.” Now, maybe it wasn’t really. At that moment, I felt she was lashing out. I wanted her to recognize when she is lashing out and also that it does have an effect. And I do want her to see I am not going to counterattack. She can choose how she behaves, but I will not behave in a way that attempts to force her to behave in a way I would like. I might have been wrong, but that’s what occurred ot me at the time.

She backed down and apologized, but my point is that I think she might have been trying to communicate her fears about dependency, because with dependency brings vulnerability, and it might not feel safe to be vulnerable. She might not feel certain she can trust me not to want to hurt her, and as soon as I am in a position of power over her–purveyor of cash–I might use that to do it.

But what this kind of response might generally elicit would be a sense that she is being ungrateful. She might have been trying to tell me about her fear instead. Defiance = I don’t feel safe. People who have been traumatized find it frightening to be vulnerable, because people with power have used that power to harm them in devastating ways.

It creates a communication problem, because I don’t hear or respond to the fear she can’t directly share with me and it might in a different person elicit an aggressive response, which is what she fears in the first place. Defenses stand in the way of attunement.

Typical psychodynamic therapy holds the client accountable for their defenses, but doesn’t hold the listener accountable for knowing that the defenses are there, or that it is a defense. And yet it is not really terribly uncommon. It’s not rocket science to work out that this might be going on.

I think normal narcissism does this. I assume the effect of the communication on me is what she means to do: it’s an off-putting statement. It has the effect of rejecting me. If I respond to my sense of rejection rather than her need to reject me, communication breaks down.

There are actions taken–a pushing–but no ability to imagine one another’s minds has occurred, which is what communication or. Or what is imagined is wrong, perhaps incomplete.

I am wandering from the point, perhaps, but I think this what happens in the kinds of relationships that form in the aftermath of trauma. This way of relating becomes habit and all that is known to do. The mind cannot be communicated about, and so what is done instead is to accomplish an action.

Manipulation, aggression, force or appeal to some emotion.

In other words, people are objects, and yet what is in my mind as a child is that this in itself is something which needs to be communicated: being treated as an object has a feeling to it. It is not a nice feeling. There wasn’t, at the time, any knowledge of what that feeling was, but it has a feeling to it, which can be talked about and explained and understood by someone else as well as by myself.






6 thoughts on “Communication

  1. Alexandra Roth August 1, 2017 / 5:46 am

    To play the Devil’s Advocate, though – if a person, because she has been traumatized as C has – communicates an idea – Idea A – in a way that will be understood by the majority of people as meaning Idea B, then how will they come to understand that they have communicated B and not A if you respond to the Idea A that only you can see? It seems that at some point, they will need to see that the communication is confusing to others and that’s why they get responses they don’t want. But – I guess I’m answering my own question here – they might need to be understood first, and then sometime later, they can see how their communications are failing to serve them.

    • Ashana M August 1, 2017 / 6:16 am

      Yes, that way of communication is all you have learned. You don’t know that it’s confusing. You just know people reject you.

  2. Alexandra Roth August 1, 2017 / 5:49 am

    Oh, other thought – here is some unrequested advice which is worth the money you paid for it. When you meet the new therapist, it might behoove you to tell her that you know a great deal about what works for you and you’d like to be able to tell her/him and be taken seriously.

    The response you get will tell you a lot about whether it’s a good match. IMHO.

    • Ashana M August 1, 2017 / 6:19 am

      I think that might sound very defended. I am not in the mood to be seen as the client with the tough shell that needs to be broken through. Sometimes it works out simply to expect to be taken seriously. I made the call and am waiting for a call back.

      • Alexandra Roth August 3, 2017 / 12:05 pm

        Speaking only as myself, I don’t think I would see it as a tough shell, but rather as a therapy-weary person who has had many experiences of being misunderstood. Maybe that’s only me. I would try to respect it.

      • Ashana M August 3, 2017 / 12:27 pm

        Yes, you’re right.

        I’ve been told far too many times I have trouble with trust and need to somehow work harder at this.

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