I can’t, I couldn’t, and I can

by | 25 October 2018 | 5 comments

‘But I can’t.’

Why, just at that moment, did the therapist not understand? Of course I couldn’t: it was impossible. I felt ashamed to have to say it. They could be obtuse sometimes, these therapists. Downright unempathic. Cold. Harsh. Uncaring. Was she even human?

She said nothing, obviously hating me. Her silence sat like a pool of disgust around my feet.

‘I can’t,’ I said again, trying not to say it too firmly, worrying that my throat would swallow back the defiance before my breath could expel it.

Another pause.

The silence hurt, full of contempt.

I was convinced I would see hatred. I was convinced her lips were upturned in a snarl, despising me, goading me, willing me away. I was convinced for that moment that she hated me every bit as much as my mother had hated me, at times in the past when I’d pleaded, futilely, with her that I couldn’t...

Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available now!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to www.pods-online.org.uk for more information, and https://support.pods-online.org.uk/start-here if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at www.carolynspring.com/live-training, and our online courses at www.carolynspring.com/online-training. We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at www.carolynspring.com/shop. My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/recovery-is-my-best-revenge-paperback/




  1. Oh Carolyn… I appreciate reading these posts so very much! I know so well these internal/ external conversations and visceral reactions… it is both shocking and comforting to hear someone express so articulately all these experiences that feel like my personal & private secret ‘oddities’. Hearing another voice narrate them – especially from someone who is so much further down a path of recovery gives me such tremendous hope and relief. Thank you – from the deepest places in me – for what you dare to share here, and all the work that you do through PODs. You’re amazing 🙂

  2. I have recently ‘recovered’ from over forty years of struggling to live well with a background of agoraphobia. This blog and recently found this site is helping me as a person and as a therapist. My gratitude is immense. Janet

  3. What a wonderful insight…thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. *penny drops, it’s still spinning, but at least is has actually succumbed to gravity – the journey and battle continue. Thank you Carolyn.

  5. A relief to recognise the intense complexity of feelings for the therapist…..to know it’s not wrong to be utterly convinced of their hatred…it’s not just me that has those repeated doubts and fears about their intent and helpfulness….and to know that despite that the right kind of progress and insights can rise out of this mess like a Phoenix….with courage.
    Deeply inspiring and reassuring.


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More from Carolyn…


‘Unshame?’ says the therapist, checking that she’s heard me correctly.

I nod. ‘I don’t know what else to call it. Because, what’s the opposite of shame? There isn’t one really, is there?

We have two choices when triggered

‘It’s horrible being triggered.’

I nod. It’s an understatement. There are no words to describe it. The trigger comes and our bodies and brains surge with the aversiveness of survival: everything tells us to get away. This is dangerous! This is painful! This isn’t good! Get away, get away!

When there’s no hope

Real hope isn’t cheap. Real hope is born out of a bloody struggle. Hope has guts. Hope is what you’re left with when you’ve stared down the despair. So how did I get from hopelessness to hope?

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