The safety of self-hatred

by | 13 December 2018 | 11 comments

It is a long, hard winter of therapy. We are trudging through snow and each session is bleak and effortful. The warmth between us has given way to suspicion and a simmering resentment. We feel stuck in drifts. There’s no movement. And it’s miserable.

‘What are we going to do to move forwards?’ asks the therapist at the beginning of the session. I feel mild animosity that she’s taken the lead, and I want to find fault and complain that it’s my session and that I should be allowed to lead it. But also part of me is relieved that she’s vocalised what I’ve been feeling. I haven’t had words for the stretched-out tension in my tummy. And she’s right: we really are stuck and we really do need to move forwards.

I sulk only momentarily. I chance a furtive glance at her and then look away, frowning, displeased. This is my dysfunctional, ambivalent behaviour: it says, ‘I want you to know that I want to engage with you, but I also want you to know that I’m not happy with you, so I’m not going to make it easy.’

I grump a bit longer. Then I sigh. And some of the tension escapes with it and suddenly there’s space for words.

‘I don’t know…’


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 for more information, and if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at, and our online courses at We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at




  1. My daughter sent me this post, and said it might help me understand her journey. Wow…What a merciful, marvelous thing it is to have people who can write and share the way Carolyn does. So much of our pain and struggles are inarticulate! Yet if or when someone else is able to speak for us, we so appreciate what they have done. I know it was an effort to get this post written, such hard work-first with the therapist and then to revisit it again to be able to share it with the rest of us. Thanks so much! And to Vanessa, Laura, and “K”, I’m glad you found this place. Please take heart! I understand why you want to avoid being hurt again…it’s the hardest part about seeking help. Persevere! At the age of 63, I am living a large and wonderful life, but as a survivor of incest, and in recovery from drugs, porn, and an eating disorder, it has been a hard-fought battle. It may take years to discover and embrace the person you were created to be–rather than the person you were (first) told you were, and (second) you told yourself you were. Take the time! Blessings!

  2. Spot on. I felt this deeply…

  3. K, please contact PODS and see if there’s anyone on their list near you. You aren’t at square one. Something in you knows that that experience was unbelievably negative and that there should be hope. That’s nowhere near square one.

  4. I relate to this all too much, especially the parts about your mother.

    Unfortunately the realisation that I feel safe in my self-hatred makes me hate myself even more, because I’m nearly 42 and I’m too old to still be feeling this way. People in their 20s and 30s realise it and work through it, but I’m still stuck. And now I’m nearly 42 and I’ve basically wasted my life hating myself. I won’t get married young because no-one has loved me (because I hate myself). I’ve missed out on so much.

  5. Hmm relate to this 😏

  6. I am sorry you went through this K. You were right when you thought there should be hope. Your therapist shouldnt have treated you like that. Thank goodness for the practical tips we have here.

  7. I totally get this. I see it in children who have been hurt, the more awkward a child is behaving the closer you are to a trust breakthrough. It is always a time to be particularly consistent and gentle and accepting. I am so sorry K for your experience. That therapist didn’t treat you right. You were absolutely right to feel there should be hope. Because there is and we are seeing it here. These practical tips can help us all.

  8. K I feel your pain and frustration…….theres a lot of ‘not good enough’ therapy out there… sounds like you are better off without this one ! I too get so angry that we, the ones who are suffering, have to do all the work to source and fund our ‘treatment’ and to then judge if it is right or not….( which is really difficult because we are abused and traumatised and vulnerable..)..I spent years doing not good therapy because I thought the fault was with me not the therapist and their approach…
    But all I know is we are so lucky to have Carolyn and PODS and it’s great that you have hope and are NOT falling for the line that this is it for life…just take your time and don’t give up….sometimes when it feels impossible I remember that Carolyn didn’t even have Carolyn ( in the way we do..) and she did it, so so can we!

  9. Every word of that is exactly where I am, only when I was trying so hard it was not met with compassion and safety. It was angry voice, insults and the devastating words, ‘ therapy isn’t going to help you…I don’t recommend you have any more…we ain’t got no more to give’. I’m told I’m going to have to live with it and suffer forever. I try to argue that I think this is unbelievably negative and there should be hope, but I’m too upset to finish the words. Then the wall of dissociation comes down for the rest of the session. And that’s it. Back to square one. Another therapist, another year done. I wanted it to work so much. I worked so hard this time, trying to be brave and to get to ‘those things’, even in writing. But the inconsistency in manner each session was terrifying. Then that session. The end of it all. No advice, ideas for coping, suggestions for where to go now, nothing. It’s literally only your words Carolyn that have ever given me any hope.

  10. Love this post. Rings so true for me. Thanks!

    • The empathy held is immense, as is the uncanny almost eerie way this relates to my own present journey. This is the most scariest, unconfident place to be in – no confidence in myself and my ability to overcome the biggest killer of all – a part of my self. A part of myself that does not know how to live without Anorexia/disordered eating. I can not work out for the life of me, why I can not change when I am so terrified of dying and want now to do so much. I can perhaps see where and what my may be purpose. How I get there, especially given the fact there is little or no support for adults with eating disorders, let alone any recognition or acknowledgment for cPTSD within the NHS (in my area). Having been misdiagnosed with BPD and had inappropriate treatment for 25 years within the psychiatric system, many approaches of which have retruamatised me – I’m left shocked at times at the reality I am faced with. Which is two phases of chronic traumatisation. Petrified. Absolutely petrified. Thank you PODS for being there, extending warmest wishes to you Carolyn and all those responsible for the running of PODS, a peaceful Christmas. Ness & Sir Jack Spratticus (Friends for Life Winner, Crufts 2018)


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Am I too much?

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Understanding the dynamics around child sexual abuse, who the perpetrators are, how they achieve their ends, the impacts of abuse on us—all of this knowledge, this ‘psycho-education’ has aided my recovery. And so these are ten of the many things that I have learned about child sexual abuse, some of the insights that have begun to heal my shame.

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