In this podcast, Carolyn talks about the crippling isolation of shame, and how to move beyond it.
‘Does that feel too vulnerable?’ the therapist asks me.
Doh. Yes. Of course.
But I don’t say this, because it feels too vulnerable to admit to feeling vulnerable. Instead, I pull my armour tighter and try to figure out how to distract her.
Is recovery from trauma and abuse – resulting in dissociation and even a dissociative disorder – possible? That’s the subject of this podcast where Carolyn Spring talks about the vulnerability of hoping for good things, the difference between correlation and causation, and the difference between hoping for and planning for.
I want to fight her, I really do. She’s just not rising to it.
‘I see your suffering,’ she says, the words melodic and gentle. Now she’s looking at me, and she’s evidently not scared of me. She’s wiping down the space between us with tenderness. ‘Tell me about your suffering.’ Something about her softness breaks my aggression and I look down, and sigh. There’s pain in that sigh. It burns to breathe in again.
‘How can I help you?’ the therapist asks me. ‘What do you need from me?’
I look at her closely, examining her features, whilst also looking through her, to make sure I don’t connect too closely.
First the fear: Is this a trick? What does she mean? What does she want? Why is she saying this?
Then the shame: What right have I to be helped?
And afterwards, the sadness: No-one has ever offered to help me.
Three emotions in three seconds.
‘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?
‘What are you going to do to keep yourself safe?’ It’s a subtle change of question, but an effective one, because I’m caught.
‘I have absolutely no idea,’ I say, deciding that honesty is the best policy.
Join Carolyn as she talks about how important the relationship between therapist and client is, and what factors go into making a good one.
‘I don’t fit in,’ I complain, earnestly, full of pain. ‘I don’t belong. I don’t belong anywhere.’
The therapist looks at me steadily, brimming with compassion for me and probably a little stuck about how to respond. If she contradicts me, she’ll risk being misattuned. If she agrees with me, she’ll reinforce my misery. So she sits and waits and eventually she says, ‘When did you first feel like this?’
The woman’s eyes flick around the floor. Her breath is caught up in her ribs, hardly exhaling. Her fists are clenched. Her shoulders shrug upwards around her neck, protectively. The agony of being is raw on her face. Terror and dread and shame and confusion.