Trauma and dissociation

The cost of invulnerability

The cost of invulnerability

‘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.

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Podcast: #7 – Can we heal?

Podcast: #7 – Can we heal?

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.

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I see suffering

I see suffering

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.

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What do you need?

What do you need?

‘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.

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Unshame

Unshame

‘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?

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When safe feels unsafe

When safe feels unsafe

‘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.

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Why don’t I belong?

Why don’t I belong?

‘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?’

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The shame of dissociation

The shame of dissociation

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.

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The fallacy of grounding

The fallacy of grounding

But she’s not a substitute. She’s a prison guard.

That is the first conclusion I jump to even before our first session starts. But I am being driven by fear of the unknown; fear of attachment; fear of rejection; fear of being shamed. I’m aware, just about, that I’m not being entirely fair.

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The powerlessness of grooming

The powerlessness of grooming

‘It’s just a terrible sense of guilt,’ I explain, ‘but I don’t even know where it comes from. I just know that it was my fault. That it was always my fault. So how can I sit here in therapy and complain that I was abused if I caused it?’

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