Bobbi’s Saga: The Trap Of Gratitude

“Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”

-Chinese proverb

“If you refuse to look into the darkness of your past, your future will never become bright.”

-Anonymous

“My empowerment is not about him; it’s about me.

I am not blame nor is the shame mine to own.

It is simply my responsibility to make this life

About… Self. “

-Dr. Micheal Kane, Clinical Traumatologist

—————————————–

My Dear Readers,

We return to Bobbi’s Saga as she continues her journey of self-discovery and struggles with the concept of gratitude in the achievement of her work with her psychological self.

Bobbi in her own words…

***************************************************

It is typical for Dr. Kane to conclude our therapy sessions with the question “Who gets the credit for your work”?  I always say, “We do.”  Expecting me to say “I do” is like asking me to call Dr. Kane by his first name, Micheal.  

I always think about that question for a while.  If I could have done this by myself, I would have.  If I could have reduced or lightened the guilt and shame, I would have.  There are so many things I have learned from Dr. Kane, like:

  • The flashbacks will never completely go away
  • I am not at fault or blame for the sexual assaults
  • The shame and guilt are not mine to bear.
  • Suicidal thoughts may come and go.

It is because of Dr. Kane that I have moved towards knowing that:

  • I should love myself
  • I should put myself first or consider what I want.
  • I have the right to say no. I used to believe I did not have that right.

I feel I will be able say “I do” to Dr. Kane’s question when my self-esteem and my self-image increase.  I have lived not believing that I had any worth at all!  When I am told positive things about myself, I have a hard time believing and accepting the compliments.  It is easier for me to believe positive things about other people.

How does a person believe positive things that are said to them?  Especially when they only heard bad things and feel bad about being abused?  The result is they feel like a bad person. 

Being told you are bad and feeling like you are a bad person makes it easy to believe and accept that I am a bad person.  I would like to feel like I get the credit.  I just don’t feel I have earned it or that I deserve it.

I have recently passed the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.  I have been thinking about how mean she was to me. I have always wondered why I seem to forget some of the bad things she did to me.  She was a terrible mother.  As an adult, I tried so hard to please her, but it did no good.  As a child, I tried to be good and stay out of trouble.  It also did no good.

I am shocked as to how I have reacted to her death.  I always thought that when she died, I wouldn’t be affected.  I was wrong.  No matter what she has done to me, I have always wanted love from her.   I see this as another example of one of my unrealistic beliefs.

I want to thank Dr. Kane for his support, care, and guidance on this journey, keeping me alive, helping me feel safe enough to reveal my secrets to him.  He has helped me to believe that the flashbacks and pain will become lighter.  It is also because of him that I know and understand that I deserve to have a good life… a life filled with kindness and affection.

Today, I have an appointment with Dr. Kane.  Before I see him, I like to think about what I want to talk about.  There are times I focus on feelings of guilt and shame.  Sometimes I leave my session feeling lighter, other times I leave with the thoughts weighing heavily in my mind.  I hope the intense thoughts will calm down and be replaced by pleasant thoughts.

There are some weeks that I leave disturbed or think about the session all week long.  I think of how long I’ve had the problem, and what are the solutions if any, and what I can do to lessen the fear, pain, guilt and shame. There are times when my flashbacks take over and we process to where I remain balanced and achieve calmness in my external environment.

The sessions are always helpful and thought provoking.  Often, traumatic memories come up in the session.  I think that is because the session is a safe place.  It is the only safe place I have.  There is nowhere else I can express my pain, shame and guilt without being judged or have the fear of people viewing me as strange, weird, or troubled.

Mother’s Day is soon arriving.   Despite my siblings’ prodding, I have decided not to visit my mother’s gravesite.  Instead of honoring her, I will spend the time focusing on me and doing what I want for me.

Today is a good day.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Concluding Remarks-Dr. Kane

In Bobbi’s writing, she seeks to acknowledge the therapist for her successes in therapy.  Notice the ongoing struggle she “endures” with me as I continue to question who gets the credit for her work.

It would be normal to ask ourselves:

  • Why are Bobbi and the therapist struggling over “who gets credit for the work done” in therapy?
  • Why won’t Dr. Kane simply accept her appreciations and cease making gratitude an issue?
  • Why won’t Bobbi call Dr. Kane by his first name? Why won’t Dr. Kane encourage this?  Why not create less formality in the doctor-patient relationship?

I have often written that “why” questions provide responses that circle back to themselves, and as a result, they do not bring full understanding of the foundation of the issue being questioned.  A more useful method of inquiry would be focusing on the “what,” instead:

  • What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?
  • What is the desired outcome of trauma informed treatment?

 

What is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy? 

Bobbi is living in fear of the possibility of obtaining her objective of a normalized life, and that is preventing Bobbi from accepting credit for her work in therapy.   Bobbi has placed the psychological self in a psychological no man’s land that is left unoccupied due to her fear and uncertainty when it comes to claiming ownership of her life and her psychological self.

Currently, this is comfortable for Bobbi because she is in conflict.  Consciously, she seeks relief from the internalized hell of complex trauma.  Unconsciously, however, after many decades of living with complex trauma and its “secrets,” she lives in fear of the unknown life that she could have outside of the complex trauma that she has experienced.  In doing so, she has reinforced this well dug in position.

Bobbi has unconsciously created an insurmountable barrier for herself preventing the ability to take credit for her achievements in therapy by tying the goal to an inappropriate cultural norm of addressing me by my first name.  Notice that there is no internal or external pressure being exerted to do so.  However, by tying both together, she has attached a rule to her own development that she never wants to break, which is an artificial limit that she is putting on her own healing.

So what does she do?  She returns to therapy twice weekly where she is safe to explore the areas of complex trauma devastated by sexual assault, physical abuse, abandonment and isolation.  Consciously, she continues to heal where unconsciously, the psychological self continues to hold its position.

 

What internalized beliefs would Dr. Kane be reinforcing should he accept Bobbi’s gratitude?

Bobbi is an amazing woman.   She is the epitome of a woman who has survived horrendous abuse, and withstood abandonment and isolation enough to be able to educate herself, marry wisely, and successfully raise three children.  However, the illusion of amazement abruptly stops here—and what we see in therapy is a woman who has repeatedly sacrificed herself at the behest of her mother, siblings and children.

Historically, Bobbi has held firmly to the belief that she is unworthy.  Although she can give compliments, she is unable to receive compliments.  Specifically, Bobbi is willing to acknowledge the commitment and the work of the therapist, yet she is unwilling to accept the same words about her actions.  She maintains the well dug in position that she could not have obtained the current state of growth and healing of the traumatic wound without me.

Therefore, she seeks to “hand over” credit of her work and accomplishments in therapy to the therapist and not to herself.  It is my belief that psychotherapy is a journey of self-discovery.  The roles of the therapist is to be a guide and companion for the individual as they navigate key areas of their journey.  It is for the therapist to facilitate the process of therapy, to be available to assist in the interpretation of materials as such arises from the journey and in being present provide safety from an isolating journey.

Accepting credit for her work would fly in the face of Bobbi’s belief that she lacks the ability to walk alone, even though she already has.  This is simply another step towards achieving her objective of living a normative life following her successful work in healing the traumatic wound.

What are the desired outcomes of trauma informed treatment?

There are five desired outcomes:

  • Safety (physical and emotional safety)
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency (meaningful sharing of power and decision-making)
  • Choice (voice and agency)
  • Collaboration & Mutuality (partnership and leveling of power differences)
  • Empowerment

The desired outcomes are achievable when the S pathway can be made available to the individual seeking to heal the traumatic wound.   The S pathways consists of providing a safe secured space to search within and to speak; ending the silence and releasing what lies submerged below. The result is that Bobbi can sustain security in self and reinforce her self-esteem and self-conceptIt is during the process of self-discovery that the individual can learn advocacy for self, balance within the psychological self and calmness within the external world.

Bobbi continues to do well in healing her traumatic wounds.  She understands that the traumatic experiences are permanent etchings on the psychological self and may never fully go away, but that the objective is to learn how to normalize her life and be able to balance the weight of the traumatic experiences. Although she remains in conflict regarding her self-esteem, her belief that she is not worthy has lessened.

This is evidenced by her refusal to continue sacrificing herself, specifically in her refusal to visit her mother’s gravesite, choosing instead to spend time with the psychological self.  Furthermore, Bobbi is now willing to “share credit” of her therapy with the therapist instead of issuing outright credit to the therapist.

It will be the objective in therapy to continue to work within the S pathways to where she will one day move to full actualization by holding full credit and therefore move successfully from no man’s land to self-assurance in walking her journey of self-discovery.

Until the next journey…Bobbi’s saga continues…

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