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*hugs* How have you been affected by reading the article? Do you feel able to talk about what's going on in your head now you've read it?

If I was in a fairly fragile place, I wondered whether I might take a self-blame nose dive and feel like my T was labelling me or saying I was dysfunctional. Given what you've been going through these last months, I'm wondering if you've been left feeling as if you're carrying all the responsibility for what happened with exT?

In terms of its usefulness, I saw a fair number of traits I have seen both in past and present Mallard. People pleasing (check) Defining self-worth by others (check), giving a lot and having issues setting boundaries have all been big topics for me too.

I've never been a fan of the term co-dependency, probably because it has really developed a life of its own since it entered mainstream usage and it's often not used correctly. I prefer to define the issues I experience in terms of attachment. To me, it feels less pathologising to think like that because attachment has a developmental perspective.

Although the suggestions make sense, I got a little irritated by the neat summing up about how to get over it. I understand that it's the Huff, so this is an article for popular consumption - and the author will have been held to a strict word count. So it's not an in-depth article aimed at T clients.

If it was me, I'd want to use the article as a jumping off point for exploration with my T and I'd certainly want to explore my T's thought processes to understand what led to her recommending this article and what her answer to the what next? question is. I'd be hesitant to use it as a road map, especially early on in the therapeutic relationship.

Hope you're okay, AH.

((((mallard)))) I've had a sort of disappointed reaction. I should have prefaced my last post by saying that it was my fault the topic was even brought up. I mumbled something about wondering if I was co-dependent and it was like I opened the door and T was ever eager to come running through it. She said she had been thinking about bringing it up.

*sigh again* I agree that it seems there are many different definitions for it. And I agree that it is not good to put such a complex issue into a neat little package of how to cure it.

Here's my issue- While I do have pretty much all of the traits mentioned in the article, esp the ones you mentioned, I don't really think this applies to exT. I don't think it's accurate to explore my relationship with him in the light of what this article explains, because this is referring to relationships between two people on equal ground. A T relationship is different.

I am vacillating between holding onto a sense of anger and self protection to later seeing everything from "his side" when I think of exT. I keep listening to my gut and reason one moment, thinking I am sure of myself and my memories of how he behaved. Then the next moment I dive into self blame again and think of the whole situation in the way T2 wanted to portray it. I feel like she was right, he was just a good guy who made mistakes. And then I feel like a horrible person, and then I feel angry, and then I believe myself again. It's getting exhausting.

I guess the what it comes down to though, is that again, co-dependency doesn't apply with a T relationship does it?

This T does not work in terms of attachment, which is becoming clearer with each session... I like her and think she is a great T, but attachment doesn't seem to even be in her vocabulary.

*Long sigh*
Man, am I ever relieved to hear you say you don't think exploring the relationship with Ex-T in the context of this article is appropriate. I hope your current T is of the same opinion. I agree for exactly the reasons you've outlined. Even with a T who has worked hard to minimise the power gap, the T is always responsible for their behaviour. It's as close to an absolute as you can get.

It sounds incredibly exhausting what you're going through. I suppose where I am standing, whether or not ex-T was a 'good guy' shouldn't necessarily have any bearing on whether you are allowed to feel angry, bereft and betrayed. I recognise the 'pendulum swinging' you're doing. I've done it and it's awful. Hug two

People can do crappy things without meaning to but it doesn't mean that the recipient has to suck it up and transcend the feelings that get elicited. Regardless of ex-T's intentions, your feelings are real, valid and justified and should be attended to. (Note, I am not saying that I think exT was a 'good guy that made mistakes' - I think it's incredibly complex and cannot be boiled down to a simple explanation, which is the hardest thing, IMO because our brains want it to be simple so we can sort out the horrible tangle of emotions and move on)

I suppose the only way I would think that this article is relevant to the therapeutic relationship is that I would think that people who find themselves ticking those boxes may be susceptible to getting really wounded in bad therapeutic relationships, and may find it harder to recognise abusive behaviour. I know that was the case with me because of my history. I suppose in that context the article could help give depth to understanding why you have been hurt so badly (echoes from the past etc) but TBH I think you already know this and have spoken about it in depth on here. I'm guessing current T won't know that though as you've only met a few times.

Do you know what you want to say about the article to your T when you next see her?

I agree with all of the above. You have such a way of articulating things perfectly Smiler

I believe I'd like to say that this does help me identify my patterns of behavior in relationships, and helps me see why I've been wounded so badly by exT, and the advice here could be beneficial for me to hear and apply... BUT... I don't feel it will help me make sense of how to fully move on from exT. Because the context is of a totally different dynamic.

My deep fear is that she is suggesting this material because she is ready to "move on" from exT to deal with the rest of my relationships in life. I really hope she hasn't already become tired of hearing about him, because as much as I would love to be done with the subject (I wanted to be "over it" the day I left!!!) my mind is not in agreement with letting it go just yet. It will unfortunately require many conversations of the same topic, each time trying to untangle a little more of the trauma, until it's out of my system. I am not sure if she is ready for that kind of repetition, but I hope so...

I really agree also with what you said about the difficulty in processing such a complex situation. I will be the first to admit that one of my most trusted defense mechanisms in childhood was black and white thinking. It's taken years for me to develop the ability to see the 'shades of gray' in between, so to speak. And I feel like for the most part I can manage to pull from my new resources instead of using my old coping strategy.

However... with this situation I feel like there are SO many variables it's completely overwhelming, not to mention how many layers of my existing wounds it touches on. It would be amazing to be able to put this into a neat little package of good or bad, right or wrong, love or hate. Sometimes it feels like I have honestly felt every emotion known to man about exT, all at the same time.

I hope I can start making some real progress soon...


When I was in the process of leaving my Old T, I consulted with Dr. Sue Elkind - whose expertise is exactly in this area. She had gone through difficult therpapeutic endings and wanted to understand them. She helps others struggling with the same or similar issues.

In any event, every time I brought up something else about my Old T, I expected her to get bored or tired of it or tell me I was obsessing and was stuck. I asked her outright about it and she told me that she didn't think any of those things. She thought that I was in the process of separating from my Old T and working through different pieces of it and that it would go on for some time.

Wow, I can't tell you what a relief it was to hear that.

I had also been seeing my current T as an adjunct T at the same time but didn't want to involve her in my relationship with my Old T so never told her about my consult with Dr. Elkind until recently. However, since I left my Old T, my current T seemed to discourage me from talking about him.

I was upset about this because Dr. Elkind had been so accepting of my need to process the relationship AND there were many things I couldn't talk about in my FOO. I didn't like the fact that my current T wasn't as accepting of all my feelings. I brought it up to her. She said that she was discouraging me because she didn't think it was healthy - in direct contrast to what Dr. Elkind said.

I felt strongly, though, that it was MY therapy and I should be able to talk about whatever it is I want to talk about. I had seen my T for 6 1/2 years and couldn't understand how she would expect me to move on so quickly from a relationship that was so important and intense. My guess is that she was jealous, that she wanted me to focus on her as my main attachment figure.

In any event, since I questioned her about it - (and also told her I didn't like being told I was being obsessive, that I knew I was obsessive and had been told that as a child by my parents, that I found it to have very negative connotations. I also thought it was part of the package that came with the preoccupied attachment and once those issues were resolved, the obsessiveness would resolve)
- she has now backed off and told me that all my feelings are welcome in the room. Quite honestly, I would rather Dr. Elkind be my therapist because she was genuinely accepting of my feelings, had gone through something similar and also understood them, but she only works with people short-term when they are having trouble with their therapist helping them to resolve it or move on and find a new therapist.

Sorry to go on so long about it. Just wanted to share my experience in the hopes that it might embolden you to speak directly to your New T about it.
As far as the codependency stuff is concerned, I am not a fan of the concept either. I found it helpful in that it gave me a framework of an other doing a dance with me as opposed to me just doing the dance all by myself and being the only sick one.

It seems to me that if we weren't codependent, then we wouldn't be dependent on anyone else to meet any of our needs. We would be able to take care of our emotional needs, our social needs, our needs for security, our financial needs, and so on. There may be some super people out there who can do all those things for themselves but I am not one of them.

I guess the dysfunctional thing about codependency is that the other is abusive or takes advantage of us in order to meet needs of their own? We may accept the abuse because they meet a need of ours that we can't meet on our own.

However, I don't necessarily see it as being addicted to feelings of being in love and pain in any kind of intentional way or in a way that I have much control over. I am SO incredibly happy to be out of the painful relationship I had with my Old therapist. It is such a relief. What kept me there was my belief that he knew better than me, that he was the healthy one and I was the sick one, that he was the successful one and I the failure, etc. etc. He shared that view as well which was a reenactment of my FOO. I have to keep hammering into my brain that he very much contributed to the dance of the relationship - just as your ex therapist did.

Understanding emotional needs - actually all our needs - separating them from wants and learning how to get them met is such a complicated process. If you did not grow up in a family that was sophisticated in that regard and did not teach you how to sort out your needs from someone else's and vice versa, how is it that suddenly it's a disorder? Maybe it's just that we are gaining more insight into emotions and the brain, etc., and we understand now why people live in pain.

But to cast any kind of responsbility or blame on anyone for something so complicated seems incredibly … codependent. Sorry, couldn't resist that one. It IS a very judgmental way to look at it. We can be happier when we are treated with respect and love and learn to treat ourselves that same way. We don't choose a life of pain.

I've been reading The Neuroscience of Human Relationships by Louis Cozolino. Most of it is way over my head but some of what he writes I understand and touches me deeply. Here is something that really hit it home for me:

"It was not until the children were held, rocked, and allowed to interact with one another that their survival rate improved … Scientists have had to expand their thinking to grasp this idea. The individual neuron or a single human brain does not exist in nature. Without mutually stimulating interactions, people and neurons wither and die. In neurons this process is called apoptosis; in humans it is called depression, grief, and suicide. From birth until death, each of us needs others who seek us out, show interest in discovering who we are, and help us feel safe. Thus, understanding the brain requires knowledge of the healthy, living brain embedded within a community of other brains: Relationships are our natural habitat. "
Liese, I'm glad Dr Elkind validated your feelings. I'm of the opinion that if feelings are repeatedly making themselves known then they're better attended to than dismissed as 'unhealthy' or 'obsessive'.

I think there's a line to be drawn and I think sometimes people tend to lump ruminating and obsession together, when OCD type issues are not the same as being caught in emotional pain (although they may be incredibly painful!). If I had some compulsive issues (like a fear of dogs for example), I probably would want to use some behavioural techniques to help divert me from that particular thought pattern. With family-related emotional issues, probably not.

It depends on the client, I suppose. I do know folk who far prefer solution-focussed approaches to their emotional issues but I am not one of them.

I'm also with you on who's the driver in the therapeutic relationship. I get to decide what's important to me, how long I spend on it and when I am ready to move on to the next phase. I am happy to be met with appropriate challenge but my T and I have had to work hard on what that means and realise that human relationships are fluid and what feels okay may change week on week.

More and more I am coming to think that the early stages of therapy need to be about T and client working out their own language of what is going to work and then it has to be constantly renegotiated as therapy proceeds. What was once not comfortable for me is now okay, so techniques and subjects that I would once say "no way!" to, are no longer off the table. Similarly, just because something is okay now, doesn't mean I won't end up a triggered mess on the ceiling in 4 weeks time. That is why the therapeutic relationship needs to build in that trust, honesty and flexibility.

I think when you've been wounded deeply, it can be incredibly hard to access the internal resources to make sure that happens though. I'm glad you've been able to negotiate with your current T.

My deep fear is that she is suggesting this material because she is ready to "move on" from exT to deal with the rest of my relationships in life

AH, I think I would share that fear too. I don't know how easy you would find this, but this is exactly the subject that should be being talked about in the early stages of therapy. Priorities... how will we know when a subject is resolved 'enough'? How will we know if we're not understanding each other's intentions? That sort of thing.

It is totally okay to set an agenda and be really clear about what is the most pressing priority. I think one of the things I do is try not to look like I'm a blubbering mess, so I give the impression that I'm dealing a lot better with certain subjects too. It's self-protective too. Having been burned in the past I have a sort of "Um, why on earth would I show you that level of vulnerability when my prior experience tells me that you'll eventually turn into someone who hurts me?" thing going on. My T and I had to go over that a couple of times too. Eeker

Personally, I think if you and your T discuss the article it would be perfectly okay to say something like "Reading the article made me wonder whether you thought that I was ready to move away from speaking about the damaging relationship with my former T and look into wider issues. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that?" That way, it's no longer unsaid for either of you.

Hug two

It's so nice to see you back posting. I love reading your posts. They are always so insightful and beautifully written.

I think there's a line to be drawn and I think sometimes people tend to lump ruminating and obsession together, when OCD type issues are not the same as being caught in emotional pain (although they may be incredibly painful!). If I had some compulsive issues (like a fear of dogs for example), I probably would want to use some behavioural techniques to help divert me from that particular thought pattern. With family-related emotional issues, probably not.

What a great distinction! I tend to think the same way you do about it and given that I was not allowed to talk about anything emotional in my family seems all the more reason to talk about the things that bother me as I never learned to resolve anything.

Thanks again for your insight.
Thanks Liese, I got swamped with work and college, followed by vacation and had to step back. I have been reading though, so am in the weird position of feeling like I know and empathise with people who I have probably not interacted with. Big Grin

And, yes, I am with you on not sitting on important feelings, especially if they weren't allowed by unspoken family law. Unlearning stuff that is so habitual is so hard!!

Well it's nice to have you back. I hope you feel rested. I'm sure no one will mind when you start interacting with them. Wink When do you finish school?

Unspoken and spoken rules. My father literally forbade me from talking about anything that bothered me from the past (that my sister hit me the week before and wasn't punished) as well as other family issues (that my brother and sister were adopted).

There were also things that I learned not to bring up from the glare I got from my mother or the "cough" my father developed when something uncomfortable came up, like who I looked like.

My father had a nervous breakdown and was in the psych ward for a month when I was born and I think it was to protect him from getting overwhelmed. I understand why it all happened but it was a hard way to grow up. A friend I grew up with put it this way: my family was allergic to emotions. So I do have difficulty when a therapist won't let me talk about certain things.

Actually, the relationship with the therapist I just left was a total reenactment of my family dynamic. He is CBT trained and chose it for a reason. I'm not sure he is comfortable with his own emotions. It was clear that there were many things he was not comfortable talking about. I brought in David Wallins book and showed my therapist the part where Wallins wrote that the healthiest families (and therapies) are the ones in which all feelings are allowed to be expressed and are accepted. It helped a bit for a time but, in the end, he was limited.

From that experience, I have learned that I need to be able to talk about whatever it is that is bothering me and to work with a therapist who is okay with all the feelings in the room.
(((liese))) Dr. Elkind sounds amazing, it's too bad she doesn't do long term work. I have a similar FOO that wouldn't even acknowledge emotions, much less speak of them. I can't imagine how much I would need to discuss about a 6 1/2yr T relationship. I often feel like such a wimp b/c I only saw exT for about 6 mo. (but other times I think that speaks to how damaging he was to inflict as much pain as he did in such a short time)

I am very glad you are no longer with your old T. It is terrible to find yourself in a reenactment with the person who should be helping you heal. I think my exT was a huge reenactment, and worse T2's need to "make sense" of exT was all too familiar to my mom's need to understand my dad's abuse and make excuses.

I also think it is difficult enough to feel ashamed of having intense emotions, so to have any T add to that shame by making you feel like not all emotions are ok, is really hurtful.

With codependency... I feel like it is sort of complicated for me. Because I have the traits of a codependent person, but not in ALL relationships. I feel like I've developed healthy, interdependent? relationships. My H for instance, is a healthy, non abusive person. (still not sure how I managed to break that cycle, because I'm so attracted to abusive males) So anyway, I DO have relationships where I would not consider myself to totally behave in a codependent way...

But as you said, as humans we are inherently social beings and really, spend our whole lives negotiating for our needs in one way or another with those around us. Finding a way to do that that respects both parties involved is the important thing to learn, and coming from an abusive FOO, it is a difficult balance to find.

You do have good advice, for me to make it known to new T that I need to stay with the subject of exT until I've found resolution, because as far as my mind is concerned, it seems to be a high priority to tend to.

I agree that feelings repeatedly coming up are important to tend to. I seem to have a hard time figuring out if the fact that so much of my sessions with exT being stuck in my mind everyday, is a symptom of being traumatized by our relationship, or if it's signaling unmet needs, esp from the past? Or both?

I do feel really obsessive, because the same thoughts and memories of him have not left my mind for a moment since I left him. It's the most exhausting feeling, because I've not experienced those sorts of intrusive thoughts since my original abuse. It never lets up. Everything reminds me of him, everything triggers thoughts of my sessions with him.

I also think that deep down, part of me is relieved that new T hasn't focused on our relationship at all, since exT and T2 were very personal and intense interactions, it's like working with someone distant feels safe. But I know it won't be good long term. She did tell me that her goal is to make me completely independent, and I'm fearing that will eventually mean I will have to find someone who is willing to have any sort of connection again.

I feel like I won't be satisfied or feel resolved enough about exT until my intrusive thoughts about him have dramatically lessened. As they are it is unbearable. I do the exact same thing as you, I try to appear like "I've got it all together" when in reality I'm melting into the floor. It's so difficult to turn those self protective reflexes off.

But when it comes down to it, I know I'll eventually have to let T know that I need A LOT of time on the subject of exT, and if she's not comfortable with that, I'll *loonnng sigh* have to find someone that is.

's to you both

The T I saw before the therapist I just left I saw for only 8 months. I didn't know anything about transference and had huge trust issues with her. I needed a lot of help sorting through that relationship with the T I just left.

I don't think the length of time is too relevant. I feel like I resolved most issues re: the T I just left faster than I resolved the unresolved issues I had about the prior therapy.

Anyway, my point is, please don't beat yourself up for the unresolved issues you still struggle with. It happened and it's important stuff to look at.

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