Guide on the side

One of my first jobs in libraries, was working as a reference librarian in a small public library.  It was a fascinating job, as nearly every patron came in with a different information need.  There is one man whom I will always remember… he was probably in his mid to late 50’s, and very intelligent.  He approached me with confidence and told me what information he needed… “Where are your books on how to build an aviary”… taking him at his word, I showed him to the aviary construction books.  As he was enjoyable to talk to, and unfamiliar with the inner workings of the library; I walked with him over to the books.  As we walked over, we started talking.  After a fairly short, informal discussion, I found out that he’d never owned birds before, and was looking at different aviary designs so that he would know which birds to put together, and how to care for them.  I immediately knew that he didn’t need aviary designs yet… he needed bird care books, which are in a totally different section of the library.

When I talked about this incident with my manager, his immediate response was “don’t blame the customer… no matter how intelligent they are, they don’t know how to navigate our systems, or to identify what their real information need is”.

Later, when I was working in a tertiary library; I worked closely with many highly respected academics.  Despite their skills within their own area of expertise; they would regularly ask me to come in and teach their students how to find information, and for help with their own research.  One academic called librarians a “guide on the side”… that is, we were there to guide the user through the maze of information retrieval and management.  We help the user to gain skills so that they too can learn how to retrieve information… and therefore become a “lifelong learner”.  This academic was vocal that her expertise was in academia, and mine was in information seeking… she saw them as complementary, rather than conflicting, skill sets.

Why I mention all of this seemingly irrelevant waffle; is that I realise that I place absolutely no value in Allison (or any therapists) ability to be a “guide on the side” during my healing process.  I don’t trust their skill, intelligence, or abilities.  This, despite researching their qualifications, seeing their skills in action, and being nearly six years into therapy.  Part of this is because I have seen a couple of therapists whom I didn’t respect their intelligence… basically, I could destroy them in an argument.  But a greater part of the problem, is my need for control.  I don’t trust anyone else to tell me what to do – that got me into too much trouble when I was young; and, more importantly, my ability to escape into my head was my saving grace as a child.  It’s where no one could touch me, and where I could control what happened.  It became my coping mechanism… I entered school and realised that intellectualisation was something to be valued… suddenly there was something I could do that would get me approval on a grade sheet…  My imagination, coping and intellect became something that I could control, and now a therapist wants to come in and mess with that?  No way was that going to happen!

Then, last week, I had a Twitter conversation which helped me to rethink how I was viewing Allison, and all therapists… I made the leap from thinking of therapy as this thing that happened “to” people, to being an interaction that I could relate to… I put it into context of the intelligent gentleman who came and asked me about how to build an aviary.  Something clicked internally, and I could see that I was walking into Allison’s office as that man… I came in wanting to “have a life worth living”, and I was walking over to the “life” section of the library; but what I really needed, were the sections about self soothing, nutrition, boundaries, physical health, etc.  Without all of those basics, the “life” that I built would always be hollow and meaningless.  I would always be falling back into dysfunction, and struggling to find meaning in what I was doing.

What does this mean?  Well, Allison has said several times that it’s her job to guide me through the healing process… my response has been to roll my eyes, and go do some more research… difficult, me? Never!  Yes, this is the sort of thing that the poor woman puts up with every week.  I now know, that what I have to do is ease back on that control, and put some trust in her skills.  I need to realise that she is my “guide on the side” in healing… I can, and will, still question everything; but I need to listen, and have more patience.

Sounds pretty simple for a sarcastic, control freak… right?

A special thanks to my Twitter buddies who helped me realise this… probably without even knowing what you were doing!

Now playing: Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars – Safe and sound
via FoxyTunes


36 thoughts on “Guide on the side

  1. Wow – what a smart post! I really relate to your fourth pararaph and your conclusion makes so much sense. A library is a great metaphor (even if I am biased). Part of Alison’s skill is also to break through some of the control-freakiness, which I’m sure makes it extra hard to trust her and the process. It seems we might be similar in that way. It’d take me a long time to let someone challenge my opinion and tell me that I need a book on bird care rather than aviary construction – I know best, after all – though I’m much more open than I used to be 🙂

    • Hi Annelise,

      Control freaks unite! 🙂

      Putting the entire therapy/therapist experience into the context of my work within the library helped me a great deal. I could relate the disintegration of my therapeutic relationship with Liz, into one of us librarians getting out of depth with a curly APA question, so needing to refer the student onto someone else… I know they are totally different contexts, but it allowed me to understand things a little better. It eased some of the negative judgements that I’d placed on myself as well.

      It’s really difficult to think that we need those bird care books… because, yes, we are right and only need the construction ones! I can usually see someone else’s opinion, but it needs to be logical… which when you’re sometimes coming from a place of faulty logic, can be difficult to achieve.

      I keep on thinking… one step at a time.

      Enjoy your holiday!

      Take care,

  2. This is a giant leap for you. So, how will you hold onto this awareness? Trust is critical. And having a guide or partner in your healing journey is something you need (as well as deserve). And you want it, despite your being a “control freak”. At least parts of you want it.

  3. CG,

    Thanks for this wonderful post on changing a mindset on the therapy relationship! I really like the tie-in to your own professional experience: the therapist becomes an allied professional who can cater to a particular area which you yourself might not have the training to access, much as you as a professional are able to access information in quality and great depth, through methods unknown to the untrained. I like that it is not only an interaction to which you see analogies in your own experience and could relate to … working with someone who has special knowledge and skills pertaining to a specific problem or endeavor … but that it is a relationship with someone who also may, and invariably WILL be affected by you, in turn. As a person in the field, I think “playing” with those ideas is a breakthrough in the quality of this endeavor. We are *people* in this work … people who share an intersubjective space. I like this, very, very much.

    And I do so hope you keep on thinking, and questioning. From what I know about you, you will always lend a critical thought process to this work … and that is both good and admirable. In my own work, I really value collaboration, believing that while I will endeavor, like Allison, to be a good “guide on the side”, I do not have all of the answers, nor am I able to prescribe the exact way for a process to move forward, when combined with the complex structures and mechanisms brought by the whole person sharing the space with me in the room. It is a brave undertaking each embarks upon. A journey, created by two.

    So … is CG “difficult”? A “control freak”? While I clearly enjoy the teasing and joking that can happen (I hope, the sign of a good friendship), I don’t want to go that far. Rather, I’d like to think you are seeing Allison’s value, but really appreciating and accessing your own strengths, qualities and value, as well. 🙂

    As one of your newer Twitter friends, I feel lucky … and I so very look forward to watching you build that aviary.


    • Hi Michael,

      I’m still not sure that I’m comfortable with the idea that my work with Allison could affect her in any way… That was what really started this whole conversation, not wanting to be responsible for causing pain to others. At times, I can put that into context of helping a student, and watching their face light up as they understand what I’m explaining to them… I live for that moment! But then, I don’t see how Allison hearing the nasty details of my past will have anything but a negative affect on her. I know that she is sensitive and caring… I’d hate to negatively impact on those traits. I know that hearing our story is only part of the healing process, but I don’t know if I can do that step completely… I have told her some things, but not much. Her reactions have seemed so extreme, that I’ve baulked at saying more.. even though I admit to having no idea what an “appropriate” reaction would be… maybe hers is normal, and it’s my minimising that is the issue?

      I’ll keep on questioning until the very end… if it’s not openly, then it’s subversively! But I do think that the aim of this post, is to look at the work with Allison as more of a collaboration… She tries so very hard to help me, and I know that I don’t always react in an even mildly pleasant way to that help. I can sometimes forget that she probably does care; but then I hear her voice change when I tell her something, and it hits home that she’s been seeing me for over a year – despite my stunning personality 🙂

      You know what, I’m starting to get the idea that, just maybe, you therapist people actually are human 🙂

      I don’t expect Allison to have all of the answers, but I need to allow room for her to have some of the them! Saying that, I have been listening to her, and we have been doing the work… but, a part of me has been holding onto the reins for dear life, not wanting to let them go. I don’t think I’ll be able to release the reins overnight, but I think I can go into the sessions with a little bit more of an open attitude, and hopefully stay more present.

      Even my work colleagues and friends have commented on me being difficult. I tend to be able to hide my controlling tendencies a little more… But, I may as well understand the behaviour, call it what it is, and find ways to address it… But good attempt at trying to find a way to throw a positive spin on things!

      I fear the aviary might be some time off, as I’m still dwelling in the bird care books… we’ll see…

      Take care,

      • Hi CG,

        As a commenter on your blog, I’m loathe to challenge too much. However, since I know that you are in control of your actions and approach (exactly as it should be), I feel some freedom to speak, and I like that! I hope others here will comment on this important theme and its developing thread … your readers here have a tremendous amount of experience in these areas. And generally, there are not right or wrong answers.

        My thoughts: Therapy is a place, of all places, where we should be able to speak our truths, reveal what is on our mind. I believe it should become a place we can “Speak the Unspeakable,” and that is one of its transforming values. I cannot deny that there is risk to this. Risk that our system will revolt, due to the breaking of rules. Risk that emotions bubble up, seemingly out of control. Risk that, yes, our therapist will cry, or seem unable to handle what comes up. But here is a truth: this is their job. And that is also why education, supervision and peer support exists. To be blunt: if Allison cannot meet you where you are and hear your story, she needs to become more prepared, or not be in the field. This work is for you alone, not for her. She can benefit, but that is not within the goals set for the work.

        I DO get the prohibitions you experience to speaking up in such a way. But might some of those prohibitions actually be key to holding you back in unworkable dynamics, reinforcing relational and self-thought patterns which hold back your growth? You cannot avoid experiencing Allison’s responses. You are a very perceptive and sensitive person, probably as a function of both your nature and traumas you’ve experienced. You are loathe to cause any pain to others, certainly … that’s admirable. But I imagine that addressing that is, in actuality, very much part of your work now, an important therapy goal: to speak your worry, to deal with the whole “am I hurting Allison?” question on the table, voicing that to her. It is perhaps akin to an important “Transference” issue in a more classical psychotherapy. What would *that* be like, to discuss those fears, in the open, to allow her a chance to give you her thoughts, to enter the possibly uncomfortable space where two exist, but aren’t the same? To allow a little faith, as it were, in her reassurances?

        Here is an additional truth: sometimes, when and if we therapists cry with our clients (and I don’t mean becoming overwhelmed and in need of care *from* the client), our clients feel thankful, and feel *so* seen. Because I’m no longer very objectively saying “my, that must be painful for you” … rather, I’m *showing* you in a way very difficult to fake, that I *get* you. When that happens, those are big moments … usually not forgotten.

        CG, thanks so much for speaking about such an important topic! I think it is not an uncommon issue in the work.

        Warmly, and with Much Support …

        • Hi Michael,

          I don’t mind challenges… they are often necessary, and lead to interesting places/conclusions.

          I agree with what you are saying about the place and space that therapy provides… I liked how Jason Mihalko (from the Irreverent Psychologist) put it:

          “When I’m paying attention and something jumps out at me and grabs my attention–and I fully notice it and share my experience noticing it–the magic of therapy happens. What was unknown becomes known. The hidden becomes viewed. The shame melts in the light.” (The Safe Emergency of Therapeutic Situations: Fritz Perls and Gloria (and me))

          So, I know and appreciate that line of thinking on an intellectual level. But, I can’t seem to go there myself… I minimise my past; don’t want to hurt Allison; believe the stories told in the past about what would happen to me if I told anyone what happened; the list goes on. I know that there are huge amounts of fear, shame, anger, and disgust, adding to the equation as to why I hold things back. Allison will often ask if I worry whether she will think that I’m a …(fill in a negative word)… if I tell her things; so we’re very aware of that dynamic being in the room. She reassures me that she won’t think that, but I’ve had experiences in the past which counteract that statement from others. So, it becomes a matter of past experiences overwhelming the present, and upping the risk levels.

          I have talked about Allison’s reactions with her, but it didn’t go so well. No fault of hers, just a continuation of my care-taking. I know it is something that I need to address with her again… might try this week, as there’s something rather major that needs to be addressed :-/

          I think a previous therapist cried in the manner you’re describing… I remember looking at her as if she was some strange, new science specimen. So, possibly not quite the caring, sharing experience you describe 🙂

          It’s good to know that I’m not alone with these confusions and fears…

          Thanks for the gentle challenge…
          Take care,

  4. Wow, wow and double WOW! This is such a great post – and, I hope, an even greater step in your healing.

    I’m sorry you’ve seen therapy as something that’s done to you. Being part of the process, like that man in the library, is soooo much more fun!! On both sides, I’m sure. 🙂

    Lots of healing ((hugs)) to you.

    • Hi Kerro,

      Thanks for the support 🙂

      I suppose I’ve struggled with the dynamics within the therapeutic relationship from the start… I’m such an avoidant creature! But, thinking of the relationship in a context that I’m familiar with, has helped me reach a new understanding. Hopefully it will mean less (figurative) head butting within therapy…

      Tke care, and with (((hugs)))

  5. “Guide on the side”.. what a beautiful headline for your post and it describes this so accurate. For both: therapists and librarians 🙂 No really. Love this 🙂
    This “Guide on the side” is in some kind quite logical. Everything which is related and connected with feelings is usually refused by someone in the system. Building a therapeutical relationship and trust is therefore a core problem. In the past trust in any form was highly dangerous… and now when perhaps a gentle and slightly form of trust has been built with the thera, it’s always a dance on the edge. The slightest incident and the trust seems broken, shattered. But as Paul said, we need someone we can trust, we need a guide on our side. We must give the therapists a chance 😉 and we must never forget that they are indeed only human 🙂 and sometimes even make mistakes. The sum of the experiences we make with them counts.
    I really think we need those kind of “bird care books”. Especially written for the hurt ones. Our thera always told me that we must learn how to take care of us. None of us has ever learned it before. A guide for feelings, caring, nurturing would not be bad.
    Take care Pat

    and we definitely need a librarian for our ereader. We have thousands of books on it 😉

    • Hi Pat,

      I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

      You’re so right about trust being like a dance on the edge… it seems so scary, dangerous and needy; yet, it’s so necessary. We do need to give them a chance, and while I’m happy to do that; one of my big problems is that I will hold up a mistake as overall proof that someone can’t be trusted. I know that it’s about self-protection, but it has become wearisome. Trying to work through those feelings, trying to reality check them… just so very wearisome… But, we keep on trying, because there is no other way…

      I think learning to take care of ourselves is one of the biggest challenges. It often stumbles at establishing whether we think we’re worth taking care of, or not…

      You’re right, a guide for feelings, caring and nurturing would be excellent… having it individualised would be ideal, as well 🙂

      You have an ereader? Fun!

      Take care,

  6. First… great post. I always thought librarians were wonderful to know so many books. I know I’ve never said this, but I think it’s cool that you’re a librarian, among other things. Great story to measure your piece with.

    The other thing is that I think it’s great you’re working out therapy in terms of how you view your therapists, as well as your own biases. Some therapists really do suck, but lots of them are empathetic, well-schooled, and they usually know more about what the disorders look like in the light of day than we do.

    Good for you~


    • Hi Meredith,

      Thanks 🙂 Being a librarian is pretty cool… I find it really rewarding.

      I agree, some therapists are incompetent, some are a bad therapeutic fit, and some are excellent. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which is which, and sometimes you know immediately.

      Take care,

  7. I love this analogy! Itruly believe that therapists are “the guide on the side.” We “drive” and they help point us in certain directions, remind us to look forward, gently guide us back on the road if we sway to far, etc. Sometimes I even think of my T as a flashlight. We walk this dark journey together, her at my side, and occassionally she turns on her flashlight.

    I really loved your post!


    • Hi Lothlorien,

      Thanks 🙂

      The dynamic that you describe is what I was aiming for with the post… That sort of understanding, as well as a mix of gentleness, empathy, firmness and I suppose a dash of awesomeness as well 🙂 It can be pretty scary walking this trail, so to have someone beside you, helps a great deal… I’ve often said that a good, competent therapist is worth twice their hourly rate…

      Take care,

  8. I had my view of therapy changed drastically about four years ago. I always had a resistance to someone coming in and “fixing me.” It was something my mom said to me about her life coach that I had the epiphany that therapy was not about fixing me or fixing my life as much as it was to equip me with the skills to cope with the ups and downs of life, and to teach me to incorporate a coping skill that I’d already developed, which when unchecked was more harmful than helpful. It wasn’t about fixing me, it was about learning how to accept us.

    • Hi Storm Dweller,

      What you describe sounds pretty accurate for what my aims within therapy are, as well. I consider it looking for ways to live in the present, while respecting where I have come from. There’s no way that anyone can “fix” the past… it’s the past, after all. But, someone can help me to find new ways of coping in the present… to help me find ways to avoid dysfunctional behaviours, and realise that I am worthy of existing. There’s no magical wand that can be waved… but there are tangible ways in which my life can be improved… that’s my goal. How I do that, is with the help of people who have skills I don’t… people like Allison…

      So yes, I agree with you… no one can fix us, but they can help us learn new ways of being…

      Take care,

  9. Castorgirl,

    This is a great post and it resonates with my experience right now. I’ve reached a point where my need to control my therapy, my feelings, what I say, how my therapist responds internally and externally, everything has paralyzed me. I can’t say or do anything freely without considering how much to say about something or how much expression to use because I’m so afraid of the the possible outcomes. I might be overwhelmed with anger or sadness. My therapist might get frustrated or angry or tired of me. It might lead the relationship failing. I’m closing down and trying to deal with it all myself hoping I’ll figure out how to act differently without actually having to act differently.

    I’m not completely sure I understand the librarian analogy but I can appreciate how it has made a difference to how you see your therapist and that gives me some hope that I will be able to make a similar shift in how I view my therapist as well. I hope you find a way to utilize Alison as a guide on the side.


    • Hi di,

      Wow… the space you’re in sounds so painful! I’m so sorry, it sounds so emotionally tiring and draining. Do you feel able to communicate what’s going on with your therapist? I know that may seem daunting, and impossible, but I imagine that your therapist is already aware that something is going on, and is looking for a way to help. I can understand your need to try to find a way to act differently, without actually doing so, I really can…

      I often get into the space you describe when I’m dealing with assessments and when, as you mention, my emotions feel like they’re about to overwhelm me with their intensity. I overthink everything, looking for all of the potential implications of each little thing, and examining each word. It usually is associated with me becoming more detached from people, and withdrawing within therapy. Each time Allison has noticed, and tried various ways to try and reach me… almost every time I’ve shut down the lines of communication, and built the walls higher and higher. It’s such a difficult, and tenuous position to be in. I didn’t realise how much it effected Allison until I sent her a really honest email late last year, and she said that she had become increasingly concerned over the previous months… That’s why I say that your therapist will probably know that something is up. By sending that email, I was still in control, but I allowed Allison to see a little of my world. It started a really good conversation, where a little more trust was built. It wasn’t easy, but it stopped a path to self-destruction.

      I suppose I put it in the librarian framework, because that’s what was comfortable… it could just as easily have been seeking the professional advice of a plumber, teacher, lawyer, etc. It’s all about valuing the skills that the therapist brings to the table.

      Take care,

  10. I love the way you came to this understanding CG. Yay for using libraries btw 🙂

    But your experience was very helpful to you in making a bridge here. I’m with Paul in hoping that you’re able to hold onto this.

    Trusting someone else is hard and it’s even harder when we need to trust them with our minds and emotions. I think that trusting in someone else’s professional abilities is very important, if they’ve given you enough of a basis to at least try to trust them. I think Allison has done that even if there have been misunderstandings along the way.

    I spoke to my therapist a while back about my fears of tainting her with my conversations or affecting her personal life. She said that’s shes trained for this. This is what she does and that she’s able to leave work at work.

    That meant that I had to trust in her professional abilities and training. It was hard and I still get anxious from time to time but, to help myself heal I could only worry about so many people. I hope that even if the awareness slips away here and there, that you can remind yourself of this moment.

    • Hi CI,

      I thought you might appreciate the link to libraries 🙂

      Trust is such a complicated thing… I’m never quite sure what it looks, or feels, like. I know that there are a couple of people I trust, but I don’t quite understand why – if that makes any sense. It’s almost impossible to trust myself.

      But, I’m trying to start out on the process of trusting Allison, by trusting in her professional abilities. Sort of like, “easing” myself into the whole concept of trusting her as a whole person 🙂 Yes, I’m that weird!

      Allison has told me a similar thing to what your therapist told you. But because of her reactions within session, I’ve never quite believed her. I think of the less emotionally involved work that I do, and how drained I can be doing that… so how can the emotionally aware work of therapy be “less” impacting than that? I suppose because I’ve got mental health issues, and she doesn’t… along with training, supervision, peer support, etc 🙂

      I’m glad you are putting more trust in your therapist, really glad. I know you’re going through so much at the moment, and I hope she can help you find a way to the other side…

      Please take care of yourself,

  11. Hi CG,

    I love the connection you made between a librarian guiding library patrons and a therapist guiding the therapeutic journey of a patient.

    I also like that this analogy helps us all to see that therapy is a collaborative effort. If the man you were assisting had withheld the information that he, in fact, never owned birds before, you wouldn’t have been able to guide him to the correct resources, which would have made it much more difficult for him to achieve his ultimate goal.

    It helps for me to be reminded that this is also true in the psychotherapy process. It took me more than six years of therapy to understand this. My initial approach to therapy was similar to the way I approach life… to study the process, and to study my therapist in order to be one step ahead of ‘the game’.

    I had arrogantly diagnosed myself before my first session. Mild anxiety. Nothing more, nothing less. No big deal. I’ll breeze through it. When I arrived for my first session with my current therapist, I took a seat on the sofa in her office with my pen and legal pad in hand all prepared to take notes, as though I were taking some sort of class. I was dismayed when my therapist explained that her approach to therapy was to ask me questions about my past in order to connect my past to my present issues. My previous therapists didn’t approach therapy this way, so this genuinely took me by surprise.

    For years, I held back. I held back out of shame, embarrassment, lack of trust, fear of being judged, fear of losing control, and worst of all… fear that my therapist wouldn’t be able to handle the ugly truth of my past. I was going on my eighth year of therapy, just about a year ago, when I gathered the courage to… as Michael put it…. “Speak the Unspeakable”.

    I remember the cold, hard strength I was feeling the day I decided to share this with her, and I studied her face as I spoke. I felt such a sense of freedom as she listened to the ugly truth of my life with the same cold, hard strength that I had exhibited when I told it. She mirrored my emotion, she mirrored my anger. When she did that, I felt safe, because she was angry, too. More importantly, I felt validated for the first time in my life.

    So today, I finally feel as though I’m making progress in therapy. Of course, there are many moments when I lose sight of the progress that I’ve made, but with some gentle reminding, it comes back to me.

    Currently, I think my biggest obstacle is my emotional detachment to my therapy process. Similar to you, I search for the logic in it, but I detach from the emotional part of it. I feel removed from the entire process.

    As I’ve already discussed with you through our conversations, I am quite literally unable to address my therapist by her name. This is my deliberate attempt to remain detached from her, detached from the reality that I’m in therapy. Perhaps even detached from the fact that she is a real person with real feelings. In eight and a half years, I believe that I’ve only addressed her by her name twice, and when I did, it felt so unnatural. It was excruciating for me.

    So, I suppose that my biggest fear now, is that all of this progress that I have made, is not really a part of me. I fear that I’m disconnected from it, and that one day it will seem completely unreal, as if it never really happened, and then I will be back to square one.

    I’m aware that it must sound as though I’m making therapy far more complicated than it should be.

    CG, this truly is such an excellent post. Absolutely exceptional. I love how you so brilliantly made the connection between the duties of your occupation and the collaborative efforts between a therapist and patient. Your insight never ceases to amaze me! 🙂

    I hope you are able to see this new understanding as tremendous progress, and most of all… hang onto it. It’s a fabulous feeling when something that you’ve been struggling with finally clicks into place.

    Take good care,


    • Hi Mareeya,

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate your (and everyones) kindness regarding this post 🙂

      Ahhh, the “therapy game”… I know it well. It becomes another thing that must have a pattern that can be studied, picked apart and “worked out”. Something to gauge reactions, and predict what is going to be said next… That is how we lived life, after all… looking for the pattern, and the safety that the pattern presented for us. Information becomes another bargaining chip within the equation… desperately holding back information in order to do this thing called “healing” without having to look into the really scary places within our pasts and minds.

      Can I say that I’m really glad that your new therapist broke that familiar pattern, without sounding too perverse? I do think that her approach sounds like it is a way to break out of that pattern, and put the focus where it needs to be – on you… That allowed you to speak your truth… that took courage, trust and immense amounts of strength. It sounds like it was a validating and moving experience…

      I also struggle with feeling as if I compartmentalise my therapy experience… it feels as if this “thing” that I do for 60 minutes each week, and it’s tucked away into this part of my brain that doesn’t touch the rest of my life. But how much of that is a reality? When I look at your Polyvore work, I see emotional connections to your pain; when I read your comments, I see the emotional connections to others, and your own experiences; and in your tweets, I see your gentleness, humour, intelligence, caring and occasional confusion… So I think that there are connections happening for you (and me); but, it’s not an overall connection yet. It’s a work in progress… so, I do think that your progress is part of you. It can sometimes get swept up in denial, but I think it’s part of you…

      I think I’ve told you that I’ve only looked Allison in the eye once in the whole time that I’ve been seeing her… and that was only because she told me to 🙂 So, I can understand why you are reticent to address your therapist by her name. As a note Allison isn’t my therapists real name, so I put distance in there too. For me, it’s about protection and denial…

      I don’t know, I think therapy is VERY complicated! I sometimes need to remind myself that it took me 35 odd years to get to this place, and to expect that to change overnight is a bit much. It’s going to be a process, a journey, or whatever you want to call it. But it’s not easy… if it was, we would have ticked it off a long time ago 🙂

      Please take care,

      • Hi CG,

        The reason you’re a blog writer and I’m a blog reader, is your wonderful way with words. 🙂
        You find ways to describe things that I can’t find the words for.

        Yes… the safety of the pattern. We carefully observe our surroundings, as well as the people around us, so that we have the ability to predict. After all, it’s terrifying to be caught off-guard. The exhausting life of a hypervigilant person!

        Yes… you can absolutely say that you’re glad my therapist broke that familiar pattern. 🙂 I’m glad, too. We still have a ways to go, but the biggest hurdle was trust.

        I agree, we are all making connections. We make them through our correspondence with one another, through our work on Polyvore, through our jobs, and even through our therapy sessions.

        I think the issue for me is the compartmentalization that you mention. Everything feels so separate. There’s no fluidity with any of these things, and it seems to take so much effort to get from one area to the next.

        It’s like a large apartment complex where all of the doors are locked, and it takes awhile to fumble through the mess of keys, and find the right key to the right door so we can access the right information. It’s not a smooth process. But the funny thing is… in many ways, I like my compartments. Everything is nice and neat. Organized. I’m dependent on my compartments.

        I do remember you telling me how difficult it is for you to make eye contact with Allison. Eye contact is a challenge for me as well. I’m working on it, though.
        As we’ve discussed before, our approach to the process of therapy, and life in general, seems to be very similar. Eventually, we *will* meet our goals, right? Or at least we’ll come close to reaching them. 🙂

        Thank you for sharing your experience here. It’s validating to read how you are working through the various obstacles in your life. I hope you know that you’re providing a tremendous source of support for many people.

        ~ Mareeya

        • Hi Mareeya,

          I know what you mean about the compartmentalisation, separation, and liking the “neatness” of those states… but I do believe that healing doesn’t occur in isolation. As there is healing within one area, it brings a tension towards other areas, which causes a shift. It can be uncomfortable, painful and beyond scary; but I think it’s possible.

          It’s this that allows us to make the transition from room to room, without having to fumble through so many keys… the skills, attributes and abilities behind those doors are more available as we heal.

          I once said that anything that happens in the system has a ripple effect – some parts feel it intensely, while others barely notice. As we heal and get closer together with communication and understanding, then the ripples are felt my more of us… that can be the good and bad ripples :-/

          You trusting your therapist is a huge step, and means that healing is not only possible, but it’s happening 🙂

          Thanks for the compliment and support, I really appreciate it…

          Please take care,

    • Mareeya,

      I’m commenting here as one of your online friends, and with respect to our good, tolerant host(ess), CG, who gracefully allows for our comments and hijinks, here and elsewhere. 🙂

      It is so good to see your words and thoughts here, Mareeya. To me, the part of your therapy story you told is amazing because it documents where you started and how you progressed to the point of really challenging yourself to share things that would have been unimaginable for you to say in earlier years. That is so huge. And I love that your therapist provided a very human response which conveyed that she took in your experience. That too, is a great gift.

      As for how your therapy progresses at this time, looking at how we ebb and flow in the process is complicated. Though I don’t think we necessarily lose progress gained, we can feel that we are moving in the opposite direction of our goals when we feel more detachment, move away, etc. I suppose that yes, we might judge, and say you are making therapy far more complicated than it should be.

      I say, trust in Mareeya. One thing I know about you by now … you are no slouch. 🙂

      Thanks for you wonderful words here … and your friendship!


      • Hi Michael,

        I truly have to give my therapist credit for her patience. There were several instances when I thought she would give up and refer me to another psychologist. In fact, she has shared with me that I’ve been one of her most challenging… and frustrating patients, though she remained confident that she would eventually gain my trust. It took some creative strategy on her part, but her gentle perseverance prevailed.

        She recently shared something that I found to be quite ironic. While I worried she would pass me on to someone else, she worried that I would walk out of the door and never come back. So, I suppose she *is* a real person, with real concerns, and not some robot programmed to say what I want to hear. 😉

        As far as my fear that I’m not truly connected to my progress in therapy, I believe that it could be the progress itself that’s confusing me. I’m in unfamiliar territory now, and I’m learning how to navigate. In a sense, I’m fumbling around in the dark, blindly trying to find my way.

        I want to thank you for your input, and more importantly, your friendship. 🙂

        ~ Mareeya

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