Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I think therefore I resist....

I am a person of reasonable intelligence. Some have said above average intelligence... I don't really know, there always seems to be people out there that are smarter... but my brain has certainly been a strong part of my identity and day to day functioning.

But is it getting in the way? Certainly, I have always known that I have a tendency to over-intellectualise issues as a way of calming the not so rational world of emotions. And in many ways, that's been a saving grace. I am able to rationalise away when people's actions hurt me, rather than acting out from a purely emotional stance, which enables me to save relationships. I am sometimes able to rationalise away unpleasant feelings or moods if they are making functioning in life difficult. It gives the distance needed to react in ways that are productive rather than destructive, ordered rather than disordered and chaotic, fair and rational rather than unfair and irrational. It's part of the grease on the wheels of civilisation, I feel. To act from the evolved, thinking part of the brain, rather than the animalistic instinctual parts, or the slightly more evolved, yet largely unconcious emotional parts of the brain.

But as an annoying American TV therapist would say..."How's that working for you?" Obviously not so well, (see multiple hospitalisations, bucket loads of medication, and three therapy sessions a week) There are things that can't be held in check by rationality and intellectualisation. I have to admit so much of what goes on in my mind has little to do with that small, evolved, intellectual part. And in order to deal with those uncontainable, unrationalisable little gremlins that are running about, I need to be able to talk about them in therapy in their native language... the language of emotions. I am book smart but my emotional intelligence is lacking, to be sure.

Obviously, this came up in therapy today. And maybe it does have a lot to do with why therapy has stalled a little or to reference my previous post become a little tedious. Because there isn't anywhere to go until I learn to speak from emotions. Ugh. I hate emotions. I often will sit there in session and think, I should be feeling something about this, and underneath it I am, I just often can't access it, or identify what it is. When (D) asks me "I wonder what you might be feeling right now?" and I say "I don't know" I am not being difficult, I just can't quite put my finger on it and name it. And then the one of the two basic feelings that I do see to be able to identify 'panic' and less often 'anger' flood in and override the more subtle emotions... sadness, despair, vulnerability, shame.... an endless list.

I seem to have gotten better at identifying the physical elements of the emotions and with (D)'s help linking them to a named emotion. Sadness sits around the jaw, tight and wound. Shame creates a bodily feeling of disconnection... a rejection of the physical self really. But still there is an inherent disconnect between the naming and basic somatic reactions and any deep understanding of what the emotion actually is.

Looking back at therapy sessions this evening, I have come to realise how much I employ intellectualisation as a defense mechanism. Arguing semantics, being pedantic as a form of deflection, looking for the flaw in each persuasive arguement my therapist makes, much as I used to try and tear apart the opposing teams position in High School debate. Not really caring so much about the position I am taking, but more about negating the position she takes. Deflect, deflect, deflect. Anything to keep her, and more importantly myself away from peering at the primal wounds. And so often I haven't even realised I am doing it.

But what do I do? How do I make myself drop this defence? Recognising it is a good first step, admitting it to (D) and allowing her to call me on it another good step. But beyond that... how do I speak this language I just don't understand? I don't know how to communicate these things. Even this blog post... entirely rational and intellectualised.

Let's give it a try... At the moment I feel... pretty tired (ok, so that's more physical)... hmm, a bit anxious... but my mind immediately jumped to rationalising that as the fact its late at night, which is the worst time for me so I generally feel a bit anxious at this time of night. Ok...why anxious? Nights are a time where I feel vulnerable, like I am open to attack, I feel quite childlike like a little kid terrified of the boogie man in the cupboard, 90% of you knows its not there, but the other 10% can't be that certain. Ashamed, because I am a grown woman who is still afraid of childish things like the dark and the monsters that inhabit it. Fearful... it always sits in the pit of my stomach until dawn breaks or I fall asleep. Sigh. I don't know. Is that the way you do it? Maybe typing them isn't the way to acknowledge the feelings. Maybe I would be best to just lie quietly and let them come, yep thats fear, that's what it feels like, now let it flow on and feel what comes next? Maybe thats one way to start learning this language in a way that's more about understanding then just knowing the words. Does that even make sense?

I am so confused right now... and I really don't know how to start chipping away through this so we can start doing the things we need to be doing in therapy.

Peace and love


  1. A competent therapist would be a good start. "I wonder what you might be feeling right now?" is just not how it's done. It's saying, "Let's step back and detach from your feelings" and then — surprise, surprise — you feel detached from your feelings. She did that to you by saying what she said.

    It might well be that you are somewhat defensive, but in making you the victim of her own defensiveness she is colluding with you, not helping you. Encourage her to take that one word, "colluding" to her supervision, and see if things change after that. (She does have supervision, doesn't she?)

  2. I think I know EXACTLY where you are coming from. I'm the same way-- I rely on my "rational self" and largely ignore my "emotional self." It's a lot easier to have a thought than it is to have a feeling. But I think you are already in the process of chipping away at your defense mechanism. I think it takes practice.

    Wishing you well,

  3. Thanks, NOS... will keep chipping away

    CBTish- I sometimes don't know quite how to take your comments... your feedback is always interesting, and whilst I appreciate being able to access different perspectives, I sometimes find your comments to be a little aggressive. Especially when it comes to talking about my therapist. I just think to question her competence based on what I have written is a little far fetched. (And yes, she does have supervision) Sure, she's not perfect. Its not a cookie cutter world, and there isn't a script or set way of approaching each individual patient or issue... some of it is just trying, evaluating and readjusting methods as necessary. And that she does do... Sometimes the best therapy is redundant if the patient is yet ready to acknowledge or change certain things... and I think this is the case here... but in the meantime she is supporting, containing and always leaving the opportunities open for me try. At the very least, she has committed no boundary violations (minor or major), she acts in line with the ethical requirements of the job, we have a good therapeutic relationship, and we have made a lot of progress over the past year... so even if she doesn't do things the way you believe she should (and you do have your CBT bent, which is just not right for everyone)I don't think she can be called incompetent..JMO... Thanks for the input though

  4. I feel like I could have written much of this post myself - did you climb inside my head? ;-)