January 1, 2013
Happy New Year to you all!
It’s the beginning of a new time, a New Year, and nearing the end of the Holidays. How are you feeling? I hope that you each found joy in something that warms your heart. My wish is that each of you can walk peacefully through this holiday season with a priceless treasure to hold on to for years to come.
I had that goal for myself too, and when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, my answer was that I wanted an experience to remember. I didn’t have any specific gifts or presents in mind – I just wanted something to treasure in my heart.
And that’s exactly what happened.
A big part of my Christmas Day was spent in a beautiful outdoor setting, with dear friends, looking at photos, swapping stories and walking down Memory Lane. It was a precious time. A blast from the past, as they say it, only these were truly nice memories full of smiles and laughter. It warms the heart and lightens the soul to remember good memories.
All too often, trauma survivors equate the word “memories” with bad memories, filled with scenes of trauma and abuse, chaos, conflict, and other terrible experiences. Sometimes it seems that all the memories are bad memories. And fair enough, far far far too many of the memories remembered by dissociative trauma survivors are really not pleasant at all. That’s not your fault – your history was as it was, and genuine healing involves looking at so many of those horrible times. You are brave and courageous to face those past horrors. It’s enormously painful, but you are doing the right thing by remembering what was once dissociated away.
It just doesn’t have to stay that way.
You can have beautiful times in your life too.
It’s a nice change to remember something pleasant, fun, and enjoyable. For most of you, as your healing progresses, you will remember good moments as well.
But don’t wait for that.
Create good times, good memories, good experiences now. Today. This week. This year.
You really can have a happier New Year this year.
Finding and creating new, positive, valuable memories is so very important to the healing process. Having memories to cherish is a necessary part of making life feel valuable and worthwhile. Knowing there were good times in the past, experiencing the good times happening today, and having the assurance that more good times are ahead give us all the hope to live on. To move forward. To hold tight during the tough times.
To make this year a better year, how can you create more of those times to cherish within your heart?
- Can you take the raindrops in your life and create beautiful moments?
- Can you find ways to see beauty in your life, no matter what else is happening?
- Do you treasure the beauty of nature and the vibrant colors that surround you?
- What small moments can be nurtured into much bigger brighter spots in your life?
- Where can you go and what can you do to find something that brings a smile to your face?
This can be good year for you.
Get determined to be happier, and make it so.
You can do it. I know you can.
Copyright © 2008-2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
December 8, 2012
Many times I get asked what abuse is.
I understand this question, and the need for that question because many of the dissociative survivors who I speak with grew up in such chronically abusive homes that abuse was normal. Normal is just normal to them. What I would define as abuse was their norm, their everyday, their usual, their expected. And once abuse is “just how it is”, it becomes tricky and confusing to learn where actual abuse – physical, sexual, emotional abuse – starts and stops.
It gets even more confusing when the person that is being abused has a genuine relationship with the abusive person. Having genuine care for someone may give the abuser extended grace, or extra permission, or repeated forgiveness for the inappropriate actions they did. What about when the abuser’s behaviors are gentle, or appear as loving, or are done in the guise of helping the other person? Is gentle touch ever considered to be abusive or inappropriate?
It also gets fuzzy when the abusive parent, for example, has medical illnesses, or psychiatric illnesses and severe mental health problems of their own. Even if this person is acting in abusive ways, do they realize they are being abusive? Do they know when they are doing something irrational or violent or neglectful? Should their poor behaviors be categorized as rigorously abusive as the negative behavior from those without mental health troubles? How much abuse or neglect should a child be allowed to tolerate from a sick parent before it is considered too much?
And what about situations where the person is taught to honor their father and mother, and / or to obey their father and mother, because to not do what you are told to do is a sin based on their religious beliefs. When do those parents cross the line from claiming their rightful authority over their child? When does honoring parents actually become a dishonorable request?
Where is that line between appropriate and abuse?
Where does the unacceptable start?
It’s often not clear.
It’s especially confusing to a young child or teenager growing up in a home where these kinds of behaviors are typical.
I’m going to list some examples below, and in this post, I’m not going to give my opinion for what I deem to be abusive versus what isn’t. I would be glad to hear comments from you first. I will have an opinion, of course, but I’ll wait and say mine afterwards.
Are any of the following situations abusive? And if so, how so?
*** Please note – if you are sensitive to triggers and self destructive behavior, please be sure you are in a safe enough space to read further.***
*** Also, if you think I am describing your personal situation, I assure you, I am not. These are examples created for discussion purposes only.***
What do you think about these situations?
1. A divorced, single mother with low income and high anxiety obsessively restricts the amount of food that her children are allowed to eat. She does this by hiding the food, and especially hiding any cookies or chocolates from the children. She frequently locks the children out of the house (ie: after school) to keep them from sneaking extra snacks until she gets home from work. She will not allow the kids to keep any snacks in their bedrooms. The children are fed something most days, but there is very little food in the house. Sometimes the fridge is barren and empty. The children feel hungry most of the time and they start stealing food from local stores because they are hungry. The mother is too proud to get help from her wealthy family members or from charities. She wants to “do it on her own”, and would rather go hungry than ask for help.
2. A father, who says he is happily married to the mother, makes flirty comments to his puberty-aged daughter. He doesn’t touch the girl, but his comments and his gazes are sexualized. He says he is only complimenting his daughter for looking cute and attractive. The father’s buddies whistle and make many of the same kinds of comments in front of him while staring at his daughter. These comments make the father beam with pride. The mother hears some of these comments but acts as if she didn’t hear anything at all.
3. A mother is very angry at her children and decides to discipline them. She doesn’t hit them, but she speaks openly about fantasizing slapping their faces. She also removes various items from the children. For example, all toilet paper is hidden, all towels are removed, the use of the shower is taken away, all silverware is removed from view, lamps are removed from the bedrooms, hangers are removed from the closets, all food is removed from the children, the blankets and pillows are removed from the bed. The children are told to stay in their rooms for 24 hours and if they leave their room, they will be locked out of the house. The children don’t know whether they are allowed to go to the bathroom or not. From time to time, the mother gets inches from the faces of the children and loudly lectures them for 15 – 30 minutes at a time. She is seething with fury and anger during this entire episode, making hideously ugly faces at the children, and laughing at their discomfort. The mother has not touched the children, and believes her methods of discipline to be appropriate.
I could give more examples for your consideration, but for this particular post, I think I will stop there and check in with you readers at this point.
- How are you feeling after reading these scenarios?
- Do you feel comfortable reading them?
- Were these situations upsetting to you in any way?
- What are your thoughts about these three different situations?
- Are any of them abusive or excessive?
- Are any of the parents in these scenarios acting inappropriately? If so, how so?
- What do you relate to in these examples?
- If you view any of these things abusive now, would you have viewed them as abusive when you were a child?
Your thoughts and comments are much appreciated.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
October 15, 2010
Self-injury is a problem all too common for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). For that matter, self-injury (SI) is an issue for other populations of people as well. This discussion will focus more on the effects of trauma and abuse and how self-injury can be addressed effectively. However, because self-injury is actually a very complicated topic, this particular blog article will reach only a few of those layers.
In my years of working as a trauma therapist, I have noticed that many DID survivors self-injure when they are in emotional pain. They are hurting, their heart feels broken, they feel betrayed or abandoned, or they feel incredibly sad (but can’t cry). Turning to various forms of self-injury and self-harm sometimes helps to temporarily relieve their emotional pain. (Trauma survivors also self-injure when they believe they need to be punished, or when they are extremely anxious, or when they are feeling strong compulsions or hearing internal instructions, etc.)
One of the reasons self-injury works is because the brain cannot distinguish between a self-caused physical injury and any other type of physical injury and upon recognizing a body injury, the brain releases all the necessarily chemicals and hormones. Dopamine, serotonin, and neural structures are significant in this process. I’ll refer all the complicated medical explanations to others more qualified, but the point being is that the act of self-harm creates a reaction in the brain that allows the hurting person to feel a little more calm and numb.
In other words, when self-injuring, survivors are trying to feel better. They know they are in emotional distress, they recognize the emotional pain, and they know they are hurting. And they want to feel better, or at least to feel differently.
Self-injury can be a quick fix for these intense feelings. In that sense, self-injury is not a lot different from having a few shots of whiskey, or a shot of heroine, or a plateful of doughnuts, or a pound of chocolate. Many addictive behaviors are centered around finding a way to feel better when hurting.
Typically speaking, this has been a life-long issue. From even their youngest days, most dissociative trauma survivors were neglected or ignored when they were hurting. They were not comforted, and their pain was not acknowledged. Even as very young children, they were left alone with their pain and injuries. All too often, they were not properly tended to, they were not cared for, they were not hugged, they were not given medical aid. They were hurt – physically and emotionally – and they were left on their own to manage.
In my opinion, this lack of comfort and the years of neglect are some of the biggest crimes committed against young children. Neglect is as significant in causing harmful life-long effects as any direct trauma.
So, when working with trauma survivors who experienced significant pain and next-to-no comfort, a critical and crucial part of their healing process is to teach how to accept and create healthy and positive comfort.
Children who are injured in healthier environments are very much comforted by their mothers or fathers or other caregivers. Their hurts are recognized and acknowledged appropriately. These children are given hugs and gentle affectionate kisses. They get band-aids — sometimes they get the fancy special band-aids with Snoopy or Spiderman or pretty flowers on them! They are checked on repeatedly, they are allowed to sit close to their caregiver, they are given other little treats (such as stickers, or the chance to watch their favorite cartoon), etc. These injured children learn that positive forms of comfort can help them feel better.
Since traumatized dissociative survivors were typically not taught these ways of receiving comfort, this becomes an important treatment goal in their healing process. They need to know their wounds can be tended, that their hurts matter, that someone hears them, and that they can be treated gently during times of pain.
Tending to the hurts and the wounds often has to be modeled to dissociative trauma survivors. In many situations, this will be completely new experience for them, and the process of having their hurts be important, can be a profound experience.
As trauma survivors start to experience genuine comfort and caring from others (this may start first in the therapeutic office setting), these survivors will eventually learn to copy these same kinds of behaviors and apply them towards themselves and their other insiders.
Emotional pain is no different, and in some ways, addressing and comforting emotional hurts is even more important.
Teaching trauma survivors to sit with their emotions and to increase their ability to endure intense emotions is an essential part of the healing process. In early stages of therapy, most DID survivors can barely touch their feelings. In the later stages of the healing process, DID survivors can sit with their feelings, no matter how intense they feel them, and not turn to anything destructive or harmful.
In order to sit with those feelings, survivors need to learn what to do during those moments. They need to know and understand that they matter and that bringing more harm and pain to their selves and their bodies is not the answer. Learning how to comfort themselves – how to self-soothe, instead of self-injure – is a significant process in their healing.
Self-soothing means that the person is doing something that brings comfort in a helpful, positive way. Feeling better can become about comfort instead of numbing. Survivors can learn that they are worth being comforted, instead of being feeling unvalued and ignored.
Each time trauma survivors are comforted in their pain, instead of ignored or injured more because of their pain, they are experiencing a corrective emotional experience. Correcting the neglect by experiencing proper comfort, including self-soothing comforts, is incredibly significant in the healing process.
Comfort actually works much better than numbing, especially in the long run. Comfort allows for pain to heal. Numbing (or self-injury) means that the pain is just postponed until it comes back again.
Ways to Self-Soothe Include:
Self-soothing is unique to each person, just as any other preference is unique to each person. There are dozens and dozens of healthy options — explore a variety of different options to see what works best for you. Some ideas to try include:
- Listening to music that matches your mood – if you are feeling sad, listen to music that will help you express that sadness.
- Sing to yourself (even if this means making up your own songs, or singing sounds), or play musical instruments as a way of expressing your feelings.
- Wrap yourself up in your favorite comfy clothes or in a warm blanket and snuggle up somewhere safe, quiet, and protected.
- Hold or hug a pet, a stuffie, or a pillow.
- Sit close to someone safe. Lean against their shoulder, or find some way to have physical contact that is in no way sexualized or dangerous.
- Sip on your favorite tea, or any other gentle beverage, and treat yourself to a few simple snacks that are not heavy, but are tasty and nutritious.
- Rock in a rocking chair, or sit in a swing, and let the movement relax and calm you.
- Walk slowly or sit quietly in areas of nature that are beautiful and inspirational.
- Make your room, or your home feel particularly cozy – have nice smelling candles, or soft lighting, or bring out your favorite treasures to look at, sit by a calming fireplace (not for injury purposes! But yes, sitting by a warm fireplace can be very beautiful and calming). If you need to clean up an area first, that is ok, because it is important to be in an area that you can feel calm and quieted.
- Take a warm shower or a warm bath, using very nice smelling soaps and body washes. Dry off with your favorite most soft towels. The more you can make this a “spa-like” experience, the better.
- Bring in fresh flowers, or fresh greenery, or pretty leaves. Looking at something beautiful from nature, even while you are indoors, can be calming and soothing.
- Allow yourself to cry, uninterrupted, when the feelings come. Crying really is allowed, it really is ok, and it is a natural expression for pain. Use soft tissues, and don’t punish yourself for having real human emotions. Give yourself permission to feel, permission to heal, and permission to respond naturally to your pain. The more you can express your emotions in natural ways, the healthier you are.
Trauma survivors — you really can help yourself to feel better without bringing more pain and injury to yourself. The key is to surround yourself with lots of nice, positive moments that help you feel better through the course of the day. Practice self-soothing every single day, especially on painful days. It will get easier, even when if it doesn’t feel easy or natural to you at first. You can learn this, and when you do, it will make a huge difference in your life.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
October 11, 2010
The following drawing is a DID survivor’s response to my question: Can you picture dissociative identity disorder?
*** If you are a dissociative trauma survivor, please read the following article with caution. Some of the topics presented in this blog article could create an emotional reaction from your internal system as several difficult but important topics are mentioned. Please be sure to tend carefully to your own safety and stability. ***
This drawing is helpful to understand dissociation – the very picture itself portrays how it feels to have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD). Assuming this drawing represents one actual person, the plural, divided-self experiences are visually obvious.
In addition to the whole of the picture, I’ve picked out a variety of elements that could be significant to the dissociative system being pictured. I will include some of the thoughts and questions that come to mind as I look at the different areas of this drawing. A lot of helpful therapeutic information can surface by asking the following questions to the survivor artist. Many of these questions could be asked to any other dissociative survivor in terms of exploring their own internal systems.
1. The blank face in the mirror
- Why is this a blank slate?
- Is there ever a time when “no one” is there? What is that like?
- Does the face place not belong to anyone in specific?
- How often does this person switch?
- Does anyone claim the face?
- Who does the actual face belong to?
- When you switch, are there visible differences in the face?
- Is there a specific leader to this dissociative system? If so, where is this person pictured?
- How often does this dissociative survivor feel like she is living outside of her body or separated from her body?
2. Notice that there are other inside system parts visible in the overall picture –
- Some parts are in the front
- Some parts are in the back – what is the significance of these different locations?
- Some parts are unknown (blank spots)
- Some parts are pictured standing alone
- Some parts are closely connected to someone else
- Some parts are older, likely adult in age
- Some parts pictured are very young
- Some parts pictured are middle-aged children
- Some parts pictures appear to be teenagers
- Can you identify any of these insiders as specific individuals?
- Who talks to who?
- Do the insiders on the back communicate with or know about the insiders located on the artist’s paint palette?
- Since we are seeing only a small portion of the actual body, are there other parts located elsewhere that are not pictured in this drawing?
- If there are other system insiders that are not pictured in this drawing, would you consider drawing another picture that does include them?
- Do the two main figures in this picture represent two distinctly different systems?
- Are you aware of what happens when the insiders “from the back” are out?
- Do you experience more time loss with the parts that are connected to the body but not visible because they are on the back or with the parts that you can see, but are more separate and pictured on the paint palette?
3. The hair and the clothes are different in the mirror — ever so slightly — but still different. Notice the different hairstyles / clothing for the different insiders – a clue for who is out might be related to the actual hairstyle / clothing they are wearing that day.
4. What is the thumb covering? I would need to ask the artist to know what this represents for sure, but several possibilities do come to mind.
- Is this a dark area of the internal system that is trying to hide?
- Is this an area that represents difficult feelings like shame, pain, anger, or any areas of life that may not be comfortable to look at?
- Using the metaphor of the paint palette, the dark spot might indicate a hole in the palette. Does it have any other significance than that? Are there “holes” in your system? To where does that hole lead?
As much as one figure appears to be the reflection in the mirror, is the mirror actually the doorway for an entirely different system than the parts outside of the mirror? It is not uncommon for mirrors to be part of the internal world / internal landscape of a dissociative survivor. These mirrors are very significant and will require specific therapeutic attention.
Some dissociative survivors speak about circles in their life, and circles can represent specific relationships, and / or being “in the circle” can have layers of meaning.
- Is there any significance or meaning to the circle designs included in this drawing?
- Do the insiders stay separated in their circle “bubbles” or are they allowed to mingle with each other?
Since the artist of this drawing used the paint palette metaphor to show their system, do colors have an important meaning to their system? Are certain parts associated with certain colors? For example, are there parts from the “green layer” or are there parts associated together as part of the “blue group”, etc. If so, what do the different colors mean, and what are the common characteristics or job roles of the insiders associated with each color?
8. Box Frame
What is the relevance of the square / rectangle mirror frame? Does seeing a main figure inside the box frame have any significance? Are any of your insiders tucked away in boxes? If your system insiders are not in boxes, do you have other issues boxed up?
9. Connection to the Body
One of the strongest themes in this picture relates to the way the different parts of the system appear to be very separate from the body.
- How often is this person in a numb, dissociated, depersonalized, or out-of-body state?
- When the parts from the paint palette are “in the body”, can the artist feel that they are present? Or do these parts continue to have a separated distance?
- Does the body feel the same or different when the mirror-reflection group of insiders is present in the body?
I have found this drawing to be rich in information that would be useful when discussing the dissociative issues experienced by this trauma survivor. There is much to learn about this survivor-system and asking these questions is just the beginning.
What do you see in this picture?
What else would you wonder about?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 12, 2010
This article is written for the child parts of the DID survivors that read this blog.
Hey Kids, did you see the news yesterday? Hmmmm…. probably not, because most kids don’t watch the news. And because of that, I wanted to make sure to let you know about something I saw in the news that might interest you.
Look! Look! They found something that looks like a real unicorn!!
If you look here, you will find the video that talks more about it, and shows more pictures of it walking around in its natural forest home. This little unicorn guy was found in Italy, and I think he is being protected and tended to very carefully. That’s good, because there aren’t very many unicorns in the world!
What do you think it is?
Is it a real unicorn?
Is it a deericorn?
Maybe it’s a unideer.
Whatever it is, it is very cool!!!
Do you ever think about unicorns?
Do you have coloring books with unicorns in them?
What would you do if you saw a real unicorn?
And if you don’t like unicorns, what is your favorite animal?
Now I realize this little deer only looks like a unicorn, but so many kid parts talk about like unicorns that I just had to share it for everyone to see.
And for the older parts of the dissociative systems, it really is ok to let your child parts experience some of the positive wonders of the world. It is ok to let your child parts play, and to let them enjoy experiences. Simple pleasures like chocolate shakes, or yo-yo’s, or puzzle games, or teddy bears, or soccer balls can go a long ways in connecting with your child parts.
If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), your childhood was most likely interrupted by too much pain, grief, loss, trauma, betrayal, neglect, and hurt. As a child, your play times would have been few and far between, and you would have often felt too sad or hurt to play. Dissociative skills, dissociative walls, and dissociative amnesia could have separated some of the effects of the trauma from your awareness, but in all the years I have been working with multiples, I have never yet had any dissociative survivor tell me that she or he had lots of fun and play times as a child.
This is a very sad statement because having carefree playtime is a normal childhood need. It is actually important to proper growth and development. To miss out on playtime as a child means to have unmet needs.
To help meet some of those unmet needs, it is ok, and even therapeutically important to let your child parts have fun. Let them play. Let them enjoy some carefree activities. Let them learn how to have good times.
Even if you are an adult, it is not too late to let your kids have fun. Play is a normal part of growing up, and if this was stolen from you, letting your child parts play in the current day will help with your overall healing and sense of well being.
Giving your child parts the chance to play in the here and now is a corrective emotional experience for them. Corrective emotional experiences are experiences in the current day that help to correct the wrongs and fill the voids that were left after a childhood full of trauma and neglect. Corrective emotional experiences allow for healing, growth, and positive movement.
So go find a unicorn!
Go to a baseball game!
Watch a few cartoons!
Draw in your coloring books!
Play, have fun, and enjoy life for awhile!
Your whole system will feel better for it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
May 9, 2010
It’s Mother’s Day 2010.
Mother’s Day – it’s a hard day for a lot of dissociative trauma survivors. It’s a day full of mixed emotions, painful longings, unhealed heartbreak. This day hurts the people who were hurt so much by their mothers.
Mothers are a complicated subject, to say the least, and the impact a mother can have on her children can and does change their lives. Abusive or neglectful mothers can teach some very damaging life lessons. Their children will carry those scars for decades of time.
I’ve seen this over and over with the DID survivors I work with. Years later, the ways their mother treated them affects so much of their life – maybe even more than they realize. People who were deeply wounded by their mothers often cannot view other maternal figures (Including other female authority figures) without getting confused in that relationship because of who their mother was. The crimes of the original mother spill over onto the relationship any children they might have, making it harder to be a good mother in their own life.
That original mother relationship affects how DID survivors see the world, how they experience people, what they believe about themselves, what they believe about the world around them, and how they interpret others. It is very central to the very core of their being.
Working with mother-transference issues is one of the hardest parts of being a DID therapist. It is the area where the therapeutic relationship is at its most tender. It is the most vulnerable place. It is the spot where issues and feelings can get messed with by people who wish harm upon that therapeutic relationship.
To explain this, let me start from further back.
For example, I was blessed to have a very good mother and she taught me a lot of valuable life lessons. She wasn’t perfect, but she was and is about as close to perfect as one could ever hope for in a mother. She is kind, loving, compassionate, caring, generous with her time, good with children, full of wisdom, patient, gentle, and self-less in so many incredible ways. She has been an example to me for how to interact with people, especially with children. My mother is non-judgmental, and she is willing to dig in and help anyone that she meets. She is a beautiful soul, and she leaves a positive impact wherever she goes.
Yes, my mother has taught me a lot. And almost all of what she has taught me has been good. I do much of what I do because I had an incredible mother who taught me to be kind to others.
Those that spend time with me will see this in my work with them. They will see that kindness, acceptance, gentleness, and generosity in what I do. They will reap the benefits of what my mother gave to me as I pass that on to those that I work with.
So what makes that so hard?
If I am pulling from a good place, what makes mother issues so complicated and difficult to work with?
It’s because not everyone can interpret today’s kindness as genuine kindness. The past wrinkles in and rolls up into the present, and the present becomes twisted into the past in an emotional kind of way.
Sometimes the damage done to trauma survivors confuses kindness with abuse. Sometimes the damage done by an abusive or neglectful mother is so pervasive that it colors all acts done by other females, and the perspective becomes so tainted that nothing is seen clearly. Female therapists are seen through the perspectives of “mother figures will abuse me”, “mother figures will hate me”, “mother figures will think I’m bad”, “mother figures will abandon me”, “mother figures are to be hated”, etc.
When trauma survivors truly believe, in their deepest selves, that women are there to abuse them, it is not an easy job to overcome that belief. The fear is too huge. The expectation of horrible doesn’t end. The fearful expectation of abuse can often overtake everything else.
Frequently the pain-anger-guilt-shame at not having a good mother can get thrown at the female therapist, and displaced and projected onto her as a safe place to express such deep heart-wrenching emotions. Therapeutically, this is expected to happen, and the goal is to work through that in a healing way. Most therapists and clients understand that, and will work through it as a team. It can be done, and when it is, very deep healing can occur.
However, sometimes trauma survivors get a little messed up along their journey. They truly get confused in this area, and understandably so. It’s an emotionally complex point, and trauma survivors are extremely vulnerable in this place. And because of those vulnerabilities, they can be easily misguided. They can get easily confused over who is the “good mother transference figure” and who is not. They listen to poor advice, or bad rumors, or are too unwilling to let go of their fears in order to heal. They stay convinced that women are out to get them, and they quickly join in with thinking that female therapists are abusive.
This breaks my heart.
I found it horrifically sad that some trauma survivors are willing to hold onto such beliefs that they would bring harm to themselves and to others. This only continues the cycle of abuse. It is not about healing. It is destructive.
(Yes, there are a few female therapists who are harmful to their clients, but those are few are far between, and those are not the people I am writing about in this particular article. That’s a completely different topic, to be discussed another day.)
This article is about genuinely good therapists who are mistaken as the “bad mother”. This article is about finding ways to heal from your abuse. It is about finding a woman of kindness, and not confusing her with your not-so-kind mother. It is about recognizing the differences, and not being pulled into old fears, old beliefs, and old ways, just because they are more familiar to you.
It is about learning to recognize someone that can be positive, helpful, and kind to you, and to your inner children. It is allowing that healing to occur. It is keeping clear on what happens in the present, and not distorting it or twisting it into something negative from your past.
It does not help your healing to project your “bad mother issues” onto a good therapist and then stay stuck in that spot. It only confuses you, and it prevents your healing. It brings harm to you and your system to stay stuck there.
Your female therapist can and will teach you something very different from what your mother taught you. Don’t assume the two women will be the same, because they will not be. Don’t project so much of your abusive past onto your current day therapist that you cannot see who she really is. Work hard at recognizing true kindness and gentleness for what it is.
Let yourself and your inner child parts have those corrective emotional experiences with a kind therapist and don’t let anyone mess with that. If you let someone distort those experiences – if you let someone convince you that something was abusive when it wasn’t — then you have brought emotional pain to your inner world that didn’t need to happen. If you weren’t abused, don’t let yourself believe that you were just because that is more familiar. Separate the past from the present.
Haven’t you been hurt enough? Why add to that?
It is important to try to believe that women are not out to get you. Female therapists are not here to harm you. What your mother taught you can apply to her, but it really and truly does not have to apply to everyone else. Your mother may have been cruel, cold, uncaring and abusive towards you. But not everyone will be. Not everyone wants to be.
Don’t assume the worst, and please don’t treat other women as if they did what your mother did.
It is very hard for trauma survivors to come to terms with these truths. But the sooner you do, the sooner you will find that place of genuine healing.
Don’t let the harmful lessons that your abusive or neglectful mother taught you ruin or destroy any more of your life. You truly can heal from the hurt and the trauma that you went through – I promise!
There are lots of good, helpful, kind, compassionate, caring women out here in the world. I encourage you to be one of them.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation