Q. I begun therapy a year ago because I was very depressed and I had panic attacks(?); I dropped out of college though I have a GPA of 4.0, I cut my hands when I cannot cry or when I cry uncontrollable,and I took about 40 sleeping pills to kill myself (I would have taken more if I had not run out of water). During the first months of therapy, I experienced something that my therapist called dissociation(I could not even recognize my street!) My therapist seem nice, and I was referred to him by one of my Professor whom I used to trust a lot. (I am not sure I trust anyone anymore – not even him – and I do not know why). However, even after all this time, I still cannot talk to my therapist;sometimes, I will stay silent for long time. I cannot even pick up my head and look at him. For many months, I was shaking on his every move. Now, it is not as bad, but I still cannot talk; I cannot trust him; I cannot trust his opinion; I do not even know if I believe in therapy. I am getting very angry at him and I do not think he can understand me, but other times I feel touched by his kindness. Most times, I am really confused about what I think or feel about everything – not just therapy. Moreover, it is extremely painful to talk about my past and the fact that I cannot trust him makes it even harder. I want to work with him, but I cannot; yet, I am scared to stop going. I tried therapy about seven years ago with a therapist and then with his wife, but it did not work either. I only went few times and I never went back. I do not even remember anything. My therapist thinks that it is important that I stayed with him so long and I should keep this door open. I do not know what I want, I do not know what I feel, but I do want to get help, and I do want to be able to go back to college. When I go to my work, I am ok (meaning I can laugh and talk – though many times I supress my tears, but I can hide it really well.) My work seem the only safe place for me. Everywhere else even my therapist’s room is dangerous to me. I am Christian and it is the only thing that is keeping me alive. I want to die, and I would do it without second thoughts if I was not afraid of God. I do not know what to do to trust my therapist; I do not know what to do no to be angry at him; I do not know how you can make yourself feel something – most times I feel frozen. I am afraid because I know that if it does not work with him, it will not work with anyone. I only stayed with him so long because he is best friends with my Professor. I cannot just sit and talk with a stranger. I just cannot do it -though I try for a year now to trust him I cannot find anything to say. I froze, I am angry, or hold my tears behind my silence. Most times, I cannot even cry – though I feel like crying – until I leave and I get on the freeway or I get closer to my work and home. I do not know how to trust him. I do not know how to break the tension in the room and make it more friendly. I do not know what to do and I am desparate!! I do not even know if it is all my fault or part of it is the therapist’s fault. I do not know how people can go and talk to a stranger.
Note:I lived for almost eight years with a nun, psychologist in a monastery – orphanage, in another country. (I recently, told my therapist about the orphanage and that I lived with a woman psychologist.) I did not tell him, however, that the psychologist was also a nun and the orphanage a monastery and that this woman was beating us till fainting sometimes and more… I cannot get myself to talk to him. I have barely tell him only a couple things from my life – barely anything. He thinks that even I had not tell him much the fact that I lived with a psychologist it might be affecting our relationship. I do not want to talk about my past at all and I avoid anything from my present that connects with my past. There so much, I can hardly believe myself. I am really afraid that my therapist will not believe me either. There is so much – so much more that I cannot talk about it. How can I trust him? PLEASE HELP!!!
A. The real issue here of course is your fear and the question becomes what is it that you are afraid of? How could anything that you tell your therapist hurt you? He does not have the power to hurt you. You mentioned how could anyone go to a stranger and talk. I would ask you why would anyone be afraid to talk to a therapist? Again the issue is one of fear. He does not have the power to hurt you. He has the power to potentially not help you but he certainly does not have the power to hurt you and most certainly not to the degree that you fear. You correctly understand that the issue is one of trust and fear for you. But of course a fear that is unrealistic is not healthy. You should be afraid of things that are dangerous, things that can hurt you but talking to your therapist does not fall in that category. Some people are afraid of common ordinary things. They may be afraid of bugs, they may be afraid of storms. A reasonable amount of fear, enough to show caution when approaching an insect or a reasonable amount of fear that will have you stay in the house in a lightening storm is a good thing but when that fear interferes with your life, when this fear inhibits you from doing the things that you need to do, it’s not healthy. I would suggest that your experiences with the psychologist who beat you have a lot to do with your fear. If you were living with her again, she would have the power to hurt you, she can beat you but your new therapist cannot. You are impressed with his kindness which shows you he will not intentionally hurt you. I would suggest that you relax and take the risk of opening up. Face the fear. Just as I would suggest that you not avoid an insect that is crawling on the floor and go in another room and instead would approach the insect to identify whether it is dangerous or not, I would suggest that you approach your fear and open up to this man who had no ability to hurt you. Yes, you will probably feel more comfortable with this man than a different therapist. However no therapist has the power to hurt you in the way that you fear and you have had experience with two other therapists that did not work well. You may consider trying another therapist but I would recommend that you stay with the one you have and face your fears and open up. You’ll then realize that your fears are not founded. Once you recognize that your words will not be used to hurt you, and that your therapist does not have the power to hurt you, the fear will go away. Good luck.