positive thinking was not what i needed — this video explains why

It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of our thoughts, but I have also definitely experienced the immoral potential of positive thinking the video at the link below is talking about. Emotionally repressive, ignorant, insensitive, isolating, and invalidating. Probably not the intention in most cases, but almost every day, I still hear snippets of this, and have to remind myself what it is for me.

Unfortunately, this was my experience of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). I didn’t need to change how I was feeling; I just needed to understand what my feelings were responding to, and be validated for feeling that way. That my feelings were normal and healthy, and that there is actually nothing distorted in my view of reality, and there never has been. I realize this might not be true for everyone, but for me, my feelings were a normal response to an abnormal situation; the only way through the feelings has been to feel them, and appreciate how normal they are. CBT did not honour that for me; instead, my experience was that CBT was saying my feelings were the problem. Depression, anxiety — they were something to be gotten rid of, not honoured and listened to! Talk about the OPPOSITE of what I needed …!

Change my thoughts, change my feelings, change my behaviours.

Would you tell that to someone in grief? Probably not. I didn’t need to change anything; I just needed to feel, grieve, understand. That was the way through it for me.

And so here is a link to the video that spurred this whole out-pouring. Enjoy! Tell me what you think! This could be an interesting discussion …

Why the religion of positive thinking needs to be burned at the stake


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Psych Central: Dissociation — The Psyche’s Way Out of Pain

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TV psychotherapist Benjamin Fry: new treatment for trauma

I might be able to relate to this article. Just a little.

TV psychotherapist Benjamin Fry was devastated by depression. Then he discovered a radical new treatment | Mail Online.

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Trigger #2millionfourtytwo.four

Your leg’s not missing; you just need to think more positively.


Of course your leg is missing; everyone’s leg is missing, so buck up and suck it up, also like everyone else.

“I’m broken Dale” — that’s not a cry for pitty and love; it’s one of confusion.

It’s like having had a missing limb, and people continually telling you that it wasn’t missing. To a degree that created permanent confusion.

I’m constantly wanting to prove to you how broken I am, so that I can change my confusion around whether or not it is real. So you can say, “Yes! I see that!” Oh, what glorious words to me.

It’s soothing when circumstance brings the brokenness to show without my control, and in a way that is undeniable to others, in a way that confirms the missing limb, without any doubt or questioning.

There was a moment in our last session. I was telling you about the two ways I presented myself at the party, and when I spoke about the presentation of a successful career woman, you were saying that it’s not confusion, because I know that that presentation is not true – that I am not a successful career woman. You said that, looked at me, and added, “Right?”

I actually felt an enormous amount of relief when you said that. I was relieved that you weren’t saying “Yes you are; you will recover to being that. You will eventually be success that way. You are too talented not to eventually find your way back there. Don’t start selling yourself short in the world. Don’t underestimate yourself.”

I felt that you were admitting that aiming to be that may not be realistic with my injuries in this moment, but that I may get there in a much more unique and authentic way.

When I make the wound real, I can find the healthy loving response; if it’s not real, I can’t respond, and then that part of me is abandoned again. That part of me has had a lifetime of abandonment.

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living amends

It’s not a sense of entitlement; it’s the need to make a living amends to the Child within. To do things differently than they have been done in the past — to replace the unworthiness and the unloveability, with worthiness and loveability, on the most basic of levels, which cannot be accessed or changed with words.

A living amends to me is expressing and validating all the unspoken things in a way that is un-deniably reflective of the past lack, aka abandonment. Saying to my Child, “That shouldn’t have happened; here’s what should have. Here is what a healthy response would have been.”

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visceral healing in therapy


Two private therapy sessions ago, I sat on a beach by the ocean with my therapist and told him about a visceral memory from my abuse by the teacher.

The memory is one that I hadn’t had before, of a specific moment. It came to me while writing a ptsd inventory sheet in my ACA program. It is the moment the teacher first kissed me, after a long, full-body hug, and eye-to-eye contact, noses brushing. I was 10 years old, staying over at his house to get away from my parents, who had been arguing.

It’s the moment when my adrenaline system first became overwhelmed. My heart began racing immediately; I went into my room and began fantasizing, sexually for the first time. It was the start of my first crush — an obsessive infatuation that would see me waiting by the phone every day for his call, fantasizing wildly about sex on the beach with him, completely disregarding and abandoning my friends at school. My fantasies would involve him rescuing me in various ways, and then making love to me.

In the session, I sat in the sand and wriggled my toes in it, my legs stretched out in front of me. My therapist embodied the healthy, caring adult response to the scene I recalled. As it was a new memory, I had never spoken it aloud, or received this healthy, caring adult response. It felt like I regressed into my young girl self, which ended up lasting for several days. This was a re-do: An acting out of what should have happened so many years ago. I saw how different my life would be if I had been able to tell a caring adult about what had happened. If appropriate disciplinary action had happened at the school towards this teacher, if we had both received therapy out of even just this moment, not to mention all the inappropriate and damaging moments that happened in the coming year afterwards.

The feeling that lingered, from regressing into my young girl state, in the presence of a healthy and caring older man, was a feeling I described at the following session a couple of days ago as “tenderness”.  We talked a lot about what this word means for me, in this context; and this post is a result of that conversation.

At the session, we got to the description of ’emotional intimacy and attunement’, and he began conjuring any memories I had of being touched, swathed, cooed and coddled as a baby and young child. “Being touched with the awareness on the part of the parental figure of how their touch was feeling for me.” These memories do not flow freely in me. Simply imagining myself being touched in this way, as perhaps during a diaper changing, are actually totally repulsive to me. My physical response is to want to writhe and coil up into a ball, shuddering inside my torso.

I cannot recall the experience of being touched by my Father. There are no memories of ordinary moments of touching, such as diaper changing or dressing, bathing, cuddling, etc. with my Father. With my Mother, I remember brash and bold movements, not so much sensitive to how her touch was felt by me — not tender.

I recalled showering with my Father, even up until age 9, but even then, there was no touching; by the time I was showering with him, I was old enough to get in and out of the shower by myself. I also recalled being in a hot tub with both my parents, at around age 12, completely naked, while eating pizza, at a hotel. He had me find a living example of a healthy loving adult, and imagine him or her wrapping me up in a towel, protecting me, and removing me from the situation.

At the end of the session, I had to voice the inner critic that was blasting me with shame and denial — “you are being ridiculous. This is ridiculous. You are making a big deal out of nothing. You are such a flake and a drama queen. You just want attention. Shame on you. He is bored and only humouring you with all these explorations, but sooner or later, he is going to abandon you, and you will be alone again. It’s time you stop belly aching and get over it. Others have had it a whole lot worse than you; you don’t deserve these sessions. You shouldn’t be here. He is laughing at you. You’re not bad enough or sick enough to deserve this.”

When I got home, I cleaned house mindlessly, in a bit of a trance state, as is the norm after these sessions. That night, I sat out on my balcony by the river and wrote. What emerged was an awareness of the part of me that is still not being seen or validated, and would rather die than continue without. A couple of different names have come to mind for this part: My Psychiatric Self, or The Watcher. I don’t know why yet, but this part of me is a He.

I wrote a list of all the things I have been missing and pulling out of lately. It is quite an extensive list — one thing after another. All the people I have had to let down in the last few weeks. I realized that this Psychiatric Self is being honoured in all these cancellations in a way he has been longing most of my life. That I am not emotionally / psychologically well enough to attend … is an accomplishment and an immense relief to him, in the fact that it is being witnessed. I am acknowledging his experience, letting it be seen and seeking the healthy response; and this is something that has never been done in my life.

Letting positive things show around certain others — including my therapist — BETRAYS him; yet, around others — particularly and especially work-related / professional contacts — the positives are all on display. It comes back to my experience of being split, containing two different selves that are in opposition to each other, incongruent. And I am feeling that dynamic very strongly in my present. My gifts and talents are coming out and being seen, but also being undercut by my Psychiatric Self wanting and needing to be seen, acknowledged and responded to in a healthy way.

There is a player in me, and so really there is always one act or the other at play, while the other feels betrayed. It is compulsive and completely out of my control at this point. It is insidious and slippery like an addiction. It creates a constant underlying pain, anxiety and fear of abandonment.

The Watcher is the one in between, experiencing this incongruence and contradictory experiences. The Watcher sees how much pain, instability, isolation and failure this opposition creates in all areas of my life. He says that if he has to continue to witness and experience this, he cannot bear it, and he would rather die. Someone needs to understand and reflect this reality in me. I need to know how to present myself. I can’t bear to continue living this extreme identity crisis. The habitat of the Watcher is so dark that I cannot go fully into feeling it all at once right now.

Finally, I also came back to the definition of tenderness we had been working on. I realized that it is more than just emotional intimacy and attunement. It’s not just intimacy, it’s love. Love, innocence, fondness, affection and caring from a healthy, male, adult figure. These are the things I felt on the beach with my therapist; these are the things I remember also feeling when I was with the teacher. A list of phrases this energy would speak came to me:

I’ll look after you. I’ll always love you and be there for you, no matter what happens.

I’ve got your back.

I think you’re a wonderful person.

I will defend, protect and empower you, and I will never ever leave your side.

I care for you and your well-being deeply, and I will be a guardian and protector of it.

It’s okay. I’ve got you. Let me hold you. It’s okay. I’m here for you. I’m here for you.

I’m not sure how this all relates or doesn’t relate. I’m not sure where it’s all going, but I will speak it out, write it out. Follow it to find the gems that can heal me.


a piece of my soul

So I sit down to blog tonight to process. I’m aware that something in me deeply wants to tell a story, and understand my reaction, and have someone get me, because I need to get me, and the only way I can get me is to share it with someone else.

I think this is a principle fundamental to my recovery, and sorely sorely lacking in the provincial mental health care that I have experienced, generally speaking.

It’s the transformative effect of deeply sharing and deeply witnessing. It is this effect I have witnessed in the circle practices I have been blessed to be exposed to, that I have found most helpful in my recovery from a life time of suicidality. I find that with most of my contact with provincial mental health care, the person is somehow trying to halt, suppress and/or minimize my inner experience, in the effort to “treat” it.

I am a survivor of childhood emotional neglect and abuse, and a member of the 12-step recovery program for Adult Children of Alcoholic and Dysfunctional Families (ACA for short). My fellow ACA members would all most likely have similar reactions to anyone telling them that they “use dramatic language,” and especially someone at the other end of the line at a CRISIS RESPONSE UNIT telling them that this is written in their file.

Because of my experience in ACA, I will venture to generalize here, and say that most survivors of neglect and abuse in childhood have been told all their lives that they are “dramatizing what happened” or somehow made to feel that what they are feeling is inappropriate and inaccurate, and that they are not perceiving reality. I will also venture to say here that his recurring message causes almost as much damage as the trauma itself, if not more.

ACA is a program for people with childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, with literature that speaks of the importance of feeling the feelings we never felt, and how difficult it is for us to a) recognize when we might be in danger, b) reach out for help and c) talk about our feelings. To be told I use dramatic language justifies my fear in doing all three of those things, and re-opens many aspects of pain, fear, self-hatred and hopelessness in me.

I was deeply and adversely triggered by this contact with the CRT, and the idea that every person who works there  is going to see that statement when they open my file. I stayed on the line for nearly a half an hour and thanked the woman at the end of the call, feeling strangely confused; went numb and dissociated until I arrived at an ACA meeting that night. In speaking what had happened, I became very angry, and left for the second part of the meeting.

The ACA welcome speaks about how we, as Adult Children, grew up with the rules of “Don’t talk, don’t trust and don’t feel,” and how the goal of our meetings and our recovery is to break those rules.

Pertinent words from the ACA text book, which have brought me great clarity, validation and healing from experiences like the one I am writing about:

“Every adult child has unexpressed grief, which is usually represented by the symptoms of depression, lethargy, or forms of dissociation. Grief is loss that is stuck beneath denial, willful forgetting, and the fear of being perceived as dramatizing the past. … If we sought help before ACA, our childhood loss was usually diagnosed as depression and commonly treated with ineffective methods.” – Page 199

“Identifying our feelings and talking with others about how we feel is a critical step in breaking the isolation we have lived with for so long.”

“We are seeking a full remembrance of the childhood … With a full remembrance, we revisit the feelings that came with the abuse or hypercritical behavior of the caregivers. We remember the event, and we remember the feelings. By seeking a full remembrance, we break the “don’t remember rule” of the family.”   – Page 34

“…uses dramatic language.” When I hear that, I interpret that my language is not appropriate or accurate to the reality of the situation. I am hurled back into the confusion about what is real, doubting what I am feeling and what is really happening, and the isolation and shame in that confusion that I have felt all my life. To me, this statement invalidates what is real for me, and implies that I am exaggerating my experience to get attention. Actually, I am trying to put words to it, to name it, to make it real so that I can heal from it. I am trying not to isolate, and not to hide or minimize my feelings.

How am I using dramatic language when I say that I am scared and trying to be pro-active about finding myself alone in a big house, and have often felt dissociated and suicidal in this situation? How am I using dramatic language when stating the fact that I haven’t eaten a meal in 3 days since my last therapy session, and have stayed home for several normal parts of my routine, and I have been feeling residual parasympathetic shock that I am just starting to come out of?

Can you handle the word suicidal? How about depression, or sadness. Or here, how about I tell you I’m feeling “off,” and completely leave out all of the above?

Are you going to tell someone who calls in and says they’re feeling suicidal that they are using dramatic language? Oh, yeah, that person isn’t really feeling suicidal; they’re just being dramatic. They’re just wanting attention.

I’m not sure if you could have invalidated me or re-triggered me in a bigger way. It’s taken me 2 years of recovery while not working in order to be able to recognize when I might be in danger, and be able to take action and reach out before I harm myself. Minimizing the drama of that is hazardous. Putting any negative judgement on what I share when I reach out, especially that implies I am exagerating, is also very, very hazardous to my recovery.

I feel like never calling the crisis line again. Several of the professionals I have been in contact with in the provincial system, as well as the beliefs and programs that structure its care (such as CBT, positive psychology, etc.) seem to want to help me to minimize the pain. While I can understand how this is a very logical desire when someone is in pain, it doesn’t lead me to the cut on my leg that the pain is trying to tell me about, and that would take away all the pain if healed well; and most importantly, it directly re-triggers the very thing that damaged my sense of safety, self-worth, stability and identity in the first place.

Who is the Crisis Response Team there for? Because it certainly doesn’t seem like they’re there for survivors of childhood neglect and abuse, or whatever the f#@k I survived that has brought me to this healing path.