Don’t Trust Your Instincts

I texted Anna today. I had DBT this morning, and part of the crisis plan we agreed on before it started was that I have to check in with her after every session. Which she recently retracted – she’s been away for the last two weeks and she didn’t organise a replacement person for me to check in with (for what turned out to be a fairly triggering session).

So the petulant part of me came out to play. “She obviously thinks I don’t need support any more – why should I text her? If she wants to check in then she can contact me.”

This is one of the many situations where following my instincts is a stupid idea. Pulling away from her would have felt safer and more comfortable, but I would have ended up sitting around brooding and waiting to see if she’d text. Even though I didn’t really need support, if she didn’t contact me then she would have failed a test, one that she doesn’t need to take. After all the support she’s given me, it’d be like asking an Indy 500 driver to sit a learner’s licence test.

So I texted, and I told her I wasn’t sure whether I was still supposed to check in after DBT. She didn’t actually answer the (implied) question, but asked how I was on our usual ranking scale of 1 to 10.

Again, my instincts tried to derail me. Normally I would have just texted back ‘6’ – my first rule of life is never offer up any more information than you’re directly asked for. That’s a philosophy that isn’t very helpful in therapy, given it turns the dynamic into victim and interrogator, and it’s one I’m trying to change. So I took a breath – be open, be open – and explained that I’ve just gone back on my meds and I’m struggling with anxiety.

The response she sent was not the same response I would have got a month ago.

What she said was reasonable enough – try a DBT skill, if it gets worse take some Seroquel, I’ll see you on Thursday – but it was a shock, and it felt like I was being physically pushed away. It hurt. In the past, she’s always given me affirmation for ‘hanging in there’, talked with me about what might help, and reminded me that I can touch base with her any time. Our conversations have never been that short, and she’s never closed them off so firmly. Basically, she’s been warm and responsive and caring.

That petulant child is never far from the surface, and she came out again. It’s not fair. This is what Anna wanted: shouldn’t she be encouraging me to move towards her, not pushing me back? Do I have to “earn back” her caring? It’s stupid that she’s changing the way she responds to me now – this is not what I need. We have our first session in 8 weeks two days from now, and I’ll be too guarded to talk to her and we’ll fall back into the same old patterns and nothing will ever change and nothing will get better.

I went on in this vein for about 5 minutes, ruminating and evaluating and second-guessing, until another thought stopped me. Whatever Anna is doing, she’s probably doing it with good intentions. Whether it’s objectively good or bad, misguided or appropriate, I do believe that she has my best interests at heart. And when I see things in that light, it’s a lot easier to be forgiving.

Don’t Trust Your Instincts

4 thoughts on “Don’t Trust Your Instincts

  1. Aww, I can totally understand why that would hurt! Any difference in communication style/type really throws me off too. Of course the child says “it is not fair!” She wants what she wants, and is also very afraid of losing Anna. I like the way you are viewing the situation trying to look at the full context and not let those ruminating thoughts take you somewhere that won’t be helpful. Perhaps you can clarify with her at your session on the contact, or mention the difference you noted and check the facts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At the moment it all feels fine, but we’ll see how long that lasts once I actually walk into session with her! I think I will try to clarify whether the DBT check-in is still happening because I don’t want to play the do-I-don’t-I game every week, but I’m not ready to have the other conversation yet – it feels too vulnerable (as my little niece would say, “why won’t you be my friend any more?”), and maybe a little too early. I so appreciate that you understand this feeling – thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking in! I’m just coming out of a 70-hour work week, plus therapy and trying to find time to keep my kitten alive (the pot plants are a lost cause), so I’m pretty exhausted but doing okay. Planning to update in the next day or so. How are you doing?


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