Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

Memory Monday – “Censored: wearing a mask in therapy”

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Sometimes I worry that if I lose a train of thought in session, or if I change subject or direction, I may not be able to find my way back or I may leave a topic ‘unfinished’. My therapist replies that if something is important, it will come round again in session, in one form or another, so that we ‘can take another bite at the cherry’. Over the last few months it feels as though I have made significant progress in therapy, and there have been a number of key components to that progress. These include the way in which I now think of myself as composed of a number of ‘personas’ (or parts), my ability to see my therapist as a ‘new mother‘ figure who I can relate to independently of how I related to my biological mother, and the honesty and vulnerability with which I am now often able to approach sessions, precisely because I am much more aware both of ‘new mother’ and the different parts of me that might try and oppose her.

In thinking of that progress I am struck by how often the core elements of these ideas and concepts were already present in my therapy some time ago, but had not had the impact they have had recently. In some cases I even believed I’d had a ‘light-bulb moment’, and yet still it hadn’t had a significant change on my behaviour. It is as if I had realised I’d found an important piece of the jigsaw, but until enough of the pieces were in place, I couldn’t see or understand the bigger picture. And once enough pieces were in place, the speed with which others could be slotted in, was magnified.

I found a particular example of this when I went back to a post from July 2015:

https://lifeinabind.com/2015/07/11/censored-wearing-a-mask-in-therapy/

The post describes the moment when I fully realised the enormous extent to which I routinely censored my thoughts in therapy. It also describes how, in the absence of communicating how I felt, I often ‘acted it out’ instead. Though these seemed like important insights at the time, I continued to censor my thoughts, though perhaps not quite so heavily, and I continued to ‘act out’, though not quite so blatantly. And it’s only now, more than a year later, that I can really see that that has changed.

In Part I of the post I wrote: “Judgement, lack of interest, intrusiveness. All of those past experiences make it hard to talk in therapy. But their absence in therapy makes it equally hard to talk. My therapist is not intrusive, she doesn’t judge me, and she is genuinely interested in me. But I have no idea how to operate in that environment…”. The difference now is that I see my therapist not just as not judgmental or intrusive – but as not my biological mother. I see her as ‘new mother’, and that frees me up to operate completely differently with her, and to speak without fear, and with confidence of acceptance.

In Part II of the post I wrote: “As this wonderful quote says:  ‘In a corner of my soul there hides a tiny frightened child, who is frightened by a corner where there lingers something wild’.  The difficult thing about therapy, is realising that the frightened child and the ‘something wild’ can both be parts of ourselves. When we start talking about them rather than acting them out – perhaps then we can start to integrate them into our view of ourselves, and to accept them. And perhaps then there will be no need of a mask to hide behind; at least in therapy, and to ourselves.” The difference now is that I have started to identify and integrate the different parts of me, and to talk about them and accept them. It is an ongoing process, but it does mean that there is much less ‘acting out’ either in or between sessions, and much more openness in talking about how I really feel.

There is a one small part of my most recent therapy session that really shows how the censorship described in both parts of my earlier post, has changed, for the reasons described above. I have had a run of difficult sessions in which I have been barely able to talk, with a large part of me feeling resentful and resistant and not really wanting to turn up to therapy at all. The (small and barely audible) non-resistant part of me managed to say ‘this reminds me a little of how things were at university‘, to which my therapist replied, ‘can you say a bit more about that‘? With only the smallest of pauses, I simply said ‘What just went through my mind was – no, because I don’t want to talk to you‘.

There was momentary censorship – after all, I could have immediately spoken the words that went through my mind. But when I did speak them, it was with confidence and trust, rather than fear, and that’s what made the censorship momentary – rather than ongoing and solitary.

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4 thoughts on “Memory Monday – “Censored: wearing a mask in therapy”

  1. Excellent. You are growing in therapy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With respect to “another bite at the cherry,” therapy is like that for both the patient and the therapist. You might think of the issues of importance as being on a carousel, with both the parties standing and watching as the carousel goes round. The crucial issues do return until, at last, both parties get on the same horse. Ideally, this happens early rather than late, but sometimes, even with the best effort from each of them, it can take years.

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  3. What kind of therapy are you doing? Transference-focused psychotherapy? Sounds pretty good. There’s an approach called Schema therapy, which also works with different “modes” of personality (the detached protector, the wounded child, the punitive parent etc.). Might be interesting for you. It was developed especially for the treatment of BPD.

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    • Thank you so much for your comment! I’m in psychoanalytic psychotherapy….I’ve heard of Scheme therapy and a few people who’ve read my posts on ‘parts’, have mentioned it.I am torn between wanting to read it, and wanting to sort of discover it by myself, or rather let my own mind explore its own version of it, if you see what I mean. I was very very into reading books about therapy for about the first couple of years of my therapy, but I also had a mindset it was hard to escape from, of wanting to ‘do therapy right’. My therapist was keen to encourage me to live out and explore my own story, rather than reading so much about other people’s. And often things have a lot more power if the knowledge arises out of one-self. Which is not to say knowledge or theory are bad things, they are not! I’m just worried to what extent reading about Schema might influence my thoughts and the way they develop, and what the difference would be if I just let things happen more organically. The detached protector, for example, sounds exactly like one of the parts I have become conscious of, but I became conscious of it before reading about it, and I think that was helpful….thank you SO much for reading!

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