Trying to work through triggers

Yesterday we were meant to have our third appointment with the new therapist.  It was written on the appointment card that she gave us and everything…  We dutifully turn up our usual 3-5 minutes early (after giving ourselves about 10 minutes in the car to orientate everyone to being there).  We then waited… and waited… and waited…  After 45 minutes of waiting we gave-up and left.

While waiting, I’m very aware that someone wanted to curl-up on the chair and cry – I’m pretty sure it was a young part who has a close connection to Cloudie and her garden.  So it was not a fun wait, it also was an indication that we really needed to talk to someone that we didn’t need to maintain our facade of sanity with…

When we got home, we e-mailed the therapist to ask her what had happened…  Her response was a very reasonable…

I beg your pardon.  I had you in my diary for … [time] … on the … [date a week earlier] … , which of course you would not have attended if I put the incorrect date on your card.  So sorry!  Would you like to make another time?

Best regards

There’s a couple of problems with this response – the first being that she had actually written down the correct time and date on the card, it was her diary that she’d got it wrong.  But, mistakes happen…  A therapist is still human who will make mistakes…

The second problem is the one we’re really struggling with.  It’s totally our own fault and has knocked us for a six.  It’s to do with her first sentence – I beg your pardon.  This seemingly innocent statement caused so much turmoil and triggering.  Intellectually we know it’s meaning – sorry, excuse me, what did you say? etc.  These seem innocuous enough.  But for a couple of the youngs one those words mean something totally different…

All we hear is those words being yelled at us with such anger and hatred, the words are then followed by whack! The mother is the one yelling at us.  I’m not sure if the whack is a physical blow, or a reaction to the anger and hatred with which the phrase is yelled at us.  There is cowering, fear, terror and a promise to never speak like that again… I promise… I promise… no more… honest… sorry… I’ll be good… *we need to be quiet*

It’s so hard to seperate what the therapist has emailed us, and what the trigger response has brought up.  We’re fighting hard to not be dragged into the flashback and the chaos that will bring.  We’re fighting hard not to associated the therapist with that memory…


14 Responses to “Trying to work through triggers”

  1. 1 thevaguecollective March 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    just a note to say we reading and we hear ya…..

  2. 3 Samo March 24, 2009 at 9:02 pm


    Would the littles feel any better if your therapist would apologize to them by saying: “I am so sorry. I am so sorry that I said those words. No one should yell those words to you, not your mother, not me, no one and we apologize again for everything those words made to you.”?

    • 4 castorgirl March 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

      They get so caught in the memory that they lose all track of what anyone is saying in the present. I think it would hear them to hear that from either the therapist or the mother.

      This may sound odd, but sometimes apologies terrify them. I’m not sure why. Possibly because it exposes them a new behaviour pattern which they don’t know how to react to.

      Take care

  3. 5 BTC March 24, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Youch – I can see that it would be weird and kind of hurtful without her using that phrase. But how would she know that its a trigger if she hasnt worked with you for long? This is why I hate shrinks using email sometimes.

    I think she used “IBYP” as a way of avoiding the therapist-hated phrase “I’m sorry”. Its worth going again to see her and tell her that, right?

    I had a word-use-trigger in session with my T last week which was terrifying. I don’t know how I’d deal with it if it happened by email and with a T who didn’t know anything about me (yet).

    Big-virtual-safe-acceptable-long-distance hugs to you.


    • 6 castorgirl March 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm

      We didn’t realise it was a trigger until we saw it there, so there’s no way the therapist could know :) It’s a phrase that the mother used fairly often if one of the siblings was being smart when we were growing up. It just affected us badly because we were a bit sensitive at the moment anyway.

      We’ll see how it goes next week with her…

      Take care

  4. 7 Sam's the most (too much) righteously bold & creative alter March 25, 2009 at 12:41 am

    @ BTC – I agree with you about the psychotherapists (in fact, anyone I happen to be in non-equal relationship with) having to be able to say “I’m sorry” (and mean it) *AND* repeat it, and reiterate it – as many times as the client (or part of the client in DID case) needs to hear it.

    If/when I am going to become a psychotherapist myself one day, I know I’ll keep saying “I’m sorry” a lot!

    But first I’m planning to build the promised website where the survivors could read as many times as they need God saying it to them!

    As a therapist I plan to keep saying it very frequently not because I’ll be making mistakes very frequently (which I have no doubt I will do from time to time) but because I know it is needed by the clients.

    And this something probably not underlined enough in trainings, correct me if I am wrong.

    • 8 castorgirl March 25, 2009 at 12:48 pm

      I agree that therapists don’t say Sorry often enough – or if they do it is in an odd context so doesn’t mean all that much.

      It’s a word that survivors don’t hear often enough, but its also a word that people can overuse and therefore make meaningless. We don’t know how to use the word correctly – we tend to overuse it and try to apologise for our existence and everything that we do as a result of that existence.

      Take care…

      • 9 Sam's the most (too much) righteously bold & creative alter March 25, 2009 at 9:36 pm

        B, you’re right, do you think it would be odd for a therapist to say “I’m sorry that someone has made you feel the traumatic feelings you happen to feel right now, after (because) I have triggered them in you”?

        I’m sorry that my bold alter behaves as if he knows everything already.

        On the other hand, you reminded me that I (as a host) tend to apologize for our system’s existence, and “everything that we do as a result of that existence”.

        Take care…

  5. 10 castorgirl March 25, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Just as an update…

    To the email Jane (new codename for new therapist) sent above, we replied…

    Hi Jane,

    The … [date] … was the date of the ACC mediation, which was why we didn’t make an appointment for that week. I always make appointments unless I give notification prior to the day.

    I know it shouldn’t, but this has knocked my confidence – it is in the context of a couple of bad weeks.
    I can’t make an appointment this week, but can try Monday morning again.

    Kate [our codename]

    To which Jane replied…

    Hi Kate

    Again I’d like to apologise for getting the date incorrect. I hope the ACC mediation went well.

    Would … [date and time] … work for you?

    Best regards

    She has apologised… :)

    We prefer email contact as it’s less likely to be stressful for us, and as we have a hearing impairment it means we’re less likely to miss half of the conversation.

    We’re still not through the trigger response, but I think that will probably take another day to ease totally.

    Thank you all for your responses…

  6. 11 davidrochester March 25, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Oh, what a very unsettling and frightening thing for you, darling — especially disappointing since Jane seemed to be a better match. It’s no wonder your confidence was shaken.

    I’m very impressed with and proud of you for being willing to sit with this, and give her another chance. I know how hard it is to do that when there’s a strong trigger response. Please be sure to tell her that the language she used is a trigger for you … it’s important for her to know, so she can respect your boundaries. I’m sure she would want to know.

  7. 13 Just Be Real March 26, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Sitting here listening……

  1. 1 In which I declare I intend to become a therapist one day « Mybelovedalter’s Blog Trackback on March 25, 2009 at 12:53 am

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