E makes handouts that summarize skills or strategies she teaches her clients or that illustrate a process or a choice (like continuing down a familiar path, even if it leads to a bad place, rather than making the effort to take a different path). I’ve seen many of these over the many years we’ve worked together. A few I’ve found useful, particularly a list of feelings and a list of needs; this has prompted me to think more deeply about emotional needs at times when I’ve said, “Ugh, I don’t know what I’m feeling, just BAD!”
Last week, she gave me a number of handouts. At first, on Monday, I kind of accepted them, but then they started to bother me. On Wednesday, I left them on the floor in her office when I left. And today, when she emailed me a new one, I felt MAD. Or, to draw from her feelings list, I felt irritated, frustrated, resentful, aggravated, unseen, alienated and misunderstood.
At first I wasn’t even sure why.
But I think there are, in fact, multiple reasons why I find them so off-putting.
- They target the head (thinking, talking) rather than the heart (feeling, connecting). Did I mention that this is in the context of me having gone out on a limb and told her I need to work on trust and attachment? I can’t think myself into secure attachment.
- The handouts don’t tend to offer me any new knowledge. On the contrary, since it’s something summarized in 1-2 pages, it tends to be a simplified explanation or something that is complex and nuanced, or just a fairly simple idea.
- If something is in a handout, it means it is something she makes a lot of copies of and shares with many people. For me, this takes away from the personalized and individualized nature of what we are working on together.
- Some of the handouts feel like instructions (“what to do what you are angry” or “how to handle xyz.” I feel like she is handing me the instruction sheet and telling me to go home and fix myself. What I need is practice applying these concepts or skills in my real life, or in the context of the attachment work, in relationship to her.
- The new one that she emailed me today summarizes a lot of information I brought to her, from things I have been reading about complex trauma. Why does that irritate me? I guess because I feel like she is not putting in the effort to learn about complex trauma to help me but instead just takes what I bring her and tries to create a cheat sheet: “how to handle emotional flashbacks in five easy steps.”
I’m being grumpy, I can see that. I am feeling cut off from her anyway. We had an unsatisfying session last Wednesday (even apart from the handouts), and the session ended abruptly, awkwardly. I left feeling upset. And I’m trying not to email her, since she doesn’t like it anymore, but that leaves me no way to resolve that upset with her for a week. So it kind of lurks there and even grows, my own anxiety providing food for the rumbling of distrust.
Don’t give me a handout, E. Give me a sense of connection. That is literally all I want from you.