That’s the new rule I brought home from therapy yesterday, being the result of a ten-days-long relapse. I even did two assessments of BDI-II scores, one evaluating the usual time period (the past two weeks), the other only for the day of the session, because there was such a difference between them: my relapse had brought me back to 21, while yesterday I was at 8.
Due to growing frustration over failing to stand up for myself and effectively communicating my wishes, I had begun feeling increasingly depressed again. What helped me getting better was talking to other people about it – my boyfriend and friends, who all listened, understood and gave me feedback in kind words. And it was the realization that this was not a simple failure at work here, but that I was uncovering a fundamental behavioural pattern: I’m trying to please other people to such a degree that I panic when I’m forced to express opinions / wishes / emotions that run counter to what I believe the other person to feel or want from me. I do, in fact, expect punishment or abandonment for expressing “unpopular” opinions.
As a combat method, we created the above-mentioned new rule in the session, so that I speak out or act before second thoughts have a chance to shut me up. Intellectually, I know what to do or say, but the emotional part of me ends up in utter terror: my therapist likened it to riding a horse galloping away with you – once it’s on the run, it’s hard to gain back control. So my efforts are now going into preventing the reaction pattern from getting kick-started.
We did a lot of roleplaying yesterday, which always makes me uncomfortable, self-conscious and awkward, but yesterday was the first time I said “I cannot do this.” Not that it saved me, because the response was a smile and simple assertion: “Of course you can. Try again.” And since I always aim to please and am generally motivated to do what it takes to get better, I did try again, resulting in a giggle fit – when I am embarrassed, that sometimes happens. I sat in the chair, covering my face with my hands and convulsing in hilarity while trying to re-focus, but it took a while until I actually succeeded. And, of course, for the rest of the session he kept “proving” to me that whenever I did something he asked me to, it was because I had acted instead of dissecting it mentally: “What did you think when you just told me this?” – “…. Nothing.” – “See? You could speak your mind because you acted instead of thinking about it.”
It appears that the focus of our sessions is going to shift towards behavioural training and feedback on verbal and non-verbal expression in the future. The situational analysis is still just as important, but my therapist remarked that intellectually, I had grasped the procedure and did not require any assistance identifying the crucial elements of situations or interpreting them.
This means even more roleplaying in the future, and other exercises which offer only marginally less potential for awkwardness. Yet, no matter how much I dislike doing this kind of training, I cannot dispute its effectiveness, and I still like going to the sessions.