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How much of our pain can our Ts tolerate?

Posted by antigua3 on August 26, 2009, at 8:43:14

I wanted to start a new thread on this because I felt like I was hijacking pweil's (so sorry). bsd, I hope you don't mind I cut and pasted this into the new thread. I hope that's not against the rules.

In any case, I find this a really interesting subject. With the blank slate technique my psychiatrist uses, I've always thought that it was just "ho, hum, another day at the office" for him, which it is really. But given the terrible things I've told him, I've always been floored by his lack of response, except, "You went throught a lot of terrible things as a child," which I thought was pretty lame. I've told him he can't say this anymore, but there isn't anything else he offers.

I like what bsd says, and I recognize those signs, but I wonder what other people think about this, too. For me, I know it's invalidating to get no response, but I'm lucky that my T does react more strongly when I tell her things.

"how much suffering they can tolerate being witness to."
> Do you think this is really true?
I do. Trauma psychologists burn out *real fast*, and often the first symptom of burnout is *turning away* from a patient's pain. I think this is generalizable -- trauma psychologists are not different from other kinds of helping professionals in the way we're talking about. They are not immune to pain.

A second reason: People in the helping professions are often themselves victims of abuse (Alice Miller talks about this in "The Drama of the Gifted Child"). To survive their childhoods, they have learned to tolerate a great deal of pain without doing the psychic equivalent of flinching. There is even something called "pain agnosia," a learned response that looks like coldness, or withdrawal, or sleepiness, but is actually what happens when a person is overwhelmed and their nervous system inhibits further responses to pain.

My T has this. He had a big argument on the phone with someone (his wife, I think) just before my session a few weeks ago, and when he opened the door for me, he looked like he was *half asleep*. Very walking dead, very zombie-like. I sat down and he sat down and he looked at me and he said, "I'm in crisis," and the session went from there. I was amazed until I'd read about "pain agnosia" and then I had an a-ha moment.

So, yes, Antigua, you're having an effect. Perhaps more of an effect than you think. Your sense that he is hiding his response tells me that the response *is* there. If he had no response, you would not feel he was hiding anything. Because there'd be nothing to hide. Does that make sense?

He's not helping you feel secure though - I'd be complaining about being made to feel paranoid and lied to.
- bsd





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