Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 395279

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To read or not to read

Posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

Iíve been having a quarrel with my T about books, and wondered what your take is on the question.

I read a lot, and since I started therapy have been consuming piles of books on Psychology and Psychotherapy - mostly from a Jungian perspective because I am a member of the local Jung library. I know that many of you also spend a lot of money and time reading theoretical books about therapy - the list of recommended books following Dinahís post is full of titles of books I have read.

My therapist thinks this reading is not helpful. She says that as an incest survivor it is helpful for me to be reading books by other survivors but not books written for professional psychologists. She says I should not be trying to understand what is happening to me in therapy, but should just be allowing myself to feel. In particular around the issue of transference, she says that the idea is not to understand but to allow it to happen to you.

I can see her point, I suppose. Without the interference of knowing what is supposed to happen, my feelings would be much more powerful and therapy can be more effective. That it is better to come to therapy fresh, without getting mixed up with other people's ideas.

It seems to me she is missing what I am trying to do. I donít think therapy can be effective when the fear and threat of not knowing are too great.. Transference for example can be overwhelming. I guess it helps the Therapist to know what is happening to me. However I was quite convinced I was going crazy until I began to make some sense out of the transference - with quite a lot of help from friends here at Babble. I felt really suicidal until then and might well have carried out my suicidal ideas. I feel quite furious with her that she was not prepared to help me move through it by giving me some understanding, that she was prepared to sit there and watch me really suffer. Like a marionette dancing on strings I couldnít see. It feels as if there is a huge power differential in this relationship, and that she is reluctant for me to take any control at all. To me knowing and understanding help me in some small way to hang on to my sanity.

What do you think? To read or not to read?


Re: To read or not to read

Posted by mair on September 26, 2004, at 12:45:50

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

There was a time when my T was critical of my participation on Babble because she viewed as an impediment to therapy, my tendency to want to understand everything before I could talk about it. I do an awful lot of self-censorship and I like to be able to present things to her in a neat package.

I think it's a balance, because I could also argue to her that it's easier for me to talk about things after I've posted about them here - for me maybe the same as writing things in a journal. On the other hand I can also see her point about not allowing myself to feel things because by the time they're discussed, I've intellectualized them already. And also, sometimes after I've posted here, I don't feel a particular need to discuss it with her at all - so I've had some sort of strong emotional reaction that never gets processed with her.

In my case, I don't think posting here or not posting here would make a bit of difference to what transpired in therapy. I could take away Babble and still have some of the same difficulties with therapy. It sounds to me like your situation might be different. If your reading of these books interferes with what needs to(not might) happen in therapy, she may be right to ask you to read less.



Re: To read or not to read

Posted by shortelise on September 26, 2004, at 13:17:32

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

Are you trying to stay in control, to control your therapy?

It helped me to learn that many of the things about therapy that were really scaring me were a normal part of the process.



Re: To read or not to read

Posted by tabitha on September 26, 2004, at 14:42:43

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

I think some people just have more of a need for an intellectual framework for their experiences. My T doesn't seem to understand that either. I get frustrated with her for not explaining things to me, and sometimes I'll get ideas from books and tell her about them and she'll pooh-pooh them. It's annoying. I wish she'd support whatever efforts I make to help myself.


Re: To read or not to read

Posted by rubenstein on September 26, 2004, at 15:15:02

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

For the longest time, I felt really guilty about reading books. I thought my T would be upset or something, issues of trust and what not. I understand now that that is just the type of person I am, I need to have information, I want to know what is out there and expand my mind. I can see how it could get in the way of therapy at times,but I am definetly not going to stop reading any time soon. By the way, he totally was not upset when I told him, and found the whole thing kind of amusing...I think.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf

Posted by Aphrodite on September 26, 2004, at 15:48:41

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

I can see both sides of this issue. I read A LOT and sometimes stumble on something meant for professionals that I would have been much better off not reading. For instance, I recently read a collection of therapists' reactions to trauma patients who were all complaining that they felt traumatized, felt their patients were manipulative, etc. I started to worry about what my T might think. On the other hand, I've read things that have given me greater understanding of myself and a vocabulary to discuss it with my T.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf

Posted by fallsfall on September 26, 2004, at 16:28:44

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

I have read a lot. I often take 10 Psych books out of the University library at a time.

In many ways it has helped me. It helped to understand what was going on, so I wouldn't be so scared. I tried to understand what to talk about so that I could be more productive in therapy. I got ideas of things to think about. I found definitions of terms that were confusing to me. I was comforted by reading case studies (vicarious comfort?).

But there are things have not been helpful. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what my therapist is doing (presumably so that I can work in the same direction, but there are times when I end up critical of his decisions). When I'm reading Psych books I'm not getting on with my life. Since I read primarily Psych books, my life revolves around therapy - rather than having other stimulation from other parts of life. I figure that I know enough to help all of my friends (and many times I do help them, but focusing on helping them helps distract me from working on ME).

At this point in my therapy, I am not reading very much (I'm actually reading a novel right now - and it doesn't even have a psych plot!). I find that I read more when I'm not sure that I'm making progress in therapy. It's almost like I don't trust my therapist (who is very good) to know what he is doing. I have to research everything so that I can tell him what he has missed. I can tell that I'm more upset when I am making weekly trips to the University library - and in fact, I now tell my therapist when I fall into reading phases. I also read to keep my mind busy. If I'm reading I can't be ruminating about my life. Many times I will read all of the words, but not get any of the meaning - I use it as a distracting busywork.

But I think that my reading comes down to control. If I am reading, then I can "analyze" myself. I'll be sure not to miss something. A therapist could miss stuff because maybe I wouldn't tell him about it, but *I* won't miss stuff... Except that there seems to be a ton of stuff hidden in my unconscious, and I'm now figuring out that he has more access to that than I do. It terrifies me to think that he can understand things about me that I don't understand. If I read a lot and plan each of my sessions (deciding what to talk about and how much to say), then I have control over my therapy.

But control is not necessarily a good thing to have in therapy. I've had control in every facet of my life for 47 years, and - to be honest with you - that hasn't been all that successful. So maybe it is time for me to "live" in therapy, rather than "perform" in therapy. Maybe I shouldn't be thinking about how he will interpret what I say before I say it, and then choose to say or not to say it. Maybe I should be unguarded, and trust that he will do his job well.

I do trust that he wants what is best for me. And I trust that he is skilled. And I trust that he cares.

Does this mean I always like what he does or says? Not at all! And I oscillate between being more controlling and less controlling. Giving up control is a major issue for me.

So, does that mean I don't read anymore? Not at all. I still scour used book sales, and visit my library when there is something I don't understand. I'll be back to getting stacks of books for a period, I'm sure. But I'm trying to be more comfortable with the idea that I *don't* have to control everything, that my therapist just might be able to do a good job and take care of me. It is truly a strange feeling for me.

In general, my therapist would prefer that I didn't read. Initially, I was angry that my therapist didn't want me to read - like he was putting a roadblock up that would make it harder for me to get well. But he knows enough to know that if he forbade it, that I would read even more. So I know what he wants, and as I can be comfortable with not reading, I try to read less. For me, this is a slow process.

Your reasons for reading are personal to you - they may be vastly different from my reasons. My guess would be that if you can really analyze why you feel the need to read, that you will learn more about yourself.

Good luck, and if you ever want me to recommend some titles on a particular subject, just let me know.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf

Posted by Dinah on September 26, 2004, at 18:19:42

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

I too was afraid my therapist would be angry, and when my husband met with us my one instruction to him was to not mention the psych books. But he was more amused than angry.

The answer to me is so far on the side of "to read" that it isn't an issue. For someone with a rather limited emotional vocabulary, books help me consider things that wouldn't have even occurred to me without them. I'll sometimes read something and have it really really resonate and know I have a fruitful path to follow. If I get oddly sleepy while I read, I know I've hit paydirt.

My therapist isn't really very directive. Without books we'd have sat doing nothing. With books I've been able to have a deep and wide therapy that I'm not sure he's used to having. Like any other arena, books broaden my therapy world. I almost *never* give a recitation of the weeks events. We talk ideas and fears and things that books help open up.

At first I read the technical psych books, and I still do because it's fun and I enjoy it. But my initial purpose was that I was sure he was manipulating me and I wanted to know *how*. But it didn't take me more than a year or so to figure out that my therapist doesn't do all that much manipulating, and what he does do isn't from the books. It's based on understanding *me* and what makes *me* tick, not on techniques. Every once in a while I might snap at him that this isn't the time for mirroring, or something like that. But not often.

Besides, his mantra is that this is my therapy and it is my responsibility. Why should he object if I do it to the best of my ability? (And in fact he doesn't.) I bring books in all the time, all marked and ready to read to him.


Re: To read or not to read

Posted by daisym on September 27, 2004, at 0:48:26

In reply to Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf, posted by Dinah on September 26, 2004, at 18:19:42

I tell my therapist when I'm "researching." He ususally wants to know why and has even gone as far as to ask what words I'm using to google. It gives him insight into what I'm worried about. He has referred to me as an "information hound." I just need to have a lot of information about things.

He has recommended a few books and we talk theory on and off. Especially developmental theory and stages. He finds it fascinating that I don't find survivor books all that helpful. He still asks me to read them sometimes, to normalize things for me a bit.

I often think that if I died suddenly and my mother, or anyone else, looked at my book collection, they would be shocked. Such a wide array of stuff, from Jung to the therapy is bad for you books. Yes, I'm conflicted. I like case stories, but lately I'm into brain research. A friend gave me "The Body Remembers" and it is fascinating!


Re: To read or not to read Ľ mair

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:26:37

In reply to Re: To read or not to read, posted by mair on September 26, 2004, at 12:45:50

Thanks Mair. I think that like you I do try to process difficult things before taking them to therapy, by writing about them on Babble or emailing the Samaritans. That seems to be a kind of resistance I have to trusting my therapist, a need to talk them over with someone outside beforehand. The books seem to serve a different purpose. They donít interfere with what I am already doing in therapy - rather I get upset with things in the books that are perhaps not completely relevant to me.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ shortelise

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:27:48

In reply to Re: To read or not to read, posted by shortelise on September 26, 2004, at 13:17:32

Yes, ShortE, I think I am trying to stay in control. But how will I ever know that what happens to me in therapy is normal if I donít read about it somewhere, either in books or on babble. Itís not the sort of thing you can ask your friends about - at least, I canít. I really thought I was not normal, that I was psychotic, with the transference. Now I can work with it, before I understood a little about it I was terrified. For example, last night I woke up feeling the utmost hatred towards my T. I got up and wrote out my thoughts towards her for over an hour. Looking back at what I wrote, I see that in my writing I threaten to kill her a couple of times. If I didnít know that through this I was reliving my murderous feelings towards my mother because of her betrayal, I think I would be very worried today. Sometimes my feelings are just too powerful. I think I really need to intellectualize a bit.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ tabitha

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:28:41

In reply to Re: To read or not to read, posted by tabitha on September 26, 2004, at 14:42:43

Tabitha, my T also seems to think she can do the understanding for both of us. Maybe itís because she is a child psychologist. She specializes in csa, and works mostly with children. In fact my therapy deals a lot with my different child states. Unfortunately I am very far from childhood, and I think my adult side needs explanations, which she is reluctant to give.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ rubenstein

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:29:31

In reply to Re: To read or not to read, posted by rubenstein on September 26, 2004, at 15:15:02

Rubenstein, itís strange, I also felt very guilty about reading, and itís taken me almost a year to confess to my secret. You are so lucky yours tolerates it. My T is careful to say only that itís not helpful, not that I canít, but she also said my SI was not helpful. So I take it that ďnot helpfulĒ in her vocabulary means ďbadĒ.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ Aphrodite

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:31:55

In reply to Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf, posted by Aphrodite on September 26, 2004, at 15:48:41

Yes, my battle with my therapist is over a similar issue. I came across a study of incest carried out on an inpatient basis, where there were two psychologists, a male and female, working in a team. They played with the transference as it would typically happen in the case of incest survivors, i.e. loving and seductive towards the male T and diffident towards the female. I suddenly became certain that my Pdoc and my T were manipulating me, playing with my feelings,because this is exactly what I had felt, and I was furious. My T swears she would never do anything of the sort, but I am struggling to believe that.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ fallsfall

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:34:19

In reply to Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf, posted by fallsfall on September 26, 2004, at 16:28:44

Thanks fallsfall for your long thoughtful reply. I found so many useful points in what you wrote, as well as so many similarities with why I feel I need to read. Personal accounts do comfort terribly, I suppose by making me feel that I was not crazy, by being able to see what happened to me from the outside and being able to feel compassion for the survivor ( I hate this term, itís so corny, but I donít know what other term to use). And it is useful to be able to define what is happening so that I can work around the idea.

Thereís another reason I read so much. I have a huge positive transference towards my Pdoc, who was the person who suggested I should join the Jung library. It feels as if I am close to him when I read books I borrow from there. I donít understand though why my Pdoc had no problem with my reading, and in fact encouraged it, when my T is so threatened. Oh dear.

But like you I spend far too much time reading a lot of books that mean very little to me, as if I need them to take up my time, keep me busy. I know exactly what you mean. My T has no idea how much time I actually spend reading these books - Iím sure she would be horrified if I told her. It becomes quite compulsive at times, as if I just have to keep reading. A book or computer forms a great barrier between me and my husband or son when I feel I canít handle any more tension. But that is another large can of worms I donít wish to open right now. And yes, it does happen when I am having problems of trust with my T. I wish I were more in control, I hate her being able to call the shots, I hate feeling as if sheís enjoying my shame and pain at making a fool of myself. Because I invariably do.

You know, early in my therapy my T shared an anecdote with me. She told me about her student days, about when she was working in the large state psychiatric hospital in my city. She told me about the fear she had when she was finally given the key to the locked ward. She laughed as she told me, as if I would appreciate her fear of the mad people on the other side of the door. She forgot though that I had been a patient at that hospital. I had been on the other side of the door, I was/am one of the ďothersĒ. I have never really been able to trust her motives since then. I have always felt that I need to really be well informed about what she is up to, that she is the ďotherĒ to me. In a sense, the enemy.

Wow, thatís quite a confession Iíve just made. No wonder we have issues of trust. LOL. Iím going to have to talk to her about this. Itís moved quite a long way away from the books, I must say.

Thanks for the insight, fallsfall.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ Dinah

Posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:35:40

In reply to Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf, posted by Dinah on September 26, 2004, at 18:19:42

Dinah, I will also never stop reading - I might read less. My therapist was careful not to tell me not to read, she simply said it was ďnot helpfulĒ. But that to me sounds like a prohibition, which means Iíll probably have to go underground.

I also feel I need to read because it feels as if my T is manipulating me - It is great that you can trust yours not to manipulate. I find it very difficult to trust my T at all. Sometimes I wonder why we bother with therapy - it all seems to revolve around learning to trust this person. Do I really need to spend so much money to know I can trust her? (Sorry, Iím just being facetious, I know all the arguments. Itís just that whenever I try to analyze anything in my therapy it invariably comes back down to the issue of trust. It seems as if you have overcome this hurdle, Dinah, or am I wrong?) We donít speak much about the events of my days, also because I see her too often - we concentrate a lot more on feelings, which like you I battle to identify.


Re: To read or not to read Ľ vwoolf

Posted by Dinah on September 27, 2004, at 10:44:51

In reply to Re: To read or not to read Ľ Dinah, posted by vwoolf on September 27, 2004, at 9:35:40

As I got to know him better, and he became easier for me to read, it became easier to believe that he wasn't manipulating me. I think we give them too much power when we think that they have some grand plan and everything they say is designed to move us somewhere.

In truth mine at least is a fellow journeyer. He doesn't have all the answers. He's learned how to listen, how to challenge me nonconfrontationally, how to say what he wants to say while arousing as little anger as possible. He knows, to some degree, how to notice what is important. He knows to listen to keywords that might help him understand what's going on. All those things his training has taught him. But he doesn't have any Svengali abilities, his training didn't teach him any. And I don't think most of the books we read teach any manipulative powers either, drat it.

Yes, he tries to manipulate me. But it's with what is important to me, not what he learned in books. And it's woefully transparent to the point that it just brings up fond feelings, not angry ones.


Re: To read or not to read

Posted by JenStar on October 1, 2004, at 0:27:19

In reply to To read or not to read, posted by vwoolf on September 26, 2004, at 12:02:33

hi Vwoolf,
as a fellow reader at heart, I applaud your reading zeal! I don't think it is EVER bad to read! Reading is awesome, powerful, mind-opening, enchanting. I learn so much by reading, and of course -- like you -- I like to read up on any current situation so I know what to expect, different theories, etc.

I hope the T isn't coming from the "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" school of thought, because many people who suffer from a condition eventually know MORE about it than their doctors (diabetics, for example, as well as many cancer patients.)

I guess the only problem with reading might be if you use it as a shield to avoid confronting issues (as in: "I can't deal with that yet, I naven't read all the conflicting theories on how it could be handled!")

But if you're working hard on things, and reading to support your psyche and development and hunger for knowledge, how can that be bad?

Maybe she's not a reader and can't "get it" that some people need to read, love to read, and read voraciously and quickly and for pleasure. Some people just aren't like that...

And I'm sure you know (from all the reading!) that there are different schools of thought on transference: some people don't really want it, because they prefer a client-directed therapy; some want their patients to become completely and utterly reliant on them, because they believe that only then can the person "start over" and learn to be independent. And not every therapy fits every person...

anyway, don't give up reading unless it brings you MORE stress and confusion. If it helps you, then keep doing it!


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