Between the Dashes ~ for Jade

12 Nov

This post was inspired by Jade’s comment on my experience with the movie Cloud Atlas {which was so frigging overwhelming for me that i walked out before it was over so i wouldn’t start yelling at the screen.}   i’ve just today sort of successfully processed that experience, and one of the things that i factored into my processing was Jade’s comment:

… you know, it surprises me that you are able to do so much work in your life with therapy and your volunteer work that forces you to look at the worse in life up close and personal. And you do it with gusto. It’s like you let yourself deal with full on empathy from a safe space of movies in a way that you cannot in helping people. Or…i could be totally wrong. i don’t know.

i had a therapist once as a kid who actually started crying listening to me. i was calm, cool, and collected. i brought her some tissue and handed her one of her cabbage patch dolls she was always offering me from her shelf. Tee hee.

i can just picture you doing that, Jade.

But i love it when people make me think about my own stuff ~ thank you.  i must have read your comment a dozen times.  Sir and i talked too, about the movie and my feelings, so i’ve processed enough to finish working it through here.

First, i hope that therapist went and got her own therapist immediately.  You know, or i think you know, that her reaction was not about the story you told but about whatever it triggered in her own history that was emotionally overwhelming for her, and clearly she needed some help working through that.

i’m sorry ~ and the apology is for the child you were then ~ sorry that this adult wasn’t able to manage her own feelings without involving you and allowing you to play the role of caretaker.  Therapists get triggered as much as anyone ~ and according to the presenter at the workshop i went to , the career with the highest percentage of people who’ve experienced sexual abuse is ~ wait for it ~ psychotherapists!

Not surprising.  But that’s supposed to motivate us to seek our own emotional wellness without using our clients to do it.

Several things keep me from getting triggered to that point by the painful stories my clients tell.

i’ve done a bunch of therapy myself over the years to process my own trauma history.

i go into sessions knowing that it may involve painful material, and i have ~ sort of a space within myself that is prepared to handle that.  i know that listening and being able to help someone hold that painful experience is helpful.  i know it makes a difference.

i don’t allow it to be a rushed experience.   If the story goes too fast, it becomes overwhelming.  So if the person goes through the story really fast, i’ll slow everything down at the end, and say ~ slowly and thoughtfully ~ something like this:

Ok ~ ok, that’s a lot, there’s a whole lot there.  Let’s just take a minute, both of us, take a minute, and just let it sit there while we breathe, while we catch our breath.  Wow.  That was a whole lot.

That gives me time ~ gives me and the client both time ~ to begin to absorb the story.

So i don’t end up overwhelmed in therapy.  Occasionally, something haunts me excessively, and then i have to figure out what it’s triggering for me, and that may take some time, but it doesn’t typically happen during the session.

And those things keep me from ending up like your childhood therapist, Jade, thank goodness.

But at the movies ~ it is too visual, too loud, i can’t get away from it, it’s overwhelming.   i can’t think, can’t reassure myself, AND this particular movie triggered memories of every sad, painful story i’d ever heard or experienced myself.  Not “memories” like the verbal narrative of it, but all the feelings.

i don’t think it’s helpful, feeling that overwhelmed.  Not helpful for me or anyone else.   Later, just today, i was able to pick it apart and understand it better.

I realized ~ this movie  reminded me of all the times bad things happen.  It was like all the times women get used like objects {non-consensually}, like all the times we trust someone and they hurt us, like all the times we feel unexpected joy, and have it snatched away, and so many more hurts that my clients have described, and that i’ve seen.

And so, ultimately, it goes back to my own hurt – the hurts we all carry when people we love betray us and people we look to for protection don’t protect us and people we rely on slip away.

i cried, and Sir and i talked, and that helped immensely.

He says that i am not desensitized like most people, and that is true too.   i’ve watched so little TV, so few movies over the last 15 or 20 years.  But i was always like this, and i know now that there are lots of us like this, and Sir doesn’t want me to change, and He says we’re not going to movies any more.

i said that i thought light comedies would be ok, and He said, “No, no movies.”  Apparently even comedies involve people getting hurt or killed and being cruel to each other.    And really?  i’m ok with not going to the movies again.

12 Responses to “Between the Dashes ~ for Jade”

  1. striving for peace November 12, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    I may be projecting my own feelings on this — after all — don’t we always? — but when I read the post about the movie I thought of it in terms of power and powerlessness.

    We have all had times in our lives when we were powerless – and it’s an awful feeling.not the powerlessness that we play with in our relationships (safe powerlessness – and isn’t that another topic to discuss!) — but true powerlessness.

    as a therapist — you have some degree of power and control — you’re in the process to “fix it”. as a volunteer you are in the role to provide a counterbalance in the power.

    as a movie goer….you are a passive observer. You are at the scene of horror — and confined – unable to make it stop, change the outcome or provide succor. You are powerless.

    I’m glad your Sir gets it — and your life will not be less rich without movies.

    much love


    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Dear Sfp,

      i think that’s a brilliant insight. Yes. It is about power and powerlessness – not necessarily power “over” but power to effect change, power to control the circumstances around it. Yes.

      Thank you.


  2. heather1 November 12, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Just wanted to pass on Hugs to you and Jade. Sometimes you never know when something will trigger a memory. Glad your Sir is taking care of you, so that it doesn’t happen again.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Thank you, Heather. i appreciate the hugs, and you’re right, it can hit any time…


  3. vanillamom November 12, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    I don’t go to movies either, and don’t watch made-for-tv movies, or movies when they come out on DVD. Occasionally I’ll watch Disaster movies just …coz I love the bending of science…but i tend to watch the same movies over and over. (hmmmm wonder what that says about me?) The Sound of Music, and that sort of thing. Kid movies on occasion.

    I remember when the Jen Aniston and Vince Vaughn movie came out a few years ago. People RAVED about it. Called it a comedy.

    Yes, there were a few funny lines in it. But it was about the de-evolution of a relationship, and both parties wanting to keep the condo…

    and it was NOT funny.

    not by a longshot.

    We never watched the end of it. It was a very sad movie, to me. So…I doubt I am as empathetic as you are, but I just can’t stand the noise, the stupidity, and the crowds. Good on you, and your Sir, for processing this, together.



    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      Hi, ‘Nilla,

      Awww, i love The Sound of Music too, and My Fair Lady, and even Mary Poppins. Yessssss.

      And i know the movie you’re talking about ~ i didn’t see it of course, but i can remember wondering why people really thought it was funny. You know it’s nice for me to know that other people feel the same way.

      Thanks for the understanding and support.


      • striving for peace November 12, 2012 at 11:41 am #

        ugh — it was called “The Break up” — and I was getting divorced when I saw it — I thought the movie was mean spirited and painful to watch.

        sigh — funny is in the eye of the beholder.


  4. sin November 12, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Funny, I almost never watch TV or movies either.

    I’m reading Cloud Atlas now. I’m 3/4 of the way through the book and it’s confusing. I don’t really know what it’s about and I don’t think I like it much. It’s pretty dark. I agree with SFP that it’s about power and powerlessness. I haven’t yet, read your post about the movie itself, I guess I will go do that now.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Hey, Sin,

      Yeah, the movie was confusing too. i was too busy being traumatized to be sure i understood it, so i don’t know. It was like i “got” each vignette, but it didn’t fit together for me. But i thought it was just me. Maybe it all comes together at the end? Let me know.


  5. Wordwytch November 12, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    First off, HUGS!!! And I understand your Sir’s viewpoint. I don’t watch TV. Most movies are on DVD. I can’t remember the last time we went out to watch one. As for choices… I am very picky. And Wolf is protective in his own way. Lots and lots of hugs.

    • aisha November 12, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Thanks, Wordwytch. i do better with movies on DVD, gives me the “power” to stop it and start it as i need to, although if i’m not careful, i’ll get too sucked in to remember that i can make it stop…


      Thanks for the hugs.


      • Wordwytch November 12, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

        I understand. Sometimes that remote control is worth it’s weight in sanity.

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