Home Anxiety Why can’t I accept help?

Why can’t I accept help?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a woman in the U.S.: My Therapist of eight months terminated. {new job}.   I cancelled our final appts: because I could not face her. I had lied to her to test her and ultimately push her away.  She knew I think and I believe she felt betrayed.  I could tell because our sessions changed… She was in fact pushed away.

The guilt I feel is unbearable. She and others were just trying to help me. Why can’t I accept help.  The guilt I feel is unbearable and this has been my pattern my whole life.  Attachment, dependency, fear of the abandonment that always comes…  Deeply hurting the ones who I care about the most, the ones who care about me, I cant seem to stop doing this and I pay dearly for it.

But, the price that others pay, those who want to trust will now think twice about that in their future relationships or future clients, in the wake of my shrapnel.   The most powerful thing she taught me without knowing is her moving on.   I just wish I would have done it right this time.. Have an open honest relationship with another person and I blew it again.

I see my future as more of the same and it is just to painful for everyone.  I once told her that she had no idea how sick I am.   She said yes, but you are not beyond help!

I wish I could believe her.

At 63, you are still working on this. For that I give you enormous credit. Thank you for writing.

I ask you to consider this: It’s likely that you did not have the impact on the therapist that you thought you did. She moved on to a new job. You are the one who cancelled appointments and didn’t give the two of you the opportunity to terminate well.

In my opinion, it is possible that you skew new information to fit your idea of yourself. This is called “assimilation”. Assimilation is when people fit new information into their existing ideas of themselves and the world.

Such beliefs are called “schemas” by theorist Jean Piaget. Everyone has such schemas. It is how we categorize and process new information. If we didn’t have them, we would be overwhelmed by every new thing we see, learn, and experience. Schemas give us something to go on as we try to understand new facts, opinions, and ideas. It is so much easier to modify new information to fit our existing beliefs than to change our beliefs, whether those beliefs are positive or negative.

You have an idea of yourself as someone other people will ultimately abandon. I’m guessing you are so sensitive to that possibility, that you see abandonment when people need to leave you (like your therapist), regardless of the reality.  Fearing abandonment, just waiting for the “other shoe to drop”, you provoke the very abandonment you fear or interpret something someone says or does as further evidence that you are a person that other people leave.

One of the ways you preserve some self-esteem is to see yourself as powerful; as having permanent impact on others’ ability to trust. That may be true in some cases, but it is unlikely that you have that much impact on others, especially on an experienced therapist.

I suggest you get back into therapy. Take your letter and this response, whether or not you agree with me, to the first appointment. It will give the new therapist an immediate understanding of where to begin.

You haven’t yet given up on yourself. Don’t start now. Make that appointment. You could live for another 30 years, decades without this burden.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

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