Fear and Trust in Recovery Work


joy beneath fear450px-Luiz 007That Feeling of Terror

With or without recovery work, a person with an eating disorder periodically experiences a terror beyond imagining.  She feels she’s falling endlessly down a black abyss. Often she makes her first call for psychotherapy when she is in the midst of these terrors.

Within her recovery process these experiences diminish in frequency and length—but not necessarily in intensity.  In an unguarded moment her defense system fails to block what triggers her fear.  Her psyche cannot cope. She needs her therapist and relies on the trustworthiness of the relationship to see her through her crisis.

Separations can trigger a terror episode,  So can memories and dreams. If she doesn’t have supportive resources to rely on in such an intense time, she will act out in any way she can in an attempt to save herself. She is at her most vulnerable. She is also at her most sensitive point of healing if she is in treatment with a trustworthy mental health professional.

I see it this way in my private practice.

Trust is Key to Recovery Work

Trust in recovery work is many layered.  First, she needs to feel or sense that I, as her therapist, am a survivor and can tolerate her experience.  She neds to know I can tolerate her terror.  She needs to know I can appreciate her terror and the circumstances, real or imagined, that bring her to this emotional anguish.  Part of my job is to see that her belief is based on fact.  Through my own recovery work and life work I need to develop enought health, experience and emotional sturdiness to deserveher trust.

She doesn't have to make her experience "nice" for me.  She doesn't have to withhold any of it.  She doesn't have to minimize the circumstances or attempt to hide her self-perceived flaws or weaknesses. 

As I remain present for her she learns that together we can face whatever her torments may be. Nothing has to be censored or denied.

In fact, the more she can clearly share her fears the more opportunity she has to develop strength and awareness to cope with her experience. As she learns this, our meetings and our relationship deepens and her treatment brings her more solid healing. 

I listen with caring without being caught in her fears. As she learns to rely on my stability she develops more of her own.  Then we can explore the range and depth of her emotional experiences that are normal and part of the human condition.

This includes all that she feels or felt when confronted by her own great terror.  It gives her an opportunity to know that such a state is knowable, understandable and survivable.

Her vulnerability to a terror state is one of the key reasons for the existence of her eating disorder. As she develops more awareness and a sturdy spirit based on her practice in therapy she can bear her terrors and dissolve them.  This is fundamental to her eating disorder recovery.

What part of this discussion is relates to you?
How has the issue of trust affected your willingness to seek treatment?
How has the issue of trust affected your ability to remain in treatment?

*  Painting by Luiz Carlos Cappellano

What do you see in this painting? Can you see why I may have chosen it for article about fear and trust?


0 # Unconsious secretsKymL 2012-09-09 20:08

So I don’t really have those moments of terror anymore (thank goodness and my heart goes out to those who still do!!), but I did have a really good lesson in trust with my therapist this past week and it makes me wonder how much more there is. (I shared some of this in a comment on the “talking about sex” blog, but it seems to stay buried with the new web site).   I accidently told my therapist something that I never dreamed I’d ever tell someone.  I don’t think I made it a conscious decision to never tell, but I knew as soon as it came out of my month that I had no plan to do that and insistently got scared and embarrassment.  According to everything I’ve read, what I told her is perfectly normal for sex abuse survivors, but I think my therapist is correct when she said it’s shame that’s keeping me feeling bad about it (and a number of other things).  I’ve been doing some reading and research on shame and I’m sure I have my share!!  If intellectually I know this secret is normal and I know it’s not my fault I have it (blame goes to the abuser), then why do I feel I need to hide it?  Especially, why do I feel like I need to hide it from the one person who has been there for me for 2.5 years and has never judged anything I’ve said or done? 

Joanna, I like what you said about trusting that she can handle what I have to say.  Just about every time I want to talk about sex I ask her if it’s OK.  So what’s that about Kym!  I know she’s OK with it (already asked!) and it’s part of her job so I’m pretty sure she can handle it.  I think it goes back to shame.  Shame that I need to talk about it, and shame that my needs might affect her in some negative way.  I think somewhere in my soul I don’t believe I’m worthy of making someone else feel bad or have to carry my garbage around.   Hmmmm, might be worth working on. 

So this blog and my experience last week has me wondering what other secrets I’m unconsciously keeping from my therapist that if I shared, could provide me with insights and an opportunity to grow. 

0 # healing shamepinkjoanna 2012-09-09 22:17

Dear Kym,

I started what became a long response to you. So I put it in a blog post, maybe the one you were asking me to write. :-)

Please see the new post, "Healing Shame."



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