Labeling yourself as “needy” is shaming (or: bear with me as I write out a reality-check)

The concept of being “needy” has been a topic of conversation for me these last few days with various people.

A friend passed along wisdom from her professor: labeling yourself as “needy” is shaming, and Dr C said pretty much the same thing in different words.

Why is attempting to get needs met in the ways we know a shameful thing? Why do not only we shame ourselves for it, but others do as well?

Why is it ok to recognize labeling ourselves (as clients) as being shameful, yet (in class and behind closed doors) it’s acceptable to label a client as such? Are we (as professionals) above the concept of shaming? Or is it not shaming unless the client finds out? Is it merely a professional label until the client feels bad about it? Is this not a double standard? Why is it okay to teach stereotypes in class, yet expect those same therapists-in-training to magically shed them and gain a more empathic understanding once they work with their clients? Is it a function of the quality of the program? Or the professor? What happened to teaching non-judgemental understanding?

Is this why it’s so difficult to find good therapists (not to say they are not out there, because I’ve certainly worked with several)? Is this why clients continue to shame themselves with labels and harsh judgements when they are simply doing the best they can in any given moment? Or am I looking at all this through the lens of a scared kid and shamed client? I know I often fall back into old scripts. Is this one of those times? In reality, my last therapists have been awesomely empathic and caring. It’s been my judgements ascribed to them that have tripped me up. TM, TL, De, D, and Dr. C have all actively challenged my judgements. Why can’t I believe them? Dr C actually pretty much paraphrased one of my early posts about clients doing things “for attention” yesterday. Why do I see them as outliers? Why am I taking the judgements of mental health staff as judgements held by clinicians? I know there’s a difference most of the time…

Sorry. I’m digressing… I think I’m trying to give myself a reality check. The little kid in me (and maybe the unstable adult too) sees only the negative. The professional side of me knows better. The professional side knows competent therapists understand that their clients are doing the best they can in any given moment (even when they are backsliding or seemingly stuck). They understand re-learning (or simply learning for the first time) takes time and effort and mistakes… but that voice inside (g’s voice and the hospital staffs’ voices, and the burnt-out professionals’ voices) screams that having needs, or being vulnerable, or being hurt, or “acting out” (another shaming label) is all simply done to make their lives harder. There is no such thing as legitimate distress… and suddenly I’m hearing m’s voice screaming at the cat for throwing up (because she can’t just be sick, it’s only done to piss her off…). How strong a hold early learning and experiences have on us…

I’m triggered this morning by more nightmares and body memories. I know I could probably text Dr C, but I’m not sure what I would want from her if I did that. It’s not like she can help with any of it in the moment. I think this post is an attempt to convince myself it would be ok to reach out, but I didn’t cover how to do that without knowing what’s needed when reaching out… I just want to stop feeling everything. I can distance relatively effectively from the emotional piece, but the physical sensations are much more difficult to control. I’m not sure how to explain them. They are the precursor to the full-on flashbacks that include the cognitive memories, but they have not hit that point yet. Right now it’s just feeling things in my body again despite knowing it’s not currently happening (and being really frustrated with myself as my body responds to things as it had at the time)… :/ where the hell in all the skills they throw at you do they tell you how to rid yourself of the body memories? Concentrating on breathing only makes them worse (controlling my breathing was what I did to make him think I was asleep so he’d get it over with). Physical activity also greatly intensifies the sensations… I can tolerate them to a point, but they are approaching the intolerable point. No one ever has an effective method for getting rid of them. Well, that’s not true. I have one but it’s frowned upon. Really just wishing they were gone now, or wishing I had someone safe to sit with through them so if they do hit that intolerable point, I’m not so alone and desperate. I have to work this afternoon, but that’s not a safe place to sit through them. At least there will be dogs to cuddle if I need some immediate comfort. I’ve noticed lately I will jump and shudder if the sensations startle me with a sudden increase in intensity. I hope that doesn’t happen at work again today. I don’t want to have to explain that away… I could call it a “chill” again, but I know it doesn’t look like one as I jump up and try to rub the sensations away (boss-lady looked skeptically at me last time it happened)… Hoping if it [i]does[/i] happen today, no one is around to witness it.

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2 responses to “Labeling yourself as “needy” is shaming (or: bear with me as I write out a reality-check)

  • andreabehindglass

    Hi,
    This sounds really horrible. I sometimes have emotional memories of emotional abuse (and they alone suck!), but never anything physical or real, cognitive memories. I’m so sorry you’re facing this. I should be in quite a bit over the next couple of days. I know it’s not the same as talking to someone, or actually being there, but I’ll be following your posts, so it would be great to know how things are going, and how you are. Look after yourself. xxx

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