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The Way International

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Retrospect

I never did finish blogging about my experience with Prolonged Exposure Therapy. there were two sessions left, and I know I promised to catch up, but I decided not to.

here's why: I don't want or need to right now. I felt a little guilty at first, and wanted to "finish the project" by finishing the blog posts, but for the first time in years I found myself looking living in the present instead of feeling stuck in the past. so I just didn't sit down to write. since I didn't want to write those posts, I've avoided blogging in favor of other things.

today feels like a good day to wrap it up.

why we shouldn't abandon critical thinking when it comes to self-image

I have Asperger's Syndrome, and I guess my body doesn't work the same way other people's do. For the most part, I try to ignore my body because it's inconvenient to have to feed and clean it. It doesn't give me good signals when it's hungry or when it needs to vacate. I figure I'm missing some neurological connections that pass along information like "I'm hungry" or "I need to poo". I manage pretty well, in spite of the communication problems, by feeding my body regularly and washing it once a day.

Although I have a somewhat objective relationship with my body, I'm not immune to feelings of inadequacy within the subjective realms of "attractiveness". When I was a teen, I was painfully thin with small breasts. Sometimes I wished I was pretty enough to be a model, because pretty girls were popular and I was not. People talked about models with admiration. No one admired me. I felt inconsequential. Other girls were obsessed with their appearance, so I worried that something was wrong with me and started worrying, too. I didn't feel particularly feminine, so I compensated by dressing in a boyish manner. I was always surprised when other people found me attractive.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 7

the heart-racing stress reaction I had when listening to the recording of session six marked out what is called a "hot spot". as I listened to it every day, I realized that I was really angry that Scott had made me responsible for meeting his every emotional need.

after the event where he threw books at me and at our petite two-year-old daughter, Scott took out the trash. then for weeks he asked me every day what he ought to do. then every day he showed me what he did, whether it was putting dishes away or wiping off the table, apparently to gauge my approval rating of his efforts.

it was so exhausting. why did he need my feedback so badly? when I cleaned the toilet, I didn't ask anyone to look at it and praise me for the job. I'd probably cleaned toilets a thousand times during our marriage, all without a scrap of fanfare. fanfare would have seemed very strange for something as mundane as cleaning a toilet.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 6

for session six of Prolonged Exposure Therapy, I chose to focus on the final act of domestic violence by Scott (the man I was then married to) against me.

it was both more and less damaging than the previous event I'd focused on, the gas-lighting session by cult leaders that destroyed my ability to trust others and to make decisions on my own. it was more damaging because it brought me closer to accepting death as a solution to my pain than anything I'd previously encountered, even the verbal and physical abuse I suffered at the hands of my mother.

it was less damaging only because my psyche was already so damaged that it couldn't have created in my heart any more of a sense of worthlessness than I already harbored against myself. it is possible that if Scott, along with the cult leaders, had not destroyed my soul so completely in that closed-door session a few years before, I would have found the strength to gather up my children and walk out the door after he attacked me.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy: Session 5

I think I'm learning to step out of numbness. I mentioned in my last post that I was angry. I explored that feeling in session five of my Prolonged Exposure Therapy, as I had thought about it quite a bit between sessions. I broke it down, distilled the cause of my anger to the least common denominator, and when everything else was gone the cult leaders stood alone in my mind's eye with one outstanding quality: greed.

I was angry. so, so angry.

I was so isolated, so alone. complete immersion in cultish culture was required. fear was cultivated by leaders, members were shamed into cult-approved behavior. interactions were controlled, friendships discouraged. we all lived in a group, emotionally isolated. we spoke in code; ex-members call it "wayspeak". it served to keep us culturally separate from our communities.

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