What do you want to talk about?

This question worked great for me.  My therapist used it at the beginning of every session for 7 years.  However, my sister was less than impressed by the same question.  It sounded too much like our mother stating, “You’re doing the doing do it your way,”  unfortunately we learned painfully in spite of the words we had better figure out her way and do it perfectly.  Here is the empowering part, he used the question with me but not my sister.  The first time my therapist talked about ‘stop giving away your power’, I looked at him like he was all sorts of idiots.  I had no power.  I gave up my power so young I didn’t know what it was.  A person that has trauma later in life notices the difference in the before and after trauma.  Born into a trauma environment power, confidence, opinions were long since smothered out of me.

To read their perspective follow the link below:


Point 2 for the best practices principles  Ensure client empowerment and collaboration

Sometimes the therapist really does need to explain these terms in the simplest forms like explaining to a child.  I had no concept of empowerment or collaboration.  In college I took a programming class, we were assigned teams to work together.  While the other teams got to know each other, talked about their strengths and negotiated how to approach the problem, my partner and I did not even exchange names.  I broke it up into the two obvious parts.  Asked him which part he wanted to do and what parameters did he need returned for his part to function.  In the 30 minutes we were given to work on the problem, my partner and I were the only ones that finished.  We didn’t collaborate as much as we worked parallel, completed our parts and put it together.  We knew nothing about each other except which part of the problem each one of us completed.  I behaved the same way in my job as computer tech.  Complaints came regularly, ‘not a team player,’ ‘does not collaborate,’ ‘can’t function in a group,’ and all the time I am thinking, “Tell me what I need to do and shut-up so I can get it done.”  Yep, no collaboration skills.

Empowerment was a complete unknown.  My counselor apologized for taking to me at such a childish level.  When he finished what he had to say, I looked at him puzzled and said, “People actually do that.”  Yup, my understanding of empowerment was less than a 3 year-old.  That is about when I lost my power and I had no idea how to get it back.

The counselor asked me what I wanted, again trying to get me to express my needs.  I looked at him like I was staring at a cobra.  No words came out of my mouth.  The following week I brought back an Almond Joy bar with the largest fish hook I could find with the hook coming up through the word Joy.  Any attempts to get me to share what I wanted was met with deep suspicion or outright hostility.  The way I was manipulated and abused was through the things I wanted like food, permission to go the bathroom, sleep, you know those basics that most people assume they get, nope not me.  My counselor spent months and months working on the concept of empowerment.  He taught me collaboration by example.

Counselors don’t be surprised that a child abuse survivor views any methods of ‘getting on their good side’ with resentment and hostility.  Abusers groom their victims by convincing they are the only ones that can meet their needs and they dangle the victim’s needs like carrots followed by a whip either physically, verbally or emotionally.  Establishing a relationship that empowers an abuse victims takes time, effort, patience and is sooooooo worth it.  My therapist’s patience was amazing and he continually created an atmosphere of empowerment and collaboration even when I didn’t know what it meant.  He lead me by example.  He taught me what my power is and how to guard it with boundaries.  I am still working on the whole collaboration thing.  I still tend to want to cut to the chase, cut up a job, give me my assignment then get the h**** out of my way.  Try to collaborate with me and I will back off and let you take over.  Still not a team player but this year it is one of my goals.

I function better working alone.  Collaboration is a foreign word for me.


2 thoughts on “What do you want to talk about?

  1. That article is fabulous. I just learnt a whole lot. THANK YOU, RUTH, and GOOD LUCK!!!. Shaking Hands across the oceans – TS

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