You Won’t Make Me You

This is a guest post from one of our readers, Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW.

The true strength of a person is measured in forgiveness. It is so easy to endure hardship at the hands of another and never be able to move on from it or worse, move on from it forever broken, vowing never to trust again. The desire to take that horrendous experience and use it to try and “protect” ourselves can overpower the gentle temperament of compassion, love, patience and kindness that gave us the power and strength to trust so deeply in the first place. The anger we might feel at ourselves for allowing our own eyes to deceive us is unfair at best, a lifelong prison at worst. We cannot always know or understand the dark reasons why our heroes fall from grace, why those we look up to fail us so miserably. In fact, they themselves may not know either. Perhaps, they too were victims of misguided trust that went horribly wrong and their response, their choice in how to understand this pain was to allow the experience to change them forever- in ways that left them scarred and broken. I will not make that choice. I still remember the bright-eyed, compassionate, strong, young woman who once inhabited this body. She is still in here, somewhere, searching for the way back to the place she knows she should be. I will not give up on her, though at times I had believed she had given up her fight. I see now that she had not given up. She had merely stopped for a moment to rest.  During that pause, she would reflect on how much this very journey has given her the tools she will need to love more deeply, trust more completely and understand more fully when she reaches her destination.  When she arrives, she will embrace the world around her with open arms and say:

“There is no man so horrible, so wretched, who possesses the power to convince me that my life is better lived in anger, fear, resentment and darkness–at least  not without my consent.  And because I can see what that choice has done to him, I will choose the path he was not strong enough to choose for himself. Perhaps someday he too will see that he is strong enough to make that same choice. Maybe he too will find that the fighter in him has never given up. His inner fighter had just stopped for a longer pause because he had waited so long to stop to rest. In fact, he was so close to his destination but assumed because his journey had been so long that he might never reach it. Once he opens his eyes he will how close he is and will finally gather up the strength he needs for the last leg of his journey. Perhaps… But that is his battle, not mine.”

-Michelle A. Mallon, MSW, LSW

Michelle Mallon earned her Master’s degree in Social Work in 1999 from Ohio State University. She worked as a medical social worker at St. Ann’s Hospital, primarily on the Palliative Care Unit, for 14 years and has taught (and continues to teach) in the Computer Science & Engineering Department at the Ohio State University for 16 years. Her understanding of therapist abuse came after she was emotionally abused by a psychologist to whom she had taken her two young children for counseling. The therapist lured her in and referred the children out. She endured nearly two years of extensive predatory grooming followed by horrific emotional abuse. She recalls that the last time she ever saw this therapist (in June 2012) he was yelling and cursing at her and throwing things in his office.

One of the most painful and challenging parts of this journey to recovering her life has been overcoming the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that developed as a direct result of the abuse. It has not been an easy process, but she is finally reclaiming her identity, passion and enthusiasm for all of the thing she held so dear prior to the abusive relationship. Now, she devotes much of her time to reaching out to other victims of emotional abuse, not only victims of therapist abuse, to help them in finding the currently hidden path to recovering from such insidious emotional abuse. Her interests include malignant Narcissistic abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder related to this type of abuse. One of the most important books she has read in her own journey to healing has been “Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion Of Identity” by Marie-France Hirigoyen.

Michelle says, “Without the detailed explanation of the intentional and manipulative aspects of the abuse that I was able to come to recognize from reading this book, I would still be reliving the events over and over again trying to understand what I missed that could have prevented the destruction of a malignant relationship that I had been deceptively led to believe was a supportive, helpful one. This book held the keys to open the prison door behind which this abusive therapist had locked me.”

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. Very eloquent. I have a hard time naming anything as evil, and yet this is what I subscribe to ex-therapist. I have a hard time with “evil” – as I am typically so empathetic. It’s hard to find compassion for evil. Beyond that, self forgiveness is something that I want, something that I work at. I know forgiveness for him will eventually be there, but I am not looking to push it. In fact, I only want to feel it if it gives me more peace. It’s a self serving motivation at this point, as I have come to terms with how I served only him.

  2. Hello there, Anonymous. First I want to thank you for your comment. I appreciate the time you took to share you experience. But more importantly, I wanted to say to you that the piece I wrote (above) was a source of inspiration for me in that it gave me hope that I could someday be able to forgive my abusive therapist. Like you, I am also not there yet. It used to bother me quite a bit that I couldn’t forgive him yet (though I remember at one point thinking that I could forgive him but that was more because I wanted to believe I could just “get over” what had happened). For a long time, I felt like there must be something wrong with me if I couldn’t just bypass the anger. One crucial component to truly healing from this type of abuse, in my opinion, is finally being able to allow ourselves to be angry at the person who harmed us. And I think that this component to healing is deeply connected with finally being able to forgive ourselves. For many of us who have been abused by therapists, we share common characteristics of being honest, open, compassionate and fair. Most of us have navigated our lives trying very hard not to hold onto anger, not holding grudges and trying to see the good in everyone. These qualities have been the reasons why people tend to gravitate towards us and like being around us. However, they are also the characteristics that abusive people, including abusive therapists, manipulate to serve their own needs. With severe emotional abuse (not just with therapists, but any relationship), being able to recognize and understand the parts of who we are that were manipulated by the abuser is key to moving forward after the abuse. I truly believe that finally allowing ourselves to not only feel the anger that is rightfully ours to feel, but to not feel guilty for doing this is essential to emerging from this stronger than before we went through it. And for me, I have been allowing myself to feel anger for a good 8 or 9 months now. I am no longer trying to push past this phase. I will stay here as long as I need to and I won’t apologize to anyone for doing so. I know now that without allowing myself to do this, I will remain vulnerable. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. Have you considered writing a piece about your own journey to forgiving yourself and allowing yourself to feel the anger you have a right to feel?

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. It gives much needed hope and inspiration for victims longing to return to their former less angry, more joyful selves.
    To look at ways we can help prevent the abuse from continuing, it’s worth exploring the foundational structure of the therapy relationship that makes it such an incubator for exploitation and emotional abuse:

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