Nov 09

Group Therapy Saved Christie Tate’s Life

People who knew Tate probably didn’t see her as the sort who hoped that “someone would shoot me in the head.” Kirkus Reviews, regarding Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

What’s it like to be in group therapy? Christie Tate tells readers about the importance of her own experience in her new memoir, Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life. “Tate sets a positive example by destigmatizing and demystifying group therapy, but she is careful never to present herself as an expert” (NPR).

How did she make the decision to try group therapy? At the time a high achieving law school student, Tate had hit a depressive low. A therapist recommended she enter one of his therapy groups: “Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: ‘You don’t need a cure, you need a witness’.”

An excerpt from Chapter One describes her mental state before making her decision:

In my journal, I used vague words of discomfort and distress: I feel afraid and anxious about myself. I feel afraid that I’m not OK, will never be OK & I’m doomed. It’s very uncomfortable to me. What’s wrong with me? I didn’t know then that a word existed to perfectly define my malady: lonely….

I was already in a 12-step program….Twelve-step recovery had arrested the worst of my disordered eating, and I credited it with saving my life. Why was I now wishing that life away? I confessed to my sponsor who lived in Texas that I’d been having dark thoughts.

‘I wish for death every day.’ She told me to double up on my meetings.

I tripled them, and felt more alone than ever.

From Publishers Weekly:

Tate delivers a no-holds-barred account of her five-plus years in group therapy in this dazzling debut memoir….[She] ended up in group therapy with Jonathan Rosen, a quirky but wise Harvard-educated therapist who insisted that his clients keep no secrets—neither from him nor the group (‘keeping secrets from other people is more toxic than other people knowing your business,’ he reasoned). Tate then unveils the intimate details of her romantic life….Through therapy, Tate found a sense of self-worth, and eventually a lawyer named John at work (‘I felt something I’d never felt with a man before: calm, quiet, happy, and excited’). Readers will be irresistibly drawn into Tate’s earnest and witty search for authentic and lasting love.

Selected Reviews of Group

Kirkus Reviews: “Tate documents her alternately loving and confrontational encounters with fellow group members, but most of the book focuses on her many attempts to find the perfect man.”

Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (see previous posts, “Therapist in Therapy” and “What Is Therapy?“) : “It takes courage to bare your soul in front of a therapist, but when you add six strangers to the mix, it becomes an act of faith. In Group, Christie Tate takes us on a journey that’s heartbreaking and hilarious, surprising and redemptive—and, ultimately, a testament to the power of connection. Perhaps the greatest act of bravery is that Tate shared her story with us, and how lucky we are that she did.”

Ada Calhoun, author of Why We Can’t Sleep (see previous post here): “In this therapeutic page-turner, a boon especially to women struggling with loss, loneliness, or imposter syndrome, Christie Tate tells the story of how she overcame trauma and found love. Her hard-won strategy is as simple to say as it is tough to do: keep showing up.”

May 13

Secrecy and Privacy: Some Thoughts on Their Differences

Secrecy is the act of hiding information. Privacy is about being unobserved — being able to have my own experience of life without the eyes of anyone else on me. Bruce Muzik, quoted on Rewire

Your Right to Privacy

In your closest relationships, can/should you still have privacy in this day and age? Peggy Drexler, PhD, Psychology Today, has posted on this issue. She draws this conclusion:

There is a place for privacy in loving, trusting relationships, and it’s important to remember that a person’s need for privacy doesn’t mean he’s up to no good. Similarly, naming your significant other to your shortlist of those with access [to email, phone, etc.] does not necessarily mean you have intimacy or connection…

But reading through messages—authorized or not—won’t make you feel any more connected, just as having access won’t prevent infidelity. What might? Trust and respect.

The Effects of Secrecy

Alex Stone, on Psychology Today, writes about the phenomenon of “high self-concealment“:

High self-concealers tend to be stressed out and depressed and have low self esteem. They suffer frequent headaches and back pain. People with secret memories fall sick more often and are less content than people with skeleton-free closets…

…Even just writing about a secret trauma on a scrap of paper and then burning it is enough to reap some physical and psychological rewards.

The connection between self-concealment and pathology makes more sense when one considers that, psychologically speaking, secrecy is a lot like lying. Keeping a secret in an interview, for instance, will often set off a polygraph machine, because it triggers the same physiological responses as lying, such as increased sweating and accelerated heart rate.

Some Benefits to Confessing Secrets

Dr. Alex Lickerman (Psychology Today) notes that if your secret is about something you’ve done, opening up is likely to:

  1. Reduce your guilt.
  2. Prevent the person or persons who would be hurt by learning the secret from finding out about it from someone else.
  3. Reduce the number of your offenses.

But not all secrets have to do with things you’ve done wrong. Many are about things done wrong to you. Childhood sexual abuse, for example.

Or things about you that aren’t wrong but that others might judge. Being gay can fit into this category.

In any case, disclosing can prove helpful. Alcoholics Anonymous, as you may know, has a saying, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.”

And, physician/author Paul Tournier (1898-1986): “Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets.”

On the other hand, are some things better left unsaid? Particularly if your secret is going to hurt someone else?

“I thought about how there are two types of secrets: the kind you want to keep in, and the kind you don’t dare to let out.” Ally CarterDon’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover

In the end, each of us has to decide what works or feels best. But telling at least one person (perhaps your therapist) is likely to bring a measure of healing relief.