The agony of self disclosure by Benjamin Fry

by Benjamin Fry

How I F***ed Up My Life...I write quite openly in the press sometimes about my experiences of being unwell and in treatment. People ask me why I expose myself so much. They think that it is a little odd, something they would not do. Added to that, I am a psychotherapist, so they wonder if it would be bad for my career, or even my clients, to know that I was completely bonkers myself. They are all fair points. In many ways it is an agony to disclose things about myself, and in other ways it can be considered to be unprofessional.

I took this dilemma to a new level in the writing of my latest book, which tells the intimate story of my breakdown, treatment and recovery. I made a decision early on in writing the draft to leave nothing out of the initial version, but then had to come back to this and to wonder if I was really going to be ok being that vulnerable in the public domain. In fact, I decided not to be and then that very same day a new client came to see me in London and this made me rethink.

She had been terribly abused as a child and found this really hard to talk about. She was reliving, forty years later, the same conditions of her childhood home, in which she was not allowed to talk ‘about it’. She had none of my advantages of education, treatment and support, and I could see how difficult it was for her even to tell me, in the privacy of a consultation which she was paying for. It made me realise that if I wasn’t going to be courageous about talking about my abuse, then how could I ask her to be?

I had to think about the issue on a deeper level too. Why did I feel guilty, dirty even, to talk about the abuse in my childhood? Over and over, I came back to the thought that it wasn’t my fault, so why should I be ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ to talk about it. And yet I did feel wrong and bad, but most of all ashamed.

In theory, I understood that I was feeling the abuser’s shame, but this was no comfort. The idea is that the child has to make a choice between seeing the abusing adult as the ‘bad’ one, but if that is too terrifying it itself (which it often is if you rely on that adult), then it is easier to see yourself as the ‘bad’ one. Bad things happen to me because I am bad. And, yes, that is actually how I feel about it when I talk about my childhood too. I feel that I am commenting negatively on myself when I say that something bad happened to me. It’s a terrible bind.

So I have steeled myself to take the plunge. In the end I decided to publish the original book, with all the worst of my story remaining in it. It has become even more difficult because the original idea was to use these stories to illustrate a more theoretical book, but the story itself was so long that we decided to publish it standalone. I never set out to tell my story just for the sake of it, and certainly not in this detail, but that is what appeared to end up as the result. Then I faced this awful dilemma.

The book is now available and I feel like I just want to hide. I can see that it is a good book that would be of great value to people with similar problems or histories, but part of me also doesn’t mind if nobody reads it. In my work, I tell people that the antidote to shame is to speak out, to name your truth and to survive it. I am hoping to survive this book. It is my deepest truth. Why should I feel bad about that?

You can read the articles and excerpts from the book on our blog.

Buy the book from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk or download it to your Kindle.

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16 Comments

  1. Comment by Tracy on

    Hi

    I read through your book avidly. I could relate most of the material in the book. I am receiving sensrimotor psychotherapy as a therapy,once a month for a year now. Its been a slow release.

    When are you hoping to release the next book? I think I remember reading somewhere that you was going to look at writing about some techniques to work with.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      I’m working on it…! It may not be out until the Spring. I’m just negotiating with a publisher.

  2. Comment by Janet Finney on

    Thank you for your disclosure, Benjamin. I find your book to be inspiring, your words to be brave, innovative and refreshing. The shame that many people feel will NOW be allowed to be heard and expressed. This is essential when people are trying to heal from past trauma. Thank you! Thank you!

  3. Comment by Jules on

    #survivor

  4. Comment by ros on

    People can feel disabling shame about so many things. I feel shame about my illness (M.E.) because many people still don’t understand it and doubt it. A member of my family said i “use the illness to my advantage”. for example.I have only recently (after 15 years’ ill) begun to be more open about it. Al of this shame and the decision to be more open – are so painful and difficult. So for me reading what you have written gives me a sense of solidarity from someone in the public sphere whilst I battle with my own shame and it helps enormously to feel that solidarity and to take courage from it . Thank you so much ! What you have done really, really does help !

  5. Comment by Dora G on

    Dear Benjamin,
    I enjoy reading your blog. Every time I read your post I wonder how it must feel to write publicly about such personal issues. In my psychodynamic counselling training we learn to hide ourselves from clients so we can become the “blank screen”. What you do as a therapist is completely opposite to this. It is a very brave decision you made. And I must say, getting to know you more via your book (previous – What’s wrong with you) and this blog, makes me respect you more. You prove that you are a human being too. Thank you for sharing your story.
    As a trainee counsellor, and someone who is going through her own personal therapy, I admire you for your honesty. Please do not think that nobody will read your book, I can’t wait to!
    You are a true inspiration.
    Best of luck with your new book!

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you. It is a valid issue, especially when wishing to work psycho dynamically. I think it is a good thing to think about and to discuss.

  6. Comment by Jackie on

    Fighting your childhood is every day being in the boxing ring with yourself . Every day is an accomplishment . When the bell rings you know. None of these F kers are taking me out !
    Love and Respect

  7. Comment by Fi on

    Hi Ben,
    Where and when can one buy the book,please?
    Will comment on this piece later
    Regards
    Fi

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      See the links just above this comments box. Or google it on Amazon, or buy on your Kindle!

  8. Comment by ninee on

    thank you Benjamin for having the courage to share and inspire. whilst I understand your urge to run and hide, I sit in complete awe and utter admiration of your strength and courage. may your book be received with the same level of unconditional positive regard and compassion that you showed to your client when she shared her story. there are still too many adults in this world living with the fear and shame of childhood abuse. your book will inspire hope.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you. That is my hope too!

  9. Comment by Imogen on

    When people like yourself in professional positions in society, like psychotherapist, discuss & reveal their own personal traumas, it is, in a sense, a gift to others (even if your pain is painful to others, as empathic beings)

    Because others feel less alone and more enabled to express their own, personal stories – if only to themselves. It’s a form of validation.

    You should be congratulated.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you for the kind feedback.

  10. Comment by Joe Kearney on

    In my opinion, your hunch is correct to tell your story as it is and you will survive your book. Self-disclosure is tricky for therapists but Carl Rogers stated somewhere that the more personal you are, the more universal you are. I work with clients whose emotions of shame make it difficult for them to tell their stories. But ultimately, in the safety of a therapy relationship, they too, find their deepest truth. I hope your words encourage people to make that journey. With therapies like EMDR and Somatic Experiencing, not everything needs to be said, just enough will set the healing process in motion and our brains and bodies will do the rest.

    1. Reply by Benjamin Fry on

      Thank you. Yes, that is one of the great advantages of these new modalities. I think that ‘truth’ is also very grounding and regulating, in the body too.

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