I thought a lot about how things have gone in the last couple of sessions. I think part of the problem is that I have so much trouble sitting with uncomfortable emotions, particularly in silence. I know that she utilizes silence as a way to create space and allow both herself and her clients to process what has been discussed, but I don’t use it that way. Instead, I build up tremendous pressure about what to say next – will it be what she wants me to say? Will she think it’s lame? Once it comes out of my mouth, will I think it’s lame? In all of this worry around speaking, I end up completely trapping myself into a space that I can’t get out of.
And last session, I did the same thing to the therapist. I trapped her. I put her into an impossible situation for which there was no solution and I knew it. Nothing that she said or did could have made me feel better. And I think, in a way, that’s what I wanted – to bring her into that space with me so that, even if only for a moment, I wasn’t alone with it.
It worked. She told me during yesterday’s session that she did feel trapped and as though there was nothing she could do to help me. But she also said that it was okay and that being in that space – really feeling what that moment felt like for me – allowed her a small (but important) glimpse into what it must have been like to grow up; that feeling of being trapped and angry and confused and frightened all at once. She said that she felt the absolute helplessness and hopelessness that I had probably felt a million times and although it was difficult for us to stay in that moment together, we did.
I told her I wasn’t proud of the way I behaved. I would never want to intentionally hurt her, but sometimes in an effort to stay protected and safe, I lash out. Well, actually I lash in, but my internalized hatred ends up coming out at the people around me. I say and do mean things to keep distance between myself and this shitty world. Well, it’s not me me, but it’s a Part of the greater me.
She felt that it made a lot of sense for younger parts to behave that way. I explained that as I was relaying that particular moment in session to my wife, she stopped me and said, “Whoa! There is SO MUCH of your biological family in this moment right now!” because I was talking and reacting in a way that was very reminiscent of how I always responded to them in the past.
I could never to the right thing by them. I was never good enough. Never “enough”, period. They consistently set me up to fail and then berated me for failing. I think that when the therapist challenged me (well, at least I perceived it that way), I immediately reacted as though she had set me up to fail. I was convinced that everything and anything I did was going to upset her and thus cause her to hurt me somehow.
The therapist responded that she felt this was actually a really good thing and she was glad to hear that Wife reflected that to me. She said, “That means your family is in here with us. And they need to be. If we’re not bringing your biological family into this space, we’re not doing the work.”
Which is 100% true, but also – really painful and frustrating. And intensely scary.
I know that part of what you’re supposed to do in therapy is unpack these old hurts and examine them. By bringing in these decades-old attachment wounds, I should be able to overcome some of that pain and then heal from it. What I dislike about this whole idea, however, is that it seems to involve a lot of trauma re-enactments: I get triggered by something the therapist does that reminds me of one of those old wounds and instantly respond as that terrified child or teenager. I lose control of being “Andi” and become a fusion of myself and some other Part(s) that is really really pissed.
So then not only am I feeling all of these really awful emotions, but now I feel even worse because I’ve lashed out at the very person I’m trying to bring closer to me. This is not helping me build trust!
Or is it?
She reflected back to me that yes, I probably picked up some of these habits as a way to survive my childhood. They’re not ideal now, but they were certainly adaptive at the time. She said she believes I have strength within these flawed patterns of interacting with my world and that I can use that strength to overcome them and be a healthier, happier person. Also, she feels that by allowing the angry, hurt Parts to also be their authentic selves in the therapeutic space, we can work together to develop new patterns that are more appropriate and skillful for our present day reality.
I took a deep breath. “That sounds like a lot of work.”
“It is. But that’s okay. We have time.”
We have time.
Such a simple statement, but so powerful. In three words, she gave me a pretty big message that she is in this for however long it may take.