Archive for March, 2016

I keep on planning to write out in detail how things evolved in therapy, but it seems to be too tender, too painful for me to go there in detail. In short, I have started to look at how my father is a narcissist and how negatively that has affected my development as a person. 

There are so many things that I clearly remember that demonstrate how narcissistic he was, so I don’t get caught up in the “did it really happen?” trap. It has been both extremely validating and brought up all sorts of resistance to seeing him in a way that my mother would disagree with. I can look at it and more clearly see that the resistance is a reflection of a life time of training and how painful it is to accept that my father acted in ways that were so cruel to me. 

I don’t know why it is so hard for me to stop fighting the knowledge that he had to have known that some of what he did hurt me. He was impaired empathicly not cognitively and some of what I remember so clearly communicated significant distress to him. It’s just so incomprehensible to me that someone could know that they were hurting their child and not care enough to stop themselves from doing whatever it is. It seems to bring up such remembered feelings of terror and horror.

 I don’t know how much of that is the response any child feels at being helpless and knowing that her father won’t stop hurting her and how much of it comes from experiencing some pretty extreme and sadistic abuse at the hands of my grandfather.  I don’t know how much I remembered at any time, but deep inside I would have had an understanding of some of the really bad things that can be done to a little girl. I know that I still experience an almost frantic need to declare, “But my dad wasn’t as bad as my grandfather. He didn’t Like hurting me. He didn’t hurt me because the hurting gave him pleasure.  He just needed to do things that hurt me.”  Even I can tell that thinking reflects a child’s desperate need to find some shred of safety in a terrible situation. 

And the fact is that I don’t know whether he enjoyed hurting me or not. He certainly didn’t in the obvious ways that my grandfather did. Thank goodness. I don’t think that my soul could have survived living with that much anger and hatred. 

Putting aside the question of the sexual abuse for the moment, simply acknowledging that my dad consistently made jokes out of things that I cared about and then turned around and shamed me for reacting to his “jokes” is painful.  It’s so unbelievable to me that someone would continually try to tear someone down whom they are supposed to be nurturing instead. But that’s what I grew up with. It’s hard to look at the pattern of what he said and did and begin to suspect that he knew what he was doing; that by the time I was in my teens, he had figured out that the way that he manipulated me was painful and he wasn’t just hurting me by accident. But it just seems so repellent to me: you don’t repeatedly hurt someone over and over and over. The very thought of knowingly hurting someone in a truly damaging way every day is painful to me. 

And then I keep on experiencing these physical memories that seem to be connected to my dad, although they currently are so fuzzy, it’s like I’m remembering barely being present while being abused. Exactly what is happening is not clear, but all of the possibilities that would cause those sensations in a rhythmic way are sexually intrusive. 

This morning, I went from feeling just fine to being in this sort of a flashback like someone flipped a switch. All it took was stretching and experiencing my body in a way that obviously reminded me of something traumatic. The child part of me was desperate to escape. The adult me that had been thinking about art and fine a few seconds before was bewildered. I knew that I was about to go to a session, but I have agreed that it’s in my best interest right now to deal with some pressing parent issues that need to be resolved in the near future and not keep on going back to the memories. (One of our reasons for the shift in emphasis is that by spending less time dwelling on the memories, I am giving my brain a chance to kind of cool down, rather than constantly be in a trauma state. The goal is that when we deal with any memories at a future date, my brain will no longer be in such a hyper reactive state, I will be better able to maintain dual awareness, and be better able to actually work with and process the memories in small bits.)

Anyway, it left me in a conflicted, confused state that followed me into the session. I really needed something in regards to the flashback, but I didn’t know what. Even worse, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be talking about it, so I got stuck in a blocked state where I was child like and had trouble communicating with Mama Bear. I sort of managed to communicate what had happened earlier that morning, but I had to fight to not interpret everything that she said as a criticism or instructions to not talk. I couldn’t quite manage to work with what she actually was saying, the best that I could do was to compare what I thought that she meant with her actual words and what I know of her. That let me know that she didn’t want to shut me down, but it was all that I could do to not curl up in a ball and retreat. 

Eventually, she asked, “Is there was some sort of problem between the two of us.” 

For some reason, I was able to activate my adult more with that question than I had been able to up to that point. I answered, “I don’t understand what the problem is, but I know that I am very much acting like there is a problem.” 

She replied, “It seemed to me that things changed when I mentioned that there were 16 minutes left and asked what you wanted to talk about. I can think of lots of things that have been triggered in similar situations in the past, what do you think happened this time.”

I thought about it and knew that most of the time I react to the reminder that I will have to leave at a certain time because she has other clients that need her. I quickly realized that while that part of it did feel uncomfortable to me, that wasn’t what I was reacting to most powerfully. 

I started to cry and I explained, “I just realized what I think is affecting me so strongly. It has to do with what happened this morning. I woke up feeling fine and I really am fine a lot of the time now. But a part of my mind is still working on the sexual abuse question and that just got thrown at me so hard this morning.” By that point I was sobbing too hard to say anything more. 

The last few minutes of the session are a complete blur. I know that I was strongly in the state that so desperately needed to simply not feel alone with the feelings of despair and horror. Writing, now, I think that they are the remembered feelings of despair and horror that I felt in that dissociated state of being only vaguely aware of what was happening to my body. 

I remember Mama Bear saying, “I’m really glad that you were able to tell me this” and her looking at me with so much compassion in her eyes. I remember finally being able to reach out to her hand and make a physical connection. I remember her regretfully telling me that we had to end the session and seeing that she had taken me a minute over, which she hates to do when there is a client waiting. I remember her offering me my water (I always guzzle whatever water is left in my cup at the end of the session), my refusing it, and her checking again. I remember her hugging me as I was on the way out the door and then asking, “Did that sink in at all?”  When I admitted, “Not that much”, she offered another hug. I remember being not very present and crying my way through all of this and reassuring her that I would sit in my car for a bit before I tried to drive anywhere. 

Looking back at what happened, I’m trying to figure out what I think needs to be addressed out of it. I need to know that I can go in and say, “I know that I have agreed to not make the abuse memories a focus of therapy right now. But I think that I need something in regards to what my head is working on about it in the background. I don’t know what that is, though and I need for you to help me figure that part out”. Because what I needed today wasn’t really about shifting the focus away from the current parent issues, it was about confirming that I don’t have to be alone with those feelings the way that I was when I was a child.  That I don’t have to cut myself up into pieces and that I can learn to tolerate being whole. I need to experience over and over that I won’t be rejected for the feelings that feel like they are too much. That is my now. 

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