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Katie Pasquini Masopust Painted Canyon

Katie Pasquini Masopust
Painted Canyon

I hate my father right now. Please don’t tell me that I should forgive him or that hating him hurts me more than it hurts him. I think that sometimes there is a time and place for hating someone. For me that time is this period when I am finally accepting not only that my father abused me, but allowing myself to see and feel how that has affected me for most of my life. It is my way of laying claim to the certainty that what he did was completely and inexcusably wrong. He harmed me so badly. Yes, I am determined to recover from it, but I have spent 4 decades paying for his misuse of my body and my trust. I am so far beyond angry about that and I hate him right now. How else does a person express the level of rage and revulsion that she feels when she finally allows herself to experience what it was like to have her father do things to her that only lovers should do to each other?

I hate him for the fact that I have been experiencing body memories for 20 years, but my mind couldn’t let me know who was creating those sensations. I have spent decades remembering/feeling him doing things to me that no father should do to his daughter. This week has been especially intense in terms of body memories. There is one in particular that has come up repeatedly and brings up such feelings of rage. He taught me that he could take things that feel bad and combine them with pleasure to make them feel good. I feel so much outrage at both what he did and how he manipulated my body.

I hate him for daring to touch me, for acting like he had a right to my body. No one has a right to my body other than me. No one. Definitely not my father. I hate him for not caring about what his using me would do to me. I hate him for how my husband is paying for my father’s actions.

I so wish that he was not a part of the world. So much of me hates him so much right now that I wish that he was dead. I wish that I could wipe him off the face of the earth. I am so angry that he has a comfortable life when he has caused me so much pain. I hate him.

I hate him for the fact that I cooperated. I hate knowing that I did what he wanted for me to do. I hate remembering doing things to make him feel good. I hate that he gets between me and my husband when I try to touch my husband.

I hate him for not loving me. If you love someone, you don’t use her in a way that is going to scar her for life. Love and forcing your child to have sex with you just don’t go together. Don’t tell me that you loved me. I haven’t bought that lie in years. You were proud of me and glad that I could make you feel like you had done a good job by raising an accomplished daughter. I hate you for using the fact that I wanted your attention and wanted for you to love me when I was a child, though. I was so confused, because at last I felt like I was useful for something, but it felt wrong somehow. What you did left parts of me feeling like I’m only good for sex- I should just be used and then thrown in the trash. Or maybe that’s both you and grandpa.

I hate him for the fact that I think that things didn’t stop when I was six. I seem to remember things happening when I was 8 or 9 and then again somewhere in the 10-12 age range. I just hope that they happened for a little while and then stopped until they started up again. I thank God that he was in the military and would be gone for 6 to 9 months at a time, so I know that I definitely had periods of safety that way.

I hate him for the fact that I may lose my mother over his abusing me. Yes, she is the one who will have to choose how to respond if/when I tell her whatever I tell her. As much as I wish that I could avoid it, listening to myself, I suspect that I am going to need to confront her with some very unpleasant truths. I also fear that she won’t be able to deal with them. If he hadn’t abused me, we would have had a fighting chance if we only had to deal with the abuse by my grandfather.

At the moment, though, I think that I most hate him for my having to live with the physical memories. In most of them, I’m not even entirely sure what he did; I just know that he produced certain sensations in me and I know what sorts of actions on his part would do that. I get to go through the day, experiencing body memories at unexpected times. I might be sitting in the grocery store cafe, making a shopping list, when I feel myself being penetrated so painfully that I just want to curl up in a ball. Fortunately that happens rarely, more often it will be a case of my driving the car down the road and I will experience intrusive feelings of penetration. Or I will be standing on the playground, waiting for my daughter after school when I have phantom feelings of being stimulated. I was at the ballet tonight and I briefly experienced the memory that my mind is most struggling with with week. I know how to deal with it so that no one around me knows that anything is going on and I don’t let it stop me from getting done what I need to get done, but it is so wrong that I’m still feeling things that my father did 4 decades ago.

So, I hate him right now and I feel no guilt over hating him. I spent so much of my life trying to look at him positively, to my own detriment. Now I need to look at him honestly, even though that means that I hate my father. I’m guessing that the anger will ease eventually; it has for my grandfather. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to forgive him, unless he is able to apologize to me (which won’t happen), but I do hope that I will come to the point where he doesn’t matter enough for me to waste my emotional energy on. For right now, though, hating him is a part of my laying claim to being able name my reality. He hurt me badly enough for me to hate him. I’m not just angry at him, but I hate him.

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Martha Wolfe Hope prayer flag

Martha Wolfe
Hope prayer flag

In no particular order, 10 things that Mama Bear has said to me that were particularly helpful, and because I could have kept on going, there will be more at a later date.

1) He is dead. After I started working with Mama Bear again and I became more aware of just what some of my child parts were experiencing, I realized that deep down I didn’t believe that my grandfather really was dead and I was terrified that he could come after me again. We spent weeks talking about my attending his memorial service, the evidence that I had that he was dead, and why I was having trouble accepting it. I know that he was cremated and have seen the container that his ashes were collected in, so as I began to feel more secure I found myself having revenge fantasies about what I could do with his ashes. Slowly, more and more of me accepted that he probably was dead. The fear that he was so powerful that he could get me anywhere, at anytime ran so deep that I simply had to accept that the process of fully believing that he was dead and I am now safe from him would take however long it would take. I spent several months when a part would unexpectedly pipe up in session, “Is he really dead?” and we would have to take a few minutes to go over the evidence again, and then I would feel reassured enough to refocus on the original topic. Now I almost entirely believe that he really is dead, but sometimes I still slip.

2) Even if he wasn’t dead, you are a capable adult now and you know how to protect yourself. I was shocked the first time that she said this. I tended to think of him as so much more powerful and larger than me, but eventually I realized that Mama Bear was right. Not only am I three inches taller than he was, but I am physically more capable than he was. And as I thought about it, I realized that he tended to reserve his worst treatment for those who had the least ability to stand up against him. Or, as Mama Bear said, “He was a coward who preyed on a defenseless child.” But I am no longer that defenseless child that he was able to prey on. I have strength in myself. I have strength in allies. If my grandfather stood in front of me today, he might make a few cutting remarks, but he wouldn’t dare to do anything more.

3) It isn’t happening now. My flashbacks often have a very strong sense of “nowness” to them. Even though I can look around and see that I am here in this time and place and know all of that at a surface level, the part of me that is experiencing the flashback believes that the events are happening right now. Even after I manage to I pull back from other aspects of the flashback, I often am left feeling as though part of me is still stuck inside of it. So Mama Bear and I have emphasized the difference between here and now and there and then over and over and over. It all has helped a great deal, but sometimes I still am not able to pull myself into the here and now on my own, so hearing her say, “It isn’t happening now” is a tremendous relief to me. When I hear those words, I can grasp ahold of her reassurance that here and now really is reality, the flashback isn’t.

4) It’s nothing but a horror show. During a particularly harrowing period of frequent, intense flashbacks, Mama Bear said this to me. It seemed to fit, because, yes, the things that were happening in the flashbacks felt like they would do better in a horror show than in my mind. I was dealing with a particularly revolting set of memories and it helped so much to imagine taking it out of me and placing it on a screen, in a horror show. While I couldn’t entirely turn off the horror show until it had run its course, at least it was a bit more distant and tolerable. And most importantly, it no longer felt as though it was a part of me. It helped me to see that the memory was a memory, it was not me.

5) I see you. Hearing her say this while looking her in the eyes and really allowing myself to connect is both a terrible and wonderful experience. Terrible in the sense of painful and overwhelming because it goes to the core of so many attachment issues for me: feeling unseeable, that no one would want to really know me, that it could never be safe for the most vulnerable me to know and be known by someone… It was wonderful because it is what I have craved all of my life. First my mother wasn’t capable of providing it and none of the other adults in my life were remotely safe enough to connect with deeply, and then, when I was older, it was too late, I was too badly hurt to risk allowing myself to feel that fully seen. I am still in the midst of learning how to be fully in the room and allow myself to perceive that she is fully in the room with me. When we have had these connecting experiences, I both feel a physical jolt of pain and I cry tears of relief and hope. Slowly, step by step, I am allowing my full self to be in full relationship with her, and at the same time, bit by bit, I am doing the same thing in my other significant relationships.

6) You are going to be angry with me sometimes, that’s just what happens in relationships. Don’t worry, it takes a lot to ruffle me, and I’ve had clients get really angry at me. Just don’t try to throw me out the window. Mama Bear has been trying to encourage me to feel safe enough to feel angry with her for many years, and I’m finally at the point where I can hear what she is saying and believe her. I have been testing her bit by bit over the last year or so, at first just showing the tiniest bit of anger in an e-mail. Each time I tested her, she would reassure me again that it is OK for me to get angry with her and while what I had shown had been a big deal for me, it was no threat to our relationship at all. She would talk about how real people in real relationships get angry with each other sometimes, because everyone makes mistakes. At some point she would mess up and I would get really angry at her, but I didn’t have to worry about how she would react. She isn’t frightened by anger and her joke said to me that she wasn’t afraid that I would get so angry that I would lose control and do something terrible. I might be afraid that my anger would turn me into my grandfather, but she knew that it wouldn’t. Through her, eventually I learned to have faith that nothing could turn me into my grandfather.

7) You can’t get rid of me. I went through a period that was several months long where I kept on testing Mama Bear, even though I didn’t quite realize what I was doing at the time. I was terrified that if I really leaned on her as much as I needed to, then she would abandon me when I was most vulnerable. I knew that she wouldn’t intentionally betray me, but I was afraid that I would overwhelm her and drive her away. I was convinced that I would turn out to be “too” something for her- too much trouble, too demanding, too clingy, too needy, too hurt, too contaminated, too weird, too something… So we talked over and over about how she knows how to take care of herself and she can create boundaries, so she was confident that I was not going to be too much for her. I didn’t believe her. I would write long emails and end them with, “See, I’m too needy, aren’t I?” or some such thing. And when that didn’t work, sometimes I would turn around and say, “I don’t think that I can do this anymore. I just want to run.” Eventually she sat me down and just flat out said to me, “C., you can keep on trying, but you can’t get rid of me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m not going to abandon you when you need me. And you’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to convince me to let you go.” It didn’t all sink in at once, and it took her repeating herself, but at that point I started to feel a bit of security that it was safe to rely on Mama Bear. Eventually, I realized that Mama Bear is far stronger and more capable of taking care of herself than my mother was- she really was telling me the truth and I could trust her to be there for me. She really was willing to provide the security that I needed then to feel held, contained, and secure. What I realize now is that the problem wasn’t that I was too needy, hurt, clingy, etc. when I was a child, the problem was that my mother didn’t have the resources to deal with helping a child who was being abused. It wasn’t my fault that I overwhelmed her and that she couldn’t hold me in my pain, the way that I needed for her to.

8) You don’t need to know exactly what happened. You just need to know your truth. Dissociation saved my mind by putting me in a different state during the abuse, but by doing that, my memories of the abuse were completely disrupted. There is an awful lot about what happened to me that is unclear. I have experienced many of the same body and emotional memories for decades, however there are other areas that continue to confuse much of me, even after decades. To make matters worse, when I experience flashbacks, I’m torn between wanting to believe myself and wanting for it all to be untrue, messing with any sense of what might or might not be real. Unfortunately, I also have had the driving need to know exactly what happened. Mama Bear and I have gone round and round with this: There is no knowing which details of the memories are true, but I have been able to build an over all picture of what my experience was like. I feel as though I have thrown myself against a wall time and again over this, but I finally get it. Part of the reason I was holding out for details was because I didn’t want to accept my truth. I realize now that it doesn’t need details for it to be a horrible truth, so horrible that I want to have a reason to hold back from owning it.

9) We know that you were abused. You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over. I don’t have a memory of trying to tell my mother about the abuse, but I act like I did and I feel as though I did and she just didn’t understand me. I think that is tied into why I have had this deep fear that Mama Bear doesn’t really believe me and I have been convinced that I will betray myself and stop believing myself. Inside, there are parts of me that have been convinced that “No one will really believe me. It’s impossible.” While I was completely unaware of it at the time, I felt the need to prove to myself and to Mama Bear over and over that I had been abused, and I pushed myself towards being triggered into flashbacks. It was an incredibly painful way to demonstrate that I had been abused, but it was effective. Somehow, Mama Bear caught on to what was going on, and she started to say to me, “We know that you were abused. You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over.” Wow. “We know that you were abused.” I finally realized that someone did believe me, really believe me. “You don’t need to keep on proving it over and over.” It sank in that she wasn’t going to stop believing me. Further, she noticed and cared about what this was doing to me.

10) I hear your pain/anger/grief and I am here with you. I have spent much of my life running from the intensity of my feelings, but that causes all sorts of problems for me. So I am currently working to allow myself to come together and fully feel my emotions in the context of my truth, but when that happens, it feels as though I am being filled with that emotion in a physically painful way. In fact, it feels unendurable, but I know that I need to find a way to endure it without dissociating, if I can. When Mama Bear sits there with me and says, “I hear how terribly deep your pain is and I am here with you,” it reminds me that she believes that I am strong enough to survive the pain, that it is safe for me to no longer be invisible and I don’t need to suffer in silence, that someone sees/hears how much pain that I am in, and that someone cares enough to stay with me. That sort of support makes a difference and sometimes it’s enough to allow me to remain with the emotions until they ebb on their own. It hasn’t happened often, but each time that it does happen, I learn a little more deeply that strong emotions may be unpleasant to experience, but I can survive them.

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Lisa Marie Sanders Time

Lisa Marie Sanders
Time

“I am done! I am just so done with this! No more!!”

I’ve been hearing a voice in my head say this for the last couple of months, but I haven’t been sure just what it is that I’m so done with. Therapy has been painful and exceptionally challenging, so I wondered if it meant that I was done with doing therapy. Yes, it felt related, as though I just couldn’t bear to keep on doing what I’ve been doing into the foreseeable future, I was tired of feeling beaten up emotionally. So very done with feeling all of that pain in regards to my parents, but I noticed that the voice didn’t use the word “quit.” I dreaded the sessions as much as I needed them as a life line, but I knew that I had to go, quitting wasn’t an option.

So what was that voice talking about?

I think that I’m starting to understand. I am completely done with feeling stuck under certain obligations to my parents that have controlled me my whole life. I am done with letting the limitations caused by the trauma reactions keep me from doing things that I very much want to do- keep me from seeing people who I know will help to nurture my heart. I am done with feeling like I have to stay curled up in a tight ball and not dare to breathe. I am done with letting the days slip by and not letting myself really live them, because I am too afraid of the pain. I am done with not allowing myself to fully be me, whoever she might be. I am done with living by the old rules.

I am just so sick and tired of that life. I don’t want it. And I feel as though things are opening up inside and I am slowly seeing that I don’t have to live that life.

I don’t know where I’m headed and I find that frightening. But I also feel as though I might be on the edge of stepping off on to a wonderful journey.

“I refuse to live in a box. I won’t do it for anyone.” That is what it has felt like, isn’t it? Folding myself up into a pretzel and then being walled in by a box. No more.

I know that these things wax and wane and I’m not about to jump up and turn my entire life upside down with revolutionary changes. But, yes, I agree with that voice, I am so done. I’m particularly done with the bonds that have kept me feeling trapped in a tight place with so many of the emotions and memories of when I was a child. I’m no longer that child who had no choice other than to get through the best that she could. Now it’s time to do my best to free myself from what has kept me so tightly tied to that period of my life. It’s time to allow myself to move through the pain and start to fully live in the present with a marvelous husband and heart-breakingly wonderful daughter.

From the depth of the pain that I felt today, this will not be an easy process; I’m not fooling myself. But I can also see that something different happened while I was experiencing the pain today: I both allowed myself to honestly express and fully experience my emotions and I allowed myself to not only take in and really accept acts of kindness and support from Mama Bear, but I was able to take in her intent to deliberately care for and comfort me. Sitting here now, I realize that once it was all over, I felt cleaner and freer somehow, if exhausted.

I’ll do this somehow. I’ll need the support of those who love the full me, but I’m done with staying in this place.

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Kate Themel Weighing Options

Kate Themel
Weighing Options

I mentioned in Trust in the Therapeutic Relationship- Part 3 that my willingness to explore my anger with Mama Bear allowed me to access the rage that I feel towards my mother for not protecting me. I have been choking on that bottled up anger for a couple of weeks and just hadn’t been able to express it. Every time I started to, I would get caught up in a need to be “reasonable” in regards to my mom.

When I finally began to access and express the emotions in session, the feelings were overwhelmingly intense and raw. I felt as though I was simultaneously being ripped apart by the emotions and that I was still struggling to retain control of what I was feeling and expressing. I sobbed, doubled up in a painful ball, while Mama Bear acknowledged the intensity of my rage and pain and sat with me in support and as witness.

Eventually, the intensity eased and Mama Bear asked if we could take a step back from my rage at my mother and make sure that we had addressed all of the issues related to my anger at her, so I could leave the session feeling connected to her, rather than at odds with her. I found myself shaking my head, and she asked, “You aren’t ready to move away from dealing with your mother, are you?” I started to shake with intensity again and I knew that I desperately needed to say something that I have been keeping trapped inside.

“What is it, C?”

“I need to say something.”

I struggled to get the words out and Mama Bear gently said, “Just say it.”

It was like a dam burst and the words were half way torn out and half way pushed past terrible resistance. “How the hell could my mother keep on sending me to my grandfather?!? He was raping me with things!! She was supposed to protect me!!!” As I halfway yelled this out, in anguish, I cried, but then to my surprise I found myself calming after I finally got the words and attached emotion out. I kept on waiting for more explosive emotions, but instead I found myself falling into a state of almost relaxation. It was as if I had fought a battle and I knew that I had won it for the moment and didn’t need to fight anymore right then. I had managed to speak my truth out loud and nothing bad had happened. In fact, I felt safer than I had in awhile. For the time, the battle inside was quiet.

As I sat there, pondering over what I was experiencing inside, I had a huge change in perspective. I looked up at Mama Bear and said in wonder, “It really was her job to protect me.” That thought lifted a heavy weight off of my shoulders. Yes, it really was my mother’s job to protect me, not mine to protect her.

Over the next few hours, I thought about the session and in particular that portion of the session. I considered the terrible pressure and distress that I often feel when I am trying to “protect” my mother from my emotions and the blame that I place on her. The conflict and resulting self blame just about make me sick. I then contrasted it with the sense of peace and relaxation that I felt after I allowed myself to express some of my truth out loud and I realized that I am harming myself in an attempt to shield the mother in my mind from my truth. This harm doesn’t only affect me, it also affects my husband and daughter, because it keeps me from being fully present with them. It has to stop. Whether or not I really needed to, I believed that I needed to protect my mother from some unpleasant realities when I was young. The chance of my being abandoned was too terrifying to risk, because she was my only safety in a world where other people hurt me badly. But my mother no longer is my safety. In fact, the way that I have things set up right now, I am getting very little that is positive out of our relationship. My safety in the now comes from my taking care of myself and the support that I receive from those around me. So I need to take care of myself. I need to stop harming myself by trying to take care of my mother.

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Diana Wright

Diana Wright

Lately, I have become increasingly aware of a set of rules that I lived by as a child and which my insides still turn to when I am feeling threatened: I can’t get angry. I can’t be critical. I can’t ask for help; I can only hint. I can’t cause problems/ do anything wrong. I have to do everything right and try my best to make everything right all of the time.

I’m not sure how many of those rules were taught to me by the people around me and how many I developed myself, in an attempt to keep things under control inside, but the result was that I had very little freedom to simply be. It’s like I wasn’t allowed to be a real living, breathing child. I can’t say that my needs didn’t matter, because at the core, I followed those rules in an attempt to keep myself as safe as possible. My most basic needs ruled my actions.

I lived in a situation where my dad treated me in a way that didn’t feel safe and I simply wanted to do whatever was necessary to keep things as OK as possible between the two of us. I am pretty sure that I believed that he did not want me there, which, given that he kept on going off alone with my mother and leaving me with my grandparents, was a reasonable conclusion. I can’t remember ever feeling wanted by him or secure with him, although I do remember him being proud of my accomplishments. So I followed the rules and tried to keep my position in the family as secure as possible.

The rules served a different purpose with my mom, though. As far back as I can remember, I believed that I needed to protect my mother and I have recently come to understand that the rules helped me to protect her- from myself. I was in a terrible bind. My parents regularly sent me over to my dad’s parents’ house from a fairly young age. I believe that part of the reasoning was that they were poor and they needed free baby sitting while my mother worked and my dad did his college course work, but they also sent me there over night just so they could regularly have time together alone. Young parents need time together, but not by sending their young child to stay with grandparents who were at the very least physically and emotionally abusive to one of the parents.

I was also left with my mother’s older brother and mom, both of whom had been abusive to her, particularly her brother. Frankly, I don’t really know when the abuse started or with whom. I’m certain about my grandfather and I believe that my uncle probably abused me when I was quite young- at the very least he terrorized me.

The upshot was that from an early age I knew that I was surrounded by family members who were not safe for me and my mother was the only person with whom I felt any safety at all. I felt loved by her and there were times when I felt nurtured. But, I seem to have learned early on that I couldn’t tell my mother what was happening to me. I believe that I tried to tell my mother that something was wrong and I was being hurt, but she couldn’t hear me. As near as I can piece together, her own childhood so traumatized her that she just couldn’t deal with a lot of interpersonal stress. On the other hand, looking back, I think that if what was happening to me had been clearly placed in front of her, her conscience wouldn’t have allowed her to avoid dealing with it, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was a child; how could I understand the complexities of my mother’s psychology? The best that I could do was to try to manage by living by the rules.

Don’t get angry. From the depths of rage that I am discovering now, it must have taken so much energy for me to bury the anger that I felt at my mother for not protecting me. It was her responsibility to protect me. Period. No matter how hard it was for her to deal with protecting me, it still was her responsibility. Too much of me tried to take on responsibility for my own care and protection, but part of me always knew that she failed me miserably by not keeping me safe from people she knew treated others cruelly.

Don’t be critical. Even implying that my mother did something wrong was a big no-no, because it might make her feel badly about herself. How fragile was her self concept if she couldn’t even tolerate her child saying that she did something wrong? But even now it is hard for me to even think that my mother should have done things differently- I want to make excuses and “see her side of things,” and this rule is a significant stumbling block when I think about talking to my mother about what happened and how it affected me. The fact is that she messed up big time and she should have done a lot of things differently. Somehow I need to find it in myself to treat her like an adult and expect for her to be able to deal with the reality that her actions (and inactions) resulted in my being harmed.

Don’t ask for help. I couldn’t directly ask my mother for help, because she might not be able to give it to me. It might be too hard or too painful for her or otherwise impossible. But I could hint. I seem to remember telling my mother that I hurt and holding my lower abdomen and her response was, “Oh, you have a tummy ache?” I then felt that I was being told that all I was allowed to have was a “tummy ache.” Whether or not this exchange exactly happened, I think that it was the general pattern. I could sort of tell her that something was wrong, but if she didn’t want to really look at me and see that something was really wrong, then she didn’t actually need to. Her own hurts seem to have kept her from ever looking closely at what was happening to me, even when I was clearly in distress. Twenty one years ago, when all of the abuse material started to break through the barriers and I was being flooded, I was desperate. I tried to tell my mother that things were bad and I hinted as hard as I could that I needed her help- I needed for her to fly across country and give me support because I was becoming increasingly suicidal. It seems that she didn’t understand me and she didn’t come. After I checked myself into the hospital, then she offered to fly out to support me. But at that point I was behind locked doors. I still can’t ask my mother directly for help and I have a terribly difficult time asking anyone for help.

Don’t cause problems/do anything wrong. I pretty much was the epitome of a ‘good girl.’ In some ways it has been helpful over the years, because it probably helped to keep me from making some bad mistakes, but it also meant that I couldn’t figure out what I wanted. I needed to be the model daughter.

Do everything right. I guess that this is another variation on don’t cause problems… But there was a constant obligation to figure out what I was ‘supposed’ to be doing. What was going to make my mother happy? What was the ‘right’ thing to do?

Always, but always keep on trying as hard as possible. This rule feels somewhat different and I believe that it started out purely as a survival drive on my part. It isn’t about protecting my mother, but is all about getting me through some very hard times. I think that it keeps me from completely giving up, even when I start to despair, feel trapped, and can’t see my way out of a painful place. I just keep on trying. But I have also realized that even though this rule is helpful, it still leaves me with little room to maneuver. Other than a few short breaks, I have always been trying as hard as I can. It might not look like much from the outside, but it still is pretty much everything that I have to give. It was a matter of life and death for awhile, but it isn’t now. Thinking about it, I see that I can take some of the pressure off of myself now. In fact, I should take some of the pressure off of myself.

So many rules. So little room to breathe. So little room to live. I may have needed the rules in the past, but they are only getting in the way now. I need to learn how to become a rule breaker.

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Artist- Rachel Kitterman Never Speak

Artist- Rachel Kitterman
Never Speak

My session on Wednesday was a difficult one. I’m still not entirely sure why it was so difficult, but I ended up terribly dissociated. We had been talking about something that should have been fairly innocuous- doing a particular meditation and how I respond to it- when the slight dissociation that I had been feeling rapidly started to pull me into something deeper. I stopped, looked at Mama Bear and told her, “I need help.” “You need help staying here?” “Yes.” So she worked with me while I grounded and reoriented to the here and now and started to feel stable again. But then she went back to what she had been asking about, because she was concerned from what I had previously told her that the meditation that I was doing might be harmful to me. She needed more information to figure out whether she should advise me to hold off on that meditation for now or not. Unfortunately, the questioning triggered a set of reactions that I have in response to the fear that I was doing something wrong, despite my trying to do the right thing. I become afraid, have a freeze response, and dissociate. Usually I have some sense of what has triggered that strong of a reaction, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t this time. I am not sure what else happened during the session, but I do know that it didn’t seem to address anything that I needed to talk about.

After the session, I started to realize that I was angry with Mama Bear. Really angry. Unfortunately, this was going to cause problems because I am afraid to deal with anger. I’m not talking about it making me nervous, but rather it makes me start to shake and keep on shaking. I had some idea of what I was angry with Mama Bear about (I had told her in an e-mail about some issues that were overwhelming me emotionally and I told her that I needed help dealing with them, but we didn’t), but as I thought about how I was feeling, I realized that the intensity of the anger far exceeded the magnitude of the offence. I knew that I if I didn’t address the anger first thing in my Friday session, then nothing productive would be done. I also knew that if I tried to bring it up out of the blue, it would make things 10 times as hard on me, so I wrote an e-mail to Mama Bear, telling her what was up. Her response was reassuring: “Of course, it is important to tell me how you are feeling, whatever it is. We need to keep addressing all feelings. This has nothing to do with your being bad, which is a carry over from your past, but rather a statement of what we need to do together. If you are able, we can discuss this more on Friday, so that you can feel less alone when you leave.”

After our greetings at the next session, Mama Bear broached the subject: “I’m really glad that you felt able to tell me that you are angry with me.”

I rolled my eyes and snorted.

“No, really. Do you realize how much this shows that your trust in me has grown for you to be able to so quickly admit first to yourself and then to me that you were angry? It’s a big change.”

I realized that she was correct. Even a few months ago I couldn’t have done it. I also realized that while it was very uncomfortable for me to write that e-mail to her and I was squirming while sitting there, I wasn’t feeling overwhelming levels of fear. Somewhere along the way, I had learned how to trust more deeply. I had developed confidence that she wasn’t likely to suddenly turn into someone who would treat me horribly. I could trust her to remain her. I couldn’t predict exactly what she would do and parts of me were still afraid that somehow my anger would be used against me, but enough of me was solid in my trust that she would respond with respect and kindness that I could bring my anger out into the open.

I still struggled to talk about what I had been angry about, but I was aware that I was dealing with fears rather than really feeling afraid that she would react with the intent to shame or judge me. I knew that I could trust her to not put me down or ridicule me, even if in the intensity of the moment I couldn’t fully feel confident that I was emotionally safe. The trust was strong enough for me to push past the barriers and finally express, “I am angry because I got so dissociative last time. I know that it doesn’t make sense for me to blame you, but I am still angry.”

“Ah… It’s OK, it doesn’t have to make sense… I remember that you did ask me for help when you really started to dissociate.” At that point she stopped because I started to experience some strong emotions. I had asked for help and I didn’t really get as much help as I needed that time.

Suddenly I realized why I was so angry; I really was furious with my mother for not giving me the help that I needed when I was a child. And with that, I was off on a very intense and very important piece of work in regards to my mom. I have been struggling over experiencing and expressing my anger at my mom for the past while, but feeling safe enough to look at why I was angry at Mama Bear was what finally allowed me to link into just how profoundly I feel that my mother failed at her job of protecting me.

Developing deeper trust with Mama Bear has been a funny thing, because it really wasn’t about her- her part in it was to be consistent and keep on being herself. It certainly wasn’t about her demonstrating that she is trustworthy- she did that many years ago. It’s all about me. It’s about my ability to develop a confidence in myself and how I perceive the world. The old thought was: “I believe that she is trustworthy, but what if I am being stupid and missing something obvious?” It’s about my being sure that I am enough in charge of my life that all of the rules aren’t going to change underneath me all of a sudden and make people treat me differently. It’s about being sure that I’m not “crazy.”

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