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Posts Tagged ‘taking chances’

Sierra Water Merle Axelrad

Sierra Water
Merle Axelrad

(Disclaimer: I mostly wrote this and the preceeding post to to have a record for myself of what the process was like, but I decided to post it, in case someone happened to look for information on drawing a system map or the struggles of revealing your parts. Anyways, it is written less with an eye towards presentation and more to satisfy my personal needs and may not be of much interest.)

In Drawing a System Map, I wrote about my process of drawing the map and deciding to show the map to Mama Bear.

This morning, I panicked. I started to imagine how Mama Bear might respond, I felt sick to my stomach at the idea of exposing myself so much, I really wanted to cancel the appointment all together (which I simply do not do), and in general I felt like a frightened child. But I managed to talk myself into bringing the map into the office, so I would have the option of showing it, if I decided that I wanted to, even though I expected not to, at that point.

I was about a minute late and Mama Bear was already seated, so she got a good look at me as I settled.

“You are looking…” she paused, “agitated. Is it because of what you brought in?”

I took a deep breath, nodded, and said, “I both want to show you and am frightened to.”

“What are you afraid would happen if you show me?”

“I figured that out right before I came here. I am afraid that if I really reveal myself to you, you will say, ‘That’s too much.’ And then you would push me out the door.”

“You know where that comes from, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And it makes sense when you are so afraid of how your own mother will respond. After all, who am I? Yes, I say that I care very much about you, yes, I keep on showing up and acting in ways that are caring, but if you can’t trust your mother, how do you know that you can trust me?”

I just sat there and stared at her. I couldn’t believe that she had just voiced my fears and I didn’t know how to react.

“How are you responding to what I just said?”

And then there is a big blank that I wasn’t even aware was there until I started to write this out. The next thing that I remember is being partially curled up on the arm of the love seat, like I often am, but my position was different. Rather than being curled up into the back of the love seat, hiding, I was doubled over, because I felt the need to protect myself, but my body was perched on the edge, as if I was reaching out towards Mama Bear. I have no idea what I said, but I know that my body was trying to communicate, “I want to be connected.” I was stressed, I was self protective, but my response was not, ‘go away, I don’t trust you’, instead it was, ‘I need you. I need to connect. I want to be close to you.’

I then found it possible to start to talk about what the process of drawing the map had been like for me and some of what I had learned from it. I shared with her how surprised I had been that the process had been so helpful to me and we talked about my being better able to tolerate seeing myself.

After over 40 minutes of processing what it meant to me to reveal myself, my fears of what might happen if I did, and what my hopes are for showing her more of myself, I finally felt ready to show her the system map. In fact, I could feel that some of me felt excited and eager to show it to her. I sat there and hesitated, because I knew that showing it that late in the session was a significant risk, if it turned out to be triggering. On the other hand, I was at a fragile point and if I didn’t show her the map in that session, it might be several weeks or even a couple of months before I felt able to bring it back. (To clarify, Mama Bear is one of the few therapists who does full 60 minute sessions, minus a couple of minute bathroom break. What I didn’t know at the time, but was I grateful to discover was that there was no client after me today.)

So I looked her and said, “I know the time, but I want to show you want I drew and I’m afraid that I won’t bring it back for awhile, if I don’t do it now. I know that we can’t really go into it, but can I just show it to you.”

“Of course you can. Do you want for me to move over there, or do you want to come over here?”

I pulled a chair over to her chair, in hopes that it would help prevent me from going into one of the parts. I sat down with the drawing pad on my lap, looked at her and said, “It really is safe to show this to you, right? Nothing bad is going to happen.”

“Yes, it is safe. I am not going to reject you. You know, I may actually recognize a lot of what I see there, since I have been observing you for some time.”

I smiled at her and said, “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you did!”

“C., I am interested in what you have drawn and I want to see it, but I do not have to see it now, if it is not the right time for you to show it. It is up to you. Do you understand? I want to see it, but the timing is completely up to you.”

I looked at her, taking that in and nodded. Then I repeated to myself, “It is safe to show this,” took a deep breath and started to open the pad. But when I caught a glimpse of what I had drawn, I closed it again, took another deep breath, focused inward and reminded myself that I was in a safe place and I could be brave and share myself and fully opened the pad.

Mama Bear was clearly interested in and thinking about what she saw, but the only comment that she made at first was, “There are a lot of parts here.” I had already talked about how it wasn’t complete and I know about other parts that aren’t on the map. I think that she had been a bit surprised by the number (13 or 14, including the central me); I know that I had been a bit dismayed to actually see that many shapes drawn out, but I also know that I experience each of these parts differently, so what is, is.

She asked me a couple of questions and I started to tell her about some of the shapes, what parts they corresponded to, what the forms of the shapes meant, and how one of the smallest shapes that is snuggled up against the central me probably is a shape that is larger than that size would account for, but I think that most her is hiding behind the shape that represents “me.” I felt comfortable talking about the map with her! I wasn’t triggered into a part and I didn’t feel threatened in any way.

I could have gone on talking for some time, but we were nearing the end of the session, so she asked me a couple of questions. First she asked, “How are you experiencing me as we talk about and look at this?” I thought about it a bit and said, “You feel calm, but interested to me.” “That’s a pretty accurate description of how I feel.” Then the question that she asks at the end of every session, “What was it like for you to share this with me, today?” I felt inward for a response, “I feel a bit nervous about it, but over all I feel good.”

“Do you have that good feeling in your body?” I nodded my head. “Can you describe to me were you feel it and how it feels?”

“It’s over my whole front of my torso and it feels like a warmth/energy of hope and freedom.”

“Warmth, hope, and freedom. That’s wonderful.” She paused for a moment, then said, “Is there anything else that you want to say or do as we near the end of the session?”

I looked at her and reached out my hands and she took my hands in hers and we just sat there, looking at each other, being with each other for a minute or two, until I felt obligated to get up and move to my seat. She put my tea together, handed it to me, and sat down across from me. “So much for not doing the most intense work in the last 10 minutes of the session, huh?”

I smiled at her. “That’s one of the good things about being experienced; you develop a sense of when you can break the rules.”

“When you said that you were willing to show me what you drew, there was no way that I was sending you out of here without letting you show it. It was too important

She took a deep breath, as if savoring the moment. “This feels precious to me. I don’t really want to end it, but… Is there something that we need to do, or do we just need to take a breath, give each other a hug, and say, ‘See you next week’?”

I ruefully looked at her, “I think that is what we need to do.”

So we hugged and I walked out the door by myself, but not feeling alone in the slightest. I had allowed more of me to be seen and understood than ever before and that sharing had been welcomed and cherished. It felt as though the door to a prison that I had lived in my whole life had been cast open and now it was up to me to figure out what to do with that freedom.

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Leah Day Shadow Self- Goddess series

Leah Day
Shadow Self- Goddess series

I had a profound experience today and parts of me inside are still taking it in.

I’m not sure whether I mentioned it, but I had a very nasty fall almost two weeks ago and I have been in pain ever since. As you can tell from my most recent post, things have been challenging for me emotionally, as well. As a result, my back and shoulders became even more of a mass of tension and discomfort than is normal for me. When it got to the point where not only my hip was interfering with my ability to sleep, but my back was as well, I knew that I needed to take action to get some relief.

I am taking a break from the massage therapist that I have worked with since I was pregnant with my daughter. (That makes it sound like I get massages all the time, when 2 or 3 a year is good for me, but the point is that we have a long term, previously very trusting relationship.) My dad inserted himself into the relationship and bought a package of 6 massages for my birthday last summer. My massages with her have turned into an exercise in not getting triggered, unfortunately. She did nothing wrong at all; the problem simply is that my dad is now associated with massage and her. I hope to eventually fix that, but I’m not there yet.

Anyways, that meant that I wasn’t able to turn to her for help. Our local food coop has a massage station set up at certain hours, where you pay a dollar a minute and pay for however many minutes of chair massage you want (or can afford.) Mama Bear had talked about the massage therapist who runs the program in glowing terms, and according to the on line schedule he was on duty this afternoon, so I decided to go and see if he could help me.

Well, not only is J. a gifted massage therapist and he helped me to get considerable relief from the physical pain that I have been experiencing, but the experience was important for me on another level.

One of the things that I have learned about massage is that it is most helpful for me if I try to receive it in as mindful of a state of mind as possible. About 1/2 way through the massage, I became aware of the fact that I was not only experiencing the massage on a physical level, but it also was affecting me deeply inside. This stranger whom I had only met 15 minutes before was treating me with kindness and with a real desire to help me feel better. I hadn’t considered before how much can be communicated through touch. Most of the massages that I have had with people other than the woman I normally work with (A.) have been more or less helpful and the therapists have ranged from friendly and clearly desiring to help to business like. Never before have I experienced such an intense experience of presence. Even with A., she is there and I can feel the caring and nurturing coming off of her, but it is quieter.

Fortunately, I wasn’t in a thinking state, just an experiencing state, otherwise I probably would have started to doubt what I was experiencing. Instead, I realized just how much my soul needed to experience that kindness. While accepting the physical impact of being abused has been an important part of my recent healing, it also left me in a state where I was parched for physical kindness. So being able to sit there, in a light trance state, soaking in the physical kindness and care that was being given was tremendously healing for me. Parts of me inside were able to absorb the experience of having someone use touch in a healing way. Use touch in a healing way– the thought makes me cry in grief at what was and hope at what can be.

And this was a stranger. As I absorbed the sense of kindness coming off of this young man, there was a sense of wonder inside that there really are people out there who treat other people well. There are men out there who act out of a desire to help others. Not just the few men that I know and have tested out over time, but men that I have never met. There really are men out there who don’t secretly want to hurt others. The world really is a less dangerous place than my insides believe it to be. It’s like the difference between the world being a war zone and the world having some safety in it.

Right now my insides feel the way that they do sometimes after a breakthrough with Mama Bear. There is a sense of wonder and hope that things actually might be better than I thought they were- almost a giddiness.

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My vacation reminded me that not only is going out and living good for its own sake, but it can even help with healing. On the drive to the airport for the trip back home, I realized something that astonished me and made me start to cry in gratitude, because unexpectedly I had been given exactly what I need right now.

You see, before I left, I was one stressed out puppy. I was experiencing a “perfect storm” of dealing with very distressing material in regards to my dad, being convinced that I am on the brink of losing my mother, the pressures of the holiday season, the stress of needing to travel when I really didn’t want to travel, the fact that I was traveling to about 20 miles away from where I lived between the ages of 6 months and 6 years, alarming migraine symptoms that resulted in my having an MRI, and finally I was experiencing brief periods of loss of time, which is very unusual for me and no one knew if they were neurological or dissociative due to all of the stress.

As a result, I was in a bit of a mess when I flew out to the West Coast to visit with my husband’s family. One of the things that I was really worried about was my mother in law asking awkward questions that I just didn’t have the resources to deal with, but right before we left, my husband let her know what topics were out of bounds on this trip. That made all of the difference. I was able to relax and we did eventually talk about about some of those same topics, but it was on my terms, so it was my choice to share. As a result, I experienced her attention as caring, rather than being intrusive. While I have always known that it was meant as caring, her questions in the past have only made me want to run, so this shift was a relief for me.

In fact, given the proper boundaries, being with my husband’s family turned out to be a healing experience, rather than the stressful experience that I had anticipated. What a delightful surprise! One of the things that we did differently this time was to break up the time that we spent with people, and we traveled up the coast, staying with different family members. We spent a lot of time hanging out, doing low key activities, like going to the beach, taking walks, and tide pooling together. New Years Day was spent entirely outdoors with my sister in law, enjoying her company, my husband and daughter, the fantastic weather, and the amazing sea life. Days like that help to heal my soul and they provide a calming, wholesome memory for me to come back to in times of distress.

I loved watching my daughter play with her cousins and aunts and make those connections that I so dearly wish that I had with my own family. It was healing for me to watch her settle into feeling secure and loved in the arms of her extended family. Families don’t have to be like the family that I grew up in. My husband’s family is not perfect, but it is loving and supportive and several family members have made an effort to improve upon what they were raised with, so it isn’t stagnant and stuck in dysfunction. It’s reality. My little family with my husband and daughter isn’t perfect, but hopefully we can provide a good enough environment for my daughter to take what we give to her and improve upon it for the next generation.

We spent a couple of days with the other young family in his extended family- their children are 7, 4, and 4 months. That time probably was the highlight of the trip for me. I saw another family where both of the parents came from backgrounds where they had been badly hurt at some point, and yet they have worked hard to heal that hurt, grow, overcome their limitations, and continually strive to learn to be better partners for each other, parents, and fuller people. Once again, they aren’t perfect, but they are kindred spirits in understanding what it means to struggle over and over, fail, pick yourself up and keep on going. They also manage to have faith that while things are hard, they will find a way to make everything work in the end and they remember to have joy in each day. Such a good reminder to find the joy, no matter how small, even in the midst of the struggle.

Unfortunately, the trip wasn’t without bumps. I received a call on New Years Day from my Dad’s phone and even though I didn’t answer it, I was triggered and ended up in a very bad state the next day. I tried my hardest to get myself out of it, but finally conceded that I couldn’t do it on my own and called on Mama Bear for help. At another point, I had to deal with something intrusive in regards to my dad, but at least I was able to put that away by myself. On the other hand, I learned that the trip didn’t have to be problem free in order to be a good thing for me.

The time that I spent connecting with the various people in my husband’s family was far more important to me than I realized while I was doing it. Reflecting on it, I think that I may have let them in more than I have dared to in the past. Somewhere along the way over the last couple of years, I really have learned how to start to open my heart more.

So what was this realization that I had in that predawn car ride to the airport? That I was leaving feeling like I had been loved by my husband’s family. Really feeling that there are people out there who love me, beyond just the few that I have regular contact with here was profound for me. I am someone who is worth loving. Someone who naturally loves and is loved in return. I don’t have to hide behind walls. It is safe for me to exist. I am not going to be rejected for being me. No matter what happens with my parents, I still have people around me who will love me. I’m not going to end up all alone, if I find and tell my truth.

This current realization doesn’t solve everything, of course, but some greater chunk of me is shifting. Tiny bits of me had been taking it in before, but now this larger part of me has experienced being loved, even in the face of starting to deal with what I most don’t want to deal with. I’m interested to see how it plays out both in my everyday relationships and in therapy.

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Something interesting happened yesterday… I got confirmation that someone from outside the family was disturbed by a type of interaction between my dad and me at age 12.

Now, this actually is very limited information, however it’s big for me that someone has actually told me that my family didn’t appear perfect to them.

For some reason, today I decided to IM one of my two best friends from when I was 12. She found me via Facebook a few years back and we have been in very loose contact since. I haven’t been willing to ask questions of any of the 3 people who have found me on Facebook and who might have some information up to now, partly because I’m afraid of what they might say and partly because of possible complications. Well, today I was dealing with mini flashbacks involving the house that I lived in when I knew this friend and I finally was desperate enough to risk asking. I simply asked her if there was anything odd that she remembered my telling her when we knew each other.

Considering that I was asking her to remember 33 years back, I knew that I probably wasn’t going to get lots of bits and pieces of things that struck her as kind of odd, the way that I might if I was asking about last year. I was only going to get something that made a big impression on her.

Her response was that I did tell her about how my father tickled me and what I said made her uncomfortable. She doesn’t remember my telling her anything else. However, there was one time when she was over at my house, when she witnessed my dad tickling me and it made her really uncomfortable. She felt that the contact was “inappropriate” given that I was 12. She also said that it might just have been that she was paranoid as a 12 year old. Paranoid, or listening to her gut when everyone else was acting like nothing was wrong? You see, when my dad tickled me, he completely overwhelmed me physically and pinned me down, tickling me mercilessly while I squirmed and wiggled under him. I was helpless; I wouldn’t even be able to breathe because he was tickled me so thoroughly. At some point within the next couple of years, I developed the ability to cut off the response to being tickled and finally the tickling stopped. I know that it continued at least occasionally up for another year or two because I remember it happening on my parents’ bed in the next house that we lived in.

I don’t want to turn a little thing into something large, just because it’s the only external piece of information that I have from this time period. So I am trying hard to keep in mind that I think that what I can comfortably surmise from it is that my father had poor physical boundaries with me at least into early puberty. That supports both scenarios: 1) he did sexually abuse me, or 2) I was afraid that he would, which was made worse given that my grandfather had.

Re-reading the description that I wrote above about being tickled, I find it disturbing, myself. I also am not comfortable with the fact that the tickling continued on my parents’ bed past the onset of puberty. So I also don’t want to be dismissive of the information in over reaction. I can also see that my dad was using the tickling as a way to physically dominate me. I can think of multiple reasons that he might have wanted to do this, supporting either scenario. I can see that I am going to need to keep an open mind and work to find the right balance.

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