Posts Tagged ‘transference’

Artist: Roy Kanwit-     Taconic Sculpture Park

Artist: Roy Kanwit- Taconic Sculpture Park

In a recent post, Attachment Girl wrote a brilliant piece (Time to Run: The Power of the Amygdala) about how easily the amygdala is activated when under perceived threat, the rapid escalation of intense emotion and utter irrationality involved, and the role of the therapeutic relationship in relearning how to deal with situations that trigger a trauma reaction and how to calm the “hamster amygdala”. I highly recommend it.

In part 1 of Struggles with Transference, I described a situation where I walked into the session with my amygdala probably already partially activated and on the lookout for other signs of danger. When I saw that look on Mama Bear’s face, my amygdala went into over drive mode and all rational thought went out the window until Mama Bear was able to get me to start to analyze the situation. The brain functions that are required for analysis (among other higher brain functions) are incompatible with the amygdala running amok, so the shift in focus facilitated my calming down.

But what was it about Mama Bear’s look that triggered me so badly? Waking up from a nap later that afternoon, I could see my mother’s face overlaid on Mama Bear’s face, with the grim look in her eyes that she would get when she was really mad at me. I had magnified Mama Bear’s look to match my mother’s and then reacted to her exactly as if she was my mother. The thing was that if you had asked me before yesterday whether I react to my mother in fear, I would have said, “No!” But I have and I do. Every time I become anxious and shaky about confronting her, I do. Every time I avoid telling her what I need to tell her because I am too nervous, I am reacting to my mother in fear. It isn’t an “I’m afraid that you’re going to come after me and kill me” kind of fear, so I wasn’t conceptualizing it as fear, but even so, I do have a lot of fear that is related to her.

I am generally pretty good at recognizing when I have cast Mama Bear in the role of my mother. I may not be able to prevent the dynamic from playing out, but at least I can keep in mind that this is transference and I’m really reacting to my mom, not to Mama Bear. Not with this one! This is a dynamic that has played out between us 4 or 5 times now and I have never suspected that it was related to my mother at all. In fact, the fear is closer to the intensity that I associate with my grandfather, so I thought that it was related to him, somehow. This is not going to be easy to work through, but it is timely, because later on in the same session, we started to talk again about how I really need to figure out how I am going to deal with my parents. And there are very good reasons for me to figure it out sooner rather than later.

When I “saw” that image of my mom’s face overlaying Mama Bear’s yesterday, I also experienced something. I don’t know if it’s a literal memory or a representation of dynamics that my mind has pulled together to illustrate a point about my relationship with my mother, but it has a feeling of substance and meaning, so I’m going to pay attention to as something that is important to me. In it, we are in a department store and I have done something that has gotten my mother really upset with me. She says something along the lines of: “I just don’t know what to do with you”, turns around and stalks off, leaving me there. There are feelings of panic, shame, self loathing, desperation, and abandonment. I know that I have to completely make up for whatever it was that upset her in any way that is possible.

One of my fears about confronting my mother in even the slightest, most gentle way possible is that she will get upset and “I will betray myself.” I have never been able to figure out exactly what I mean by that statement; all I know is that it would undo a lot of the work that I have done over the last year or more. But in light of yesterday’s insight, I can see that in the face of my mother’s anger/distress, I feel an overwhelming need to capitulate and cast myself into whatever mold I believe that she wants/needs. I fear that I will throw all of me away in a child’s panicked response to fears of abandonment and rejection.

This sense that I will not be able to hold true to myself has been a huge stumbling block in regards to dealing with my parents. It doesn’t matter what I decide that I want to do with them, if inside I am convinced that “I will betray myself.” If I don’t believe that I can take care of myself, then I will keep on finding ways to avoid dealing with my parents.

I have no clue as to how to deal with this and I certainly hope that Mama Bear does, however I finally feel like I am starting to get a handle on why it feels so impossible to address anything with my parents. Maybe I can find a solution to this problem that I have felt tangled up in for so long.

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Artist: Mark Horst

Artist: Mark Horst

“We have stuff to talk about.” Mama Bear had a very serious look and she got straight down to business at the very beginning of the session.

“I know,” and I felt myself bracing for what might come and the very beginnings of feelings of panic.

I walked into my Wednesday session dreading it because I knew that I had written a very long e-mail to Mama Bear over the weekend that was incredibly honest about everything on my mind that I have been afraid to say to her. Things about figuring out what happened with my father, trying to figure out how to deal with my mother, questions about memory and dissociation and whether this whole thing could be true at all. Basically, I bared my soul in 2,000 words. Needless to say, it was an intense piece of writing. Mama Bear has been trying to work with me to reduce the amount of intensity that I am experiencing between sessions, so I knew that she wouldn’t have been thrilled to see the amount of turmoil that it represented. When I went into the session, I already felt like I had done something wrong and that I was in trouble.

I don’t remember what Mama Bear said next, all I remember is looking at her eyes and being stuck on how very serious they were and I felt more and more as though I was in trouble and increasingly young and frightened.

Mama Bear stopped, “What is going on, C?”

I struggled with what to tell her, because I felt ashamed for having the reaction that I was having. I was convinced that my reaction was wrong, so I couldn’t tell her about it. And the fear and sense of being in trouble continued to build.

“I really need for you to talk to me about what you are reacting to, because I don’t know.”

I found myself curling up in a ball.

“Do you feel young?” I nodded. “Do you know what age?” I shook my head. “Can you find your adult to help you tell me what is going on?”

I continued to struggle to say anything at all and I found myself shaking my head, because so much of me was determined to not reveal what a “stupid” reaction I was having. I felt frustrated because I could feel the minutes of my session ticking by, being wasted by this internal impasse that just felt so stupid, so I said, “Never mind. Just keep on going, please.”

“No. I can’t do that because I don’t have all of you here with me right now and I don’t know what is going on. I need for the adult you to join us so this child part can speak through you and tell me what is going on.” She fetched a pad of paper and pen and put them on the coffee table in front of me. “Here, write, engage that prefrontal cortex of yours. Your amygdala is way over stimulated.”

I took a few deep breaths and started to talk, although it felt as though I had to force the words through some thick substance that didn’t want to let them go. “I feel in trouble. I did something bad.”

“Who said you were in trouble? Who said that what you did was bad?”

I knew that she was trying to get me to analyse what actually had happened, rather than just respond to the trigger. It worked, too, because as I talked, I continued to calm. “I know that you didn’t actually say that I was in trouble or that I did something bad. That was why I felt so stupid about the reaction, and then I felt so ashamed.”

“Because you were doing things ‘wrong’?” Mama Bear knows that is my persistent struggle.


She sighed. “This has happened before. Every time I start to talk to you the way that I did today, you have this reaction. It is a combination of a reaction to what is happening now and you also are strongly reacting to something remembered. I am not angry with you. I do not think that you did something bad. I am glad that you were honest. But I am concerned and we need to figure out solutions to some problems because you are getting hurt the way that things are happening now. I don’t like seeing you get hurt.”

And we moved on with the session from there. I thought that the matter was taken care of for now, but then later in the day it hit me, I knew exactly what I was reacting to.

To be continued in Part 2

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Hooray!  I am fully back in blog land as of this evening.  We now have internet access.  🙂  I have missed being here.

I have spent a lot of time and effort over the last several months re-learning how to notice what I need and learning how to be more comfortable with communicating those needs.  It has been a challenging task for me, but has paid off both in terms of my feeling more secure in the world in general and in the deepening of my relationships with the people I trust enough to do this with.  I started out practicing this first with Mama Bear, because I knew that she wouldn’t reject me, even though inside I still feared that she would.  As things have progressed, she has come through with kindness and a willingness to make sure that my needs were met that has been almost shocking to the inside me.  We have talked about how there will be times when she cannot respond the way that I want, but that would not mean that there was anything wrong with my asking and I need to remember that there is no shame in asking, even if the answer is “no” or “not right now.”

I’ve actually be quite proud of myself for helping these vulnerable parts of me feel safe enough to ask for help and I felt like I was doing a good job of taking care of myself.  But then I was hit by something in my last session…

At the end of each session, Mama Bear asks me something along the lines of, “What was it like for you being in this session?”  I’m not sure exactly when she starting asking the question, however I would say that she has been asking some variation on it for at least the last 12 months.  And each and every time she asks, I experience at least a brief moment of panic.  The question is too close to one that I don’t clearly remember being asked when I was abused, but everything inside tells me that I was asked.  Even briefly thinking about it right now, it makes me feel short of breath and like I need to escape.  And each time, I try remind myself that it is Mama Bear who is asking the question and she does not mean anything bad by it.  Sometimes I just end up being triggered and completely struggling to ground myself, but most of the time I can remain enough in the now so that I can give some sort of answer to the question.  While giving a direct answer about what the experience was like is almost always beyond me, I usually can put together some comment on something that happened that was important or valuable.

After I got home from yesterday’s session, I was mulling over the session, and it suddenly hit me, I don’t have to grit my teeth and make myself endure something that is triggering for me in every session.  I don’t have to adjust myself to try to get me to tolerate something that I dread each week.  So I e-mailed her, explaining what happens and telling her that I would like to work with her to find a way to help all of me feel safer with her question.  The good thing here is that I had to worries about her reaction even though I would have just a few months ago.  She thanked me for telling her what was going on and pointed out to me that she doesn’t even need to ask that particular question at all.

Wow, it’s OK to make something that’s upsetting to me just go away, if there isn’t a compelling reason for it to be there?!?  During our sessions there is so much that is difficult for me to deal with that I simply have to deal with, so it might make sense to simply not do something stressful if it can easily be dispensed with?  She wants to make this as easy on me as possible, knowing just how painful it is to have to do this work week after week?  Things really can be adjusted to fit me and I don’t always have to adjust myself to fit them?

In some ways, these concepts all seem so obvious, yet I was blind to them in this situation.  I have forced myself to tolerate something distressing for a year, when somewhere along there it should have occurred to me that I could say something about it to Mama Bear.  But I never even considered it as an option.

And this is one of the reasons why I value blogging so much, because while writing this, I have come to recognize part of what was driving my not even considering mentioning that the question was distressing to me…  It feels like a young thought pattern, believing that if something is happening that is distressing/painful/hard on me then she must know that I am having that reaction.  And if she is still asking me that question while knowing that it is distressing to me, then there must be some reason for her doing so that I don’t know about.  I have to just trust her to do what is right for me.

Once again I was treating her like she was my mother and I didn’t even have a clue that it was going on.

And it brings into focus what a terrible dilemma I faced as a child…  Either my mom didn’t notice these terrible things that were happening or she knew and she kept on sending me back to my grandfather’s house on purpose.  If she was doing that, then there had to be some good reason why she was sending me back, because otherwise, my whole world would unravel.  There had to be some way to understand what was going on and leave me with at least a mother to whom I could cling for safety.  Even now, as an adult, I am finding it hugely difficult to develop an understanding of my mother’s actions and inactions.  It is mind boggling to think about what it would have been like as a child to be in a situation that would have been incomprehensible, horrible, and completely overwhelming and how much I must have struggled to find a way to remain connected to my mother through it all.

And know that I had a mother who wanted to do well by me and very much wanted to be connected to me.  Without a doubt, my mother loved me very much.  But she kept on sending me back.  And I was hurt over and over because she kept on sending me back.  She sent me into a situation that left me afraid that I would die.  Somehow, I have to find a way to accept that both aspects can be a part of the same picture, however it will never be a picture that I can understand from a personal point of view.  I am not the person who my mother is.  I cannot expect to make sense of how she acted in terms of thinking, “OK, I can see myself acting in the same way.”  And that is something that I am going to need to ponder on for awhile…

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These last few days, I have been very busy dealing with some changes that are happening in my life.  There are for the most part welcomed changes, but they are also very large changes that will require a great deal of adjustment on the part of my whole family: my husband, daughter, and myself.  I know full well that we will have ups and downs while dealing with them, but I also believe that once everything is settled out, all three of us will be much better off than we are currently.  It may take several months for us to get there, but we will eventually get there.

I feel more hopeful and energized about my daily life than I have in too long, and I am getting done far more than has been my norm lately.  That is a very good thing because I have a ton to do in the next month!  Over all, I am much happier with life, and I am experiencing a lot less pressure from trauma related issues.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder how much of my difficulties over the last year were triggered by my feeling helpless and trapped in a situation that I didn’t like, but felt like I had to make the best of.  I wasn’t being honest to myself or to my husband about how difficult the situation was and how profoundly uncomfortable I was with it.

As a result I ended up connecting with memories of times when I was absolutely helpless and in a situation that was terrifying and very painful.  Even though my current situation wasn’t even remotely on the same scale of difficulty as what I experienced as a child, too many of the beliefs and emotions that I was experiencing were similar.  I believed that I could not express or even accept in my own mind that my needs and desires were legitimate and every bit as important as those of the other members of my family.  I was convinced that if I tried to talk about them, I would evoke a reaction of anger that would result in abandonment.  I even took on responsibility in my mind for the changes of mood in my husband.

Remember how I talked about recognizing how much transference was going on with Mama Bear?  Well, this was my reminder that transference doesn’t just happen in the therapeutic relationship; it happens in real life as well.  Looking back at it, I believe that I have spent the last several months reacting to my husband based on the expectations and survival strategies of my childhood, even though he did nothing to directly elicit those sorts of reactions. 

Now, none of this is unidirectional or simple cause and effect, of course.  I suspect that the issues over fully being in relationship with myself and others were already slowly working their way to the surface anyways and would have needed to be addressed in one way or another.  I also suspect that I really needed to deal directly with some of the memories that came up.  And it is obvious that I very much needed to come to a place where I could fully believe that my trauma reactions are fully legitimate and that I had to have been hurt very badly as a child in order to be so traumatized.

So as feelings of helplessness were triggered by my life situation, connecting me to memories and very, very painful issues, the memories themselves reinforced my experiencing myself in the same way that I did as a child.  My boundaries between then and now became completely blurred for a time.

I wish that things hadn’t played out in the exact manner in which they did.  It made for a miserable several months for me, reduced my ability to be fully available to my daughter during that time, and impacted my relationship with my husband.  Being half way in a challenging now and half way in a terrifying past is a painful way to exist and it made me a much less effective parent and partner than I might have been.  But honestly, I didn’t feel like I had much choice at the time, and I may not have.  I may have needed to work my way through most or all of the memories as well as struggle with the different ways of experiencing myself.  I will never really know, though.

All that I can do is to be understanding that it was a very difficult experience, I have worked hard at dealing with it and made the best decisions that I could at the time, and that I seem to be coming out the other side stronger than I was when I went in.  I have a better understanding of myself at both the heart level and the intellectual level.  I am learning how to be more aware of myself in the now, rather than so easily be carried off to painful places.  I am learning to catch myself as I have reactions to people in the now that are largely based on then traumas and as a result I have a hope of keeping myself from becoming fully entrenched in the then.  I am starting to feel at a deep level that it is OK to fully experience myself and to accept that other people can and do love the full me, not just some convenient parts of me.  As I said to Mama Bear, “It just hit me, not only is it OK to be fully me, but I have people in my life who want for me to be all of me!”

So, bit by bit, I am learning to live from the understanding that while I may not like some of the things that I have done, reacting from a place of shame in regards to every misstep doesn’t help me to do better.  It only cripples me and keeps me from finding the strength to do better.  And this comes out in the most mundane areas of my life, things like not dealing with a pet insurance policy that I tried to cancel after my dog died, but the company continued to charge me for.  It makes no sense for that to be something to be ashamed of; I just need to find the backbone to call the company and demand that they give us our money back!  Yet, I somehow feel shame in regards to it.

I am slowly learning to fully believe that I really do have deep worth and that my needs and desires are important enough to be taken into account, even when they are at odds with others.  It is not egotistical or self centered to believe these things about me.  I deserve to be able to take up space in this world.

I am coming to understand that I can learn a lot about how I experienced myself as a child and what I thought my place in the world was, based on how I interact with others now.  And I don’t react in less than ideal ways because there is something intrinsically “weak” or “perverted” about me.  I have those reactions because I was hurt badly and not helped by my parents to deal with the hurt.  This really isn’t about me being a “bad” person, but rather an injured person.

And while those injuries are so difficult and painful to heal because they go to the core of how I learned to be in the world, I can heal them well enough to be able to work around the parts that will never fully heal.

I am reminded of my experiences after I severely herniated a disk in my neck early this year.  At first I was in so much pain that it was difficult to move or do anything in normal life, but through time and a lot of work in physical therapy things got better.  I have now healed it to the point where I generally have normal function, but I will always have to be aware of what I do and how I do it, otherwise I am liable to re-injure myself.  I need to pay enough attention to my neck, so that I am aware of the first signs of the injury being re-aggravated, but that is something that I can do automatically and with no conscious thought.  This injury will never fully go away, because it can’t be undone.  I will always have a disk that was herniated and there will be times when it really affects my ability to function.  However as long as I do my exercises, remain aware of how I am doing things, and take extra steps to care for myself when the injury starts to flare up again, I can still lead an active life and do most everything that I could before the injury.

It’s pretty much exactly the same thing with the psychic injuries that I am healing.  They will never be erased, because there is no going back in time and keeping the abuse and neglect from happening.  But through work and good self care, I can get to the point where I am able to do most of what I would have been able to do, if I had grown up in a healthier family.  However, in some ways this is better than with the physical injury, because there are some things about it that can be turned to advantages.  I probably have a greater depth and ability to connect with the hurt places of other people than I would have had, if I had never been hurt by my family.  I am building an awareness and confidence in my strength and ability to handle the worst what can only be earned by successfully struggling with that which seems to be impossible to deal with.  I have a deep appreciation for the beautiful things that I do have in my life, particularly my husband and daughter.  There are times when I experience a profound gratitude and joy for the fact that I am alive, which I suspect can only come from having confronted a fear for my survival.  And recently, I was talking with a friend who revealed to me that she had also had many of the same experiences that I have had.  I discovered that I was able to simply be with her in a way that was based on my understanding from the inside what it was really like, and by being with her, she felt less alone than she had felt before.  But this wasn’t only good for her; by experiencing that I was able to help her because of who I am, it helped to heal some of my own shame.  There is real good in the person who I am, not just despite what happened, but also because of what I have done with what happened to me.

It is a relief to finally come out of a time of great confusion and pain, even if I am a bit afraid to rely on my ability to stay in this better place.  But right now, I don’t want to dwell on those fears, instead I want to grasp a hold of the hope and promise that things really are getting better for me and I am no longer so stuck in the past.  I am not fooling myself; I know that I have plenty of pain/grief/rage/you name it that I will need to work through. But if I can learn to do that work while remaining ever more firmly grounded in the now, the time in between will continue to look more and more like the life that I want to live.  And I will come to experience myself more fully as I am, both with the warts and the strengths that come from the totality of what I have lived through.

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My relationship with Mama Bear has had a bit of a challenge over the last couple of months.  The sort of challenge that left me just wanting to turn tail and run.

Simply put, I kept on getting more and more irritated, even angry with her, and I couldn’t fully figure out why.  You might ask why was this such a crisis?  You see, as a rule, I don’t do anger.  I particularly don’t do anger with the people I rely on, so this was very out of character for me.

I have long been aware that anger is something that I very much need to learn to deal with and it has been a topic on many occasions in therapy.  In fact, we had even discussed anger and learning to express it in my current relationships with people not long before I started to get angry with her.  I know that I am terribly afraid that if I express anger, I will find myself being abandoned, even though that fear doesn’t have any real basis in the here and now.  Unfortunately, understanding why I am having a reaction doesn’t make that reaction go away.

So, when it the irritation first came up, I went out on a limb and wrote an e-mail to her saying that I felt angry with her but couldn’t figure out why, held my breath and sent that e-mail.  Most of me knew that she would be pleased that I had actually expressed a bit of anger, but a large portion of me was terrified that she would be offended and upset.  Instead, her response went like this, “It is OK to tell me why you feel angry with me. Do whatever seems best for you.  Thank you for telling me.”  With that invitation, I was able to figure out that I seemed to be reacting to a difficult truth that she had helped me to see in the previous session- that no matter how much I yearned for my mother to come and rescue me, she never would because the time that I had needed to be rescued was in the past.  That was something that I needed to see and to take in so I could start to let go of that hope for the impossible, but it felt like having my heart sliced out.  I wrote to her and told her what I believed the issue to be and her reply was, “I understand the heaviness in your heart.  I think that I would be upset with me, too!  Again, it was important that you told me that you were angry with me.”

Wow, not only had I gotten angry with someone whose support I needed, but I had told her that I was angry and I hadn’t been rejected!  In fact, I was shown empathy, understanding of just how difficult it was to express the anger, and support to more fully express what I was experiencing.  We talked about it a bit in session, I patted myself on the back for taking a step forward, and figured that the matter was over for now.

But it wasn’t.  I suspect that my having such a “positive” experience gave me permission to then push into even more difficult territory.  In fact, the anger started to build from week to week, and I fell back onto my tendency to try to just manage things alone and avoided bringing it up again with Mama Bear.  Unfortunately, the methods that I tried were pretty doomed to failure.  Trying to talk yourself out of having an emotional reaction generally is not a particularly successful technique, but is even less so when you are dealing with triggered emotions.  “There isn’t really anything for me to be this irritated with Mama Bear about.  Just let it go and move on.”  But I couldn’t let it go.  The anger just kept on growing.  It wasn’t constant and it was mostly out of session, but I couldn’t manage to shake free from it.  To my frustration, I also couldn’t quite figure out what I was responding to.

Then one week we had an email exchange where I had an extremely negative reaction to what she wrote and felt that she was invalidating my experience and saying that I should not be experiencing the hurt parts as parts.  A few times before I had had smaller reactions along those lines, but this time I was very angry and hurt, even though I could see that my reaction didn’t really make sense in the context of what she had actually said.  I told her, “I know that I am reacting in a non-logical way and that I am reacting from a hurt place.  Fortunately, I trust you enough to recognize that the way that I am interpreting things cannot be an accurate read on things.  I must be way overreacting and I am fighting the impulse to run away.”  I really did want to run away.  Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, I can see now that it was an impulse to reject her as I felt like I was being rejected combined with a desire to protect myself from further hurt.

In the next session, I had a terribly difficult time talking to her at all.  I remember her saying to me, “Please talk to me, because I want to help you while you are here and I cannot do much if you won’t talk to me.”  I felt like I had gone into a child part who simply did not trust Mama Bear any longer and I was afraid that anything that I said would be judged and considered “wrong.”  For whatever reason, I just kept on withdrawing more and more.

And then suddenly I had a change of direction inside, and I needed to tell her something that I had been thinking about off and on during the previous few weeks:  I don’t just care about her, but I love her.  But telling her that I loved her was perhaps the most risky feeling thing that I have ever said to her and it was extraordinarily difficult to get out.  As I hemmed and hawed and struggled with actually putting it into words, Mama Bear obviously thought that I was going to let her have it with how angry I was with her.  “It’s OK, you can tell me whatever it is that you are feeling.  I can take it and I won’t get upset with you.”  I couldn’t help but be amused at just how wrong she was when she said that. She noticed that I was smiling, asked, “I see a little smile there; do you want to share what is making you smile?”  I laughed, “You will understand when I finally manage to get this out!”  Eventually I managed to blurt out, “I love you!” and her response was, “Oh, that is what you have been trying to say?  Why, I love you too, C.!”  And I burst into tears, sobbing my heart out.  Even though I knew that the way that she treated me was loving, there was something about having been able to tell her that I love her and hear that she loves me as well that helped me feel safe enough to experience myself as more solidly being myself in our relationship.  She has seen more of me than any other person and it is safe for me to be in a loving relationship, even as a full person.

Despite feeling as though something important had shifted inside, I still felt unsettled as I left the session.  And then over the next few days, I just got more and more upset and less and less able to think clearly about what was going on.  Eventually it got to the point where I was fighting the urge to cancel the next appointment and therapy with Mamma Bear all together.  I knew that my thoughts just didn’t make sense, and I wrote to her:

“I am really embarrassed to say this, but I think that I have to, because there is no way that I am getting it out in a session and it is becoming increasingly problematic.  I am totally irritated and exasperated with myself and do not understand where this is coming from or why it keeps on getting worse.  But I am having some reaction to you that started 6 weeks ago or so with my feeling irritated and has just steadily gotten more intense.  The last couple of weeks a part of me didn’t want to come to the next session and this week some of me just wants to quit all together.  I know that it makes no sense.  It certainly just makes things harder on me, because while much of me still sees you as an ally, part of me expects that relying on you at all will only leave me hurt (heartbroken?)  I feel so weird feeling so divided where you are concerned and I am so impatient with myself about this.  I have been hoping that I will snap out of it, but so far that hasn’t happened.” 

When I showed up at the next session, I was terribly nervous, because I knew that we were going to talk about the way that I was experiencing our relationship.  But to start she said a few things that helped me to feel more comfortable: “The way that I do therapy uses our relationship to work with.  So anything that comes up between the two of us is valuable and useful.  Besides, I am probably just about the safest person for you to recognize and feel anger towards.  Let’s make the most of it.  I really can take anything that you can dish out, as long as you don’t try to toss me out the window.”  And something finally clicked inside, and I found myself able to settle more deeply into my relationship with Mama Bear and really experience myself there.  And by observing myself doing that, I was able to learn things about my early training on how to be with people, especially my mother.

At one point, I struggled to tell Mama Bear that I was having a fearful reaction that she would reject me if I didn’t do things the “right” way, but I couldn’t get the words to come out.   She looked at me and said, “You still don’t really believe that it is OK to tell me what you are trying to tell me, do you?”  I shook my head and then managed to force it out and into the open between the two of us.  I realized that what was stopping me was that I was reluctant to say anything that she might see as a criticism because I was afraid that it would hurt her.  And I could finally see that it wasn’t really Mama Bear that I was reacting to, it was my mother.  I was protecting Mama Bear, the same way that I would protect my mother.

In my last post, I talked about my struggle with learning how to be more fully myself in my relationship with my mother.  With this in mind, yesterday I had an “Aha!” moment.  I have been dealing with a massive amount of transference in regards to my mother and Mama Bear.  Finally, all of the turmoil around my relationship with Mama Bear made sense.  No wonder I kept on getting triggered into anger at Mama Bear any time she said or wrote anything that might be interpreted as “You shouldn’t be that way” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.”  I could now understand the timing of why it was so important for me to confirm that all of me could be accepted in a loving relationship.  Of course I feared that if I relied on Mama Bear, I would be terribly hurt.  And I was finally able to make sense of my sudden difficulty with seeing Mama Bear as I normally see her: someone who has the strength of character to deal with difficult issues honestly and openly.

I knew the whole time that I wasn’t really reacting to Mama Bear, but I couldn’t see who I really was reacting to.  Now I do, however I am reminded of something that I had previously discovered: even though I am aware that the transference is going on and can name it as such, I may not be able to stop it from happening.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I keep on reacting to her as I would my mother while I continue to struggle with how to fully be myself in my relationship with my mother.  Hopefully I will be able to be less impatient with myself about it.  Maybe I will even learn to be as accepting of the transference as being a valuable part of the therapeutic relationship as Mama Bear herself is.

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