Anna is a transactional analysist. A lot of our work is looking at my inner dialogue. She encourages me to share the things I hear in my head completely uncensored, even when my thoughts are critical of her! Anna said to me recently, ‘of course your inner critic belittles me, I’m a threat to her! I undermine her existence.’ I said, ‘but this is ridiculous, there is no ‘inner critic’ it’s just me, all the voices and thoughts are just mine, isn’t this just a convenient excuse so I don’t have to take responsibility for the horrible things I think?’ Anna told me that the inner critic is like a contamination of the authentic self. It’s the beliefs and words of our parents and other adults who influenced us when we were children. She said she can hear when I’m speaking from that ego state because it’s not who I really am deep down. Quite often I find it very hard to hear when I’m speaking from my inner critic because it all feels and sounds so reasonable and true to me. But Anna is slowly helping me untangle it. She will stop me, challenge the statements, ask me to take a closer look at what I’m saying. She’ll ask me, ‘who’s voice is that?’ or, ‘where have you heard that before?’ or, ‘that sounds familiar’ and I’ll be encouraged to dig deeper to find my core authentic beliefs.
Last Saturday in session I rattled through a memory from childhood, rushing through the details when she said, ‘let’s just pause there, Lucy. That’s really awful. Devastating. I’m so sorry that happened to you.’ I carried on without looking at her and she gently said, ‘did you hear me?’ I said I heard her but couldn’t connect to it. She said, ‘I know, that’s why it’s important to pause and let this reach you.’ I laughed and said, ‘you’re making a big thing out of nothing though Anna, it really wasn’t that bad!’ She took a deep breath and said in a stern voice, ‘your mother told you that it wasn’t that bad. NO ONE in this room believes her.’ In that moment it burned into me, hot and unbearable. I wanted to hide behind the chair but didn’t want to make myself more visible by moving. That is when I know I’m ‘in my child’. Trapped – wanting to connect and wanting to run. This is where the work is – pulling it all apart, through the agony of being seen by her.
The first thing Anna did at the start of that session was thank me for the text I’d sent her after our last session. ‘Baby smells of your perfume which is really nice. I wish I’d taken the moment in more when you were holding her. There’s something really comforting about seeing you with them.’ I cringed and said it was embarrassing, ‘I hope you weren’t freaked out by it!’ She looked concerned and said, ‘no I was deeply touched. I know you go over your texts many times so it wasn’t just a quick one you fired off. It will have taken a lot for you to send it. I saw it as a message from a very young part that felt relieved and comforted like she was smelling Baby and thinking, ‘ahh it’s okay, that smells like mummy’ and I know I’m not your mum, but I know a small part of you sees me in a motherly role. And that touched me, it didn’t creep me out at all, it made me feel connected to you. I was proud of you for sending it. It felt important.’
In my head I was thinking, ‘this is amazing, she knows a part of me wants her to be my mum yet she’s not scared shitless,’ but I was totally numb behind my protective glass wall. I told her I felt like I was going to push her away, I was too needy, too demanding. That one day she’d snap and tell me enough is enough. She reassured me that my texts don’t anger her. She said, ‘Lucy, you are not too much for me and you don’t have the power to MAKE me feel anything.’ We talked about boundaries. We talked about the roots of these ‘archaic’ fears. She explained that the texts help her understand how my young parts are feeling because they rarely come out in session.
She said, ‘I wonder, do you think your inner critic creates distance between us between the sessions? What does she tell you?’ I said, ‘um… that you’ll find relief in forgetting about me, you don’t want to remember me and if you do then you’re angry that you’ve remembered me… and if I text you maybe you’ll roll your eyes and think for fuck sake can’t I go a few days without thinking of this girl!? I feel like I burden you…’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘do you think I don’t think of you between sessions?’ I said, ‘I know we’ve talked about this before and you’ve said you do think of me, you hold me in mind, but I feel like you’d be really boundaried about how much time you spend thinking about your clients… it’s not the same as how I feel.’ She said, ‘and what is the fantasy…? If I was to think about you through the week…?’ I said, ‘that I’m too much for you and uh…’ she got kind of enthusiastic and said, ‘yes! Go on!’ I said, ‘and um…’ I told her I was feeling spacey so she got me to put both feet on the floor and take a drink of water. I went on, ‘that you’ll suddenly just break and you’ll tell me you can’t do this anymore…’ I then launched in to a long description of my dad and how I would never know how he was feeling until it was too late. That he would seem fine, calm or neutral, then suddenly he’d explode with rage. Then later my mum would come in and tell me that I just was too much for them, I needed to stop being so difficult, that it was my fault they were having so many arguments.’ Anna reached herself forwards into my line of vision and said, ‘it was not your fault Lucy, that was a very unkind thing for her to say. It must have been so frightening to have your dad lose his temper like that?’ I nodded and felt myself falling inside. I told her that I was very good at never showing them how I felt. We talked about that for a bit.
A lot of this session was very dissociated. I struggled to write notes for it. Just bullet points and a paragraph here and there. I delved deeply into some very painful stuff relating to my dad abandoning me, choosing to not help me when I really seriously needed his help… things in my life that lead me to this very strong belief that I am better off on my own, an island. I can have people exist adjacent to me but I must not need them. I love people from a distance. At one point I was explaining something and the preamble to the story went along the lines of me saying that I knew it sounded stupid. She stopped me and told me to be mindful of the criticisms and to not over analyse myself, ‘just speak uncensored’. I laughed and said, ‘do you know me?’ in a jokey way, seeing as over analysing is all I seem to do. She very seriously replied, ‘I really hope so!’ as in, she really hopes she knows me. As I was driving home, something really massive was stirring inside me – this thought kind of blew my mind… this sort of grief – a panicky realisation that she has always been there… she hopes she knows me… she does hope that she knows me. She has sat with me every week for two and a half years… this is the 119th session and we have had some 90 minute sessions and phone calls in addition to all the one hour sessions… all of that time… ALL OF THAT TIME dedicated to her getting to know ME and helping me get to know myself… she has been there trying to reach me every minute of the time we shared (and all of the time outside of our sessions, her reading my texts, her taking our work to supervision, her planning for and reflecting on our sessions)… and for most of it I could not feel her. That’s devastating. The care and connection has been sitting there a metre away from me and I’ve been numb to it. Those thoughts completely floored me.
When I got home I sent her the following text, ‘Sometimes I miss you almost as soon as I’ve walked out the door. I think my adult dominated the session again today. I stood in the way of that young part you were talking about, the one who felt like she could smell mummy on the baby panda. I could have cried when you said that coz it’s exactly how it felt and I’ve been too ashamed to admit it. I could easily have fallen into a deep dissociation every time we went near the topic of how I feel about you. It’s just so painful. I know we’re not planning Tuesday’s session but it’s really important that I let that small part be in the room with you. I think that’s probably the point of it. I want to limit the planning and talking and overthinking to leave space for her. So that she can be there and feel connected to you and not dissociate away from it all. Now I’m going to utilise all my tools in an attempt to not obsess about all of this in my head for the next three days. Thank you Anna, for understanding. I really felt today that you do. That’s so important to me.’
I knew I only had to wait until Tuesday before I would see her again… three days wait – easy!