Some of this was uploaded a couple of post ago.
I made a point of asking for a hug as soon as I went in which she gave me. The room smelled lovely. I imagined maybe she’d sprayed her perfume before my session. I’m the first client on Saturday morning so I’ve often been curious about how she preps before her working morning and wondered if I’m at the front of her mind being her first session.
I sat down and we smiled at each other. I told her, ‘so the perfume… the past few days I’ve felt so connected and secure and like sure of things… and I’ve slept better than I’ve ever slept! And every time I walk into my bedroom I can smell it and it’s just felt so nice.’ She was smiling and said, ‘I was wondering how it had gone with the perfume,’ I talked a bit more about it and then I started to doubt things, she had a straight face and I paused and felt unsettled and said, ‘are you annoyed?’ she looked surprised and said, ‘no, not at all, I’m just listening.’ I said, ‘now it all feels different… like I shouldn’t have talked about it coz it doesn’t feel as good anymore…’ Anna said, ‘can you say more about that?’ I said, ‘it just always feels really risky to talk about good things, meaningful things…’ she was making loud agreeing noises. I said, ‘the perfume thing has been so meaningful, there were no critical thoughts about it… I just felt really connected to you all the time, I’ve been amazed when I think about it. I really sent that text, you really read it and put the perfume in your bag, you were really actually okay with me spraying it on the bears! Like, wow! Nothing else has felt that secure… with other things like the blue heart stone which I do still carry with me and is very meaningful, the inner critic has a field day with that one.’ She asked me what the inner critic says about it and I was like, ‘wow we’re really just launching into this?’ Anna checked I was okay with that and asked if I had something else I’d planned on talking about. I said I had thought of something but changed my mind so I was fine with this. She said, ‘these are very important topics – this is what we are here for – to work with the inner critic, take her power… for as long as the voice stays inside it controls you and destroys things… if you talk about it you take the power back.’ I was nodding and taking my shoes off and getting comfy, spread my scarf over my knees… ‘okay…’ big breath… ‘I just don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad, I don’t want to criticise this nice thing you did.’ Anna said, ‘remember we talked about this at the end of the last session, you don’t need to worry about me, I’m okay, don’t worry about hurting me, please.’
So I began, ‘well… right from the start when you pulled the wee bag out your pocket the voice piped up saying it’s just a technique, just a therapy trick, ‘how many other clients have had a stone out that bag, it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a token gesture, there’s nothing special about this, you’re making this a bigger thing than it really is, she doesn’t give a shit about this…’ you know, just making it really like clinical and cold and formal.’ Anna said, ‘and that’s happened before hasn’t it, that feeling…’ I nodded and told her that the perfume didn’t feel like that. It felt genuine, ‘but now I’ve talked about it I feel like I’ve spoiled it…’ Anna said, ‘yeah it feels like if you say it out loud it might be ridiculed or belittled…’ I was like YES! But then I started feeling fuzzy and I said ‘I’m just so sick of the critical voice and I want the wall to go away.’ Anna nodded and said, ‘but I hope that what you took from that part of the session about the glass wall that…’ I interrupted and smiled widely and said to her, ‘you beautifully reframed it Anna, that it’s good it’s glass because we can see each other and maybe it’s actually a glass door that can be opened if I want…’ she smiled and nodded. I said, ‘and yeah I remember when I first started talking about the wall, it was brick. Then it was a blind that could be put up and down… so yeah it is better now… but I still wish it wasn’t there because it stops me from feeling connected to people in my life like with the kids… everyone’ Anna asked me how the connection felt right now and I couldn’t figure it out. She encouraged me to take my time and then I eventually said, ‘it’s not that strong. I know you’re there but I don’t really feel it. I know I said last time that it’s a bit like you’re a figment of my imagination… I think I just always feel alone even when people are with me…’ she asked me what would help the connection and I said, ‘I really want a hug but then I just think that’s weird…’ she asked what hugging does that helps me and I said, ‘it really calms me down and the touch and closeness feels comforting and it really helps that I can smell you… I don’t know I feel like that sounds weird but it does help… it also helps when I look at you but that’s hard sometimes.’ Anna asked me if I feel more connected to her when she sits beside me and I said, ‘yes, I really like when you sit beside me but then I also have this stupid inner critic going on about how you probably hate sitting next to me and maybe it hurts your back having to sit there and turn to face me and maybe you like sitting where you are now…’ she said, ‘you don’t need to care for me, I’m okay… I do wonder though because when I sit beside you, you can’t see me, I wonder if that impacts your connection?’ I said, ‘actually I think it helps because it’s not so intense, I can sense you’re there without feeling the intensity of being so visible and I can choose to look at you if I want to,’ she said, ‘shall I come over then?’ I nodded.
She pushed the chair next to mine and sat down and I said, ‘I can smell you.’ I closed my eyes and said, ‘it really is so comforting… I don’t know, that’s fucking bizarre I mean that’s not normal to tell someone you like being able to smell them!’ I laughed and she didn’t. She said, ‘let’s think about what you just said there,’ I said, ‘hmmm that I’m a fucking weirdo..?’ she said, ‘smell is so important. You just told me that you have felt really settled and calm this week and that smelling the perfume on Luna has helped you sleep well and feel secure in our connection. A lot of this work we’re doing is preverbal… there are no words for so much of it. Smell is so important and if that very small preverbal part of you needs to smell me to feel like she is not alone and that she is safe then that’s a really good thing. It’s not for us to question and pull it apart or criticise it and so what if Jimmy down the road wouldn’t understand why you hold a stuffed panda for comfort or why you feel more settled when you smell me, who cares what anyone else thinks, we are doing deep healing work here and this is just you and me here and everything and anything that works to help you through this is a good thing… is this making sense?’ I was actually looking intently at her in her eyes and felt very very acutely present and was so aware of the truth in what she was saying. Usually when she says stuff like this I feel shamey and I can hear the inner critic having a field day but it was just quiet listening in my head which was amazing. For the first time it was just complete attention and presence in that moment with her.
I said, ‘Sometimes I imagine there’s this really horrible angry side to you that I’ve not met yet and it’s only a matter of time before I do something that’s going to trigger it and you’ll terrify me with it… I can imagine your face as clear as day in my minds eye, angry and twisted…’ Anna looked really intrigued and smiled and said, ‘and that’s what you experienced with your mum and dad?’ I said, ‘yup…’ she said, ‘so you would feel that everything was fine and then suddenly rage or shaming or verbal attack or…’ I said, ‘yeah I never knew what was coming.’ She said, ‘so what would you do to protect yourself?’ I said, ‘I never let on how I was feeling, I just would be very careful what I was saying and if everything went bad I just would go inside myself or hide in my room…’ Anna said, ‘so it makes complete sense that you would expect that from me, that you’d be careful about what you say to me and you’d be watching me very closely like you must have had to watch your parents, studied their faces and behaviours to try to predict an outburst.’
I wanted her to hug me so much but I just sat looking at every detail of her. Her hands, the stitching on her jeans. She said, ‘you didn’t have anyone paying attention to you and how you were feeling… and I know that with Grace you will listen to her. You see if she is sad and you say ‘you look sad; and you’d let her speak.’ We talked more about that and I shared an example of exactly that happening earlier in the week.
I then started talking about my mother. I told Anna about how my mum has no boundaries. That with her there’s a fine line between having a normal conversation and one that involves way too much oversharing and feels very uncomfortable or one where I am meeting her emotional needs.
I said, ‘and when I was younger, whenever I talked to her, opened up about anything, she would always go and tell other people. There was nothing that was ever just between the two of us. So I don’t even know what it feels like to just have an intimate conversation and just feel like there’s the two of us, it always felt like there was this large network of people behind her… any time I talked to her I had to consider, would I want to share this with the whole world? And so I just found myself frozen in this place where I deeply needed to talk or connect but couldn’t because I didn’t want what she offered. I am such a private person,’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘understandably!’ I continued, ‘and she betrayed me every single time. Even if I said to her ‘please don’t tell anybody this’ that would be the first thing she would do… I’d hear her on the phone or she’d tell her friends or my dad or whatever…’ I took an enormous breath and then continued, ‘so with you, especially in the first like year or maybe two or maybe still a bit now, whenever I tell you anything I’m constantly imagining how you would go and tell someone else… even if it’s just your supervisor or your therapist or training events or whatever, I’m so aware of this sense that it’s not just you and me… and I know you are so not like her in any way but it’s just that nothing feels private… I think that’s what the tape recorder was about, and your note taking, it felt like that was a portal to everyone in the world, like anyone could listen to this…’ Anna said, ‘okay yes I really understand that, hmm I really understand that Lucy okay… so how does it feel that I’m using our work in the case study?’ I said, ‘yeah I’ve thought about it and it feels okay, it’s different, it feels like a considered, careful thing… I know you’re not like her but talking is more like gossipy, writing it in your paper is professional and still feels like it’s between you and me…’ she nodded and looked like she really wanted to know if I was definitely okay with it. She sat in thought for a bit.
I said, ‘it’s weird, I didn’t plan on talking about this…’ she said, ‘that’s exactly what you wanted, sessions where you didn’t plan what you were going to talk about and you didn’t even plan to not plan this it just happened.’ I made a wow expression. I said, ‘the perfume thing directly relates to mum. She was always going out at night and used to give my brother one of her tops with her perfume on it to help him sleep and I really longed for that but I wouldn’t ask so I would sneak it, I’d take it from her drawer you know, like having to steal these crumbs of love from her…’ Anna said, ‘why wouldn’t she give you a top?’ I said ‘I just don’t think she saw me as a child. I don’t think I ever asked, maybe I knew she’d say no and the rejection was too painful.’ Anna talked about this innate sense I had that she wouldn’t give me what I needed, that this comes from learning these lessons very early on, ‘it’s a preverbal knowing’. She said, ‘despite knowing that she would turn you away, you still craved the closeness. No wonder you have these moments of frozen stuckness when you want to be close to me and also you don’t. You want connection but you anticipate rejection. You learned to find ways to feel connected from a safe distance.’ I said, ‘Exactly! I had a lot of nightmares but I knew I couldn’t wake her. I would crawl silently into their bedroom and go to sleep under her side of the bed.’ Anna said, ‘oh Lucy,’ in a heartfelt way, ‘Did you ever wake her? Would you have wanted her to let you in her bed?’ I started to say, ‘I think yes but also no, um it felt weird to be close to her,’ Anna asked me to explain ‘weird’ further and I started to feel floaty. I told her I felt spacey and she encouraged me to ground myself. I put my head in my hands and tried to breath, took a drink of water. Told her I didn’t have words for it. Told her it felt yucky and that I didn’t want her to touch me. ‘I didn’t want to feel our bodies touching. It never felt like a motherly touch, it felt bad inside. She didn’t know how to touch me the way a mother touches her child.’ Anna asked if I had a sense of what it felt like to imagine being in her bed next to her body and I whispered, ‘not safe…’ We sat for a moment and I started to feel spacey. I closed my eyes and continued, ‘I didn’t want to feel her body. I didn’t want her to feel me. It felt sexual or something… I don’t even know… I think because she didn’t even want to sit next to me in the day time let alone have me in bed with her. There was no closeness… she didn’t hold my hand… there just wasn’t a safe intimacy with her…’
Anna said, ‘So earlier you described it as a sexual feeling shall we go back, to that can you explain that further?’ I felt myself flush with shame and my heart pound. I couldn’t look at her and I said, ‘I don’t even know why I used that word it just came out… um it just felt too close… she made things weird… she would sometimes… um well when I hug my kids I know to not touch them in certain places I just will maybe put my hand on their backs or something. I don’t know. There aren’t even words it just didn’t feel safe I don’t like it I don’t like it.’ Anna said, ‘Perhaps it’s because she talked to you about sex and her sex life with your dad and others, maybe it put those images in your head and because you were so young and it wasn’t age appropriate it confused things in your mind?’ I nodded and thought about it. We talked a bit more about this and at one point I said I could hear the voice daying that I was making a big deal out of nothing. Anna said, ‘hmmm and what do we say to that voice?’ and I said, ‘fuck off.’ And laughed. She said, ‘good, well done… a little louder?’ and I said louder, ‘FUCK OFF!’ we both laughed.
At one point we were talking about something that happened between myself, a friend and my mother. I couldn’t continue with the memory. I described it as if I was watching an old VHS that suddenly got jammed in the machine and now it was just grey and black fuzzy lines and white noise. I let out a gasp of frustration and told her I was really angry with myself. She asked me to stay with the feeling that was behind the anger. So I sat there in it. I fumbled and scrambled around for ways to describe what it felt like. Anna reminded me, ‘it doesn’t need to be sentences, it doesn’t need to make sense. Anything that comes up for you – words, senses. And so a garbled mess tumbled out. ‘its like humiliated but from inside me… shame? Like I’m rotten inside? Dirty… I’m ashamed… but.., but why am I ashamed?’ Anna said, ‘yes, it was never your shame to hold… earlier you described her as shameless. She was shameless Lucy because she made you carry it all. That’s the blackness inside you, it’s her shame.’ I said, ‘but I had to, it was the only way I could make her love me.’ Anna said, ‘she betrayed you massively Lucy. You were a child. You had no choice. It was not your fault. What you did and how you adapted was exactly what you needed to do to survive.’ There was quite a lot of quiet and we were coming to the end of the session and Anna said with a really peaceful open expression, ‘I am so proud of that young part who just told me all of that, I want her to listen as I say this… I understand. I know that it felt scary and she had to stop. That’s okay. I’m glad she stopped when it started to feel unsafe. It’s okay that she don’t trust me. I’m not going to force her to do anything she doesn’t want to do and I’m not going to try make her trust me. You will keep bringing her here and I will be here with you, I’m not going anywhere. Slowly I believe she will feel like she can trust me but I’m in no rush. And if she feels like she wants to test me – THATS OKAY! I really want her to hear that. It’s okay for her to test me in any way she feels she wants to!’ It seriously felt amazing to hear that.
Anna told me to remember to use my pandas in the days after the session. She said she felt that what was brought up today might be quite intense for me. She told me that if I have thoughts about her judging me for what I told her that I have to bat those thoughts away, that they’re the inner critic trying to drive a wedge between us. She told me that she was proud of me. She said, ‘you might find that different needs are met by each of your pandas… so you have Luna, Baby and Suki,’ she looked at me and I smiled, it’s so cool she remembers their names and makes a point of calling them by their names even when I am too ashamed to. She continued, ‘so you may find that you can keep Suki in your handbag for when you’re at work and if you’re not able to take her out, just putting your hand in your bag and feeling him might be enough to settle you, maybe the smell of my perfume on your hand would help…’ (I already do this, it blows my mind how she knows me and it makes me wonder if she has experienced this process from where I’m sitting)… ‘you might find that Baby is there for those pre-verbal moments when there are no words… maybe Luna is there for every day connection, for bedtime… you’ll really get to know yourself through getting to know them…’ I said that was exactly what I’ve been experiencing. I said, ‘when I come home from work, Luna and Baby are sitting on the wee chair in my room and I smile when I see them, it’s like they are my inner child and I am actually glad to see her…’ Anna said, ‘which is so great to hear because not long ago you didn’t want anything to do with her, you didn’t even want her in this room.’ I nodded and said, ‘I feel so bad about that, how rejecting and punishing I was of her… when she’d done nothing wrong.’ Anna pressed her lips together and nodded with sad eyes. She said, ‘that was very important to feel and work through and it might come back now and then but you are feeling something for her you’ve never felt before, your heart is opening to her… it’s very powerful. You are doing so well Lucy. I know how hard this is.’
I thought about the fact that I feel a responsibility for my inner child/ren now and that makes it very hard to imagine ever hurting myself again because it would be like inflicting pain onto a child which I could never do… and just now I’m thinking, that’s what I do when I let the inner critic win, I’m letting someone viciously bully this defenceless child. But there’s a shakiness in admitting this outloud. I didn’t tell Anna of that thought because I’m frightened of what my mother used to say… ‘pride before a fall’… I don’t want to foolishly say I can’t imagine ever self harming again only to then have the floor fall from beneath me as I’m triggered into hurting myself again. I guess that is the not linear part of healing.
While we were hugging (and I properly had my face buried in that space between her shoulder and her neck) she said, ‘you’re doing so well Lucy.’ I said, ‘thank you so much for letting me have these hugs.’ She said, ‘you’re so welcome Lucy.’