I’m not really sure how to write about this. I guess I haven’t written a post like this in a while… one where I don’t have ‘all the answers figured out’ and haven’t processed it in therapy yet. But that’s the point, I haven’t processed this yet and I feel in a bit of a weird space about it all. I feel a need to write and share, so here it is. Any encouragement gratefully received.
We’ve been working through one of the most painful parts of my childhood that just kind of felt like a shadow of a memory but it’s slowly coming to the surface before my very eyes – like the separating of oil and water… I can’t mix it back into the dissociative fog no matter how hard I try. It’s right there pulling on my sleeve day and night.
I can’t really put into words here just now exactly what it is because it is so unprocessed and raw. It involves sexual stuff and my mother. This subject has lingered in the background and I always expertly minimised it and invalidated any feelings I might momentarily have felt. I have been unable to share or work on it with anyone. I can’t remember exactly how it came into the therapy room with Mark but it started a couple of months ago. We moved into a deeper layer of the work, we started doing more work on the developmental trauma, the stuff around what life was like when my mother was pregnant with me and what I know to have been my experience when I was born and the first few days, weeks, months and years of my life. A lot of body stuff was coming up and I didn’t always have words for it but amazingly it felt like we were really getting somewhere. There was a lot of temperature changes through my body and shaking showing me that I was processing and discharging stored traumatic energy. Then the other stuff started creeping in… as if I’d worked through a layer and we were stepping down further. And the shame was like a thick black plume of smoke that emanated from my pores and filled the room and I was so scared it would suffocate him or make him scared to stay close to me. I spent many in-person sessions with my hood up, curled in a ball, tolerating more and more contact with the shame being ever present. It really is quite remarkable how Mark is able to so slowly and gently help me feel safe with him, with myself. He is so very patient.
Last Monday my anger surfaced. And with it a huge gust of dissociation. We rode the waves together, the foggy dissociation slowing us down for respite between the crashing waves of anger. I attempted to tell him something specific related to sex and my mother and slipped into a very young space. Listening back to the recording is hard, my voice goes so quiet and shaky and I can hear Mark reassuring me in a quiet, gentle voice, ‘This is such important territory for you but it feels so yucky doesn’t it?’ I made an agreeing noise and managed to tell him I was scared he could see me through her eyes. He gently asked me what he might see, if he were to see me through her eyes, though he assured me he wasn’t seeing me through her eyes. I said he’d know how disgusting I am. We felt around the body energy of that, as much as I could bear, and I shared my fear that he’s going to want to stop talking to me. I told him that I felt like she broke something inside me that was meant to be innocent and pure and still there and it’s not there anymore because she broke it and I was crying so hard at that point and I have never felt so held. He was repeating, ‘it’s okay,’ with the most soft tone. With emotion in his voice he said, ‘just offering you so much support now Lucy, I’m right here with you in this… and I am not disgusted by you… you were a wonderful little girl, a beautiful, bright, clever, adaptive, creative person… your mother couldn’t see it, couldn’t celebrate it, but we can see it and hold it together… you so weren’t given what you needed… starved of what you needed.’ With any kindness, praise and love, comes more shame and a tightening and resistance and so then he guides me to slowly let a little of it in. Towards the end of the session I said I felt raw and exposed and I was scared he hates me now, after what I told him. He reassured me, ‘I absolutely don’t hate you and I love working with you and I love the work we’re doing together, painful though it is. And in no way am I disgusted. I am moved by your courage in opening this up given the amount of disgust and shame you feel towards the part of you that went through this with her. And it’s good that we’re lifting the repression off this, a little piece at a time and then you’ll be free of it in time, it won’t be all locked up inside you forever.’
Between sessions I’ve felt such an intense need to be close to Mark. I know he won’t reply at length to any messages but every so often the need for contact becomes unbearable and at some point I sent a message asking for more time. He offered me a 90 minute session which gave such relief, just having it to ‘look forward to’ helped the neediness and longing quieten down. In that session I was able to open up another very painful wound and we’ve touched on it a couple of times since. Then on Monday, for some reason it was like the gatekeeper just went ‘whatever’ and threw open the door and I ended up telling him a handful of things I’d never told anyone before. Some of it was horrifically embarrassing but I just seemed to be on a roll. It helped, I felt liberated and validated as he told me how awful it was, all of it. Then on Tuesday I listened back to the session and was so triggered with the guilt from ‘telling on her’ and shame about him knowing what he now knew, that I almost cut myself for the first time in longer than I can remember. In my head I could hear, ‘but I love her so much’ going over and over. It was agonising, this conflict between the anger and rage about what she did and what she took from me contrasting with the pure unfiltered child love I had for her. I haven’t felt a love for her in decades. I emailed Mark in complete distress, crying my eyes out, telling him how guilty I felt and he replied with a very connecting and reassuring reminder that he will be there to help me with it all next session.
That next session was yesterday. I talked of my guilt around everything I told him. I told him I felt so bad telling him all those things about her, the worst parts of her… I then took a step deeper into the murky waters and said, ‘but I feel like it reflects on me in some sort of merged way… I mean, I was there too… like I was complicit, I feel ashamed as if it was me… I didn’t refuse to get in her car, I didn’t tell her to stop…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘you were a child,’ slowly, twice, which made me completely leave my body. When I was eventually able to speak again (after a lot of careful connecting grounding from Mark), he asked me where I’d gone and I told him that what he said to me felt like the most humiliating, insulting thing anyone could say to me… it felt exposing. ‘Like two people dueling and one person knocks the sword from the other persons hand… you disarmed me and I felt totally vulnerable and unprotected and so I left my body.’ Mark said, ‘I rather aggressively knocked your sword from your hand, without your consent, I’m sorry I did that… are you in touch with how you felt towards me when I did that? When I humiliated you like that?’ I told him I didn’t feel anything towards him I was just aware of feeling threatened by him. He said, ‘I don’t want to put words to your experience but if someone says something to me that feels humiliating or threatening, I’m going to have difficult feelings towards them, and I want you to know you can have difficult feelings towards me, I want you to express it all towards me.’ Eventually, after he repeated, ‘you were a child,’ a few more times I could finally feel the heat of it and not dissociate. I told him I felt anger towards him. He said, ‘Anger, yes well done, good, yes… anger… really happy to hold your anger with you Lucy… can you let the anger come forward towards me? Let it be felt and take up space?’ I said, ‘I didn’t want to be a child!’ and he said, ‘wow… yes… you were a child and you didn’t want to be a child, and me pointing out to you that you were a child rubbed salt in that wound.’ I told him I wanted to be bigger and stronger and that I didn’t want to be weak. That it made me feel helpless.’ he asked if there was any spaciness around the helplessness and I said a little. I said I needed to be more grown up and leave the child behind. He said, ‘When you were a child you wanted to be somewhere else in yourself, you wanted to be something else, hard for you to own your child in a sense, understandably. There’s the vulnerable child underneath the protector part… your young part… you had to grow up above it, with your sword. You found ways of looking after that vulnerability, you needed to do that back then. And I’d hope over time you wouldn’t need to do it with me so much.’ and then the connection cut out and we lost each other with just a few minutes to go. A minute later he phoned me and made sure I was feeling okay before ending the call. He then replied to a panicked email from me reassuring me that we were ‘okay’ and that I’d see him Monday.
And so here I am with anger and shame and guilt and grief and love with nowhere to go and longing and everything else in the mix. I’ve been going over things this afternoon and I know what’s coming… I just can’t imagine saying it all to him. How the fuck do I say all these words to him? I remember trying to explain to him why I feel I can’t say in words to him what I know I need to say… I don’t want to make him feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to say gross, crass, vulgar words to him that I would never say conversationally to anyone. He asked me what I think might happen if I make him uncomfortable and I said he would want to stop working with me. It always comes back to being left. I’m scared to make him uncomfortable. I’m scared he’ll think I’m just like my mother. Vulgar and hyper-sexual and seductive and abusive and completely inconsiderate of other people’s feelings. I’ve also realised today that I’m scared I’ll become aware of his sexuality when I bring more of this stuff into the room. I really feel in my bones that I’m safe with him but I also know he isn’t a robot. He is a heterosexual man… and I can’t bear to think of him like that. How can I talk about body parts and sex acts to him when he is a grown man who has experience with these things and I am a grown woman who in my adult life has also had experience with it all but I’m not talking from my adult mind… I’m talking from my child heart space and arghhhhh I can hardly cope with the intensity of it all. But the truth is I couldn’t come close to any of this with Anna. Because although I have been hurt, sexually, by men… but I was hurt more by my mother. I could never tell Anna any of that because she is a woman and to my child, women = abuse, it complicated things so much. I have never trusted someone the way I trust Mark. I’m just so scared of what’s to come. I know that the way forward is going to be telling him that I feel like this before going any further but it’s just so yucky and painful and gross and terrifying! And even posting this feels scary because it’s vulnerable and doesn’t feel ‘finished’… help!