Soothing the inner child and repairing ruptures

Another 90 minute session…

I spent an hour last night going over my notes and trying to figure out what I felt about the past week and how I felt about the session. I decided I would read my notes to Anna word for word. She has said in the past that it’s a good idea to write how I’m feeling in the moment and then bring it to session so that’s what I did. I was sure I wasn’t going to hug her on arrival today, I just wanted to go in and talk immediately about how I’d been feeling.

I was fairly nervous beforehand but also a bit of teen anger coming through, I felt the bravery to stick to what I wanted to talk about. I walked in and went straight to my chair, dumped my stuff and went to go to the toilet. She stopped me on the way out and said, ‘Do you want a hug?’ in a kind way but also in an I know stuff has gone on this week so you might not want a hug kind of way. I melted and went straight into her arms. Big breath out. She said, ‘it’s great to see you!’ and I said (while still hugging), ‘you might not still feel that in half an hour!’ she said ‘okay’ and I left for the toilet. When I came back in I said, ‘I don’t know why I said that, sorry…’ and smiled. She said, ‘maybe because that’s how you felt… so maybe we should start there?’ (I’m only just realising that me saying that clearly shows that a part of me feels that if I tell her I’m not happy about something she’s going to wish I hadn’t come and that she’ll want to stop working with me… broken record!) She said, ‘I do want to say sorry for having to cancel the session on Tuesday. There was a situation… I wasn’t able to work and I know it will have been really disappointing for you. I’m sorry.’

I said, ‘yeah it was hard, I was sort of okay with the cancelled session because I was so emotionally exhausted and have been sleeping a lot because I’m so tired but it was such a hard week and I was really badly triggered and I just felt very overwhelmed and alone and…’ Anna said, ‘what did you need?’ I flipped to a very stroppy teen feeling, arms folded, legs crossed at the ankle, staring at the floor I snapped, ‘a fucking phone call perhaps… like you said I could have when I need it… that might have helped!’ there was silence, heart pounding. I looked up at her eventually through my eyebrows and she looked very serious and said, ‘I’m sorry I wasn’t able to speak with you. I was unavailable all of Thursday and then Friday I was away from home.’ I looked back at the floor.

She sort of checked that I was doing okay and then continued, ‘I know this is really hard but I think it’s important that you know, I did not want to cancel your session, it was unavoidable, I was sad about it too. My whole week was turned upside down and there was no set time that I could be certain I would be able to give you the holding space you needed.’ I said, ‘why ask if it could wait then? Why tell me you were busy and couldn’t speak and then ask if it could wait?’ she said, ‘I thought that the contact in a text might be connecting enough, then asking if you were able to wait until Saturday was an attempt to get your adult on board…’ I said, ‘well what would you have done if I’d said no, that it couldn’t wait?’ she said, ‘I would have tried hard to find a time for you but I trusted what you were saying to me, that it could wait.’ I said, ‘well you didn’t really leave me any choice… it’s really fucking hard for me to ask you know, do you know how hard it is for me to ask for what I need? (she nodded) … and I built myself up all day to ask you and then when I asked you gave me excuses about why we couldn’t speak then as an afterthought asked if it could wait… if I’d said no and you had phoned me, I’d have had to then prove to you it was that important for a phone call… of course it can fucking wait coz look, here I am, I’m alive, but it was pure agony getting to here.’ Then I switched to feeling more adult and caring and said, ‘but you know, my heart aches for you and what you may have been going through this week… this is such a fucking unusual relationship… if I knew you outside of this room I would know what was going on in your life and I would care and take an interest and I wouldn’t harp on about my shit, I wouldn’t be trying to make you feel guilty for prioritising your family over your work, of course family is at the top of the list… but also I know this is my therapy, this time is mine and that it’s not my job to care about you but I really do and I’m sorry you’ve had a challenging week and I do really care…’

Anna said, ‘Lucy, yes this is your therapy and it is your space to explore exactly how you feel about what happened this week. I really am sorry I wasn’t able to speak with you on the phone. I did wrestle with it but there wasn’t a way to make it work, I considered it very carefully and I did hold you in mind.’ I was still angry and sitting there thinking, what use is it to me that you held me in mind? But also I’m grateful that she said that and I do believe her.

Anna said, ‘This past year has not been great, lots of cancelled sessions, which is unfortunate. They have all been unavoidable and although I know your adult believes me when I tell you there are legitimate reasons for the cancelations, your frightened untrusting child part does not believe me… does that sound right?’ I said, ‘Yes… I just think you shouldn’t offer things you can’t follow through on. I know I sound like a fucking petulant child and life’s not that black and white, but we should just say no phone calls, no texts… don’t tell me I can have something and then not let me have it. It’s so disappointing and just so mortifying to ask for something and not be given it. It made me feel so much worse. It was so stupid to ask for it in the first place, I knew how risky it was, I knew there was a 50/50 chance you’d say no and you did and then I felt so much worse!’

Anna was nodding and said, ‘if that’s what you want then we can contract for no calls and no texts but I want you to know that it is still okay by me for you to text me and for you to ask for phone calls. I may not always be able to give you what you’re asking for or you may need to wait a day but I don’t have a problem with you asking. This week was unusual circumstances but if I can, I will happily give you a call… and this is so important, that we talk about this, how it feels, how you feel… well done for telling me all of this because it can’t have been easy.’ I nodded.

There was a bit of a silence and she asked, ‘how is all this feeling so far?’ I said, ‘um… can we rearrange the room a bit?… can you sit next to me?’ she smiled and got up and moved things round a bit and sat right beside me. I shuffled around and told her I hate these chairs. They’re too small, I can’t get cosy. I curled my legs round and turned to face her.

I told her that I felt like there were two conflicting feelings inside me. On the one hand I knew that she would never cancel my session for no reason and that I should give her a break but the other feeling is that I want to go on and on at her for going against what she had said and that it was really shit for me and I don’t know how to cope with both conflicting feelings. She said, ‘that’s really normal Lucy, to feel like that, it makes sense… that’s your adult and your child… you care about me and also you are hurting. You being upset about what happened doesn’t detract from you caring about me and hoping I’m okay… equally me having a valid reason for not being able to speak to you on the phone doesn’t mean you don’t have every right to be hurt and disappointed by that.’ I tried to get my head around that one. I said it felt very black and white in my mind and I was struggling to hold both ‘truths’. She said that made sense to her and that it would get easier as the parts of myself become less fragmented.

At one point we talked about trust, again. I said I couldn’t trust anyone and she asked what would happen if I trusted people. I said I would get hurt. That you’d have to be a fool to trust people, people just let you down. They never do what they say they’ll do… Anna said, ‘I understand why you would feel like that and I understand that words are really important. Especially with you because words were always so meaningless when you were growing up. People would say one thing and do another, people would ignore what you had to say, people would lie… of course you feel like shouting at me, ‘don’t offer something if you can’t follow through!’ you feel like I told you that you could ask for a call and then when you did ask I said no… but what I would say is, when we are hurt the tendency is to assume everyone will hurt us, we close ourselves off to people and don’t give them the opportunity to show us care and love and to meet our needs. It takes bravery to be open and to trust, to try again. By being brave enough to tell me how I let you down, you’ve given me the opportunity to sit with your feelings and to apologise for my actions that caused them. To explain to you a bit about why I did what I did that let you down and let you know that I didn’t want to let you down and that it made me sad too. Does that make sense?’ I told her it did and I thanked her for telling me. I was feeling quite quiet and like I was sinking inside myself.

I got my journal out of my bag and said, ‘I feel like I need to just read this to you.’ Anna asked if I can remember without reading it (she has explained before that in the past I have used reading off my notes as a way to block the emotions). I said, ‘but I feel likeif I just say it to you now I will recall it from this adult place, like filter it through a place where I feel fine and you know, it’s nice to sit with you and I just want to be nice to you and keep everything calm and close and connected but really a lot went on and I need to maybe share it from the words I came up with at the time…’ Anna agreed that was a really good idea but then I started talking about something else and annoyingly didn’t really go fully back into the journal notes.

A bit later I tried to bring things back to talking about the week. I had a look in my journal and reminded myself of the couple of things that had triggered me earlier in the week. I described the situation with my husband that had triggered me. That it had immediately thrown me back to a very vulnerable place. ‘My whole body felt filled with emotions, totally overwhelmed, like a flashback – I didn’t feel like me ‘today’ I feltlike I was right back then.’ Anna asked if things are the same nowadays and I said, ‘it’s totally different now, nothing is the same as it was back then… it’s not like that now at all.’ Anna said, ‘so this is really important, you were triggered into the part of you that can’t hold on to what things are like now. The child part who is still trapped back then. So things are different now but when you were triggered you could no longer remember how good things are now with him. The overwhelming feeling you get when you’re triggered, that child place you go to, it’s important than you find a way to soothe yourself in that moment and help that part be aware that she is not vulnerable anymore, she is strong and safe…’ she said something about remembering that those feelings are not about ‘now’ they’re about ‘then’. I think I got a bit spacey then because I can’t remember what we said.

We talked a bit more about where the sensations were in my body when I was triggered and she asked me if I kept myself safe despite having these massive overwhelming feelings. I reluctantly said I had kept myself safe and she said, ‘well done Lucy, I know how hard that must have been, I’m so pleased you looked after yourself, well done.’ I hate this whole interaction, we’ve done this dance before. It doesn’t satisfy the part of me that was desperate to hurt myself. It just feels not as holding or something. She is trying to be supportive and encouraging but I just want to tell her how desperately close I was to pushing that blade through my skin. But I started to feel weird, my legs were going tingly and I needed to move around a bit.

At one point I talked about having coffee with my friend and how she had questioned why I struggle to trust Anna and I gave her an analogy that if you were repeatedly hit over the head with a mallet by someone you lived with as a child then when you grow up, anyone holding a mallet standing next to you would make you flinch… I told my friend that Anna triggers these transferencial feelings in me, something inside me is certain she will hurt me like my mum did. Anna nodded and agreed and explained a bit further to me why she works with transference in attachment based cases. That it is so valuable to be able to work with the therapeutic relationship as it is in the room. She wondered aloud if maybe my friend hasn’t gone that deep in her own therapy and that’s perhaps why she doesn’t understand why I am experiencing things this way. I said, ‘she just isn’t as crazy as me, she doesn’t have the same mad attachment stuff with her therapist that I do.’ Anna said, ‘okay so let’s pause and I’d invite you to say that again but without the criticism and instead with feelings…’ I rolled my eyes, spent ages thinking then said I couldn’t do it.

After a bit more patient coaching I said, ‘she does the work with her therapist within that hour and then doesn’t think about it through the week whereas I do the work and I carry it with me every minute of the day and I think about you a lot…’ Anna said, ‘because’ and I said, ‘because maybe that’s the kind of relationship we have..?’ in a questioning tone. Anna said, ‘what kind of relationship do we have?’ there was a silence and then she said, ‘I want you to know that I feel a pull to answer for you but it’s really important for you to answer this yourself, in your own words… for you to hear it.’ I said, ‘hear it from you?’ and she said, ‘no hear yourself say it.’ I said, ‘but I hear myself say it over and over in my fucking head all the time…’ she said, ‘it’s important that all parts of you hear yourself say it out loud.’ I said, ‘well… it’s not the relationship is it really, it’s not you it’s all me, it’s just what I feel about you,’ she said (still ever so patiently), ‘how do you feel about me?’ I said, ‘this is fucking humiliating, are you really going to make me say this?’ she said, ‘yes, it’s important, this is where you lose me… in the shame and pain of how you feel about me… your inner critic pushes your child to a place of abandonment…’ I couldn’t bring myself to say it fully, I just said, ‘I care a lot about you, I think about you a lot, it means a lot to me, what we do here… I like you and… I don’t know…’ Anna said, ‘and it’s important, you’re doing really deep work here and it has an impact on both of us, this work, we’re both learning from each other. Not everyone is up for this kind of work… I’m wondering if it’s unhelpful for you to speak with your friend about your sessions? It’s important that you choose carefully who you share with because what we don’t want is for you to have this delicate, precious thing that’s important to you and then someone questions it and you’re left thinking is it as I remember? Maybe I imagined it. Maybe we don’t work this closely with each other. Maybe I shouldn’t feel this way… you see what I mean? We start to gaslight ourselves, because that’s what we’re used to.’ That all made total sense to me and I told her I’d planned on not going into details with this particular friend about my therapy in the future.

She then said, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about you and how painful it is for you when you are in that very young triggered place and you no longer feel any connection to me. You completely lose me. It’s as if I don’t exist to you… does that sounds right?’ I nodded, hiding most of my face behind my scarf. She continued, ‘I understand that. I’ve been thinking about how we can work together to help you feel connected to me in those times.’ She started delving into her pocket and said, ‘I know you look at my photo sometimes and that helps you feel connected to me… does that still work for you?’ I said it did and I commented that I’d noticed they changed her photo on the website and I liked it. She smiled and said, ‘I was wondering if this would help as well. I have these stones (she pulled out a black pouch), I thought perhaps you’d like to have a look at them and if you wanted to choose one you could take it away with you. When you’re feeling in that dark, vulnerable, overwhelmed state maybe you could hold the stone and it might remind you that I exist, I’m here, I care, I hold you in mind, this is real, we are connected and I will be there to support you at our next session. What do you think?’ I just looked at her face and down at the stones in their little black pouch and back again kind of in disbelief.

She poured the stones out onto the palm of her hand. About 5 heart shaped glass stones, all different colours. The inner critic chimed in immediately, ‘how many other clients has she offered one of these to? Did she get that pouch of stones from a generic ‘therapist toolbox’ course… are they personally hers or is this just some technique she does with clients like me!?’ Another part wanted to cry and hug Anna and thank her… I think I did thank her out loud for thinking of me and trying to show she cares. I said, ‘I wanted to ask you about the possibility of using a transitional object over a year ago but couldn’t pluck up the courage for the inevitable rejection… fuck sake!’ Anna smiled and said, ‘why fuck sake?’ I said, ‘it’s like the hugs… I’ve deprived myself of something I could have had, if only I’d asked!’ She said, ‘aw but you weren’t ready then, you’re ready now. We know each other better now, it has more meaning now… everything takes time, these things can’t be rushed.’ I told her I would love to take a stone and that it meant a lot to me. I explained that I love collecting crystals and that I have one I carry that reminds me of her, I keep it in my pocket.

We went on to talk about ways I care for myself in her absence. She asked how I managed to hold on to my connection with her during previous breaks and I said that I sometimes look over my journal notes to help remind myself of things she’s said to me. I then said, ‘um.. I don’t know if you’re going to think this is weird but, well you know your necklace that you have, the tree of life necklace,’ she nodded and said, ‘yeah, you have one too,’ surprised I said, ‘you know?? Have I worn it here?’ I don’t remember ever talking to her about the necklace or wearing it to session, I was too afraid she’d see it and think it was weird I was copying her. She nodded… I seriously have no recollection of ever letting on to her that I have one too. I told her that I wear the necklace when I’m missing her or if we have a missed session and it helps me remember her and feel close to her. She smiled. I’m writing all this out and I am actually staggered by the fact that she is not wanting to run a fucking mile… how this isn’t scaring the shit out of her is beyond me… this just seems like such bat shit crazy, obsessive, needy stuff! But she was sooooo happy and kept saying how it was a great idea. She had a really genuine smile on her face and told me she was glad I had found a way to help myself through the missed sessions and that I could hold the pendant in my hand and maybe think in my head, ‘what would Anna say’ if I was struggling… which I do a lot! This whole reparenting thing is amazing, how she actively encourages me to seek connection and reassurance from her. It’s blowing my mind as I’m thinking about it. She doesn’t want to push me away!??

I said, ‘while we’re talking about this… another thing I did this week which I think probably is pushing it in terms of weird stuff… well… oh fuck I don’t know how to talk about myself without criticising myself!’ I whispered, ‘why do I do that?’ and then said louder, ‘I think I criticise myself so other people don’t get in there first, but I don’t expect you to criticise me so why do it here!?’ she said, ‘your adult doesn’t – maybe your child does!’ I said, ‘hmmm yeah, she thinks you’re thinking it, you don’t say it out loud but you think it!’ Anna quickly said, ‘what does she think I’m thinking?’ I replied, ‘oh jeez she’s really lost the plot now!’ Anna was nodding and then said, ‘I’m nodding because I understand that your child believes your inner critic when she says I think you’ve lost the plot, I’m not nodding because I agree… I’m not thinking that at all. That reminds me, in your text you asked me to tell you I don’t hate you. I didn’t reply to that because I wanted to say it face to face, that’s not your adult speaking, your adult knows I don’t hate you… your inner critic distorts the things I’ve said to you and makes your child believe I hate you and that we don’t have a connection, that’s when you feel like I don’t even exist anymore.’ I was just sitting there blown away at all the connections firing off in my mind… yep that’s exactly what’s going on.

On a number of occasions through this session Anna paused me when I was being critical of myself and asked me to go back and say the sentence again but instead talk about my feelings. I couldn’t do it a lot of the time, it was slow and hard. I could just about talk factually with no emotions (good or bad)… she said that was my adult, the factual voice. She wanted me to connect to my child, so kept encouraging me to speak with the emotions. At one point I got really annoyed with her and said, ‘wow this is so hard! I am realising I’m so hard on myself, I don’t know how to not criticise myself!’ she said, ‘I know, and I am going to do this from now on, just pulling you back to try to reprogram you to focus on the feelings and be compassionate with yourself because I think this is where the sticking point is, this is why you lose connection with me and other people.’ I said, ‘okay… so another thing I did was that I listened to this longing I’ve had for a while now… well I’ve always found it quite upsetting and it triggers a lot of sad feelings… um… my kids and all their toys, their stuffed toys and well… I didn’t really have a lot of that stuff when I was little and um… recently over the past year I’ve had this idea that I might like to get myself a stuffed animal or something but I mean I know that’s a bit weird coz I’m a 36 year old woman but…’ Anna interrupted and said, ‘I love stuffed toys!!’ I smiled and said, ‘well I saw a Jellycat panda in a shop when I was Christmas shopping for the kids and fell in love with it but it was over £40 and I just thought I couldn’t justify spending that much on a toy for myself so put it back… then thought about it over and over and kept looking it up online… well anyway I realised my mum always used to complain about the cost of things and how it wasn’t worth it and I just thought, I can spend my money on whatever I want, I work hard and if I want a fucking stuffed toy I should get myself one! So I just bought it online last week and it arrived a couple of days ago and I seriously fucking love it, it’s the most adorable thing ever.. it’s super soft and cuddly and lovely and I thought about bringing it here today but didn’t have the courage and…’ She interrupted and said, ‘oh I was just going to say I wish you’d brought her in I’d love to see her, will you bring her next week?’ I nodded. I said, ‘I decided I wanted my child to name her but all I kept hearing inside was Pandawanda… which is a bit much haha… so that can be her inner world name but then I had a dream last night where the name Luna came to me and…’ Anna said, ‘oh lovely, you love the moon!’ and I lit up and was like, ‘yes I do! So she’s Luna! Um… and I had such a big excited feeling inside me on the first night I had her like a kid on Christmas eve, it felt like a sleepover and I just was saying in my head she’s all mine and I actually had to put her out the bed because I couldn’t fall asleep I was so excited.’ Anna was really loving all this chat about Luna. I told her that my husband seemed to really understand why I’d bought her, that it was a gift to my inner child and he was very supportive of it all which has been lovely.

She then said, ‘holding a soft toy can be so soothing. When Little Lucy is really struggling and you are losing that connection, you can hold Luna… rock her, stroke her. When you’re holding her you’re comforting that small part of yourself. You might be cuddling or rocking her but it’s like your rocking your child parts. It’s a different holding to when our partner holds us, that’s our adult being held…’ We sat with that thought for a while. I really know what she means. It’s like nothing else I’ve ever felt before, holding Luna. I keep wanting to come up stairs to visit her and when I hold her it seems to open something up in me. I will bring her to session and see what happens.

Anna went on to say that she knows my child is still hiding behind the chair but she sees her peeking further and further each day, that she believes my child will eventually learn to trust her. With about ten minutes to go Anna told me I had done really well talking openly about how I’d felt, that she’d let me down and hurt me. She said, ‘the hope is that through these times when I miss you or hurt you, that you are able to tell me honestly how you feel and that I can hear you, see you, work at understanding you and try to repair and heal what was broken within our relationship… and that through our relationship you can heal something that happened and is happening in other relationships out there… does that make sense?’ I nodded and there was some quiet time. I looked around the room and took a big breath and looked back at her and quietly said, ‘you really hurt me when you didn’t let me speak to you on the phone.’ She said, ‘I know… and I am so sorry… it hurt me too. I hope you feel I’ve been able to show you I do care.’ I nodded, so fucking close to tears. She continued, ‘I know you feel that it’s a risk to ask me for what you need but trust is a bit like faith, you sometimes just have to blindly leap in and hope that you will be okay either way…’ she went on to talk about how people will hurt me and let me down but also there will be people who care very deeply and want to mend that with me and that if I’m brave enough to be vulnerable and share when I’ve been hurt, that’s when the repair can happen, like today.

I quickly nipped to the toilet and when I came back Anna was sitting staring out of the window. I sat down and she said, ‘we have three sessions before the Christmas holiday so maybe one of those session we could talk about what you can do to help support yourself through that break where you will have no contact with me, none.’ I nodded and she started listing things like coffee with a friend, journaling, going to my husband for a hug, cuddling Luna, drawing, reading, watching tv, a bath, the gym… I was just thinking ‘NONE NONE NONE NO CONTACT NONE’… I guess we will cover that in another session!

She asked me how I felt about ending the session today and I said, ‘I feel like we’re only half way through this, I still really feel like I should have read you what I wrote in my journal, all of it…’ she said, ‘I think the pace needed to be slow today, it’s been a good pace, it’s okay that we’re only half way through, bring your journal back on Saturday and we can continue this next session.’

She then gestured towards the table and said, ‘I laid the stones on a tissue so you can see all the colours and choose one you’re drawn to.’ I looked at them and could have cried at the thought of her pulling a tissue from the box, spreading it out, carefully placing all the stones on top of it while I was in the toilet and then patiently waiting for me to come back. Why does that break my heart so much? It’s agony. I thought about asking her what her favourite colour was but in the end I didn’t because I figured she would ask me to choose mine… my favourite colour is blue and she often wears blue clothes so I chose the blue one. I thanked her and then looked in her eyes and thanked her again, ‘thank you for thinking of me and for bringing these in, it really does mean a lot to me that you’re showing me you care.’ She gently smiled and nodded.

She then told me a story of when she was on the train recently and she saw a wee boy sitting at a table seat with his mum. He was pushing a car around on the table as he sang Jingle Bells to himself. He was in his own wee world and he sang the whole song start to finish. Anna said everyone around was looking with ‘awww’ expressions and the little boy was oblivious, no self consciousness just total trust that he was safe because his mummy was there. As I’ve typed this out I think I understand why she shared this story. I didn’t get it at the time and it just made me feel a bit sad but now I think she’s saying that this is an example of how a free child should behave and when my child trusts her I might be able to have a carefree, uncensored approach to being with her… maybe not but that’s how I’ve interpreted it just now.

We talked a bit about my plans for the rest of the weekend and we hugged at the door. I thanked her again and told her I liked her perfume… seeing as this was the session for creepy oversharing and obsessiveness!! As I drove away my head was filled with everything we talked about and everything we didn’t. Now that I’m typing it out I’m struck with a very powerful sense of longing. She was so attuned to me and worked so hard to connect with me and I really did feel it, so much so that now I am alone again I crave to be with her. I want to feel that connectedness all the time. The absence of it feels like I’ve been sucked into a black hole. I’m going to find a container for my special blue heart glass stone and give Luna Pandawanda a cuddle before going to sleep… and if you got to the end of this post congratulations! I think this may be my longest so far.