Progress

I remember reading that progress in therapy is not linear, it’s like a spiral… like a slinky-toy. ‘Moving through a continuous spiral of levels, sometimes so tightly packed in that they seem to be a circle rather than a spiral, other times more clearly separate from one another and more obvious evidence of progress. Similar material is addressed therapeutically at each step along the spiral, but addressed differently at each level as the spiral progresses forward.’

It got me thinking that maybe I will feel like I am taking a few steps forward and one step back sometimes and maybe that’s okay. Because as Anna keeps reminding me, we are not in any rush to get through this. I want to be ‘finished’ already but it’s just not going to be that simple.

Every time I am less than what I believe I should be as a wife and mother I feel this stabbing fear that I am just like mum and that really I’m kidding myself thinking I can be anything better. The catastrophising kicks in. If I can’t get through a day without a cross word or irritation I feel like the whole day is fucked and that everyone who knows me will be storing these misdemeanours in their minds as reasons to hate me and never want to see me again as soon as they get the chance to leave. The thing is, I know these ‘mistakes’ I make are nothing compared to what she did to me but for some reason my mind leaves no room for error for me – I can’t so much as look at the word ‘mistake’ without fearing that I’ll career off on a journey of destruction and completely annihilate everyone in my path. I remember the day I read about narcissistic/histrionic mothers online and everything clicked into place. Like that scene on The Truman Show where he realises his whole life was a set up. It’s like it came as a surprised to me when I realised what she was really like, that it was an actual thing and that it wasn’t all my fault. Every so often I get this dead weight feeling inside me that maybe my husband and the kids don’t know it yet but they will soon realise in time how bad I am for them… just like I did about my mother. I can see that my perfectionism is still a very big part of me. The internalised unrelenting high standards/hyper-criticalness… it’s all still there, even after all the work I did on that with Paul it’s like I revert back to my original form in times of difficulties. There has been a slight softening in my internal voice as I have intentionally tried to be mindful of how I speak in my head. The voice no longer screams, ‘you piece of shit you’re so weak, grow up, no one likes you, you’re worthless…’ now the voice occasionally says, ‘maybe it makes sense that you feel like this…’ I cry by myself every day. Anna says I’m grieving. It hurts like a ball of lead in my chest but the pain doesn’t feel bigger than me like it has in the past. And crying helps reduce the intensity a bit. I’m grateful for this.

One thought that’s made me cry recently was that in the last session Anna said that I come out when I feel safe and go back in when I don’t feel safe. That touched me because I know I am like that but I forget, or I try to pretend that’s not what I’m like. It feels so amazing and so painful that she notices these things and still accepts me and wants to keep working with me. I am reminded of how mum used to say that I was a typical cancerian in that I’m a crab with a hard shell on the outside but I’m soft on the inside. For some reason it makes me feel angry that she used to say this. I feel like I couldn’t let her know me because she would just use these things against me in some way. But also she uses these things to excuse her bad behaviour – describing herself as a typical taurian, being ‘a bull in a china shop’ rather than learning how to think before she speaks or acts.

A few sessions ago Anna told me she felt I was stronger now and she wanted to start tackling the letter I’d written to my mum. I was defensive and I questioned whether I was stronger or were we just not talking about the hard stuff… what if we start talking about it and I go off the deep end again. She didn’t answer me and I felt like she was exasperated by my argumentativeness and unwillingness to just accept encouragement. I then proceeded to have a crap week and the following session was emotionally challenging. With relief I agreed when Anna suggested we delay discussing the letter. She didn’t want to push too hard and for me to retreat again. But I kind of wish she had pushed… because it’s like this tantruming toddler threw herself into the room and had a screaming fit that made us all back down and comply. The toddler didn’t want her to think I was stronger only for me to then let her down… but the adult me knows I can be stronger and still find this difficult. Being stronger doesn’t mean I won’t get upset or space out. Maybe I needed reassurance that Anna would stop if I needed her to, that I could take a step back and she wouldn’t be disappointed in me. That session served the purpose of reassuring the fearful part of me but frustrated the part of me that wants to push forward. Anna remained attuned to me the whole time amazingly (I felt so fragmented I couldn’t stay attuned to me… but she managed!). She became moved by a story I told her. I felt my trust deepening. I envy how effortlessly the emotions come and go for her like waves. I want to be like that.

I’m so conflicted. I always feel like I need to do something but I guess when I feel this conflicted the best thing is to just notice. Notice and do nothing. I’m not where I want to be but a few things have changed. I trust Anna more than I’ve ever trusted anyone before and I am prepared to go places inside myself I was never able to even see before. The progress is slow, but it’s still progress.