Posted by: Marie | November 23, 2010

(450) They had other choices – Part 2 of 2

Post #450
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 about the conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

———–

Edward: Can you tell me what you are feeling right now?

Me: I just had a little flash of anger. I’ve never felt anger about all of this before and it is scary for me to feel anger.

Anger feels like a deadly emotion for me because, if I was angry, I got hit, and if someone else was angry, I got hit.

Edward: Of course anger is scary for you, you had to survive anger by not allowing it to exist and by avoiding it.

With whom are you angry?

Me: I’m not sure. I just feel a general sense of anger, like I want to punch a wall.

Photo by Martin Chen

Edward: Would it be okay if I shared my guess with you?

Me: Sure.

Edward: I’m guessing you are angry at your mom . . .

I’m guessing you are angry because you have just been presented with a new way of looking at what she did. You have always excused her behavior as “poor aim” and not held her responsible for her actions. I think you are now seeing it was in her power to make a better choice. She could have refrained from hurting you so badly.

Me: Yes . . . I’ve just never allowed myself to feel anger toward her before, so it is hard to own that.

On my blog, I have had some people write comments in which they spoke out angrily about what has happened to me. I always appreciate that expression because I have not been able to feel and express the same about what happened to me. I feel like they are standing up for me, speaking out on my behalf.

Edward: Would it be helpful to you if I expressed anger toward your mother on your behalf . . . if I said what you might wish you could say?

(For several minutes, I struggled to answer. I could see healing benefit, but the idea of being present when anger is expressed is terrifying to me. I didn’t know if I could handle it. Finally, I was able to respond . . .)

Me: Okay . . . I’ll be brave. But, can you keep your voice very low? (I was in an almost panicked state as I asked this . . . I was crying and my voice was shaking.)

Edward: Yes, I can keep my voice low.

(I kept having visions of him standing up and yelling . . . I was on the edge of being too frightened to allow him to do the exercise for fear of his yelling.)

Me: Okay . . . promise me you will keep your voice low . . . do you promise?

Edward: I promise. If the idea of me doing this is too scary right now, we don’t have to do it today. In fact, we don’t ever have to do it.

Me: Will you stop if I ask you to stop?

Edward: Yes, I would stop immediately, as soon as you asked me to stop. In fact, we can stop before we even get started, if that is what you want.

Me: No, I want you to do it. I just need to know you will keep the volume of your voice low.

Edward: I believe I can express anger toward your mom while keeping my voice low enough that you won’t be scared.

Let me know when you are ready for me to start . . . you are in control.

(I took a deep breath . . . )

Me: Okay, go ahead. I’m ready now.

(I wanted to look at him as he spoke, but I found I couldn’t. Instead, I buried my face in my hands and started sobbing. I felt a great need to hide my face – shame, I guess. The whole time he was talking, I kept my face buried and continued sobbing.)

Edward: I am angry about what I have learned today from your daughter. Hitting your daughter is not acceptable behavior. In fact, it is a crime. If I had known about it at the time, I would have been obligated to report it and you would have lost custody of your daughter for a period of time.

It is unacceptable you did not take time to cool down before approaching her – it is unacceptable you unloaded your anger on her in an uncontrolled manner. I am angry you chose to injure her . . . she had trouble sitting down at school the following day because you injured her. You were an adult; you should have found a better way.

She was terrified by what she experienced. It hurt her physically and it hurt her emotionally and psychologically. She is still in pain because of it. I am angry you chose to treat her this way.

(After he finished speaking, I sat with my face in my hands for quite a while . . . then, I finally lifted my head and started wiping the snot and tears off my face and shirt. I had no idea what to say or how to behave. Edward waited patiently until I was ready to speak.)

Me: Thank you for expressing anger on my behalf. It was shocking to my system to hear that.

Edward: Shocking in what way?

Me: I don’t know. I just can’t fathom ever saying anything like that to my mom. It was just shocking to hear you say those words.

Edward: Did you feel loved growing up?

Me: Yes. I always knew I was loved. I knew my parents treated me the way they did because they thought it was the best for me. I knew everything they did was out of love. Even when it didn’t feel like they were acting out of love, I logically knew they were.

It was a step up from what they experienced. They had very rough childhoods – drunk fathers, lots of physical abuse like family members getting beat up, not just kids getting spanked. They made a very conscious choice to do better. They were doing the best they knew to do. They were doing what they had been taught by their parents and the church.

Edward: I don’t remember the Bible instructing parents to hit their children.

Me: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Edward: Those are probably the worst words ever written – written by people who didn’t know better. I don’t remember reading that Jesus hit anyone.

Me: Well, either way, it doesn’t matter to me because I’m no longer a Christian. I don’t follow the Bible anyway.

Edward: It makes sense you would not want to be part of the religion you were brought up in, especially since your experience of it included abuse.

(I didn’t respond, I just let that thought trail off . . . )

Me: So, let me ask you something . . .

Why did you start today’s session asking about the name I use to identify “X”?

Edward: Because I had a feeling that was a good place to start . . . I don’t have a more specific, more strategic answer than that.

Me: In our first session, why did you jump right into the hardcore stuff? I expected you to start out gently and then slowly move into the tough stuff, but you didn’t. You jumped right into the deep end.

Edward: You made it very clear to me during the interview you had already done a lot of work and you were ready to get to right to work with me. You let me know you were ready to deal with the big stuff and you didn’t want to waste time on small talk.

(I smiled and confirmed this)

Me: My blog buddies say, because my psychological skin tends to be very sensitive, it is good to surround myself with gentle people.

Edward: I think that is good advice!

Me: Do you think I will become less sensitive over time, as a result of therapy?

Edward: I think you will become less reactive as you heal old wounds – new wounds hurt so badly because they resonate deeply with hidden, old wounds. But, I hope you stay sensitive because that can be an asset.

[With that . . . our time was up!]


Responses

  1. Wow… I had a very similar conversation with my t yesterday about anger and mothers… This helped me a lot. Thank you.

    • Hi, Lily –

      I guess there are many of us dealing with the same stuff . . . I’m so glad you have a therapist who can help you move through it!

      – Marie

  2. I very much like Edward’s statement about reactivity and sensitivity.

    That was quite a session!

    • Hey, Evan –

      It was quite a session! Edward’s statement really hit home for me, too . . . it gave me a new perspective.

      – Marie

  3. I also like Edward’s distinction between reactivity and sensitivity. It’s something I’ve tried to explain clumsily to a number of people … how someone “overly sensitive” can retain what’s good about that, while not suffering so deeply from it. Edward knows how to say it very well indeed!

    I thought my therapist was pretty good, but I have to say … I’d sit down with Edward myself if I had the chance. He’s really something.

    • Hey, David –

      I’m still working with Edward now (almost six months later) and I still feel he is an awesome therapist. We have made great progress in that time. I am very fortunate to have found him.

      Maybe someday you will get a chance to meet with him! I hope so!

      – Marie

  4. Edward seems like a really solid dude…haha, for lack of a better term.

    I will say, Marie–I was very angry when reading that previous post about how you were-beaten—yes, beaten, as a child. That was pretty much torture. When its found that even prisoners are being whipped or hit in such ways, the prison guards are brought to trial and fired. I don’t think you can see how bad that was because it’s important for you to make sense of it and keep those relationships with your parents.

    But as someone who was not so badly abused as that (my brother hit me a lot as a kid, until I developed a flinch, but that’s about the worst of it), I can tell you that you’ve experienced a horrific amount of pain as a child–for no good reason. A kid should be loved, and respected, and held, and made to feel safe. Children are more like dogs or cats. Would you do such things to even your pet?? Some people would. i call those people abusers.

    I say this having been an abuser myself. I have hit people. I used to hit my dog. I have hurt others. Over time, I got help and learned how to stop being cruel and abusive. It took years of therapy, meditation, effort.

    But I know abuse when I see it and hear about it. I know that my brother and his wife abused my niece. And I did something about it. Marie, if I could have called the police on your parents, I would have done so.

    Aaron

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I really apprecite the validation your comment provides . . .

      Yes, you are right about my struggle to see how bad things really were. It is so hard for me to think about the really good moments I had with my parents, with my family, and to pair those up with the monstrous behaviors to which I was subjected. It is nearly impossible for my brain to accept both situations as true. It creates a dichotomy in the image I carry in my brain of my parents.

      Even today it is difficult to wrap my head around the dichotomy.

      – Marie

  5. BTW, I don’t really think children are like dogs or cats. But just in terms of how most of us believe that innocent, vulnerable creatures should be treated with love and kindness and not cruelly beaten and hurt when they can’t make sense of it…

    That was the point I inelegantly was trying to make.

    • LOL . . . I knew what you meant!

  6. I am so in awe of your therapist, how I would love my therapist to say things like Edward does, to respond in the way he does. I also like his comment about your sensitivity. I am extremely sensitive, and my t tends to downplay it.

    It must have been very difficult indeed to hear Edward “talk” to your mother about his anger towards her, but also very helpful. I have worked with abused children, and I have a lot of anger towards abusers myself.

    • Hey, Harriet –

      I, too, have ached to hear those words. It is very healing to finally hear them.

      Yup, he is an awesome therapist!

      – Marie

  7. This stuff touches on some really important areas I am struggling with. My anger towards my brother and his wife and what they’ve subjected their children and me and my family to. The lies and manipulation, the complicity of surrounding adults for various reasons.

    And then my own anger about how I was treated as a kid, and also how I treated others. Having been abusive, you’d think in some way I would be more compassionate towards other abusers. Knowing how much pain I was in and the suffering I endured when I behaved in those ways.

    But somehow I cannot really feel the compassion and I’m not sure why. It strikes me that refusing to see suffering of the “abusers” is part of a hard-heartedness I have that may have made me treat people badly in the past as well.

    I don’t know…it’s difficult stuff to make sense of, but this blog has some important material in it. Great work.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      It seems to me that the awareness of the disconnect is a huge step forward. I’m glad you are taking steps to understand and heal this part of your history. And, I’m glad you are sharing your insights with us! It is helpful to me, I know, and I’m sure it helps others, too.

      – Marie

  8. […] Right now, I’m fine right here on the couch. But, last session, during the anger exercise, I wanted to […]


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