Posted by: Marie | October 24, 2011

(608) Hitting back – Part 4 of 5

Post #608
[Private journal entry written on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Edward: What if I helped you sit with the anger and frustration? What if, instead of getting numb to avoid the emotions, we created a safe space in which you could experience those emotions? Instead of “being an adult” and stuffing down the emotions, we allowed you to express the emotions you’ve been carrying since childhood?

Me: (After some tearful/fearful thought . . . ) What would that look like?

Edward: There are a number of possibilities . . . here is one . . .

I could put three of the big throw pillows on the floor – one for you to sit on, one for me to sit on, and one in the middle. Then, if it is okay with you, I could bring out a racquet with which you could hit the pillow in the middle as a way to express what you are feeling.

Would you like to do that?

Me: Let me think about it for a minute . . .

(After a pause) I’m deciding if I trust you enough to lead me through that . . .

Edward: Okay . . . take your time. It is okay if you decide you don’t want to do it.


With my eyes closed and my face in my hands, I had an internal dialogue with myself:

Now, this weekend, you told yourself you are going to do whatever you need to do even when you don’t feel like it – that you would do whatever it takes. So, here is a real test for you . . . will you follow Edward’s lead even though it feels too scary?

Phew . . . but it’s so difficult! I don’t even know what he wants me to do – not exactly. I think I need to know all the details first.

It is difficult and there are many unknowns . . . but, will you do it? Will you trust Edward to lead you through the unknowns?

Okay, I will.

Then, out loud I stated, “Okay, I’ll do it.” I immediately felt cold terror engulf my body.

Edward thanked me for trusting him. When I told him I needed to stay on the couch until he was ready for me to move, he assured me that was fine.

Photo by Martin Chen

I stayed on the couch with my face in my hands and my eyes closed. I focused on keeping my breathing steady.

As he started moving around the room, Edward described what he was doing. He would say things like, “So I don’t startle you, I’ll let you know I’m setting the pillow on the floor near your feet.”

As I waited, I silently discussed with myself what it would take for me to do this. It seemed the only way I could get down on the floor would be to wrap my security blanket around myself. When Edward indicated he had everything in place, I pulled out the blanket, unfolded it, stood up, wrapped the blanket around myself and started lowering myself to the floor.

On the way to the floor, I repeatedly whispered, “I feel like I’m going to die if I do this.” I had a sense that I was in great physical danger and that I really could die . . . I needed to know that he knew this and that he knew to keep a watchful eye on me in case I really did fall over dead. Logically, I knew I wasn’t going to die, but the sense of impending physical death was so strong I couldn’t stop myself from needing assurance of his awareness and watchfulness.

It was my intention to sit Indian-style on the floor, but the terror I was feeling in my body was so great that I couldn’t sit, I had to lie down – I had to make myself as invisible and as low profile as possible to minimize the chance of calling attention to myself – because calling attention to myself would increase the probability of getting hit.

I slid into a semi-fetal position on my side with my head on my assigned pillow and my feet pointing away from Edward. I pulled the blanket over my head and started hyperventilating/sobbing/holding my breath . . .

This went on for several minutes. Edward kept assuring me that I was doing fine, assuring me I didn’t have to go any further with this exercise if I didn’t want to, assuring me I was in control of what happened. Finally, the burst of terror faded a bit and I felt safe enough to sit up into an Indian-style position – not on my assigned pillow, but on the far side of my pillow . . . I needed that extra distance from the middle “hitting pillow”.

I kept the blanket around me, but I uncovered my face and most of my head. I bunched up the extra length of blanket in front of me and held it tight to my chest/stomach like it was a stuffed animal I was clutching. Finally, I said, “Okay, I’m ready”.


Edward: Okay . . . if at any point, you want to stop, tell me and we’ll stop. You are in control.

Me: Okay.

Edward: Can you tell me where in your body is the strongest emotion . . . is it in your stomach, in your arms, in your legs, in your neck . . . ??


I realized I had moved a hand up to my face and had started pushing a thumb and an index finger hard into my eyeballs. I moved my hand away from my face and opened my eyes. I wanted to keep my eyes open and look at Edward as I answered because I wanted to stay present – dissociating is easier for me when my fingers are pushed into my eyeballs.

But I found I couldn’t look at him. Every time started to take my hand away from my face, open my eyes and raise my face from its downcast position, I could “hear” the whoosh of dad’s leather belt flying through the air. I’d flinch and return to the submissive pose.


Me: I’m having trouble opening my eyes and looking up at you. I keep hearing the “whoosh” of the belt going past my head as punishment for looking up (hyperventilating a bit). It feels like I’m going to die if I dare to lift up my head and look at you directly.

Edward: You don’t have to open your eyes. We can do this with your eyes closed.

Me: (With relief) Okay.

(I took a moment to get my breathing more normalized.)

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. Wow, I can feel your terror coming through. You are very brave Marie.

    • Hi, Ellen –

      Thank you for the encouragement, Ellen. The strength of that terror is really something!

      – Marie

  2. Wow. This is a huge piece of work Marie. Well done.

    • Thank you, Evan!

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