Posted by: Marie | February 7, 2012

(628) Attempting to thaw – Part 4 of 5

Post #628
[Private journal entry written on Monday, May 23, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]

—————————–

Edward: Can you put those words into a statement?

Me: I’m not sure what you mean . . .

Edward: Can you make the statement, “I didn’t do anything wrong” . . . ?? Can you tell your dad that you didn’t do anything wrong?

(I immediately felt panic settle into my breathing . . . it ran all the way down into my hands and legs and my entire body became paralyzed. I started hyperventilating.)

Photo by Martin Chen

Me: I feel so paralyzed . . . so frozen . . .

Edward: I’m here for you . . . you are safe . . . I’m protecting you . . .

There is no hurry . . . take as much time as you need . . .

Me: (Tears of frustration welled up and sobs mixed into my ragged breathing) I don’t think I can . . . I’m so paralyzed . . . I’m sorry . . . I don’t think I can . . .

Edward: It is okay, you don’t have to. I may have pushed you too fast . . . I’m sorry for that . . . I should have moved more slowly.

Me: It’s okay . . . I want to . . . I really want to . . .

How can I go so quickly from feeling very strong to being so terrorized? I felt so strong when I walked in here today. Then, within a few minutes, I am so paralyzed that I am having trouble breathing. How can that happen?

Edward: You have been healing your mind . . . you’re making great progress with your psychological healing. However, your body still has all those memories stored up. Your body doesn’t know that the danger has passed so it still slips into a fight or flight mode whenever you are reminded of the historical danger.

Me: That makes sense . . .

(My legs were falling asleep so I moved out of the kneeling position into a sitting position on the floor with my back resting against the couch.)

Me: But, when I’m in that fight or flight mode, it seems I could convince myself the danger is no longer present and that would allow my body to move through the paralysis . . . I should be able to take myself to a place I could use my voice.

I tell myself the danger is no longer present – that I’m safe – but, my body doesn’t believe it. It’s like . . . well . . . when I say affirmations to myself about how I’m lovable and attractive and worthwhile I am and, as I’m telling myself that, I really don’t believe it.

So, while my audible voice is saying one thing, my internal silent voice is yelling, “Nope, that’s a lie, that’s not true for you, no one believes that is true, you are disgusting and no man is going to want to partner with you.” And, that internal voice is far more powerful than my audible voice. Therefore, I end up doing more damage with those “positive” affirmations than good.

The same thing is happening when I try to convince my body – my breathing – my ability to move – that I’m safe and it is okay to speak my truth and it is okay to express my emotions through movement . . . I have this counterpoint inside of my arguing the opposite and the counterpoint always wins. The counterpoint is always more powerful.

Edward: Of course your internal dialogue seems more powerful! Of course! It is the voice that kept you alive through – allowed you to survive – the abuse you suffered throughout your childhood. It kept you safe. You literally had to depend upon that voice for your survival. Of course it is powerful!

———————–

As he said that, I found myself bracing for him to subsequently state the obvious “but” that begged to be stated: “It is time to ignore the internal dialogue and allow your logic to take over . . . just get over it – your history is history!”

But, he didn’t go there. He just allowed my current truth to hang in the air. He didn’t dispute it, minimize it or make in wrong. He simply allowed it to be.

I was grateful because it is exactly what I needed. I guess I’ve had a lifetime of men telling me that my feelings and experiences were bad and wrong. I needed Edward to validate my feelings – and he did. I felt myself start relaxing into his empathetic energy – empathetic energy that consistently creates a safe place for me, session after session.

I started breathing again.

———————–

Edward: Where did you go? Where are you right now?

Me: I’m trying to understand what happens when I get paralyzed – why do I freeze up every time I think about addressing my dad directly? I don’t understand why I don’t have any control over it . . . I’m smart and determined and strong . . . why can’t I open my mouth and say the words I want to say . . . ?? It doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.

Edward: Can you tell me more about what you experience when you get paralyzed?

Me: Sure . . . I guess . . . well, I find myself wanting to curl up into a ball and disappear . . . but, I’m too paralyzed to do even that.

Edward: Do you think it would be helpful for you to curl up in a ball? Would it be helpful if we could create a space in which you felt safe enough to do that?

Me: Um . . . no. For me, curling up in a ball is the way in which I would “leave” . . . it would facilitate my tendency to dissociate. I don’t want to leave, I want to stay and sit with this terror.

I mean, I really do want to leave because it is difficult to stay. But, I’d be leaving out of fear . . . and I want to stay and work through this more than I want to avoid the terror.

Does that make sense?

Edward: Yes, it makes a lot of sense. So, okay, let’s not have you curl into a ball.

I’m hearing that standing up to your dad – telling him that you didn’t do anything wrong and that you don’t deserve what he did to you – is not do-able right now. I’m wondering if it feels do-able for you to instead tell your dad that every time you think about addressing him, your terror causes you to want to curl up and dissociate . . . ??

(I sat with that possibility for a few minutes, but terror once again took over and I was unable to say even those words.)

Me: (Emotionally) No, I’m sorry . . . I just can’t. I get so paralyzed every time I think about it. I’m sorry . . .

Edward: There is nothing to be sorry about. You have already shown incredible courage to do what you have already done. You are doing very well with this. You’ve already come so far!

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. Very much looking forward to seeing what happens in the next session.

    Edward is a very impressive therapist I think.

    • Hey, Evan –

      Yes, I continue to be impressed with him. He is very consistent and effective in his approach.

      – Marie

  2. Your terror as an abused young child seems to be still entirely alive in you Marie and it comes off the page powerfully. It is so brave of you to get in touch with that. I wonder if you were able to shift it at all.

    • Hey, Ellen –

      You know, it continues to surprise me how intense those body memories still are. It doesn’t seem logical that they would still have that much power over me. But, they do. So, there you go . . . that defines one of my biggest struggle.

      Interesting creatures, aren’t we?

      – Marie

  3. I think every therapist working with childhood trauma should be required to read about your work with Edward. I hear about so many therapists who have boundaries that are utterly incompatible with what the client needs, and who do invalidate the client continually, though they may not mean to. This process you are going through is re-parenting of the most astonishing and powerful kind.

    • Hey, David –

      I was thinking that people in general (not just therapists) could learn something from this exchange . . . maybe we wouldn’t need as much therapy if we all created safe and non-judgmental spaces for each other . . . just a thought . . .

      – Marie


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