Posted by: Marie | May 23, 2012

(637) A melting iceberg – Part 5 of 5

Post #637
[Private journal entry written on Monday, June 6, 2011 about a conversation between my therapist and me – continued from previous post]


Me: I do remember feeling some shame . . . or at least the beginnings of shame when I started asking questions of my mom and of my friends. When my friends made it clear that my fantasies were shameful, I turned again to my mom . . . I asked her about what I heard when they were having sex because I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling in my body . . . why I was aroused in a way my friends labeled “weird”.

Even before I had “the birds and the bees” talk with my mom, I had a sense of shame. I asked her about the possibility of my getting pregnant because I was looking for relief from that shame.

Photo by Martin Chen

Because of how my friends responded and how my mom responded, I learned that the things I felt with my body were shameful. I don’t blame my friends . . . they were kids just like me. But my mom . . . when she told me that I didn’t hear what I know I heard, I remember deciding that all of this stuff inside of me was shameful. A piece of me died at that point.

Edward: Is it possible that, instead of a piece of you dying, that you just pushed a piece of yourself so far down that you didn’t have to recognize it as part of you?

Me: (After some thought) Yes, I can see that is probably the case. I decided I was bad . . . why else would I have such an insatiable curiosity about such matters? After that point, I decided that I must always work very hard to be as good as possible to make up for how bad I was . . . to cover up my badness. There could be no room for pleasure until I had done enough to earn love and acceptance.

I clearly remember making that decision, I clearly remember pushing away that part of me, trying to disconnect from and disown it.

I’m still trying to do enough.

Edward: No wonder you binge on ice cream whenever you start to consider allowing yourself some pleasure!

Me: I can’t justify allowing myself to enjoy pleasure until I do enough to earn my right to exist . . . which has never happened . . . and I’m overwhelmed with the impossibility of that task. That is why I feel hopeless.

Edward: Ouch! Ouch!

(We sat quietly as I allowed the feeling of hopelessness – the hopelessness of my childhood – flooded over me. For several minutes, I cried without making a noise.)

Edward: Do you know that healing this wound involves standing up for yourself . . . speaking your own truth . . . ??

(I nodded my head)

Edward: (Very gently, after a respectful pause) Would it be helpful to have a conversation in which you are given the information you were seeking . . . a conversation in which your questions are honored and respectfully answered?

Me: Yeah, I do think that would be helpful . . .

Edward: Do you want to try that today? You don’t have to do it today . . .

Me: How much time do we have?

Edward: About ten minutes . . .

Me: Okay . . . I want to try . . . I at least want to try . . .

Edward: Good . . .

Let’s start this way . . . could you ask me the same questions you asked your mom?


I fell silent again as I thought back to the questions I had asked my mom . . . I struggled to give my questions language . . . I fluctuated between adult language and child language . . .

I felt silly when I tried to use child language to ask a question to which I already knew the answer . . . and I was overwhelmed with shame and embarrassment when I tried to use adult language to express the natural curiosity I had as a child.

I finally decided to allow myself to slide back into a child mindset and I allowed myself to craft a question using immature language . . .

When I heard the floor creaking and the bed moving, and when you then went into the bathroom, were you and dad having sex?

I opened my mouth to speak those words, but I froze up and I could not make my voice work. I tried again . . . and again . . . and I gave up. I put my face into my hands, hung my head and let the tears of shame flow.


Edward: What’s happening . . . ?? Where are you?

Me: I’m trying to say the words . . . but I can’t get the words to come out.

(Edward didn’t say anything . . . he just let me sit with my feelings for several moments.)

Me: I’m struck by how much courage it takes to ask questions like that. If it is this difficult, as an adult, to ask them of you in this safe environment, how much courage must it have required for me to ask my mom when I was a child – to ask these questions of someone whose approval was life itself for me.

I’m remembering how afraid I was back then that I would be shamed by my mom for asking the questions. I guess because I was shamed then, it is very difficult for me to form the words now . . . I’m afraid the same thing will happen now even though I logically know it won’t.

Edward: Yes! Of course! How painful it was for you to have your natural curiosity squashed and her embarrassment placed on you in the form of shame! That would create an impossible situation for any child!

(I really wanted to ask the question . . . I so badly wanted to push the words out of my frozen throat. I kept trying, but I couldn’t make it happen. I got very frustrated and pulled back into myself – instead of using my voice, I just sat and cried.)

Edward: What’s happening . . . ?

Me: I’m back in that frozen place again . . .

Will I ever find my voice? Will I ever get unfrozen?

I hate this frozen place! I hate it! I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say what I need to say – to ever stand up for myself and speak my truth – to ever find healing.

I hate this place!

Edward: You will find your voice. When you are ready, you will find your voice. But, it is a process. It takes time.

Marie, you are making progress. I promise you – you are making progress.

Let me leave you with this thought . . . even when an iceberg is two-thirds of the way melted, it is still frozen – it is still as cold and hard and frozen as it before it started melting. In the same way, you still feel as frozen as you have always felt . . .

But let me assure you . . . you are melting. You have already melted a great deal. And, someday, your iceberg – your shame, your pain, your trauma – will melt completely away. And then you won’t feel frozen anymore. Then, you will have your voice and it will be strong and full and powerful.


And that is how we ended the session.

As I was packing up to leave, Edward remarked that it had been a very emotional session for me – he requested that I check back in with him and let him know how I was doing after I got home and had a chance to process everything. I assured him I would.


  1. I just can’t find words to tell you how much I love the iceberg metaphor … it is such a perfect expression of therapeutic growth, and why it feels so weird to the person experiencing it, but is so much more obvious to those observing it. Amazing work with Edward as always … your bravery is wonderful, especially your willingness to tell him when you are feeling uncomfortable or angry in session. Those feelings are always so useful, but most people can’t get past worrying about what the therapist will think of them if they are honest. And frankly, some therapists can’t handle those projections. You and Edward are a great team.

    • Hey, David –

      It is good to hear from you!

      I am still working with Edward and I am still repeatedly awed by how well we work together. My relationship with him is such a key one in my healing and in my life. He is a wise and a trustworthy man.

      – Marie

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