I haven’t blogged in a long time. I have 9 session in my drafts. I suppose when I post them it will become clear why I’ve been away.
This session took place mid-March. I don’t remember it. I have only my notes to go on. I know that in early March I was becoming aware that the inner critic was more than one “person”. It seemed that the critic who I had been calling Faith, was a gatekeeper of sorts. Behind her was a house with many rooms and in one room was a child part that she had locked up and thus banished from my memory until this month; a part that was young and hypersexual. It was a part that carried memories of the early stages of sexual abuse that felt pleasant to a very very young child – a child too young to understand that some body parts are private or to understand what grooming is. A child that still loved and was very attached to her father.
I’m in Psychologist J’s room. I feel young and confused and uncertain of who I am; some kind of blend of little Jane and Clara (the youngest part of all) or perhaps someone entirely new. J is asking me questions that I’m unable to answer. He can sense, no doubt, that I seem hesitant and demure.
“Do you know who I am?” he asks.
I look up. I see a familiar face.
“You’ve had a haircut,” I whisper somehow knowing that his hair was longer in the recent past.
“Yes! So you do know me,” he says smiling. “Do you want to be here?
“No,” I say sadly. “They made me come here.”
“Am I talking to Faith?”
“No.” My voice is barely audible.
He looks at me with slight intrigue. “Who are you? Have I met you before?”
I pause for a moment and check inside. I feel like I’ve never been here before. I know of him from the others but I feel certain I’ve never spoken to him before.
“No,” I reply.
“Ok. I want to be as useful as I can be. Can I ask who you are?”
I shake my head. Still looking down I say, “I don’t know. “I’m just here to ask questions for them (the other parts).”
“Thank you for telling me. Gosh that’s hard. You don’t want to be here but they made you come.” I nod in reply.
“Who made you come? Faith?”
“Can I talk to Faith directly?” he asks.
“No.” I can feel Faith watching me making sure I do what she wants me to do.
“She’s too scared?”
“Is there someone not scared to be here?” he asks gently.
I’ve been wringing my hands. Something I do when I feel young. I nod yes because I know Fiona wants to come out of the prison Faith keeps her in.
“Can that person help?
“No because that’s who Faith’s afraid of.”
I nod yes. I can feel Faith growing impatient with me. I reluctantly say more. “I need to ask some questions, to set some boundaries. Faith wants to know what would happen if Fiona came out and was here in therapy.”
“I’m not worried about Fiona. I don’t think she would try something inappropriate and I won’t allow it because I want to keep all parts safe but I can see that some parts of the system are concerned. I would never do anything to hurt any of you.”
“What if she does something or asks for something. Will you be angry like my mother, will you shame us?”
“No I would explain why I can’t do what she wants and mostly I think I would validate how much she wanted to feel special and had no option but to engage in what he wanted. Even if it’s what all of you wanted I’d say no.”
“Oh no. I don’t want you to do those things to me,” I say in shame and disgust.
As we talk, Faith, who has been listening, starts to feel safe and sneaks into the body. I ask him to move to the left, Faith’s preferred side and continue the session as Faith without telling him I’ve switched.
Psychologist J is talking, “It’s never ok for a parent to do those things, to touch a child, to be so unbounded. They had no boundaries and I think that’s why Faith keeps asking for them.”
“I’m just worried that if I have a good session like this, and I feel good attachment feelings it will activate Fiona and then bad memories.”
J seems to understand. Here a chunk of the conversation is missing but Faith, who is essential a child herself, tells J how she feels like Fiona is to blame hence why she was banished never to be thought of or known about until now.
“Children don’t know what’s right or wrong, says J.
“What about if the person knows it’s bad and it’s their secret and she still wants to do it?”
“It’s still not her fault.”
“So she never did anything wrong?”
“No. Children don’t know much, they don’t even know they’re a child and at 2 or 3 they can’t even hold their bladder.”
“It’s her fault for seducing him and for liking bad things. Why does she like bad things?”
He continues, “It’s normal for kids to like warmth and skin and bounding around and being free. Bodies like to be warm and touched. A good parent says it’s ok to touch your body and enjoy those feelings but I can’t because those bits are private.”
“But what if she liked it? What if she encouraged it? Isn’t that seducing?”
“No. It’s wrong to put a child on an erect penis. Look at that scene, does that look wrong? I’m an expert on sexual trauma and I know that the only way a scene like that comes about is because of the parent doing something wrong.”
I, as Faith, still seem uncertain of Fiona’s innocence. Of course Faith doesn’t understand what I the adult Jane understands, that part of surviving parental abuse involves believing you’re the bad one, believing you’re at fault. Children are so dependent on having at least one parent that it is essential for them to believe their parent is good even if it means blaming themselves for atrocities. Faith also doesn’t listen to me. There are just some facts I can’t convince my other parts to be true. They have to learn. They have to go through the developmental stages they missed.
“But what if it isn’t erect?”
“Secure parents don’t do that,” he says firmly.
“So they should have pants on?”
Slowly I feel like it is seeping into my brain. I actually feel it, like something warm trickling down my left temple.
As I’m starting to understand that Fiona wasn’t at fault, I suddenly feel Fiona flashing up along with her memories. As J keeps talking I look at J’s jeans and see my father’s naked legs. I let my eyes go up higher to see J’s body and then naked body parts flick in front of my eyes. As I look at J I feel Fiona’s intrigue at seeing a male after so many years in exile. Shut up Fiona I hear myself think.
J is still talking. “Tickling a child beyond when they say no and when they cry, I consider that abuse and what he did is far worse. Back in DBT group (2007) you said good feelings feel dangerous and now it makes sense to me. It was your only option, your only way to feel special. You were desperate. Love is like oxygen. You need it. It’s normal for children to want to feel special. You have a right to feel warm and loved and special.
I’m still trying to ignore Fiona’s efforts to take over my body.
“Did you hear what I said?” he asks.
“Something about DBT?”
“No about rights. I really want you to hear this,” he says. He pauses and leans forward and says earnestly, “You had a right to feel warm and loved and special.”
He gives me a moment to take it in. I, Faith, struggle to make sense of it. Warm and loved and special sounds like suffocating and icky concepts.
Suddenly I feel overwhelming shame and disgust and blurt out, “I don’t like those things!”
“I know that but you know about things I don’t know about.”
“Like what?” I ask confused. How can I possibly know something this man doesn’t know?
“Like how good feelings can become abuse. He made all those good feelings of closeness become blurred with danger and abuse.”
I feel a strange tinge of anger and surprise. He’s never been abused. I knew this and yet it has never sunk in as a fact because he seems to understand trauma so well. Suddenly a part of me is deeply envious that he doesn’t know how it feels from personal experience. He seems so clean and unbroken and I feel angry that I’m not like him.
“Can I learn for good feelings to feel safe again?”
“Yes, that’s what we’re working on.”
There is a pause and then I ask something I had been wondering about since last session.
“The other day you asked if I wanted you to say something to my mother.” I see him nod and continue. “Can you say it now? What were you going to say?”
He looks directly at me and says in a very animated and slightly angry way, “I would say get your husband off your daughter! And take him to the police! Then take your daughters and leave him!”
These three sentences have such an impact. To hear someone else speak angrily to my mother is extremely validating. To me, Faith, who always lives partially in memory, it feels as though he is right there when it happened shouting at my mother. I feel something good and warm that feels like what it must feel like to be protected or rescued.
“She tried to kill us!” I say referring to a recently recalled memory I had between sessions of my mother trying to suffocate me and my father stopping her. “But Jane doesn’t want to believe it and says to me no she was just very angry.”
“She was jealous of you,” he says.
“Because you were having fun.”
“Yes. I had his attention and she was always jealous of me whenever I had his attention.”
“I think you’re a little bit jealous of Fiona like she was jealous of you.”
“I am. I can’t move even though I want to when I’m angry because if I move then I feel like I am acting like Fiona or my mother or my father. I’m jealous of Fiona for being free. But it was her mischievousness and playfulness that lead to bad things. So now I can’t play.”
“Yes you want to just share a joke or have fun and it all feels good and then bad and then you worry you’ve done something wrong.” I’m glad he understands because to other parts of me it feels absurd but to Faith it feels like a genuine concern.
“I can’t help but worry we’ve had sex and I’ve forgotten about it.”
“This is a safe place. See over there? There’s the red panda,” he says indicating with his eyes the print out of a red panda sitting behind a Buddha he has on a shelf.
“It’s too far away. I think you should move it over there next session,” I say indicating a bookshelf directly in front of me.
“I can do that.”
I have one last question to ask him.
“The other session you said you’d this memory before. When?”
“I’ve known about this for about a year. I think about a year ago you started alluding to him having [redacted].”
“Oh no not that.”
“Ok then we need to be explicit.”
“I sent it in an email.”
“You send a lot of emails,” he says laughing.
“The one I send recently about Faith and the memory she had.”
He starts naming body parts referring to one of mine and one of my father’s that were …how do you put it…inserted into the other.
“[body part] and [body part]?”
“[body part] and [body part]?”
“That’s the one,” I say with overwhelming shame and disgust.
“That’s the one Fiona’s really struggling with,” he says.
“Not Fiona. She likes it. Me. I’m struggling with it.” I pause and then continue despite the humiliation I feel. “Fiona and I are the same person but she’s an earlier version of me. I split off from her.” Psychologist J agrees.
“What part of you thinks I’m your dad? Faith?” he asks perhaps not realising it is Faith he is talking to.
“No. I know you’re not him but all men act the same to me.”
We talk a bit about how my experience of relationships is all based on abuse – one person does the hurting and the other gets hurt and how as Faith I perceive all men as wanting to use women as sex objects. Later in the day I realise it is me who always mistakes J for my father.
“Each time we do a re-enactment I learn more,” he says.