Prior to this appointment I sent Psychologist J an email asking him if he could let us all know if Fiona was welcome in therapy and if he would lose respect for Faith if she let Fiona out of exhile. By the time I arrived for the session I felt strangely like the “Apparently Normal Part” – the usual everyday me Jane – the part that continued on while the other parts split off from me to hold trauma memories.
I don’t remember how the session starts but he’s talking about how we are trying to cultivate dual awareness which is something along the lines of being able to have one foot in the past experiencing a flashback and another foot in the present observing the flashback and being able to discuss it with the therapist. This seems like an impossible feat (pardon the pun) but it exists in the literature as a thing to achieve so who am I to question it.
“Well today I’m much more the part that says this happened but not to me so I don’t want to think about it. I want denial,” I say in answer to his question of who is present.
“Yes. The last sessions there seemed an ease of talking between us.”
“Today it feels like waking up from a dream. The past few weeks don’t feel real.” I feel a rush of emotions. I put my head down and start rubbing my forehead. Something I do when I feel stressed. I try to fight back tears. “I’m overwhelmed,” I say.
“We’ll get through it,” he says gently. “It’s hard work and I’m admiring of you pursing this.” His compliment triggers Faith who hates compliments and then that awakens Fiona and as he keeps talking I start listening to the voices in my head unable to take in his words. He notices I’m not listening.
“Sorry. I’ve been waffling on.”
“No. It’s very noisy.”
“Can you say who is there?”
I can but chose not to. For some reason, naming names tends to give them more control of the body. “Lots of parts.”
“Do you want me to answer the questions in the email?”
“Um…oh,” I say trying to ignore Faith yelling that she wants J to reprint the picture of the red panda in colour.
“Can I get the email?”
“Um…no,” I say suddenly afraid of seeing him move to his desk to get the email because it feels as though if he moves he will pounce on me and attack me. “I think I’m here because I’m the most in denial about what happened to me and that will keep Fiona out of the body even if Faith isn’t present.”
Eventually I start to allude to the concerns both Faith and I have about Fiona. At some point I start to cry.
“It’s easier with a female therapist,” he says.
“Some of this doesn’t apply to a female. I don’t have these problems with a female, this worst kind of transference. I can handle all the scary stuff and even the longing for a parent stuff but this is so humiliating that the last time I felt it I almost quit therapy. It seemed like the only option. Sometimes the feelings I get are about being so in love with someone, so attached to them, wanting to be so close to them and also sexual stuff. Sometimes because of transference I feel very young wish you were my parent. But I don’t want to find myself wishing you would do something sexual to me. I don’t want to do any of those things with you,” I say crying.
“No of course not.”
“But when Faith starts to trust you and feel good feelings of safety, it activates Fiona.”
We talk about how Fiona is a very young part and like all children she is sensual but because she was exposed to sexual abuse, normal attachment feelings got mixed up with sexual feelings. Fiona is unable to distinguish between parental love, sensuality or sexuality. It is all one overwhelming feeling for her. I hand him a document I have typed that mentions what Faith and I are afraid of should we allow Fiona out of exile.
He says some things to Faith or about Faith but I don’t recall them but he mentions magical thinking.
“I can really see how Faith believes that Fiona’s feelings or desire to connect will make a man violate her.”
“Yes. And so I just hate instead.”
“Wow. It’s almost like hate is an eraser of feelings.”
“Yes. And if I hate men then I’m not at fault if they hurt me. I haven’t caused it by liking them or encouraging them,” I say sadly.
I start crying again as I mention how horrible memories and sexual abuse were crammed into Fiona and locked away by Faith along with parts of my personality that want to get back.
“Yes, like natural and healthy curiosity and desire for connection.”
“It’s impossible for me to want to be friends with men and even hard for me to be friendly towards women. Even as a teenager while my friends had crushes on boys I couldn’t feel anything.”
“Faith is so restrictive,” he says.
“I constantly feel so restrained when I socialise. I want to reach out to people and interact but to do so I have to push past Faith holding me back. And I have to be so careful to get it right. Never be too friendly. It’s exhausting.”
“It’s like a straight jacket,” he says amazingly summing it up in one image. “I understand that me saying I won’t do anything to you isn’t enough. Faith doesn’t trust Fiona or herself.”
“Yes and she doesn’t believe you can contain it. No one can. She can’t release her rage on anyone because it will destroy them so she holds it in and she is also restrained, she gets angry and then goes still. She doesn’t want to be like her mother and father.”
He nods and then says, “Faith and Fiona know so much about what happened. But you have to know you were too young to consent. Too young.”
I pause to take it in hoping it Faith will hear it. Instead I finally say what Faith had been yelling at me all session.
“Faith wants you to reprint the picture of the red panda in colour.”
“Oh sure. I’ll have to do it at home.”
“That’s ok. Faith lives in darkness so everything is black and white to her. She liked that the red panda picture was so bright.”
“Oh. That’s interesting!” he replies.
As the session draws to a close I finally pluck up the courage to ask him to read a bit of the document I have given him.
“Can you just read that bit? That paragraph?”
He reads what I have been unable to say explicitly, that I am terrified that memories Fiona holds mixed with transference will end up giving me sexual fantasies about him and I am equally terrified of telling him this fear. Never did I ever think I would have to tell J that I’m afraid I might find myself wanting sex with him simply because I have parts of me that don’t know what sex is other than it being something a parent does to your body when you’re a child.
After a moment he looks up and nods in a way that makes my shame and fear melt away. He gets it. He nods and then says, “See you next week. And I’ll print out the red panda in colour.”