Riches of Ages

I remembered yesterday another suggestion my therapist made at our last session in order to help me get in touch with my inner child.  She said I should play, play dolls, play a game.  I don’t remember the last time I played an imaginative game with Brown Bear, my loyal and hard used childhood companion.  I don’t remember when my mind frame changed.  I remember thinking and still think sometimes that after a certain point you should outgrow childhood toys, childhood companions.  Last night I thought about how my sister easily gave up a doll she had, Little Miss Makeup, in favor of a stuffed Koala puppet she named Nina.  Mom says my sister still has Nina and I think I remember seeing Nina sitting out somewhere.  Little Miss Makeup still lives in a box in storage, I think.  What I can’t imagine is letting Little Miss Makeup, Brown Bear, or Nina, sit in a box somewhere, a dumpster, a thrift store, a store like Goodwill or Red Cross.  There is a certain amount of anthropomorphizing that still occurs.  Things that have been constant childhood companions hold memories as well.  Throwing those away strikes a kind of terror in certain people.  I don’t know what that says about us.  What does it say about people who willingly, sometimes eagerly give those up?  Eventually, these toys these memories, fall by the wayside for many adults.  I dread that time.  My heart hurts for the time, whether in my life or after I’ve died, when Brown Bear is discarded.  It saddens me.

Along the same lines I do not like to imagine throwing away my personal journals.  I know some people do as a way to cleanse themselves of the past but to me I just have trouble fathoming the loss that would occur in the process.  To me it is a denial of certain aspects of oneself.  I suppose in the same can be said for the discarding of ones childhood companions.  For some of us these toys are extensions of ourselves, rightly or wrongly.

Charmer of Souls

I do not think there is anything to be said to ease, a doubt, a disappointment, a guilt, so deeply rooted.  By the time this guilt is felt, the damage has been done.  The wound may heal eventually; a scar will be present instead.  Only time will tell whether that scar will be left alone or whether it will be reopened again and again.  How deeply the initial wound went also determines the soul’s prognosis.  Will the wound be as if no more than a scratch?  Or is the wound a split on its way to becoming a chasm?  A chasm few bridges can cross.  A chasm that even time has trouble mending.

What words can be said to ease such a void?

There are none…except maybe those uttered by a charmer of souls.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Had another appointment with my therapist today.  I feel like next session could get pretty intense.  This session we discussed my inner child and the messages I received growing up that have kind of messed me up.  One of my assignments this week is to go shopping and allow myself (my inner child) to buy whatever she wants, within reason.  Then I am to have a conversation with this little girl about the accompanying feelings of guilt, doubt, and disappointment that are bound to follow this purchase.  What might comfort this little girl?  What would I have wanted my parents to say when I faced a similar circumstance as a child?  I already feel very emotional about the possible directions this conversation might take.  If I am to participate fully I fear shedding tears during the session.

This week I am also to construct images of what this hurt little girl looks like and an image of what I want my future self to be.  Then we are to dialogue with these images.  Now dialoging is something I have had extreme difficulty doing in the past but besides that the emotions that would be uncovered would be…difficult to contain.

I don’t know why I fear crying in front of anyone, let alone my therapist.  I just have this intense fear of vulnerability and I fear that what they think of me will change for the worse.  I fear crying because I don’t want them to feel badly.  It is a loss of control too that I fear more than even vulnerability I think.  I can’t be logical and in control if I am in tears.  At the same time I sooooo desperately want to be able to do this.  I want someone there to witness my pain.  I want someone there to…validate how I feel.  I am just so scared though.

Ground Control to Major Cog

“I am afraid of not being liked.  I am afraid of not being loved.”

This is something I said to my therapist this week and it is true.

I am afraid of acting silly.  I am afraid of a loss of control.  I am afraid of losing or not having respect.  I am afraid of criticism.  I am afraid that if I lighten up on myself I will be less disciplined and as a result less respected as a person.  I face the constant feeling of needing to justify my existence.

I came to the realization during my last session that a lot of my self esteem issues come from myself.  I stew in my own juices and I let past experiences sour it.  In short, there is very little to support my lack of self-worth other than the mental abuse I heap on myself.  Major Cognitive Distortions.  Of course, I have known this for a long time but after my last session it seemed, for a fraction of a second, as if I might easily shed these harmful ways of thinking.  I had hope and a glimpse of what my future might be.  You know, it is kind of like poking a bruise repeatedly.  Something initially caused that bruise but if you continue to poke it, it is going to hurt.

I have a highly overactive inner critic who uses tools like guilt, fear, anxiety, and depression with the skill of a master chef.  I need to learn to modify these.  If I ever  do modify these I feel it will be a whole new world for me.  It seems almost inconceivable to me that I might function with my own interests in mind.  I won’t be concerned about what other people think about what I do and when I do it, say, buy, not buy, wear, think, look like…I will finally be able to say “screw you!” to those nagging thoughts that tare me down.  I will finally feel happy, truly, purely, happy.  It will not be tainted with fear, anxiety, or depression.  Will I ever get there?

My assignment this week is to create art answering the question, “What does fear look like?”

Addiction of the Soul

Validation is a powerful thing.  Whether it is coming from a friend, family member, or therapist, it can change the world of someone, someone like me.

I began seeing the former instructor I wrote about in my last post.  I was drawn to her in class and now that she is seeing me as a client I am very glad to have that former relationship.  I just wasn’t comfortable pursuing a therapeutic relationship with someone I didn’t know.  What if I didn’t particularly like the person I chose to see?  Therapy wouldn’t turn out very well for me.

Anyway, validation.  I was describing my relationship with my Mom (blah, blah, blah, tired old subject) and describing her volatile nature.  Without thinking a whole lot about it, I said, “It’s scary.”  It was just a spontaneous expression of how I felt and it is so incredibly true.  My former instructor responds with something like, “Wow, Laura, that sounds like trauma.”  It was something of a shock and a validation to hear someone else describe it like that.  In the past I have always reasoned to myself, “You’re overreacting!  Trauma?  Abuse?  Real trauma is being beaten, being raped, being nearly killed by a roadside bomb.  So your Mommy didn’t hug you enough, big. fricken. deal.”  But yes, god yes, it has felt like trauma at times.  I remember so many distinct and indistinct instances where I felt like I just had to hold on and wait for the storm to end.  It was like being in pain and knowing that the pain couldn’t last forever; you just had to wait it out.

There was this one time, I was really young, Mom was in the kitchen making dinner.  She was steaming peas, I wanna say snow peas, and Dad enters the kitchen, I think from the backyard, and complains about what we are having for dinner.  His comments may or may not have been all that inflammatory but in any case Mom gets pissed off, knocks the pot off of the stove to the floor, and storms out the door.  I am standing right outside of the kitchen so I witness it all.  I remember getting so upset and scared, running into my room to put my gelly shoes on (shut up it was the late 80’s early 90’s), saying something like “Now see what you’ve done” to my Dad, who was in the kitchen picking up crushed peas off of the floor, on my way out of the door.  I rushed to the car where Mom was angrily trying to start it.  I remember asking her where she was going and if I could come with her.  I remember being so scared she wouldn’t come back.  Of course being as young as I was I didn’t really recognize my fear as such a specific one.  Now I feel I can name it.  Being too angry, she was unable to start the car and we ended up not going anywhere.  I had made it as far as getting into the passenger seat.  I don’t remember what happened after that.

Another time, much more recently also comes to mind.  I won’t bore you with the details but I was 26 and I still felt like the little girl that tried to stop her Mom from leaving.  God,  I was so afraid.  It took me hours to stop crying.

When I say I was scared I don’t mean that Mom would ever physically abuse us but  as I said to my therapist, it was more of a threat of withdrawal of love.  I could not and sometimes still cannot distinguish between Mom’s anger at me, frustration in any number of instances, anger at others…what has always mattered was, if Mom was not happy those around her would not be happy.  Ultimately, Mom’s unpredictability, perfectionism, high stress aura, and explosive moods is part of the reason why Dad could not find much to salvage in their marriage.  But Mom and Dad’s divorce is a whole other post.

I was talking about validation.  As a therapist in training I know mentally how important a role the validation of a client’s feelings plays in the relationship but to really feel it is something else entirely.

After our first appointment, it is almost like I am addicted.  I crave that environment and I am disappointed that my schedule does not allow me to schedule another appointment this coming week.

To Do What is Best

Over the past few weeks I have been scoping out therapists in my area.  I had a class this summer in which we had a really cool instructor.  I liked her and her…approach.  The class was Art Therapy studio which was basically an opportunity to create our own art and analyze it.  We each had a “processing session” with one of our two instructors and my session really drew me to therapy and art therapy again.  Anyway, after the class ended I asked if I might become a client of this instructor.  She won’t be in any further position where she’d supervise me so there wouldn’t be any conflict of interest there.  The program director even approved of the situation.  Now when it has come to the point of making an appointment, I am nervous.  Nervous for all of the reasons I need to see someone in the first place.  Wanting approval, being afraid of breaking down emotionally in front of a former teacher, and a whole host of other reasons,  but at the same time I know it is what I need.  I have in the past had therapists with whom I just haven’t clicked.  Something was missing and I don’t feel as if much was accomplished with these persons.  I don’t think I will have this problem with my former instructor but I am still nervous and excited at the same time.  I am nervous because it will be a completely different kind of relationship in a completely different setting.  It is scary.

I have long held the position of, or aspired to the position of ‘teacher’s pet,’ so a part of me is afraid that this relationship might play out the approval fantasy I have long held.  But perhaps at the same time it might not necessarily be a bad thing.  Perhaps this is simply what I need.  An attachment type of relationship that will allow me to feel more secure in myself…I feel I am in over my head…Do I know enough to make sense of this?  Am I looking for excuses or justifications?

Up until a few days ago this former teacher advocated me seeing someone outside of our educational circle.  Not only was she my instructor, she graduated from the same program I am currently going through.  However, she changed her mind by realizing how much incorporating art into therapy might mean to me.  I wouldn’t have been able to get this had I pursued seeing the other professional my instructor recommended.  I was disappointed when my former instructor was initially reluctant.  In turn I was reluctant to see this other person.  I made excuses not to go.  I go through cycles like this when I am especially motivated to seek out the help I need and then I go through a period of time where it simply gets pushed into the background.  Through classes and talking with friends this past week or so I have been moved more towards seeking therapy.  I told my former instructor of my excuses and of putting it off in the days before she agreed to see me.  So a part of me is afraid of what this former instructor of mine might be thinking now that I have agreed so readily to seeing her.  And what will she be thinking now that she has agreed to see me despite her initial reluctance?  As part of professional ethics I know it is our duty to take the client’s best interests seriously and I don’t like to think that my former instructor is seeing me only or mostly because of that.