Monday morning, 8:00am, and I’m in my usual place on Bea’s couch. I have an envelope in my bag, containing a letter. I hadn’t been able to give Bea my letter on Thursday, it was too scary. I’d written another letter this weekend, and now it sits in my bag.
“What’s coming up for you today?” Bea asks.
I shrug. “I don’t know.” I mumble.
“Was there anything you wanted to talk about today?” She pushes a little bit. Maybe she knows there is something. I just feel lost and like she is far away.
I shake my head. “I don’t know.”
“Why don’t we start coloring and we can talk about anything that is coming up? Go from there.” She suggests softly.
I nod my head, a little. “Sure. Okay.” I feel numb, I don’t really care.
Bea gets out the markers, colored pencils and our pictures. We start coloring. I’m not really here, but I’m not far away, either. I don’t even know, I’m ignoring Bea as much as I can.
Bea talks to me, and I answer her questions as shortly as possible. I don’t want to be here. I should give her my letter, but I’m too afraid.
“I was thinking about picking a marker and asking you to find something in the room that matches the color. Like a game, to work on orientating to the room, to the present.” She tells me.
I freeze inside. No. No games. I’m not doing this. No. I don’t say anything to her, and I can’t meet her eyes.
“What’s the little girl thinking about this? How is she feeling?” Bea asks gently.
I shake my head. I can’t tell her. The little girl is too afraid. Finally, I say, “The little girl isn’t happy.”
Bea waits to see if there is more, but I don’t say anything else. I think she might ask more questions, or say something. I don’t know. In the end, she suggests that I can email what I’m thinking and feeling.
I say, “Maybe,” and leave it at that.
Bea says something, she wants to make sure I know that she wants to hear from me. I don’t say anything, and when I leave, it’s awkward and feels disconnected. I say goodbye and rush out the door.
Later, I write to Bea. I let the little girl write, top. I don’t send either email. Eventually, I write her a short note, telling her I’m afraid, that I had a letter to give her but didn’t, that the little girl doesn’t trust her right now, and that she feels like she can’t talk anymore. Bea writes back, “The little girl needs to know that she will always be seen and her needs taken into account. If she is scared I will try to figure out how to help her feel safe. I wondered today if she was mad? If so, I hope she knows it is okay to be mad and express those feelings too. I’m sure me talking about playing the orienting game made her not trust me. Games were not good and not to be trusted in the past, but this is a healing game, one that can help her feel less powerless. She can play it however she wants. “
On Tuesday, I write more to Bea about the little girl. “She’s afraid of mad. And she’s sure if she lets out any mad feelings you will be upset with her. And, I don’t….the little girl’s mad feelings…they seem very childish, and silly to the grown up part of me. Which makes it embarrassing to explain this mad, or to give the mad feelings a voice. It’s this mad that is, I don’t know…like want to throw something, stomp your feet, scream, act like a two year old throwing a tantrum feeling. The feeling is really at odds with the grown up part…….Resource building, and you pushing it forward is the problem, in her opinion. She doesn’t want anymore resource building right now. The little girl just feels like she keeps being pushed aside to focus on resource building. (The grown up part of me knows that’s not accurate in the least —but they are her feelings—and the little girl doesn’t always hear things right….she just is on hyper alert for any sign of you being upset, not wanting her to talk, of being rejected, of anything negative, or anything that she can perceive negatively—– which is almost anything, really.)”
Bea writes back, later that day. “But do we know what she’s mad about? How can we help her? She’s frustrated, maybe, and doesn’t feel heard?…….She can take control over these games–unless she decides that they are not going to be safe and helpful. She isn’t used to getting to decide, or to work together with somebody who doesn’t want to hurt her………She will not be “fired.” She is not expected to be good or nice. Maybe she’s encouraged to be a little bit brave, but that’s about it……….It’s a catch 22. We can’t effectively process the trauma without building the resources first, so the little girl is being kept in perpetual misery. She can always talk–collaborating is what this is about, and the more ideas she has, the better. She can also tell what memories might be coming up, etc. She won’t be silenced! it is definitely okay for her to express her thoughts and feelings. Experiencing that as okay will be a big step for her!”
I write back, Tuesday evening. “Brave. Maybe this is just as brave as I can be right now. I don’t know. I know I’m always scared and hiding and not very brave. And I’m sorry. I’m trying to be. I really am. Not expected to be good or nice. I don’t know. I want to believe that. But I just don’t. Why would you want to listen to me or help me if I’m not good or nice? There’s all this mad. I’m mad because I feel like I’m not supposed to talk. Maybe the stubborn mad you felt from me was….stubborn but it’s stubborn mad like I am not going to be hurt again. Every time I think I’m being told– even if the grown up knows my (the little girl’s) perceptions are all off– to not talk, my feelings are hurt. I feel wrong, like I believed you that I could talk and then….I don’t know. It doesn’t matter what you are really saying, I hear that I’m not allowed to talk. I’m mad that I’m stuck with all these memories and nightmares. I’m mad that the better the grown up part of me feels– the healthier the grown up part seems to feel– the more present I am and then the more yucky crap and awful feelings comes up. It’s not fair that the better, the healthier a part of me gets, the more bad stuff I have to deal with. It’s not fair! I’m maybe mad at Kenny, but I’m not even sure why exactly because my feelings about it being all my fault haven’t changed. But I’m mad that he hurt me, that he pretended to be my friend, to be nice, just so I would play his games, just so I would do what he wanted. I’m mad that I can’t go back to believing he was my friend and that nothing really happened. And I’m mad at you for changing things, for doing things different. And I’m terrified of being mad at you. I’m mad that I’m being kept in perpetual misery. Sometimes I’m mad that I ever opened up and told to begin with. I don’t want to have all these mad feelings. And I’m mad at myself. Well, the grown up is mad at the little girl part for being mad and causing issues. That part of me just wants the little girl to go away, to take her feelings and her nightmares and all of it away. “
I get Bea’s response Tuesday night. “She’s being brave just by hanging in there with all this! We have to have her on board to continue moving forward, so she certainly won’t be forgotten. Your worth is not based on being good or nice. Your worth is based on just being you! Authentic, real expressions of feelings are much more valuable than covering up things that are only going to surface in another way anyways. It’s okay for you to be mad at me. I won’t be destroyed and I won’t go away even if you are really really mad. It’s my job to contain all the mad–and the other feelings–so you feel safe to express them. I’m trying to figure out why you feel like you’re not supposed to talk? That part confuses me. With what we are doing the idea is that you will share little pieces of the memory, and if you get out of the window we will do things like orient to the room so you can stay in the window so that the memory can be integrated and not retraumatizing. You have to be on the edge of the window–feeling pretty uncomfortable–for this to work, but not out of the window. It’s always okay to talk about the memories, but we’ll be safe about it. Is this what the little girl means about not being able to talk?”
The little girl still wasn’t sure she was ready to trust Bea again. “Mad is not okay, I don’t like mad. I mean, I’m better with mad than I used to be– I can at least admit to feeling mad now. But it feels yuck. I feel guilty for bring mad. I feel like this terrible person. I can’t explain it really. It’s like…..there is this belief that if I am mad, I am a bad person. And maybe me being mad at you won’t destroy you, but what if it ruins the relationship? Well….I just keep thinking of course you are confused. Because the grown up part knows that there has been nothing said about no talking, that in fact, the opposite has been said—- that I can always talk about whatever I want to or need to talk about. The little girl though…she thinks differently, and so it feels to me like I’m not supposed to talk. And where this belief came from, it’s so convoluted and messy and I’m not really sure I even understand it. It’s this…..I don’t know. So….I think I’m going to have the little girl write to you. If she can be brave enough. The grown up part of me feels stupid and embarrassed over how the little girl feels and the things that have made her believe she can’t talk. The grown up is frustrated and annoyed and feels like the little girl is being whiny and silly and a drama queen, and the little girl is so afraid you are going to feel the same way as the grown up part. She can’t see why you wouldn’t feel the same way. She’s terrified of being that vulnerable and then feeling like you are mad at her, annoyed, and wanting the little girl to go away.”
When I wake up Wednesday morning, Bea has written back, and her response is enough to convince the little girl to write. “It’s my job to be sure it doesn’t ruin the relationship–and I feel confident in being able to do that. I do feel like you’ve gotten more comfortable with mad, which is great! Well, the little girl comes from a time when she really wasn’t supposed to talk–and it didn’t work when she did try to talk about what was happening to her. So it’s no wonder she would think she’s not supposed to talk. The grown up part often struggles for compassion for the little girl part. I won’t have that same struggle. I want to know what she’s thinking and feeling.”
So, the little girl writes and sends Bea her letter.
I’m afraid to say all this. I’m afraid that you will be annoyed, or even angry that I’m upset over such small stupid things. I am afraid you will give up on me, that you will get tired of dealing with me and listening to me.
I was really mad on Monday. You hurt my feelings. I don’t like telling someone they hurt my feelings, and I don’t like talking about it. I’m usually afraid that I’ll just be told I’m being silly, or that I’m wrong about what happened to hurt my feelings. That’s why I was mad, though. I wanted you to go away, to stop changing things, to stop making everything so different. But I didn’t really want you to go away, I just wanted all the yucky feelings to go away. And, I was so angry that you are trying to make me change, and that you have helped the grown up part to change and that you are trying to make me play a game to be more “here”. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to feel everything that I feel when I’m more here. I want to be far away and hiding. And I don’t want to play any games. And I don’t believe you that I can say no to something. If I say no, you just ask about something else that is almost the same or bring it up later, or keep pushing in some way. So what good is “no”? That makes me mad, too.
And I’m mad because I’m afraid you are wrong; that you will be mad back, and fire me or just leave because I am acting like a brat. I’m mad that I don’t want you to leave. I don’t like feeling like this, and I don’t want to need anyone. I get scared of you. This is scary.
I thought..on Monday….or maybe it was Thursday…….(I think both days I had a letter to give you but something happened that made me feel like it wasn’t okay to give it to you) you had my notebook. And you read it. You read about my nightmares and my scared feelings, and how confused I am right now and you read my questions, and fears. But we didn’t talk about it. Not really. I’m afraid to talk about it, but I thought if I gave you all of that, you would talk to me about it. Help me somehow, even if it’s just not feeling alone. I don’t know what I wanted, really. But we didn’t talk about it. I know you said something, but can’t remember what it was. And I had written something over the weekend about how I have been feeling not okay, and about feeling like I am not allowed to talk. I was really afraid to give it to you, and then you just switched to talking to me about resources, and…..something about working on resources so that we can use sensorimotor therapy to process trauma stuff later, when I’m able to do sensorimotor. All I heard was that I can’t talk until I can do sensorimotor therapy. There was no way I was going to give you my letter then. And that’s when I went far away. My feelings were hurt. I never really did come back. I just sat up and colored, and chose a picture because that was what you wanted me to do. All I really wanted to do was go home because I felt sad. I was sad that you didn’t want to listen to me, sad that I wasn’t allowed to talk, and sad that I am too scared of all these changes to be able to do what you want me to do, and it felt like I will never be allowed to talk again.
This is sort of what my letter on Monday said—-
Ever since you started that training, you have been different. You say you aren’t, but you are. You feel different to me, and you respond differently, too. I started just bringing my writing with me because you didn’t email me back once, for a few days. And I was scared and hurt and so sure I had done a bad thing and you were leaving. But then you did email back, and you said sorry, and it should have been okay, it should have been fine, I should have been fine with it, except it wasn’t oaky. It wasn’t okay because it felt like anyone could have written your response, any therapist, it didn’t feel like you wrote it. And then, it’s just little things. Every time you redirect me to resourcing and coping skills instead of talking to me, I feel shut down. It’s as if I’m being told I’m not allowed to talk, or have feelings. When you tell me to focus on this or that, and not the feelings that come up when we are coloring, I feel like you just don’t want to deal with another meltdown. The grown up part was so embarrassed and mad at me after that freak out while coloring. And I was scared and overwhelmed and felt really left alone. And when I wrote about it, you just…I don’t know. Maybe the point isn’t to focus on the feelings, but they pop up, and it’s like you want me to ignore them, because you are tired of dealing with my crazy. Or when you are talking about orienting, and where we shine the flashlight being a habit, all I heard was that it is my fault I feel bad and frozen and crazy. My fault, because it is a habit I created. And, of course, my fault because I started it anyway, So, change it, get over it. I don’t know. You said something about maybe we won’t ever get to the point of being able to pay attention to what I feel in my body for the sensorimotor therapy…I’m not sure what you said, really, because I was just so instantly triggered, because all I heard was that I’m too broken, too damaged to be able to do that therapy the right way. I think I am just super aware of anything that is said or done that could mean you want me to go away, or that might mean you feel the same way I feel about me, or the same way that grown up part feels about me. So it’s all these little things– me “hearing” or getting a different message then the one you might actually be saying— on top of all the changes you’ve made, and you feeling different to me, and the hubby emails. And then, I don’t know why else. There’s more, but it’s just there— this really strong feeling of don’t talk. So every time I do talk, I notice anything that might mean I should not be talking.
That’s mostly it, what it said.
And maybe you are right, and my thoughts and beliefs are from a time when it wasn’t okay to talk. Anytime I tried to talk, no one listened or got it anyways. Maybe I’m still searching, waiting for that to happen. To not be listened to, to not be understood. I don’t know.
Maybe this window thing might be okay. Maybe. It feels like the taking a break, coming up for air, is the same as telling me to stop talking, that it is not okay to keep talking. And, it kind of is. Even if it’s “stop talking because you are too far away and this isn’t safe”, it doesn’t feel any different than “stop talking because I don’t want to hear anymore or deal with this.” Maybe there is a way……what about if you have to say stop talking and take a break, you could tell me, remind me that it’s okay and we will come back to whatever we were talking about and that you do want to listen? And then make sure we do go back to it. Because I won’t bring it back up. I’ll question and wonder, no matter what is said, that you don’t really want to listen. The grown up part thinks this is ridiculous. I think you maybe don’t know how much I question everything people say or do, and trusting them, and believing them, because the grown up is really good at pushing that all away and pretending to be confident and okay. She’s good at pretending to be normal. Or maybe she is normal. But I’m here, too and I doubt everything, and my default belief is that people don’t like me, that people don’t want to listen to me, that I need too much, that I’m a drama queen, that I am silly, that people say nice things but really don’t mean them, that people can’t stand to be around me, and that they only like me if I do what they want and follow their rules.
You said you wanted to know my thoughts and feelings. I really hope you meant it, and that you aren’t mad. I’m confused and scared and sad and mad and I don’t want to be so alone anymore.
~the little girl
Bea responded back within a few hours, and her response just made things so much better. “So glad you were able to send all of this. There are some themes here that I’m paying attention to–one, that we do need to talk about the day to day how you’re doing as expressed in your journal, another, that I haven’t been inquiring about your feelings while we’re coloring (which is such a basic therapist thing that it’s terrible that I haven’t been doing it!), and, another, that this need to have a voice is really important. That’s not going to happen. (Bea getting annoyed or giving up on me). In fact, I want to hear more from you! I knew you were really mad. I wasn’t sure why, but I figured it was about things changing. That must feel out of control and scary, on top of making you mad! And hurting your feelings. I like to think think that things changing means we’re adding things, not taking things away, but it doesn’t feel that way to you. ……I’m sure it’s very scary–you had to be very brave. I’m still here, though………….I think we shouldn’t color tomorrow–I think we should talk about the notebook. I should have known that was important…….Yes, we need to pay more attention to your feelings–and to the stories and things that come up. It should be an “and” with the new stuff, not a taking away…………(in response to my idea that she remind me she wants to hear what I’m saying and to make sure we will go back to what we were talking about if we have to take a break). What a great idea! Yes, I can be sure to tell you that we will come back to it, that of course I want to listen and hear what you are saying……………….I’m so glad you shared your thoughts and feelings! I did want to listen. You were very brave.”
There’s been so much she has said the last few days—- that she won’t give up on me, that she isn’t going to fire me, that she wants to hear the little girl’s thoughts and feelings, that I can be really mad at her and it won’t ruin the relationship (she won’t let it), that she won’t have the same struggle the grown up part has with feeling compassion for the little girl, about my worth not being based on my being good or nice– that has helped so much. I don’t understand why she is being so nice. I’m not sure I fully trust it but I do feel safer, again, like things will maybe be okay.
17 thoughts on “The little girl shares”
Your last paragraph is bringing tears to my eyes. I don’t even know why, except I really understand what you are saying. And I feel so touched with Bea’s responsiveness to you, and how that has helped you feel safe. It is very moving. It resonates so much with me as to how my therapist was in touch with me every day for the past week, and never got mad or made me feel bad about needing her and being mad at her and being hurt and upset. Thank you for sharing, I am so glad the little girl wrote the letter.
It’s really a special thing, to find a therapist willing to be in touch like we need, and not be upset. I don’t understand why she is being so nice to me. And I don’t think it’s just because it’s her job, I think she maybe just cares. I don’t know. I’m glad you have a therapist like this, too. Xx
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I think it is both; it is her job, a job she chose because she loves it. And, because she just cares. She cares, and wants to help. It is very special. xx
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This is very moving and thought-provoking. I’m so impressed that the little girl was able to express strong and scary emotions, and I’m happy too that Bea was very responsive. This seems like such a positive, powerful step forward.
Thank you. I’m sort of impressed she was able to express so much, too. It’s not her usual behavior. I feel like the little girl opening up more is a very big step forward. Xx
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It’s amazing how strong those beliefs can be even when we logically know that our therapist isn’t meaning what we think that she is meaning, isn’t it? I, too, have had to say, “I’m sure that this isn’t what you meant, but this is what I heard.” It is incredibly scary and vulnerable making to take the risk to be so honest. I am so impressed with all of you!
In my experience, over time it becomes a lot easier to say, “wait a minute, I must not be hearing you correctly” or “I know from experience this isn’t the way that you do things, but I’m afraid that you are going to…” While even the best therapists mess up sometimes, good therapists will consistently try hard to be open to anything that you share and don’t punish you for pushing beyond being a “good girl.”
It would be so much simpler if I could just say something in the moment, but instead the little girl holds onto all those moments, and remembers them all until it’s too much. Thank you for being impressed. I don’t understand her being nice to me when I’m not being “good”. I know I’m taking things at the pace of a turtle, but I think something is shifting, if the little girl is able to begin to trust Bea enough to share those feelings. Xx
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It’s ok not not understand it for now. Just keep on reminding yourself that she hasn’t ever punished you for not being nice when you start to worry too much. My therapist keeps on telling me that the understanding will eventually come, but keeping track of the evidence is enough for the moment.
Keeping track of the evidence does help. The little girl emailed yesterday because I kept telling myself to be brave and trying to remember all the times she has been there and has listened. It blows my mind that after everything she has done, I still don’t trust that she’s really going to be there, that she really wants to listen.
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Part of that is the dissociation. It can be really hard for present day evidence that runs counter to protective measures to get through. 😦 It takes lots and lots of gentle support and self compassion over time to get there.
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This was just so riveting. I reat every word and I was amazed at how effortlessly I could switch between grown up you and little girl you. If I can do this, then you fantastic therapist can certainly work with both of you and make sure you are both safe. I’m sorry you have to live with this trauma but you have such an amazing therapist. I’m happy about that.
Wow. Thank you. The little girl part and the grown up part have really different voices and feelings. I do have a really amazing therapist; I’m very lucky to have her in my life. 🙂
I am so proud of both of you. I am so glad that little girl is finding her voice and that you are finding courage every day to stick with this. And what a fabulous therapist who can listen to you and accept that she maybe didn’t get it entirely right. She cares deeply about you I can tell.
Thank you. I’m always so surprised when she just listens and accepts that she didn’t get it right, that even when she puts ideas or guesses out there, she wants me to edit/correct what she guessed if it wasn’t correct….it’s not my experience in this life. I’m grateful for it though. I do believe she cares, but it’s nice to hear that from someone on the outside. I just don’t understand. Xx
Just wait, it gets easier and better! I’ve really grown to trust my T and things just seem so much different. I still have my silent shut down moments and overwhelm but really I can breathe now. I am so much better and so much more relaxed in therapy. I am so glad you are rebuilding your trust and maybe it’s good to have lost it and then regained it as you have. It’s been incredibly painful but a journey you both needed to take.
Thank you. I’m really glad things are better for you, that you can breathe now. I’m beginning to see why people say that working through ruptures can make things stronger. It is painful, but it is getting better, and I feel safer than before. Xx
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