It’s Wednesday and I’m still struggling with my memories not matching things. I’m back in Bea’s office, and I have writing– a lot of writing– to share with her. I’d written about the shame part, and how I wasn’t sure if the shame part and the instigator part were the same part or different parts. I’d also written that I (not the adult, but some part) would call the instigator the slutty part. Of course, I could never say that aloud, but there it was, in my journal.
Bea reads this, and stops reading to comment. “We can call this instigator part whatever she wants to be called or whatever you want to call her. If the slutty part is her name, then that’s her name. Another name for this part might be the seducer. I don’t remember exactly where I read, but in psychoanalytic theory, the seducer is a common part in sexual abuse cases.”
I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if Bea is going to turn shrinky or not, and so I’m sort of just waiting to see where this goes. Bea goes back to reading when it’s clear I’m not going to speak. She pauses periodically and comments on something I’d written, and I don’t say anything. Most of my session went like this. I don’t know know why, when I have so much in my head, I can’t seem to speak.
Two years ago, Bea would have talked to me, using the words in my journal as if I were responding to her. Now though, she won’t let me get away with silence. “What’s going on in that head of yours? Hmmm? You’ve been so quiet today.” Her voice has this playful quality to it, but I know she is asking for real; asking because she cares.
I shrug and look down at my hands. I’ve been picking at my fingers again. “I don’t know. I just….this. It’s hard. It doesn’t match. Not like, like the little girl, she didn’t match, but it was….there was no question she was part of me, even when I didn’t like her. This….this part is different.”
“Because the feelings and thoughts are so outside of who you are, of things you value?”
“No….not like that…not exactly.” I couldn’t figure out how to explain it then, and I’m not even sure now, but this is what I do know. Bea is right in a way– the idea of a part of me being sexual and enjoying it makes me sick. I see it as bad. (I realize that sex is healthy normal part of life and isn’t bad, and I am not calling anyone who enjoys sex or who is sexual bad. It’s just this belief I’ve taken on about myself.) However, it’s not exactly this “shadow side” of myself that I can’t acknowledge. I think the difference between the little girl and this part is that the little girl’s experiences aligned with my own, and I didn’t know all of her memories at one time. Mostly, her memories lined up with the story I had always told myself about it all just being a fun game. And when fear or shame showed up in these memories, it was after I had been working through things with Bea for a while. By then, I could at least feel those things in the moment, when the little girl was running things, and she could get her feelings out, and then they would be all but gone once the adult was back in control. It took a long time — almost 4 years — for all the awfulness of the little girl’s memories to come to light. Now this shame part and this instigator part, all their feelings, all their memories, everything about them and their perspectives are all right here. It’s a lot. I think if I had been hit with the little girl’s experiences, filter free, all at once, it would have felt as if she didn’t match in a very big way. Just like these parts now feel.
Bea tries to follow this thread, but it doesn’t go very far. Or maybe I can’t let her take it very far. Either way, this wasn’t a conversation I was willing to keep having.
All session, it felt like we were each wanting to talk about these things, wanting to work on it, but some part of me just wasn’t going to let Bea in. I don’t know. We kept missing each other. I think it would have continued on like that until the very end, except Bea took another stab in the dark, and asked, “What does the little girl think about the instigator part?”
I knew, instantly I knew what the little girl thought. It took me a minute to answer Bea, though, because I felt a little silly. “She’s mad. She just.. she’s mad.”
“Mad at the instigator? Can she say more about that?” Bea is curious. There is no judgment in her voice, she’s just glad to have found a way in.
“She’s ruining everything! I just want her to go away! To shut up and go away!”
“The instigator is ruining everything?” Bea asks. I nod, and so she continues. “What is she ruining?”
“Everything.” I’m exasperated. Didn’t I just say that? Didn’t I just tell Bea that the instigator is ruining everything?
“Can you tell me more about everything? I know she is ruining everything, but what does everything mean?” Beas voice is soft now, she is not talking to grown up Alice, she is talking to little Alice, and she is very aware of that.
“This. You. She’s going to ruin this.” I whisper this, but it is a whisper that contains all the emotions of a scream; anger, fear, vulnerability.
“Ahhhh, Okay. I see. You are afraid she is going to ruin the relationship.” Bea sounds as if it all makes sense to her now.
“Maybe.” The single word is said in a teeny tiny voice, but it tries to sound as if this doesn’t matter at all.
“I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not going to stop caring about you or stop believing your story just because we let this other part be heard.” Bea reassures the little girl again. How does she never tire of reassuring me that she isn’t leaving? It’s pretty incredible.
“Would it be okay with the little girl if we checked in with the instigator? I’m curious if she has something to say about the little girl being mad at her?” Bea is careful to keep her voice neutral as she asks this.
“I guess that’s okay.” I agree, but only because I’m pretty sure that if I’d said no, Bea would have been supportive of that.
“Well then…..I will say to the instigator part, did she hear the little girl speaking? Does she have anything she would like to say about the little girl being mad at her? Or just anything she would like to say?”
As Bea was speaking, I’d been feeling ridiculous, but as she finishes her question, I just know the answer. It’s strange, yes, but I knew the answer. “I feel a little silly….. but, well, the instigator is mad at the little girl.”
“She is? Why is she mad?” Bea asks. She sounds a little surprised, but it’s sort of like surprised that the instigator was willing to talk.
“Because….well, I guess it’s sort of like that kid thing of if you are mad at me, then I’m gonna be mad back at you. You know?”
“Hmmm, yeah. I do know. So she’s only mad because the little girl is mad at her?” Bea is trying to get more information.
“I think so.” I shrug. I’m not sure.
“What does the little girl think about that?” I have my face buried in my knees, but I can see Bea’s feet. She uncrosses her legs and puts both feet flat on the floor.
My first answer is that I don’t know. But I sit silently, thinking of the question and directing it to the little girl. “I don’t care. She ruined everything before. She wanted…..she did things that started….he hurt me and she wanted him to do it! I hate her!” My voice breaks as I’m speaking and the tears come. I hate the instigator. She just went along with everything. She started things. He hurt me, and she helped him do it. I hate this part.
“Yeah. Of course, of course you do. He did hurt you, and you couldn’t stop it. You did everything you could to escape it–that the dissociation, right? How can you begin to understand how she could instigate things with him, after all you went through?” She is so full of empathy and understanding, I can actually feel it. It’s like being wrapped up in a safe, warm hug. Bea lets that sit for a moment before asking, “What about the instigator? Does she have anything to she would like to say?”
It doesn’t take long for me to *hear* the instigator’s voice in my head. “She is upset. She feels like, well, if the little girl hadn’t been so dumb, so stupid to trust him, to go along with it all, to believe it was just a game, then, well, she wouldn’t have had to do the things she did.”
“Yeah. There were real reasons that the instigator did what she did. She was trying to protect herself, protect all the parts.”
That little bit of empathy for the instigator is all it takes for shame to show up. I think I’m going to be sick. I’m far away, in a flash, before I can even stop to think about grounding myself. I want to disappear. I think how that I dream of Genie trick, where you wiggle your nose and disappear, well that would be a great trick to have right about now.
“What just happened? Where did you go?” Bea asks. She’s gotten really good at knowing when I’ve gone far away.
“Not here.” The answer sounds sassy, but it’s really just all the words I can get out right now.
“Here didn’t feel very safe all of a sudden. What happened?” Bea says softly.
“I’m disgusting.” I gag on the words. Shame is so strong right now.
“I don’t think so. What made you feel that right now?”
“I…..it’s….. because of the things I did.”
“And maybe my acknowledgment of those things that the instigator did?” Bea adds this in gently, but she is fully aware that being *seen* can be a huge trigger for me.
“No…maybe. I don’t know. It’s more…it is not…..9 year old girls are not supposed to know about, much less do those things, and want them! No, ewww……just ick.” I’m crying as I speak, and trying to curl into the smallest ball I can. I need to hide. I don’t want to be seen anymore.
“Well, no, 9 year old girls shouldn’t know about those things. They don’t choose to know about them.” Bea’s voice is soft. I like how she always uses the same words I use to describe things, unless she is trying to help me use those words that I find impossible to say.
“See? Normal 9 year old girls don’t do those things! I’m sick. I’m sick and twisted and disgusting.” I sob.
“Normal,” Bea says thoughtfully. “You were normal. It is absolutely normal for a girl who was victimized to look for connection in that way. Yes, you were completely normal. You aren’t disgusting, or sick or twisted. He was sick and twisted, to sexually touch a little girl, to turn that act of betrayal into a game, to make it because he loved you and you were special. He is disgusting, not you. You behaved in a way that was normal for your history.”
I don’t say anything. I can’t wrap my head around that.
“Alice? Are you here enough to have heard me?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I heard you.” My voice sounds thick, like I’ve been drugged. I’m just that far away.
“What does shame think about that?”
I don’t answer. Shame thinks Bea is wrong, that I’ve really pulled one over on her, or that maybe she just doesn’t want to see the truth of the awful things I did. I shake my head. “I don’t wanna talk anymore right now, k?” I mumble to Bea.
“Okay. We don’t have to talk right now.” She goes on to talk about everyday type stuff. She tells me about her dogs, and her trip she is going on over the weekend, and just random conversational stuff.
When I am more present, I look up at her. “I feel silly. And crazy. All this….mismatch memories and feelings and parts being mad at each other? I feel crazy.”
“You aren’t crazy. This is just the process. It’s working through a lot of really deeply buried feelings and beliefs. It gets better, and becomes less crazy making over time. You know that from past times you have felt like this.”
“And in the meantime, I just get to feel crazy and silly?” Even though I am serious that I feel silly and crazy, with the adult back in charge, I feel okay, and my question comes out good-naturedly.
She smiles at me. “That’s the process.”
I groan, interrupting her. “And we just have to trust the process, right?” I punctuate the question with a giggle.
Bea laughs with me. “Yup. You just gotta trust the process.”