Carl: Can you tell me what you are feeling right now?
Me: I just had a little flash of anger. I’ve never felt anger about all of this before and it is scary for me to feel anger.
Anger feels like a deadly emotion for me because, if I was angry, I got hit, and if someone else was angry, I got hit.
Carl: Of course anger is scary for you, you had to survive anger by not allowing it to exist and by avoiding it.
With whom are you angry?
Me: I’m not sure. I just feel a general sense of anger, like I want to punch a wall.
Carl: Would it be okay if I shared my guess with you?
Carl: I’m guessing you are angry at your mom . . .
I’m guessing you are angry because you have just been presented with a new way of looking at what she did. You have always excused her behavior as “poor aim” and not held her responsible for her actions. I think you are now seeing it was in her power to make a better choice. She could have refrained from hurting you so badly.
Me: Yes . . . I’ve just never allowed myself to feel anger toward her before, so it is hard to own that.
With my journal, I’ve shared my writing with some people and they spoke out angrily about what has happened to me. I always appreciate that expression because I have not been able to feel and express the same about what happened to me. I feel like they are standing up for me, speaking out on my behalf.
Carl: Would it be helpful to you if I expressed anger toward your mother on your behalf . . . if I said what you might wish you could say?
(For several minutes, I struggled to answer. I could see healing benefit, but the idea of being present when anger is expressed is terrifying to me. I didn’t know if I could handle it. Finally, I was able to respond . . .)
Me: Okay . . . I’ll be brave. But, can you keep your voice very low? (I was in an almost panicked state as I asked this . . . I was crying and my voice was shaking.)
Carl: Yes, I can keep my voice low.
(I kept having visions of him standing up and yelling . . . I was on the edge of being too frightened to allow him to do the exercise for fear of his yelling.)
Me: Okay . . . promise me you will keep your voice low . . . do you promise?
Carl: I promise. If the idea of me doing this is too scary right now, we don’t have to do it today. In fact, we don’t ever have to do it.
Me: Will you stop if I ask you to stop?
Carl: Yes, I would stop immediately, as soon as you asked me to stop. In fact, we can stop before we even get started, if that is what you want.
Me: No, I want you to do it. I just need to know you will keep the volume of your voice low.
Carl: I believe I can express anger toward your mom while keeping my voice low enough that you won’t be scared.
Let me know when you are ready for me to start . . . you are in control.
(I took a deep breath . . . )
Me: Okay, go ahead. I’m ready now.
(I wanted to look at him as he spoke, but I found I couldn’t. Instead, I buried my face in my hands and started sobbing. I felt a great need to hide my face – shame, I guess. The whole time he was talking, I kept my face buried and continued sobbing.)
Carl: I am angry about what I have learned today from your daughter. Hitting your daughter is not acceptable behavior. In fact, it is a crime. If I had known about it at the time, I would have been obligated to report it and you would have lost custody of your daughter for a period of time.
It is unacceptable you did not take time to cool down before approaching her – it is unacceptable you unloaded your anger on her in an uncontrolled manner. I am angry you chose to injure her . . . she had trouble sitting down at school the following day because you injured her. You were an adult; you should have found a better way.
She was terrified by what she experienced. It hurt her physically and it hurt her emotionally and psychologically. She is still in pain because of it. I am angry you chose to treat her this way.
(After he finished speaking, I sat with my face in my hands for quite a while . . . then, I finally lifted my head and started wiping the snot and tears off my face and shirt. I had no idea what to say or how to behave. Carl waited patiently until I was ready to speak.)
Me: Thank you for expressing anger on my behalf. It was shocking to my system to hear that.
Carl: Shocking in what way?
Me: I don’t know. I just can’t fathom ever saying anything like that to my mom. It was just shocking to hear you say those words.
Carl: Did you feel loved growing up?
Me: Yes. I always knew I was loved. I knew my parents treated me the way they did because they thought it was the best for me. I knew everything they did was out of love. Even when it didn’t feel like they were acting out of love, I logically knew they were.
It was a step up from what they experienced. They had very rough childhoods – drunk fathers, lots of physical abuse like family members getting beat up, not just kids getting spanked. They made a very conscious choice to do better. They were doing the best they knew to do. They were doing what they had been taught by their parents and the church.
Carl: I don’t remember the Bible instructing parents to hit their children.
Me: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”
Carl: Those are probably the worst words ever written – written by people who didn’t know better. I don’t remember reading that Jesus hit anyone.
Me: Well, either way, it doesn’t matter to me because I’m no longer a Christian. I don’t follow the Bible anyway.
Carl: It makes sense you would not want to be part of the religion you were brought up in, especially since your experience of it included abuse.
(I didn’t respond, I just let that thought trail off . . . )
Me: So, let me ask you something . . .
Why did you start today’s session asking about the name I use to identify “X”?
Carl: Because I had a feeling that was a good place to start . . . I don’t have a more specific, more strategic answer than that.
Me: In our first session, why did you jump right into the hardcore stuff? I expected you to start out gently and then slowly move into the tough stuff, but you didn’t. You jumped right into the deep end.
Carl: You made it very clear to me during the interview you had already done a lot of work and you were ready to get to right to work with me. You let me know you were ready to deal with the big stuff and you didn’t want to waste time on small talk.
(I smiled and confirmed this)
Me: My buddies say, because my psychological skin tends to be very sensitive, it is good to surround myself with gentle people.
Carl: I think that is good advice!
Me: Do you think I will become less sensitive over time, as a result of therapy?
Carl: I think you will become less reactive as you heal old wounds – new wounds hurt so badly because they resonate deeply with hidden, old wounds. But, I hope you stay sensitive because that can be an asset.
[With that . . . our time was up!]
Other posts in Marie’s series:
- Part 1: My Therapist Stinks… I’m Searching for a New One
- Part 2: Choosing A Therapist… and Breathing Again
- Part 3: I Have Always Had to Keep the “Real Me” In Hiding…
- Part 4: My First Therapy Session with Carl
- Part 5: An Email I Sent to Carl After Our First Session
- Part 6: Dad Threatened to Kick Me Out, So I Planned Accordingly…
- Part 7: Do You Feel You Have Intrinsic Value as a Person?
- Part 8: I Am Learning Not to Fight the Tears
- Part 9: It’s About How I Have Violent Fantasies
- Part 10: He Is Providing That Validation That I So Desperately Needed
- Part 11: Relief, and Carl Assures Me He Does Know How to Help Me
- Part 12: I Feel Like I Can Relax Into His Leadership and Expertise
- Part 13: Remembering Child Abuse