Me: This is so hard. I don’t know if I can do it. (Tears welled up, my frustration building… )
Carl: You don’t have to do “this.” You have already done enough. You don’t have to do anything more. You can stop or you can continue—and I’m fine with whichever you choose. You are in control of what happens here.
Me: But, I want to. I want to do this. I want to express myself. I want to be able to move my body when my emotions tell me to move it. I hate being frozen like this. (Starting to become frustrated, even enraged… balling up my hands into fists…)
If I want to stand up and look out the window, or if I want to beat a pillow against the couch, or if I want to scream, or if I want to hide in a corner… I want to be free to do that kind of stuff. (With anger in my voice) I hate being frozen and paralyzed like this. I hate it. I mean, really… how fucking hard can it be to wrap a blanket around myself?
But, I don’t know how to make myself do it. I don’t know how to fix this. (I put my face into my hands and sobbed… )
(Carl sat quietly with me for a few more moments and let the emotion drain out of me… then… )
Carl: What can I do to support you?
Me: I don’t think there is anything you can do that you haven’t already done. I just have to be brave enough to do what I am terrified to do.
(At the start of the session, Carl mentioned he had not been able to use the restroom before our session because someone was in the restroom at that time. He said he would need to take a break at some point during the session when there was a natural pause in our conversation. So, I said… )
Me: Why don’t you take your restroom break now… ?? I’ll use that time to figure out what I’m going to do or not do with regards to the blanket.
Carl: Okay. I’ll do that. I’ll be back in a few minutes.
Me: Thanks . . .
He left… I carefully opened one fold of the blanket… I opened a second fold of the blanket… I got it open almost all the way—one fold left… that is all the further I could open it. If it got any bigger, it would be too intrusive, too dramatic… for now, I could only allow myself a small demonstration of my desire to hide under the blanket. I felt I’d surely die if I allowed myself more.
I quickly flipped the blanket over my head and onto my back. I draped it around my shoulders like an eveningwear wrap. I really wanted to cover up my whole body with it. I really wanted to curl up in the fetal position and completely hide beneath the blanket. But, that wasn’t going to happen today. Just getting it out of the bag and around my shoulders was a huge step—the biggest step I could accomplish today.
Carl: (Upon returning to the room) I see you were able to place your blanket around you… do you feel comfortable with how you and the blanket are situated? Do you need to change anything or are you okay with how things are?
Me: I’m fine with how things are.
Carl: Good. So, did I understand you correctly that you would like for me to do the reading today?
Me: Yes—if you are still okay with that.
Carl: I am. Would you like me to start reading the letter you wrote to your dad, or would you like to start with the letter you wrote to your mom?
Me: Um… let’s start with the letter to my dad. I marked the paragraph I’d like for you to start with… I know we read those same paragraphs last time, but I don’t remember reading them. So, I’d like to go over them again.
Carl: Okay. I’ll start with the paragraph you marked…
“When I peed my pants, when my legs buckled under me, did you not have even the briefest moment where you thought, ‘This is not right.’? How could you not? I know for a fact you know what it is like to be in my shoes.
“In your childhood, you were beat by your own drunken dad; you protected your mom and your younger siblings from him. I know you could not have forgotten what that was like. Did you think it was okay to do it to me because you weren’t drunk and out-of-control? But, you weren’t always in control, were you? Not when you slapped me in the face when I was 16.”
Carl: For which of your behaviors did he punish you?
Me: You know, I don’t remember. I have often tried to remember, but I can’t. I think it was mostly because I made too much noise or something.
Carl: Because you were expressing your natural child-ness?
Me: Yeah, I guess so.
Carl: So, your Dad punished you for doing what children naturally do… for being playful and joyful and expressive.
Carl: Ouch! (Pause to let the emotion be felt… )
Are you ready for me to continue?
“I am grateful that you worked so hard and provided a home for me.
“I watched my niece get spanked when she was 18 months old. You had to hold her upright by one arm while you spanked her with your other hand because she couldn’t stay balanced while you were hitting her. I remember the look of shock on her face. I was 10 years old (32 years ago) but I remember it clearly. You explained that other people said kids that young couldn’t understand right from wrong and couldn’t understand punishment. But, you assured me they did.
“You said you had started spanking all of us as soon as we could make eye contact and become defiant, which was at about six months old, you said. You said that, if you spank a kid that young, they learn early to not misbehave because they understand pain as a consequence… you can’t talk to them, so you have to use pain.
“I believed you and spewed that same gospel until I reached adulthood and started questioning what I had been taught about many things. Did you ever question your philosophy? When you hit us when we were that young and we got a look of terror on our face, did that not ever trigger your sense of protectiveness?”
Carl: It would have been preferable for your dad to be a source of protection for you. That didn’t happen, did it?
[Continued in the next post… ]