Carl: Okay, I’ll keep going…
“Did you know that I had opinions and preferences? You told me I didn’t…that I was too young to know what I wanted and what was good for me. You said that my opinion didn’t matter, that only yours did—yours and mom’s—because you were the parents and what you said went…no argument allowed. If I argued, I got hit.
“You said God wouldn’t let me into heaven if I didn’t obey you because the Bible commanded me to honor my parents. I guess that is how you guaranteed compliance even after I left home, even after you died. You said you would disown me and my children if I dared to question what you said. I still feel the weight of shame from being a traitor to my family and to the church. I learned that from you. Could you not have taken the time to consider there was a better way to teach me how to make wise choices? Or, was that too much effort?
“I was so desperate to feel connected and wanted by you that I went looking for ‘that’ elsewhere. ‘That’ didn’t come cheaply… I had to trade my body for it.”
Me: (Suddenly sitting upright) Well, that’s a whole new territory. Maybe we can save that for another day.
Carl: Which part is new territory?
Me: The stuff that didn’t come cheaply.
Carl: Okay. We can save that for another day.
Me: I’m noticing that the intensity of the emotions around all of this has started to fade as you have been reading. At this moment, the strongest emotion for me is… well, I’m getting all weepy about finally being able to move my body into a position other than sitting upright, frozen. I finally feel a bit connected with the emotions stored in my body. I am feeling gratitude for finally feeling safe enough to move my body, to express some emotion with my body. I am in awe that I was able to curl up on the couch.
And, the awe and gratitude are beginning to overshadow the shame and anger I have been feeling about what my parents did. The shift feels relatively good to me in my soul and body.
I think that says a lot about you, as a therapist. I am thankful I found you. I did a good job of choosing a therapist this time.
Carl: Thank you for the compliment! It also says a lot about you and the hard work you have been doing.
Me: Thank you…
There are still many emotions—intense emotions—stored up in my body. I would love to get to the place where I could act out those emotions at the level of intensity I feel them. I would love to be able to scream, to kick and throw things…to curl up and hide under the blanket and behave like a little girl in great pain.
Right now, that feels all but impossible. But, I made some major progress today—I actually laid down. Maybe there is hope. I guess I just need to trust I’ll get there in time—and to trust you can and will help me as I need help.
Carl: Yes, I will help you.
You are welcome to do any of those things in here. You can make as much noise in here as you care to… you could even scream at the top of your lungs. All of that is acceptable behavior in here.
Me: There is a voice inside my head—my dad’s voice—that keeps telling me I’m being overly dramatic about this stuff. I have to keep telling myself I’m not being overly dramatic.
Carl: Was there something in the part of the letter we went over today about which you feel you are being overly dramatic?
Me: Well, yeah… the part about the power tools and the farming stuff… it didn’t hurt me to learn that stuff. I even used those skills within the past five or seven years when I couldn’t find work in my field—I did electrical subcontracting and I operated heavy equipment. Those skills allowed me to put food on the table and a roof over my head. Those skills have served me well in my life as an adult.
Carl: I don’t think you are being overly dramatic. In fact, as I was reading that part, I was thinking that you were being rather understated about the matter. Your dad did put you in grave danger. I don’t see any good reason for him to have exposed you to that much danger at such a young age.
Me: It taught me that I had value when I took risks—when I was “fearless,” so to speak. I did continue participating in high-risk, high-adrenaline activities as an adult because I could then brag about my feats of daring and fearlessness. It got me a lot of attention from men… I did it because it is what men like.
Carl: Some men… not all.
Me: Yeah… I’m learning that now. And, it is a relief. But, it feels like I lost part of my identity when I started mellowing out… I no longer have that “wow” factor that I used to use to get attention from men. But, I guess that is okay because, for now, I really am not willing to put time and energy into a relationship, anyway.
Carl: You have so much to offer in relationships. I’m guessing you’ll start attracting a different type of people into your life now—people who value who you really are, at your core.
Me: That would be nice.
That brought us to the end of the session. As I was packing up and getting ready to walk out, I noticed Carl putting the two throw pillows back on the couch. He put them in the middle of the couch.
When I saw that, I found myself wondering if he has a system for figuring out if he is going to put them on one end of the couch or the other… or in the middle. They are often in different places on the couch when I arrive. Sometimes I sit wherever they are not, and sometimes I move them because they are where I want to sit.
I just wonder…does he pay attention to that? Does he read something into where I sit on the couch… like, am I willing to move the pillows to meet my needs, do I feel comfortable enough sitting on the end of the couch away from the door that I would move the pillows in order to sit there?
I know… it doesn’t really matter, I guess… it’s just one of those quirky little things I sometimes wonder about…
I was so moved by the session today that I sent off an email to Carl shortly after the session:
I didn’t want to wait two weeks to say…
Today’s session was incredibly powerful for me—more powerful than I have allowed myself to hope for. I didn’t know therapy could be this effective and life-changing. I am already experiencing a foundational shift in how I view myself and how I’m showing up in the world.
Thank you—big time.