Editor’s note: this is part 28 of Marie’s story.
Carl: There was a lot in your status report! I’m so glad you shared with me about your desire to use the blanket in our work together. It was very brave of you.
Me: Thank you. I’m getting more comfortable with telling you uncomfortable stuff. (Small laugh)
Carl: So, where would you like to start today? How can I best support you?
Me: There are a few things I’d like to cover before we dive into anything heavy. First, do you have any concerns about me using the blanket during our session . . . if I actually get brave enough to use it . . . ??
Carl: No, not at all. I think it could be a very useful tool. I want us to do whatever will work best for you. I’m glad you are considering using it.
Me: Okay, good. Thank you.
I also wanted to ask you about the letter I wrote to my dad. I specifically have a question about the reading of the letter.
When I read the letter out loud a couple of sessions ago, I was really struggling. When I go into that feeling state—when I feel like I’m remembering what it was like when I was a little girl—I have trouble reading the letter. So, I was wondering if you would consider reading the letter for me so I could listen and simply focus on what I’m feeling.
Carl: In what way did you have trouble reading the letter?
Me: When I would look at it, I would just see a sea of words. I could pick out some of the easier words, but I couldn’t figure out the harder words. I wasn’t able to make sense of the words unless I came out of the feeling place and went back into the adult-logic place. It was like I lost access to my adult vocabulary.
I think I have worked so hard to develop my vocabulary and my ability to express myself through words, especially in writing, because I hoped it would allow me to be seen and heard. When I go to that little girl place, I lose all the ground I have gained over the years in relation to my ability to communicate. I lose my vocabulary and I lose my voice.
I had trouble reading the letter and staying in that feeling place at the same time. I kept having to go back and forth. I wonder . . . if you read the letter, I might be able to stay in that feeling place.
Carl: I’d be happy to read the letter for you. That sounds like a creative solution!
Me: Okay, good. Thank you, again. I didn’t know if you might think it would compromise the healing benefit to have you read it on my behalf.
Carl: No, not at all. I think it is a great solution!
Me: Thank you.
I’m also concerned about going again into that very emotional place . . . that “little girl” place. From my current vantage point, it feels as if I might not be able to come back if I go too far in that direction. I’m afraid I’ll curl up under the blanket and become so overwhelmed by the little girl emotion that I won’t be able to come back. I’m afraid I’ll break into so many pieces I won’t be able to put them back together and come back to the real world within our allotted session time.
It that does happen, do you know how to help me? Have you dealt with that sort of thing before?
Carl: So, to answer your question . . . yes, I do know how to help you, and I would help you. I would talk you through it. We could have a dialogue about what you are experiencing, and I could assist you in working your way through it.
Me: But, when I’m in that emotional place, I don’t have access to my voice, or at least I haven’t had access to it so far. I don’t even think I would be able to tell you I was stuck, much less have a conversation about it with you.
(Starting to tear up) I hate that I’m being so overly dramatic about this . . . it’s just that it is a very real concern for me.
Carl: Marie, the fear and emotion I’m seeing right now are very appropriate and reasonable. It is good that you are talking to me about this.
So, let me ask you this . . . are you able to hear me speaking and make sense of my words when you are in that place?
Carl: Do you think you would be able to shake and nod your head to indicate “yes” and “no” answers?
Carl: Okay. So, because you are giving me this information ahead of time, I am aware of what could happen. And, because we can communicate at some level, I know I can help you come back to the present if you need help with that. I’ll just work within the forms of communication to which you do have access.
Carl: Does that address your concern enough to allow you to feel safe?
Me: Yeah, it does. Thank you . . .
(Suddenly, a strong wave of emotion washed over me . . . more tears and snot . . . )
Carl: Can you tell me what you are experiencing right now? What is going on inside of you?
Me: I suddenly felt very protected . . . and that is a very new experience for me. I’m not used to feeling that way.
Carl: Well, good. You deserve to feel protected and safe!
Me: Thank you . . .
Okay . . . I also wanted to ask you about the hyper-vigilance thing . . .
I feel rather silly asking this, but I need to ask it. I know there are not boogiemen here in your office. But, I still feel the need to keep careful watch for signs of danger. I know there is no danger in your office. I know you are not going to do anything I don’t want you to do. Yet, I don’t feel I can let down my guard. I feel that someone has to keep watch.
If I know you are watching on my behalf, I think I can relax and allow myself to go to the emotional place. I need for you to not just say you’ll keep watch, but to actually do it. I know that is silly, but it is what I need from you. Can you do that? (My voice was trembling with trepidation)
Carl: I am honored that you would trust me with that responsibility. I would be happy to keep watch to make sure your dad doesn’t come in through the door and throw criticism at you, and to make sure “X” is not standing in the corner threatening your innocence, and to make sure your mom isn’t moving towards you in an angry manner . . .
Yes, I will do that for you.
(Whew . . . he didn’t tell me I was being silly, he actually went along with my request . . . and he did it with understanding and authentic enthusiasm. This guy is an amazing therapist. I feel heard and seen and protected and safe like I have never experienced before in my life. It is breathtaking . . . )
Me: Okay, well . . . that is all the concerns I had. Do you have any?
Me: (Deep breath) Okay . . . I guess I’m ready to do this.
Carl: You are ready to do what . . . ??
Me: I want to try to use the blanket . . . (Another deep breath . . . a long silence . . . more deep breaths . . . some new tears . . . )
I don’t have a clue how to do this. I feel very frozen. I don’t know how to move from sitting here being a lump on the couch to rolling myself up in the blanket and moving into the emotional place.
(Carl waited . . . just watching me . . . waiting . . . finally, I pulled the folded blanket out of my bag, set it on the couch next to me and placed my hand on it . . . )
[Continued in the next post . . . ]