I was 35 years old in 1992 when everything in my life came to a head and I began to really face my past. My therapist provided me with the first safe environment in which to grow. I’m grateful for the people who have helped me heal. It is interesting for me to remember “what it used to be like.”
This is a passage from my 1992 journal:
For a long time, I haven’t realized how much I am learning from Thomas (Therapist). Nor have I understood the power of what Alice Miller calls an “enlightened witness.”
I’ve told Thomas many horrifying things from my childhood. Most of the pieces are well organized in my head. However, I have walked around with them forever and the information hasn’t done me any good because I haven’t been able to feel it. I’m not learning facts in therapy – I’ve already known most of them. It’s easy to learn what is tangible. It is a slower process to learn what you can’t see.
When I hear the details of someone else being abused, my stomach tightens and I feel overwhelming empathy for their pain. But, for so long, if I take the same facts and I apply them to my own life – I have felt absolutely nothing.
I was punished for trying to share my feelings with my family for so long that my feelings haven’t existed anymore.
I told Thomas a story today:
“A hungry mouse runs through a maze in search of much needed food. She comes to a crossroad. The passage to the left has visible cheese. The passage to the right has no food. She goes to the left and receives an electrical shock that sends her flying back. She turns around and goes to the right.
The mouse comes to the next crossroad. Again - cheese to the left - nothing to the right. She goes for the cheese, gets shocked and heads right again.
In time, Miss Mouse chooses the path to the right every time. She knows there is cheese to the left, but after a while, she doesn’t even realize she is hungry. She keeps running through the maze, starving herself to death. She recognized other mice need to eat cheese, but not herself.”
When I see Thomas, I know the facts, but I have been terrified of the feelings. After rattling off story, after story, Thomas has made a single comment, or sometimes he will pose a simple question that validates the feelings that the years have erased. Often I am uncomfortable with his questions and comments. Not because they are untrue for me, but because I am glad that he said it and not me. If he said it, I am free to feel it without fear of “the electrical shock.”
I’m beginning to not only say and hear what happened, but I’m starting to feel it as well.