I’m looking over this post. It took me two days to write it and it’s very off to me as I read it so, I’m saying ahead of time that I wrote this post without being really with it, so please excuse the mess. Also, I use the word “self-injury” or “self-injure” twice but I don’t talk about it. I don’t always know when I’m supposed to warn people.
Had my session the other day and we covered a lot of stuff.
I hit on the punishment things first. Actually I didn’t do that first. I mentioned to her that I had been feeling very belligerent the last few visits without knowing why, then I went to self-punishment. I expressed my unhappiness at having no outlet to punish myself. She asked me if I knew how crazy that sounded to which I said, “Of course I do!” But I said that I didn’t care. I tried to articulate the feeling, as being therapist, they can’t really know how this feels without personal experience. She can only guess and ‘try to put herself in my shoes’ which is what she often calls it. She’s not bad at it either, there are just some things that have to be felt. Anyway, I tried to sit for a moment and think about how this need feels. I told her that it feels like there’s a giant, gaping hole in my chest and the only thing that can fill it, is punishment. She found that interesting and she began connecting that feeling to my childhood.
I spent a lot of the session expressing images and thoughts that occurred to me when she said certain words or phrases. I found that to be incredibly helpful since I have such a hard time identifying emotions. When she said “childhood”, the image that appeared, was the house where I was in the dark, the house that my mother left me in when I was little, while she met up with guys or whatever. It was so dark there and I was very young, too young to be left alone at night, but I didn’t know that at the time. That was my life so of course I was supposed to be alone in the dark! My therapist pointed out that I still would have viewed that as punishment, but something that I deserved because that’s just how things were for me. I didn’t have a “normal” (haha) life and a part of me knew that something wasn’t right at home, but it felt like it was my fault. So, I now feel the need to be punished to fill the whole that was left by my not being cared for, or loved, and being scared and sad. Ok, I can work with that.
She said that one thing I need to do is replace the negative message “I need to be punished” with something else, something I can say to myself when that thought occurs.
She started saying things about telling myself I deserve love and care and some other word that I can’t remember right now. I started shaking my head in disgust before she got to the third word, and I told her that what she was saying sounded horrible. I said that needing love and care and stuff like that sounded weak. She said that was a strange thing to say and I replied that it was all weakness. She asked me if I love and care for people? I said yes, because loving someone is a logical result of getting to know someone who you have a lot in common with and you develop a relationship with them. I said that caring for someone is a logical response to a need that someone has, so yes, I do love and care for certain people. (I can hear how this sounds as I write this, it feels very robotic) She then mentioned that when a person is around a child, the natural instinct (I’m assuming with normal non-abusive people) is to care for the child, to comfort them. Maybe comfort was the third word she used. Anyway, she asked me why people naturally care for and comfort children? I said because children need it. She got all happy because I answered correctly and then I burst her bubble by adding that I’m not a child so her argument made no sense. She chuckled a little and said, “People don’t stop needing love and care and comfort. It’s not like you reach a certain age and you say: “Ok, no more care or love for you, you’re an adult now!” So, I told her that telling me about some concept of care and comforting and loving myself meant nothing to me because it’s just a concept. I told her that I need concrete steps, something real to do or say to accomplish this goal.
I told her that in the survivor community many of us are told to be self-nurturing or whatever but not all of us know what that means. I told her to give me specifics.
She went back to the message first, fighting against the message that I need to be punished. She said that even though words like: love, care, and comfort are uncomfortable to me, I’m going to have to use something to get a positive message in my head.
We started talking about words that I could tolerate as a starting point. I cannot tolerate words that tell me I deserve love or anything like that, so she laughed because I was making her think about it. It was one of those moments when you can tell it’s good for her to have someone like me as a client, because she needs the experience of dealing with someone who requires more concrete ideas and not just concepts. So, she tried thinking of wording that I could tolerate, and none of the nice stuff worked. Then she hit upon the thought, ‘I’m not going to live my life based on how my mother programmed me’. For a mantra, that worked! A part of me, literally a “part”, has a huge desire to rebel against my mother ( a lot of people in positions of authority in some ways, but especially her) so when she said those words, that part said “Hell yes!”, so we got some wording to use.
Now, every time the thought “I need to be punished” comes to mind, I’m supposed to counter with the thought: “I’m not going to live my life based on how my mother programmed me.” So that’s one part.
During this part of our session I veered suddenly because I became aware of an internal reaction. I have to say that as I write this, I’m noticing what an interesting session this was. I was aware of internal reactions without really understanding it right away, but I was able to articulate what was being felt so my therapist wouldn’t just go on thinking that everything was ok when it was not.
Ok, so I stopped her at that point because, as soon as we had a “victory” of sorts; the winning phrase so to speak, there was a sudden desire to actively seek out ways to punish me that would be dangerous.
I told her that something suddenly changed while we were talking. I described it as an internal “pulling away”, a part (unknown) that did not like that we had thought of something that would stop me from punishing myself. This part was not happy, and it wanted to immediately find some sort of physically painful way to punish me, it was quite determined too.
I found myself telling her this in a very removed way, it was as if I was observing the internal reactions dispassionately and then relaying the information to her. I told her that there was now a danger that I would seek a way to harm myself. So, she said we would make sure that I was safe before left her office.
She fell back on positive affirmations and I immediately stopped her. I told her that once again, in this situation, concrete steps are required, and that actions that required something physical would be most helpful. She was happy that I had an idea of what I needed, so we started working that.
She told me that I had already done the first step, which was to tell someone. She also wanted me to blog about it if it became more of an issue so that I was reaching out to someone and of course to tell my husband as well. She still wanted me to have some sort of positive affirmations so I compromised and suggested physically writing them on cards and getting an actual box to put things in that I could use in case of this kind of emergency. She liked that idea.
Then we discussed what I could physically do. I went with getting out my viola to play, which she loved and then I told her that getting out of the house would be also be necessary. She liked that as well, but I told her that it would need to be a firm plan because staying in the house is tempting, because if I stay, I know that I’ll give in to self-injury. She asked me what physical activity I’d like to do and I said that now that the weather’s gotten better, I’d like to walk around my neighborhood, which I never do. She actually had a really good idea here which worked for my brain, and that was not to walk around aimlessly. She wants me to map out an actual route, so that when I leave the house, I know exactly where I’m supposed to go. Having a mapped out route appealed to some part of me, (This part thought of using GPS which was funny to me) so I agreed with that. She also told me that if I was going to have a real, physical box to keep things in that would help me, she wants me to come up with another name for it that’s not the “Emergency Box”. She didn’t want this to be a negative thing so she’d like it if I came up with a more positive title for it. I’ll have to figure that one out.
I realize that all of these things must sound like stupid ideas for dealing with little kids but it’s what we came up with at the time. Completing this post today, two days later, it sounds kind of silly now.
Ok, I’m really out of it so I’m going to stop now.