Tag Archives: Letting go

Stuck in Therapy & Resistance

Everything was ticking along rather nicely in therapy, until circumstances took anthBPASDXP0 unexpected turn three weeks ago. I’ve managed to keep my head above the depression, but it has been difficult to write or read other blogs… my apologies. Thankfully, the worst of it’s slowly edging away like a stormy weather front.

I have spent months sharing past memories, edging through childhood trauma, recounting the years of sexual abuse, and trawling the effects of growing up with narcissistic parents has become one of the most enlightening and validating experiences of my life.

During those developments, my head felt as though it was in an endless chaotic loop. I steamrolled ahead and experienced a number of lightbulb moments along the way and even the odd bolt of lightning, but it was a relief to feel the intensity of the issues start to fizzle out.

I reached the end of that process and was surprised to feel completely empty, I still do. Last Friday, I missed group and then on Wednesday afternoon I dragged my stubborn reluctance along to my session with Paul, uncertain what we would talk about for 50 long minutes.

I’m still trying to understand what the terms, “letting go,” and “moving on” actually mean, which is one of the reasons why I came to blogging in the first place. I used to think they were two of the same; once we let go then we automatically move on.

My experience is that it’s not just about leaving the past behind and then skipping merrily on our way. To ‘let go’ is more about coming face to face with who I am in the present moment.

It seems to me that while we may recover from difficult experiences in our past, moving on from the emotional and psychological baggage does not necessarily happen simultaneously.

While I did recover from an attempted murder experience, it didn’t spontaneously change the PTSD and Agoraphobia diagnoses. It’s similar with childhood trauma, I may heal from the actual traumatic experiences, but it will take time to alter the effects that still ripple through my life today.

When I was thinking about this post, I googled “stuck in therapy” and came across a term I had not heard of before, “Resistance,” which is what we do to protect ourselves from our biggest fears. It’s when we convince the potential enthusiasm that something is not so important, when in reality, it is.

A perfect light hearted example of my own resistance – and I hate to make this admission – is my fear of creepy crawly spiders. I’m reluctant to admit the true extent of those fears because there are some big mother spiders in London.

untitled (2)When I lived with my ex-partner, if a spider happened to grace us with its presence, not only did I vacate the room, I would sit in my car until he apprehended the offender and then proved it.

Now that I live alone, I resist admitting my fears in the hope of conjuring enough bravado to catch the bionic blighters in a pint glass. If all else fails, I can eventually retreat to bed pretending I don’t care if the hairy-legged-mother successfully navigates its spiteful way into my bedroom.

That may well be a funny example, but ‘resistance’ can also take the shape of much more insidious behaviours, such as recalling painful experiences but failing to connect with the emotion, or having dissociative lapses in memory during therapy. Some people might rewrite history to protect whatever fear they resist the most, or decide we are bored or disheartened with sessions and then feel angry with the Therapists when we perceive them as a threat or believe they no longer meet our needs.

Apparently, we’re constantly grappling with resistance throughout our therapeutic journey. Sometimes there are moments of fluidity and clarity, when we embrace new realisations that were previously resistant to our fragile minds. At other times, we just don’t get it and continue to subconsciously battle with the things that piss us off the most.

Of course, most of us are not aware when resistance is playing tricks with our minds,th9EDMWIXO which is a rather daunting prospect. The thought of reaching the end of my therapy programme before realising I’ve been avoiding the issue that needs the most attention, is almost discouraging.

When I started therapy, I imagined letting go to be the conclusion, but it’s actually just the beginning.

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Approaching the Martyred Mother

I can’t remember ever feeling in awe of my own self before. I wonder if this is what happens when we begin to love and respect ourselves. Only a few weeks ago, my actions would’ve been unthinkable… unimaginable, but things have taken an unexpected turn.

My original intention was to wait until the narcissistic mother made contact before sending a similar email to the one I sent my sister. I realised that to delay the inevitable only deprives me of escaping those life-sucking narcissistic demands, not to mention feeling free of my soul-destroying scapegoat role.

A couple of hours slowly passed yesterday afternoon, pondering my words and debating the potential consequences. One of the worst things you can do to a narcissist is suggest they’re at the helm of a dysfunctional family, or are the perpetrators of disturbing childhood memories. With these sacrilegious thoughts in mind, the great unspoken became the basis of my very brief email. It may well spell the end, but I could no longer pretend.

I doubt if I’ve ever put trust in my own instincts and knowledge, rather than feel enslaved to guilt and self-blame. Almost every piece of information on narcissistic mothers suggests a time of no contact, maybe even a lifetime. It seemed ridiculous to send my sister an email, while procrastinating over sending one to the person who deserves to hear it the most.

If I expected to feel relieved, maybe overjoyed, I would soon be disappointed. As soon as I hit ‘send’, a deep sense of loss and guilt rippled through the rest of the day. I don’t ever expect a response and while this is a relief, it feels like the final nail in my own coffin, although that does feel strangely gratifying.

My email does something no other family member has ever had the courage to do; it tells the truth. The truth to a narcissistic mother is like brandishing a crucifix at Dracula, and the turning to dust scenario is rather stupid, but appealing.

The narcissistic martyr believes in her own perfection and she programed her children to think of her feelings and needs first. I spent time yesterday focussing on how it must feel to read my email, her hurt, disappointment and fury, all swirling around her head like a swarm of angry wasps.

Last night I realised that I have feelings too and I deserve to feel them. What about the treatment we endured as children, or the demands and manipulation tolerated through my adult life… what about my own sense of loss, or my own grief for never bonding with narcissistic parents? Maybe it’s time to think about my own needs without feeling haunted by the martyred mother’s warped emotions.

If I ever want to rekindle contact in the future, I would need to make the first move, which will probably never happen. In many ways, I’m glad to feel an element of sorrow, even guilt, because it demonstrates that I didn’t become one of them.

I only want to Tell the Truth

I posted about my current relationship problems with my mother and sister a couple of weeks ago when they were visiting my home city, London. This was the post. Despite trying to be polite to the martyred mother about being too busy that weekend, she still manipulated her golden child into texting me, anyway, “We’re here.”

When I didn’t answer my sister’s text, I was reasonably hopeful that it might be the last I hear from them for some time. They would be mad I hadn’t complied, while I was revelling in the thought of an all-out estrangement.

That was until Monday night when I was trying to relax in front of the telly. As soon as the ping-pong chimed on my mobile phone (cell phone), I just knew it had to be my sister, “How is everything with you, Cat?”

My heart sank. I realised that I would much prefer NEED to opt for the no-contact rule, which seems quite common amongst adult children of narcissistic parents. I decided to ignore the text. I am done with pretending everything is okay with polite meaningless chat or invitations to lunch, but of course, that wasn’t quite the end of the matter. The next day, I receive an email

“Just wondering if everything is okay since I have messaged you a couple of times but got no response.”

Let us not forget that I usually only speak to my sister every 8 to 12 weeks and she never texts, other than to carry the narcissistic mother’s messages.

I didn’t want to respond, but thought a reply might put her mind at rest in case she was wondering if I might be ill, or something, I emailed back, “I’m fine.” Surely, she would now take the hint.

Every part of my insides were screaming out just to speak the truth – we are a dysfunctional family with serious problems and it is not all my fault – but this is not the scapegoat’s role and rule number one of a narcissistic family is never to recognise a problem within the perceived perfection.

I couldn’t understand why I felt so nervous, heart pounding with the adrenaline pumping and the coward in me just hoped she might go away. How can the scapegoat dare to tell the truth?

She emailed back, “Are you getting my text messages?”

I spoke to Paul yesterday in therapy and realised I am actually terrified of telling the truth. There is nothing to be gained from conversation with narcissists, but neither do I want to leave them with the chance to solely blame me for the estrangement, “It’s all Cat’s fault, we tried and he pushed us away.”

For the first time in my life, I want to stand up to them without being offensive or even remotely aggressive. This has nothing to do with blame, but I only want to tell the truth.

Today, I wrote a very short reply to my sister’s email and I am intrigued what people think.

Hi M,

While I’ve been in therapy, I realised that we are a very dysfunctional family.  There have been relationship problems between my parents and me since childhood to the present day.  You might not realise it, but this has been devastating to deal with as a child, and as an adult.

I don’t necessarily have any particular problem with you, but you do come as part of that package and if anything stands between us, it’s this.

The situation is difficult for everyone and I’m tired of pretending that everything is okay when it clearly is not.

Any kind of relationship problem can never be the fault of one person, but this is not something we can all agree on, not at this time, anyway.  To be honest, I don’t want to get into any conversation about this. While I go through my therapy, I need to take the time to be by myself and work through my own things.

Cat.

Escaping the Narcissistic Mother

*Trigger warning*

Yesterday was the first therapy session with Paul in almost two weeks. The last time we met, my rumination over family dynamics had reached saturation point and the narcissistic mother was at the helm. We had no idea she was already planning her next cunning move.

Paul was already on holiday by the time news filtered through about my mother and sister visiting my home city, London. The potential fiasco happened last weekend and I honestly thought refusing to meet might trigger an onslaught of self-recriminations and hours in the company of our old friend, Mr Rumination.

As soon as I finished writing my last post, I had an amazing sense of peace surrounding my decision. For the first time in my life, I had taken a stance against these people without battling with the usual self-doubt and guilt. When the martyr’s plane touches down at London’s Heathrow Airport, it can often feel like a tornado landing, but this time it was no more than a gentle breeze.

On Saturday morning, I received text number two from my sister, “We’re on our way to the Chelsea Flower Show,” which is only 20min from where I live. I had already stonewalled my mother a couple of weeks earlier, but it appears she conveniently forgot while manipulating my sister into organising the trip. This is an old trick of the martyr’s, but I’ve never been able to see through it.

I had two choices. Reply and risk our contact snowballing into anger or refrain from any involvement by simply not answering the text. I chose the latter. I waited all day for the guilt to creep in, I even searched in case it was hiding, but I could not find it anywhere.

I doubt anyone could resolve relationship problems within a predominantly narcissistic family because the narcissists only believe in the faults of other people. Nevertheless, I’m tired of pretending everything is okay. I can no longer make feeble excuses and, “Sorry, I’m too busy,” is only colluding with the dysfunction.

Realising mother is a textbook narcissist is liberating and this might be difficult for most people to understand. Narcissists are faultless and will always need a scapegoat to direct their blame and to boost their own histrionic ego. To feel free of this weight is a tremendous relief. I will write a couple of posts about it next week.

I know this is the end of our relationship because the only thing that chained us together was my guilt. I told Paul that I feel different, very different. I am feeling free of the childhood trauma and of the ‘Scapegoat’ title that came from within the same dysfunctional family that caused the trauma in the first place.

Paul said I look and sound different. I’m more confident and decisive, as though I can finally see clearly for the first time in my life. This is exactly how I feel and it was especially nice to hear Paul acknowledge this amazing transition.

Therapy – Moving Forward

I am not sure what I expected to happen when the childhood trauma finally faded into the past. Maybe I envisaged bright colourful healing lights with life changing eureka moments, but my own experience of “renewal” has crept up so slowly, I almost didn’t notice.

I was apprehensive about therapy with Paul yesterday, mainly because I couldn’t think17423085-3d-small-people--with-a-question-mark of anything to say. We’ve spent months analysing my experience of childhood trauma and the ambiguous family relationships, but these have finally run out of gas.

Turning up for a fifty-minute therapy session without any kind of agenda will run the risk of hitting a wall of painful silence, but I’ve learned in recent weeks that these are often the most powerful sessions.

The Psychiatrist – the wonderful Dr J – used to say, “Whenever you don’t feel like coming to therapy, those are the times when you need to attend the most.” She never did offer an explanation, but the glint in her eye said, ‘try it and see’.

I’m still not entirely sure what it achieves, other than to force someone to sit with the discomfort, and maybe this is the purpose of the exercise, so off I trundled to therapy yesterday afternoon.

thLPKB5TKTI told Paul that the door to my past has firmly closed behind me and now I only see this vast empty space, and this represents my life and the near future. It is my opportunity to build a new existence, but I am apprehensive about pottering around a strange environment.

Paul and I talked about the fear, which didn’t altogether make sense. I did the professional life once before. Of course, I couldn’t waltz back into the same jobs today and there is still the ‘little’ problem of PTSD and Agoraphobia to overcome, but retraining is not out of the question.

Of course, it would be an enormous challenge and I am not even sure if funding (at my age) would make this dream a reality. As we were exploring this, it felt as if there was something more than fear that was potentially holding me back.

And then it happened, a true eureka-therapy-moment, a very small and simple realisation with an enormous potential for healing. I heard my subconscious speak the words that accurately describe my fears for moving forwards. “I’ve completely lost faith in myself.” I bowed my head.

The enormity of those words hovered in the silent space between Paul and me. “How can I trust myself after all these years of running… hiding… and failing.”

Last night I realised the significance of our session. I can barely believe this is little-ol-broken-me, thinking and actually talking of a future. I remember an appointment with my Psychiatrist three years ago, “I no longer want to get better,” I confessed in despair, “Not if it means reconnecting with life or building relationships again.”

Only last year, it didn’t feel possible to get to where I am today, when the positivethNKAGMHVY thoughts start to outweigh the negative ones and suddenly there is a future waiting just ahead. As it happens, Yes, I do want to get better and, yes, I do want to connect with life again.

I think this is progress.

Therapy – Light at the end of the Tunnel

I had my therapy with Paul today. In many ways, I didn’t want to go. I’m still in thisthJS0QQEXZ weird void like state, which I wrote about here and I wondered what to talk about during our session. I no longer feel the need to go over the same childhood issues, but I’ve spent so many years consumed by the trauma, it feels as though a part of my brain is missing.

Paul said last week’s session gave him a better understanding of what the dissociation is like for me. He wholeheartedly agreed with my interpretation of “The Void” and shared my idea of finally leaving the past behind. Of course, he’s very careful never to lead and always accepts whatever I say. It’s nice to feel so understood, my perspective is always right, but I can’t help but wonder whether he would ever say if I was wrong or mistaken.

We talked a little about the rumination and how this is an act of dissociation and an attempt to resolve disagreements in my mind (which comes from fellow-blogger, Ellen). My current ruminating takes the form of imaginary arguments with my mum and sister. It’s manic when loose and could easily swallow the entire day, leaving a trail of tense anxiety and resentments. Not only does it sabotage any chance of grounding in the present moment, it robs me of the opportunity to move forward.

th251A6SLTThe rumination is a difficult habit to break, but I have tackled it this week by using a basic mindfulness technique of being more aware of my surroundings, particularly sounds. Dog walking would normally be a time of intense rumination and I sometimes wondered if other walkers were able to see my mouth muttering away as I wandered around in a ruminating-trance.

This week was different. I walked and listened to the here and now. It sounded like everything was on loudspeaker, the birds, ducks, dogs, and children, AND, bloody heck, I do live in a noisy neighbourhood! It feels as though I’ve only been in a semi-conscious state for such a long time, or locked inside the prison of my own mind, childhood trauma.

Being with Paul today also had a different feel to it. He said I appeared more groundedthA2PSAOHE and at peace, with a clearer idea of where I am and which direction to take. I knew then I have definitely turned a corner and… Is that light I see at the end of the tunnel?

I need to focus my attention on two things. The first is the relationship problems I have with my mum and sister, which of course is also the source of rumination, so two for the price of one, things are already looking up. The second is to confront what it is about the present moment that frightens me the most, what do I avoid at all costs, but that’s something for my next post.

Therapy – Letting Go

untitledI’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s experience with my Therapist, Paul, when we sat together, “Experiencing the Void.” While I realised this was significant, I had no idea what “the void” actually was.

The void feels like I am standing mid-way along a footbridge that leads from the past to the present and into the future. Behind me is the small world of soul-destroying experiences, which I’m somehow miraculously outgrowing, and ahead is vast uncharted territory. I am unable to go back but feel equally uncertain of how to proceed, so I hover in this weird void like state.

In my last post, I talked about there being a wall of emotion I need to walk through before I can move forward. This transparent wall holds all the things I need to face up to – The tears and acceptance, the unresolved anger, and the uncertainty of how to emerge and connect with a new life. At the heart of this wall, the mortar that holds all this negativity together is fear.

There have been times in recent weeks when I worried that perhaps I am not quitethMSM9H3Q5 ready to move on. Maybe I’ve not remembered enough, talked enough, felt enough, let go of enough. Maybe the healing I am experiencing is only in my imagination, or worse, dissociation.

I used to think healing meant reaching a point when all the hurt and trauma had completely dissolved, but none of us would be human if we were able to look back at painful experiences and not feel a certain degree of emotion. I guess the key is the ability to leave the memories where they belong, in the past. If only it were that straightforward.

When I first started blogging, I read a lot about other people’s experiences of childhood trauma. I remember the terms, “Moving on,” and “Letting go” being used along with the most challenging word of them all, “Forgiveness.”

I initially believed the only way to ‘let go’ and ‘move on’ was to forgive the people who had caused us a lifetime of pain in the first place. Through time, I have come to understand that this has less to do with the abusers and more about making peace with ourselves.

thAUBJJ0MLI think all of us can eventually find healing, but we need to be at the stage when we feel ready to let things go. Unfortunately, that seldom happens spontaneously and never easily, but it comes from allowing ourselves the space and time to feel the pain and analyse whatever we do not understand.

We are not wallowing in self-pity or being too afraid to face up to the real world. This is a special time of reflection and grieving, which is imperative to future healing. When that process starts or ends, is entirely down to each individual.

I’m talking here as if I’ve already crossed over my bridge, but I still hover anxiously in the void, reflecting, and not quite ready to move forward, but maybe that is part of my journey. I am not sure when the time will finally come to leave it all behind, but it looks as if I’m closer now than ever.