Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org under the name Clara Bridges.


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Memory Monday – “It feels like only blood”

This post is only six months old, but ahead of Self-Injury Awareness Day on 1 March, it felt appropriate to share it again. This is a poem I wrote on the subject of self-harm:

https://lifeinabind.com/2015/08/05/it-feels-like-only-blood/

In addition, the feelings described in the poem are very present at the moment, and they are one reason why it’s so hard to write about anything else right now. Over the last few days every area of my life has felt like a battleground at one point or another – therapy, my marriage, my relationship with my children. But most of all the battleground is in my head, and until that arena is better understood, a little quieter, and more in control,  I know that all my other conflicts don’t stand a chance.

I don’t want to have stand-offs with my children where no one is a winner, and no one is an adult, either. I don’t want to feel resentful every time I ‘give ground’ to my husband or ignore comments I’m unhappy with, just because it’s too reminiscent of not having some of my own needs met by my parents. And I don’t want to miss out on some of what therapy has to offer (including things I desperately crave, like unconditional acceptance), just because it always feels as though I ‘want more’ – words, emails, caring, attention – and because I find it so hard both to accept the boundaries and the things I cannot have in therapy, and also the unchanging and unfaltering nature of the things I do have.

I really want to work with my therapist, not against her. I don’t want to fight her – even if a part of me does, and tries to, often, and very successfully. The same issues, the same battles, are coming up again and again but in slightly different forms. I try to take comfort from the fact that this just means that there are clearly things we need to resolve – and it is becoming both more urgent and also easier for matters to make their way to the surface. And if all this is ultimately about me changing, I also take comfort in this wonderful quote about change by therapist Alison Crosthwait (from The Good Therapists): “In order to change you need repeated exposure to your own coming apart, to the border between conscious and unconscious, and to the parts of yourself that you resist being with“.

For the nth time this day, week, month, year, it feels as though I am fighting my own resistance and trying to prevent even the tiniest of victories from unraveling, and myself from coming apart. That fight is so exhausting; and the urge to try and find some peace from it by hurting myself is so tempting, it just feels like just another thing to fight against. But ultimately I know that self-harm is my attempt to avoid sitting with the parts of myself that I resist being with, and what I really need to do is not avoid, but to surrender. Surrender to the process of therapy and to the process of change, which inevitably, as described in my poem, will bring a great deal of grief, before it can bring a long-lasting  – rather than temporary – relief.


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The inner child: Ladybird-book-style

I have spent a great deal of time recently thinking, talking and writing about my ‘inner child‘, and although I know this area is not ‘concluded’, it feels as though my therapy is moving onto other things, at least for now. I am sure it will come back as a matter for further reflection, as unresolved issues always do – after all, I still need to find a way to at least like, if not love, that inner child (and other people’s!).

But in the meantime, I wanted to leave the subject for now, by just sharing a light-hearted reference to it which made me smile. I really hope it does not offend, and sincerely apologise if it does – I am fully aware that fundamentally, the difficulties many of us have with our ‘inner children’ are tied up with very painful and sometimes traumatic experiences, and it is certainly not my intention to make light of that. But in the spirit of Harry Potter and the spell Riddikulus, which defeats Boggarts (entities that take on the form of our worst fears) by laughter, through changing them into a form that is humorous – I give you the following picture of the last page of ‘The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness’. This is part of the Ladybird books for grown-ups series, and it is a wonderful parody; especially so if, like me, you still remember reading Ladybird books as a child. As it says inside the front cover:

“This delightful book is the latest in the series of Ladybird books that have been specially planned to help grown-ups with the world about them. As in the other books in this series, the large, clear script, the careful choice of words, the frequent repetition and the thoughtful matching of text with pictures all enable grown-ups to think they have taught themselves to cope…..”

ladybirds mindfulness

[I particularly like this page as Snow White and Rose Red, pictured here, were my favourite characters in my favourite Ladybird book as a child.]


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The multiple meanings of self-injury: raising awareness and examining preconceptions

*TRIGGER WARNING: SELF-HARM*

Three years ago I was self-harming three or more times a week. It was such a big part of my life that it felt as though it had become my identity. My emotions were on a constant rollercoaster and my close relationships were under immense strain. I couldn’t make sense of the possibility of a future, or of having a place in the world. I felt helpless, life felt out of control, and depression was eating me up.

I started self-harming as an adult in my thirties. Although it is often perceived as a ‘young people’s issue’, self-harm affects all age groups and not all adults who self-harm will have started as teenagers. Self-harm is a coping strategy, and quite often the strategies we adopt are determined or influenced by the situations we find ourselves in. In my case, the coping strategies of my early twenties – mainly around intense relationships – were simply (and thankfully) not as readily accessible in my ‘married with kids’ situation. The first time I self-harmed, it was in response to perceived abandonment by a therapist; a couple of past coping strategies did come to the fore, but in desperation to find something that would alleviate the distress, helplessness and self-hatred that I felt, I turned to something more readily available, that I felt would be less destructive for those around me.

And it worked – for quite a while. I do not mean in any way to advocate self-harm; and I hope that ultimately I will be able to rely on ‘healthier’ ways of coping. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that those who self-injure do so because they find it helpful, or at least they did when they first started. For those who use it, it does alleviate distress, and many would say that it has afforded them the possibility of staying alive when their emotions felt almost too intolerable to be borne. As well as this fact, if there is one other thing that I have learned about self-injury that I am passionate about wanting to convey to others, it is that it is incredibly complex, and has multiple meanings. There are as many reasons why people self-injure, as there are people who do it. The reasons vary from person to person; but also, crucially, they can vary for the same person, at different times.

I have used it as a way of punishing myself when feeling worthless or guilty or ashamed. I have used it as a way of punishing others – even though they never knew about it – when I felt hurt by them but incapable of conveying it directly. I have self-harmed in order to try and cope with immense emotional pain by masking it with physical pain instead. Conversely, I have done it in order to feel something, anything, rather than bear with the truly horrific frustration of feeling emotionally numb and cut-off from myself. I have used it as a way of expressing acute distress, even if only to myself – a ‘silent scream’ as it is sometimes called. And I have used it as a way of self-validating my distress and keeping it and myself ‘real’. So often my ‘inner critical voice’ would accuse me of being a fraud and ‘making it all up’; seeing the cuts on my body was ‘evidence’ of the reality of what I was experiencing. As the days went by and the cuts started to heal a little, and as even more days went by and the marks started to fade, I used to become extremely anxious – as if the reality and legitimacy of my emotions depended completely on those marks.

But by far the strongest and most enduring factors behind my self-injury, have been a desire for comfort and control. When I first started self-harming my confidence and self-worth were at their lowest ebb, and it felt as though cutting myself was the only thing in my life that I had power over. And although I know how strange this will sound, the self-injury did not just represent something I could control, it represented the only thing I felt I could ‘get better at’. Having always been afraid of pain and the sight of blood, being able to overcome that actually felt like an achievement. As for comfort – I have never fully understood this aspect of my self-harm, and yet it is a powerful motivator for me. When I feel immense sadness, grief, or abandonment, pain itself seems like a great big, enveloping hug. I don’t understand why I have made a connection between pain and comfort, I just know that for some reason that connection has a great hold over me.

People talk about self-injury being addictive, and I do think that for a while, I was very emotionally dependent on it, if not physically dependent. At some of my worst times I have sat in meetings at work unable to get thoughts and images of self-harm out of my mind, and giving in to the desire to hurt myself only increased the need to do so again. At one point the desperation was so strong I went in search of ‘suitable tools’ in the stationery cupboards. When I first started self-harming I tried to ‘restrain myself’ and only use it when I felt ‘really bad’. I think I knew that if I started to give in to it regularly, it would become both more frequent and less effective. And that’s exactly what happened. It became my ‘go-to’ coping mechanism; my first port of call, rather than my last. It acquired a kind of habitual nature – and that too, can be a feature of self-harm for many people. It isn’t always carried out impulsively or in the height of emotion. For some people self-injury is ‘ritualistic’, involving particular times, places or tools. For me, the practical restrictions of having a partner and children in the house, meant that I was rarely able to self-harm impulsively and ‘in the moment’.

And perhaps the strangest thing of all – sometimes I self-harmed when I was happy. At the time in my life when self-injury felt like a core part of my identify and my main means of expression, it felt ‘natural’ for me to turn to it to express positive emotions as well. Moments of joy were incredibly rare at that time, and when they came my first thought was to respond by cutting. Perhaps it was connected with the part of myself that found it hard to accept and hold onto hope in any form, including accepting joy – but I have to be honest and say that I don’t really understand this aspect of my self-harming either. But it’s an example of how self-injury can confound people’s expectations and of how assumptions should never be made about what it means to any one individual.

My self-harming has gone from three to four times a week, to once a month or less. It has gone from involving numerous cuts on each occasion, to normally not more than one or two each time. The change has been very gradual, and thinking about how and why it has happened, leads me to believe that there are two key factors to reducing self-injury. The first is a close supportive relationship with someone who accepts and tries to understand both the person and the self-harm – in my case, this is my therapist, whose acceptance of my self-harm is just part of her unconditional acceptance of me as a person. The second is making the decision to ‘postpone’ self-harming. Putting a distance of time between the desire to self-injure and the act itself, has the effect of allowing the intensity of my feelings to reduce, as well as the desire to harm. In addition, postponement doesn’t feel as though I am trying to prohibit self-harm or replace it with something else. Postponing feels easier because I tell myself that I can still do it; but I will simply do it later. It doesn’t try and remove the option and I still feel I have some control. But 9 times out of 10 postponement does mean that I do not end up cutting.

The frequency of my self-harm started to change very soon after I started blogging. That is because my main method of postponement is writing; and I am using it now. Earlier, I felt a strong desire to ‘punish myself’ but I made a decision to write instead – and it is what has kept me from self-harm on countless occasions over the last two years. These days, the strength of the bond with my therapist (who I have been seeing for two and a half years) also means that I want to stop for her – and although I know that eventually the desire to stop has to come from within me, at the moment I will take any motivation I can find! Postponement works for me, most of the time; but fundamentally, it is the relationship with my therapist and the ongoing work that we have been doing in understanding and addressing my underlying difficulties and distress, that is the key to helping me reduce and eventually to stop self-harming. Self-harm is not the message, but the messenger; and we shouldn’t be looking to shoot the messenger – but to figure out who sent them, why, and what it is that they are trying to express. I believe that that is the most compassionate, patient, respectful and enduring way of making the messenger, finally, redundant.

[Self-injury awareness day takes place on 1 March each year. Please note that although I have used the words self-injury and self-harm interchangeably in this post, they are slightly different. Self-injury is behaviour that causes direct harm or damage to one’s body (such as cutting or burning). Self-harm is a broader concept that includes self-injury, but which covers other behaviours such as eating disorders, risk-taking behaviour, and substance misuse.]


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The Ideal

I went to my bookcase, opened it, and for no apparent reason pulled out a slim book of poems I hadn’t looked at in close to twenty years. The volume was called ‘Out of Danger’ by James Fenton, and opening its pages was like rediscovering an old friend. More than that, it was like rediscovering a part of myself and an influence that I had completely forgotten existed. The first page of the book was signed; I had bought it at a poetry reading by the poet himself. As I read, the words were not just familiar, though long unremembered; I could also hear James Fenton’s voice in my head, as he read them – the rhythm, the musicality, the pace. And as I read, I realised what an enormous influence he had had on my own poetry writing. Poems of my own from that time started to come into my mind, as his words, rhythms and rhyme schemes acted as a trigger and a reminder. All of a sudden it seemed strange that I could have forgotten that book and his poems so entirely, and along with it that part of myself that loved that poetry reading so much – but I guess it got lost in one of the several inventions and reinventions of myself that followed.

One poem in particular struck me as I read it this time around, and I think it is because it chimed with the reading, thinking and writing I have been doing recently about my ‘inner child’ and transactional analysis. It’s about respecting the past and acknowledging and accepting who we were and are. The words run counter to the feelings I have about my own ‘inner child’, who, in as much as I think about her, seems more worthy of discarding than of respect. But the words of the poem are, in its own words, ‘the ideal’, and that ideal ‘is hard’. And yet, perhaps the following words from ‘The Games People Play’ by Eric Berne can provide encouragement to aim for that ideal, as a goal worth striving for: “…the Child is in many ways the most valuable part of the personality, and can contribute to the individual’s life exactly what an actual child can contribute to family life: charm, pleasure and creativity.

the ideal


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Do you love the inner child?

Over the last few years I’ve been very much aware of the fact that my marriage has been ‘parental’ in nature. Even before our relationship started to deteriorate and I began to react to my husband in the way that I often react to my mother, I used to feel that he was the ‘strong one’ who I couldn’t do without, and I was the weaker, less competent, and more dependent party. It is no co-incidence that the Panic Disorder which set in with a vengeance when I left home to go to university, disappeared after we got together as mysteriously as it had first appeared. At the time, I interpreted it as a good sign which demonstrated the security I felt with him – it was only years later that what should have been the obvious parental parallel, hit home.

In the language of Transactional Analysis, which I have been reading about lately in Thomas Harris’s book ‘I’m okay, you’re okay, my husband tends to inhabit his Parent in our interactions, and I tend to inhabit my Child. Though of course there is also an element of my Child invoking his Parent, and vice versa – we each play the roles that we are used to, and they encourage and sustain each other. I sometimes wonder whether my realisation that I had chosen a marriage that in some ways replicated my parental home environment, in itself led to me more actively ‘seeing my husband as my mother’, and reacting accordingly. It’s hard to know whether I’m simply more aware of how triggering I find some of his words and actions; or whether I find them so triggering because of the realisation I have come to and the now almost automatic tendency to interpret his behaviour as parental.

There was a particular section in ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’, that took me surprise and gave me pause for thought. It did so because that section took its own truth completely for granted, and yet it didn’t feel like something that was true for me. To quote from that section: “We fear the Parent in others; their Child we can love. One helpful practice in a difficult transaction is to see the little boy, or the little girl in another person….”. I had a similar experience of bafflement around a year ago, when I watched a drama series on DVD in which the female protagonist was asked by her therapist to imagine talking to her younger self. The idea was that by being aware of the compassion that she had for her ‘child self’, and by identifying with that part of her, it would be easier to show herself compassion in the present.

In both cases, the assumption that one would feel care and compassion for either one’s own or another’s ‘inner child’ (in the way that one might feel compassion for an actual child) was unquestioned. And yet I feel unable to relate to that sentiment, in either case. Thinking about my husband’s inner child does not make me love that child, and it is not helpful in trying to relate to him. His inner child may not feel as crushing as his ‘parent’, but it still feels threatening. I feel like running away and shouting: “Keep your child to yourself, I want nothing to do with it, take it away. I don’t want to be burdened with your child, I don’t want to be taken over by your child, I don’t want to be suffocated by it or intruded upon, or violated by it. You deal with it – don’t make me do it. I can’t carry your child for you – you do it. I want absolutely nothing to do with it”.

I want to run away from other people’s ‘Child’ selves – they frighten me. By contrast, my own Child does not frighten me – but I frighten myself when I think about how I feel about her. I am not a violent person, either in thought or in action. And yet, when I visualise my ‘inner child’ I don’t feel compassion – I feel a need to do her damage, of a very permanent kind. The words that go through my head are horrible, as are the accompanying images. The only reason it doesn’t feel more horrific to think those thoughts is that as they’re fundamentally about me and not about someone else, they feel justified. When I think of what I want to do to her, it feels as though she deserves it – that things would be better if she wasn’t around. When I try and imagine her, I feel angry; I blame her for not protecting me – the me that I am now. I somehow feel as though if she had done a better job, I would have ‘turned out better’. She failed, she was weak. She didn’t stand up for me – the person I was meant to become. She let me down – and maybe if she was simply wiped out, all her mistakes would be wiped out too.

My therapist asked me where all these words and thoughts are coming from – whose voice it is that is actually running riot in my head. In the language of Transactional Analysis, it is my own Parent, coming down in judgment upon my Child. It feels not so much like an actual replay of particular situations experienced or sentences heard; but an agglomeration of disparate ‘parent data’ picked up in different contexts and at different times, patched together to make an ugly weapon of words.

I have a better sense of where my feelings about other people’s ‘inner children’ comes from. My mother is a highly anxious person with little control over her emotions. If she feels it, she shows it. If she thinks it, she speaks it. And she seeks reassurance, constantly. She inhabits her Child – and that Child is both unable to hold others’ emotions, and unable to hold its own. These days I have put up such barriers between us and hold her so much at arms’ length, that if she tells me she is anxious about something, my response is to tell her that it is her problem, not mine. But I didn’t always have those barriers up; and even if I can’t remember much about the past, I can more than imagine that when I was younger, the torrent of her emotions would have felt like an invasion – like a force that threatened to suffocate and take me over. It was best not to call up that force at all – and so I learned to keep things to myself, and to deal with my emotions on my own.

And so when I think of someone else’s ‘inner child’, all I can think is that I don’t want another adult to burden my Child with their Child. I feel guilty for saying that – because it feels hard, cold, and not at all compassionate. And it’s not as though I have an aversion to ever dealing with anyone’s emotions. I really want to be there for those I care about and I hope my friends would be able to attest to the fact that I have supported them through distress and pain, without feeling burdened or overwhelmed. But those were adult to adult interactions – and I wasn’t with them day in, day out. But ask me to try and deal with the Child part of those closest to me – for example, my husband – and it triggers an immediate desire to back away.

It’s a good thing my husband can often cope with my ‘Child’, even if I cannot cope with his. When he ‘brought his adult’ and offered a compromise after an argument the other day, I would have loved to have been able to react in a similarly adult way, and to thank him graciously for the compromise, and move on. Instead, it felt as though the only possible reactions in my repertoire were to huffily accept while continuing to feel angry and thwarted, or to dissolve in tears of frustration and a need to be comforted. In a split-second I gave in to vulnerability and chose the latter; it was the better option, but still a far cry from the mature response of an equal partner in control of their emotions. Somehow I have a feeling that the more I am able to react in an adult way, the more compassion I might be able to have for my ‘child’; and the more compassion I can have for my own, perhaps the more I can have for others’ too. It’s a theory still untested, but an experiment I definitely need to do.

 

 


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“I’m okay, you’re okay” – book review

As mentioned in my previous post – Memory Monday- “Inner child and past child” – I have been spending a fair amount of time recently, thinking about my ‘inner child’ and the ways in which my thoughts, feelings and behaviour are influenced by that part of myself.

This has been part of a lengthy stretch in therapy (since Christmas) of focusing on my marriage and the substantial difficulties in my relationship with my husband. In particular, the renewed attention I have paid to my ‘inner child’ has been in large measure the result of the book I am currently reading, recommended by my therapist, called ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’, by Thomas Harris.

If you can resist the urge to throw it out of the window for its incredibly dated language and examples (feminist friends, take note!), I can heartily recommend it as both a comprehensible guide to Transactional Analysis, and also an immensely powerful book for anyone looking to understand their own patterns of behaviour, and looking for hope that there is a real possibility for change in ourselves and in others.

Transactional Analysis (TA) has its roots in psychoanalysis, but split off from traditional psychoanalysis in the sense that rather than looking at internal psychological dynamics, it focuses on the dynamics contained in people’s interactions (or transactions). The ‘cure’ to emotional difficulties is thus framed in terms of understanding and changing these transactions, rather than uncovering the content of unconsciously held ideas.

TA also postulates three ‘ego states’, of the Parent, Child and Adult, with individuals’ emotional states being created out of an ‘internal dialogue’ between these states. By way of an incredibly brief and simplistic analysis, the ‘parent state’ is essentially the individual’s ‘collection of data’ or ‘internal recordings’ provided by their parents or parental figures/objects in the first few years of life. This data is comprised of everything a child saw and heard his parents do or say, and includes everything from admonitions, rules and laws to praise and positive reinforcement. Parent data, in itself, is unreflective and unexamined. To quote from the book: “Any external situation in which the little person feels himself to be dependent to the extent that he is not free to question or to explore produces data which is stored in the Parent”.

The ‘Child’ state is the recording of the ‘internal events’ that accompanied the external situations recorded in the ‘Parent’ – they are the child’s feelings, his or her emotional responses to what he sees and hears. As with Parent data, this can cover a whole spectrum ranging from frustration, anger and rejection, to curiosity, joy and excitement. By contrast to both the Parent and Child states, the Adult state grows out of self-awareness and original thought; it arises “as a result of the child’s ability to find out for himself what is different about life from the ‘taught concept’ of life in his Parent and the ‘felt concept’ of life in his Child”. The Adult uses both Parent and Child data to make decisions about what views to accept and what choices to make in the present, as well as what behaviours are appropriate and constitute a response to the present situation rather than to ‘Parent data’ and the past. The goal is not to eliminate or suppress the Parent and Child, but to be aware of them, to be able to separate them out in order to consider them, and to make them available for the Adult to use, rather than being used and controlled by them.

TA also postulates that there are four ‘life positions’ that individuals can adopt, which profoundly influences how they go about their lives and interact with people. These are: ‘I’m okay, you’re not okay’; ‘I’m not okay, you’re okay’; ‘I’m not okay, you’re not okay’; and ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’. The healthiest position to adopt is the latter, but an important part of the book is the ‘revelation’ that the ‘natural situation of childhood’ leads to everyone having a ‘not OK Child’. Even the children of the most loving and nurturing parents go through the difficult and frustrating process of individuating and learning about boundaries (amongst other things), and the inevitable unhappy feelings that this process engenders, leads (according to TA) to every child carrying a ‘not OK’ burden. As with the Parent, this ‘not OK Child’ can manifest at any time during a person’s interactions with others (transactions), whatever age or stage of life they are at.

The Amazon review of the book says: “Hundreds of thousands of people have found this phenomenal breakthrough in psychotherapy a turning point in their lives. In sensible, non-technical language Thomas A Harris explains how to gain control of yourself, your relationships and your future – no matter what happened in the past.” It’s hard to ignore an endorsement like that, even taking into account the old-fashioned language! And though there will undoubtedly be many people to whom this book does not appeal and for whom it doesn’t seem to work; and although you may not be convinced that these three states really do exist in everyone – I think the model does offer up some helpful ways of thinking about ourselves and how we relate to others.

For me, the chapter on marriage was particularly helpful, and highlighted the extent to which my ‘Child’ is almost permanently being triggered and in control, in my interactions with my husband. To quote from a few places in that chapter: “It is the nature of the Child to mistake disappointment for disaster….this is what happens when marriages break. The Child takes over in one of both partners, and the whole marriage is shattered when imperfections begin to appear……the average marriage contract is made by the Child, which understands love as something you feel and not something you do, and which sees happiness as something you pursue rather than a by-product of working towards the happiness of someone other than yourself…..

I believe that there is a ‘right time’ to read every book – and now is the right time for me and this book. I think we know when the ‘right time’ has come, because we feel drawn to read something that may have been recommended to us for a while, or may have sat on our shelves for years. For me, this book builds on a number of other books I have read recently, but which all examine similar questions in different ways. These include: “The seven principles for making marriage work” by John Gottman and Nan Silver; “The 5 love languages” by Gary Chapman; and “Barefoot disciple – walking the way of passionate humility” by Stephen Cherry, a Christian book but with wide-ranging and broad appeal in the way that C.S. Lewis’s writings have broad relevance and appeal. All of these books have challenged me to look beyond the ways in which I am held captive by the experiences and feelings of my childhood, and to recognise that it is possible to do things differently and to respond differently in my relationships. It will take courage, self-awareness, a great effort of will, vulnerability, openness and patience; but all of these books lead me to believe that it is possible and that the rewards can be immense.

As mentioned in my recent post ‘Transferentially yours – an email to my therapist, unsent’, therapy has been turbulent recently not just because of the painfulness of delving into my marriage difficulties, but also because of what felt like a major rupture with my therapist over the issue of ‘resistance’ in therapy, and whether I was willing to make changes in my life. This arose after I impulsively wrote my therapist a note stating that though I could change my behaviour and even perhaps the way I thought about others, it just didn’t feel possible for me to change the way I thought about myself. Just a few days later, and in the midst of these discussions, I read the following in ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’: “There is also the type of patient who, although suffering from disabling symptoms, still does not really want to change. His treatment contract read, ‘I’ll promise to let you help me if I don’t have to get well’. This negative attitude changes, however, as the patient begins to see that there is indeed another way to live. A working knowledge of P-A-C [Parent – Adult – Child] makes it possible for the Adult to explore new and exciting frontiers of life, a desire which has been there all along but has been buried under the burden of the NOT OK”.

My impulsive note was ‘of the moment’ and reflected a feeling of depression and hopelessness – it was not a rational and decisive view on what was possible. But it’s true to say that a part of me is resistant to change and sometimes believes it is impossible – and this book has been invaluable in helping me to identify that part and not be buried underneath it. Feminists – read this book at your peril due to the language! But we all read this book at our peril in the sense that we are all afraid of change – and this book is certainly a major challenge and incentive to do just that….


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Memory Monday – “Inner child and past child”

It’s almost a year since I first watched the video for Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and first heard the song; and though I have played other music since, and continue to do so, there are still some days (or even weeks) when I play it on repeat. The video had such a powerful effect on me that I wrote this post at end of February 2015, in an attempt to try and figure out why it had such an impact:

https://lifeinabind.com/2015/02/28/inner-child-and-past-child/

I realised that part of the video’s power was that the images spoke to me of the child part of me and of childhood – inner child and past child – and it was revealing in that it demonstrated the extent of the distortion of the lens that I use to view myself. At the end of that post I wrote that the song and video were proving to be a goldmine of therapeutic material, and that I thought I would be exploring that goldmine (or indeed, that minefield) for some time to come.

Sometimes I worry that I don’t know how to ‘go deeper’ into a subject during therapy. I will spend a session or two talking about something and then come to a point where it doesn’t ‘feel finished’ but neither do I know how to go on. My therapist often says that if a subject is important, it will come around again, and we will ‘get another bite at the cherry’. This has proved to be true for a number of subjects, and is proving true again, which is why I have chosen ‘Inner child and past child’ for this ‘Memory Monday’ post.

Since Christmas, my therapy has focused primarily on my relationship with my husband, and it has been very painful. Trying to honestly examine past and present patterns of relating which may be destructive, and talking about sides of me that I would rather deny, brings up not just feelings of guilt and shame, but summons up the parts of me that are resistant to the therapeutic process and that believe it is impossible to change.

I have also been reading some challenging books that are helping me to re-evaluate some of my attitudes to relationships, including a couple of books on Transactional Analysis (which I will write more about, shortly). In that context, I have once again been thinking about the ‘child part’ of me – how I view it, and the ways in which it influences how I view the world and others, and how I behave. Thinking about ‘the child within’ has brought me back around to thinking about ‘Chandelier’, and though I haven’t watched the video since last March, I feel drawn to it again. I wonder how it will feel to watch it, but with an added year of therapy ‘under my belt’ and with hopefully a modicum of deeper understanding and self-awareness.

I am constantly amazed at the way in which therapy uses the unexpected and ordinary events of our lives to illuminate the different parts of us; and how the same threads come back at different times and in different guises, simultaneously peeling back another layer of our defenses and adding another layer of richness to our understanding. Like the lines from T.S. Eliot on ‘waiting’ that are so important to me and to my therapy and which I keep reinterpreting and using in different ways; this song has become part of the fabric of the way in which I try to understand myself and a core part of my ‘therapy vocabulary’, and I’m looking forward to exploring it further.