In my session this week I was able to begin talk about what really happened to that 3-year old little girl that I was, the dynamics of what happened and the role my mother played in it.
One of the horrible truths of my childhood is that my mother colluded and turned a blind eye. But a more horrible truth is that she also deliberately set me up to be abused.
That little 3-year old girl was called in from the garden, where she was happily chasing butterflies, by her mother because grandpa wanted to ‘play’.
“Play” was a pseudonym for sexual abuse.
That little girl was me. That mother was my mother. That grandfather was my paternal grandfather.
I was able to recall all that without any surface emotion or reaction although deep inside I feel immense hurt, confusion, disgust and anger. But that stuff is so deep that I’m able to talk without any emotional connect. That emotional disconnect bothers me a little. Well maybe a lot actually. I guess part of it is that I knew so much horror as a child that I’m desensitized to it. I guess too that I’ve lived all my life with the question going round and round “how could a mother do that?”
For “K” she was hit by the horror of that and was really upset at the thought of a mother behaving like that and she cried.
That was not a reaction I was expecting. You don’t expect your therapist to cry. Or at least I didn’t!
At that point I froze, physically and emotionally. I thought about pushing the box of tissues in her direction but couldn’t move to do it. I sat there and thought “those tears should be my tears but here I am sitting here feeling absolutely nothing”. It was a really strange situation that left me feeling really wobbly. I’d been really worried what would happen when I was able to begin to talk about that stuff. I’d been really worried how “K” would react and several scenarios had played through my mind but I hadn’t considered that!
I was able to catch up with “K” on the phone this evening and talk it all through with her.
“K” said she’s never cried in a session with a client before and it caught her by surprise. She said the realisation of what my mother did in setting me up to be abused really upset her. “K” has spoken to the support group she attends for people who work with clients who’ve been sexually abused and said how helpful it was for her to talk through what happened with them. It’s good for me to know she has that support. I don’t quite know why, but knowing she has that support makes a big difference to me being able to talk. “K” is wondering if a bit of transference happened. I’d wondered that too but am not all that sure. In a sense it doesn’t matter whether it was transference or not.
What matters is being able to address it and not pretend it didn’t happen.
So it was really good, this evening, to be able to honestly and openly talk through with her what happened. In the past when things have happened I’ve not had the courage or confidence to go to the person and say “this is how I felt, how it affected me, what I think about it, how I feel about it”. Instead I’ve just been silent and tried to pretend it didn’t happen or didn’t affect me. I guess that response is similar to how I responded to so much of the abuse.
Now I’m starting to heal and to learn other ways of relating and responding and being able to say to “K” “look I wasn’t expecting that and it threw me, I feel really wobbly about that” is a sign of that progress. It’s also, I guess, a sign of how safe I feel with her now.