A Little More Separation Between The Girl And Me

In yesterday’s post, I alluded to the feeling problem: either I’m generally numb, not feeling much of anything, or I’m overwhelmed. These past few days, the balance has tipped to the overwhelmed side.

For the last few weeks, I have been trying to work with the teenage girl, one of my younger selves. Her parents had divorced not long before, she had been molested and later raped, her mother remarried a man who turned out to be very emotionally abusive, they moved across country to a new state and she had no sense of belonging anywhere. She learned to pretend everything was fine and get excellent grades in school and keep busy and never protest anything, in case it might get worse.

My job is to bring my highest self, the wise woman, to talk to the girl with empathy and understanding. I’m supposed to allow her to express the feelings she had to bury and deny at the time. That makes perfect sense to me and fits with the “path” to healing that I outlined in yesterday’s post.

The thing is, the girl is not the most emotionally stable person you have ever met (okay, yes, with good reason maybe). She is full of rage but directs much of it at herself. She is very self-destructive and not inclined to listen.

What I’m finding is that as I open the door to talk to her, to give her some care and attention, her emotions are taking me over. I feel the self-loathing, the hopelessness, and the urge for self-destruction. I am flattened by it. I spent too much of the weekend in bed, too exhausted to do anything. The girl and the wise woman get mixed up together, and the girl’s craziness wins out over the woman’s wisdom and composure. My body is heavy. In session with E. today, I was soon lying on the floor. “Look at me, I’m a puddle,” I told E. “I can’t even sit up.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this. Several times after telling E. about something, I’ve been flooded by all the emotions I didn’t permit myself at the time. Then, I let it happen and told myself, “it will go away after a while.” But this time, it’s lasting longer, and it’s making it very hard for me to concentrate on some urgent tasks for work.

E. listened for a while before she said, “It seems like you need a little more separation between you and the girl. Not to leave her or stop working with her, but to create some space for you to observe and validate her feelings without experiencing them all.”

But neither of us knew right away how to do that. So instead, we talked more about the life of the teen. I don’t think I had ever provided E. with examples of my stepdad’s behavior before. She was surprised when I told her about the time he didn’t talk to my mom or any of us for six months. “He was living with you at the time?” she asked. “Oh yeah, and he would storm around the house and slam doors and stuff, and he’d enter a leave a room in a way that interrupted conversations, so we all felt self-conscious and stupid and yet we all kept pretending like nothing was wrong. He did this lots of times, but the six month stretch was the longest. Sometimes the silent treatment was better than being yelled at. We never talked about this. When he wasn’t actively in a bad mood, we used to ingratiate ourselves in the most pathetic way, hoping he’d be satisfied and not get angry again.”

It was screwed up and no doubt influenced my decision to marry my first husband, who had some of the same behaviors.

After a while, I paused, as something occurred to me. “I know what I need. I need to be strengthening my higher self.  I need to be strong enough that the girl’s emotions don’t knock me down. I can’t take care of her if I’m in the same shape she is in. Besides, if she see me all shaken up, she won’t feel like it’s safe to have all these emotions.”

E. leaned forward, brightening. “Yes, that feels exactly right.”

How to do that? We eventually decided that I needed time and place containment of the girl’s emotions. Every evening, a minimum of 30 minutes for her to draw or write or whatever she needs, in the same place in my house. Every evening, ending with the promise of returning, so she doesn’t feel forgotten. And then things to care for myself.

“Is there something restorative that appeals to you?” E. asked me.

I shook my head. “It’s not something restful I need. I get plenty of rest, retreating to my bed. I need something that gives me energy. Standing yoga poses, sun salutations, things that warm up the body. Not what I feel like doing when I’m apathetic and demoralized. But it’s always like that. To get better, I often have to do the opposite of what I feel like doing. I have to act like I am engaged with life.”

 

 

 

 

19 thoughts on “A Little More Separation Between The Girl And Me

  1. We can do yoga together. Me and you Q. First out little girls built blanket forts and maybe now it’s time to focus on the teens. I’m in a similar place this month trying to deal with my 14 year old. I don’t even know what to tell her so basically I take her to yoga. She loves yoga. My wise self loves yoga. It’s a win win. And at the end of every class she is allowed to curl up into child’s pose with be blanket on top of her. I bought her my favorite yoga blanket with the pink and black in it. It’s just like the one in the studio but it’s ours. I’ve even taken it into work and spread it over my chair on Friday. It made me smile. So let’s go together to yoga okay? Sun salutations at 10 my time and 7 yours right?!

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      • Well I’m right there with you switching back and forth between 14 and 40. I was listening to Pandora and stumbled upon this song http://youtu.be/_-vbTbz3W_I. I have been blasting it in my car and for whatever the reason it really helps me to let go into the 14 year old I was never able to be. I wish we could have a sleepover and play music, read magazines and all pile on the purple bed together and feel safe.

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        • This is the kind of song my 14-year-old self would have liked. She really liked sleepovers (especially NOT at her house, because it was embarrassing how her stepfather talked to the family, or when he didn’t talk to the family). So if you cam host, she’ll come over. Or you can come to her specially designed and completely safe purple bedroom. And the puppies are allowed on the bed.

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  2. I really understand the ” I feel the self-loathing, the hopelessness, and the urge for self-destruction. I am flattened by it.” It’s so draining and feels terrible. I do think it’s beautiful that you’re trying to show the girl compassion and working to figure out an effective way, even though you’re feeling really overwhelmed.

    Maybe this is totally off-base, but it sort of sounds like you’re in a bit of a role of a therapist with this: “I need to be strong enough that the girl’s emotions don’t knock me down. I can’t take care of her if I’m in the same shape she is in. Besides, if she see me all shaken up, she won’t feel like it’s safe to have all these emotions.” I think that a good therapist needs to empathize and understand, but not have the same intense emotional reaction or it feels very dangerous.

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  3. This sounds like a good plan– strengthening the wise woman so she can help the teen. I’m impressed you were able to come up with this, when feeling so flattened and stuck. You are so brace to state that you know you don’t need rest– I often know what I need is yoga, or a walk, or to get up and move, but I’m afraid to admit that for whatever reason. I’m feeling very inspired by you, Q. Xx💟

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    • Don’t be too impressed – there’s still a big chasm between knowing what i need to do and making myself do it. But I did do a bit better today. 🙂 Thanks for being so consistently encouraging!

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  4. I find that I have to constantly restore balance between allowing myself to get closer to my parts and giving myself room (and giving them room) to spread out and breathe. I simply cannot function if any of us are too close together.

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    • I only did a few basics, but still, it was good. I always love downward facing dog. It addresses so many thing a the same time. If I do nothing else, I will do that pose and hold it and feel a bit better.

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    • Limiting the time that the teen is in charge helps A LOT. I give her protected time in the evening, every day. Since she knows she gets attention every day, she doesn’t have to throw such a (metaphoric) fit and try to take over all the time to make herself heard. I know this might sound crazy, but it has helped so much this week.

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  5. “I have to act like I am engaged with life.” This. Acting like it when I don’t feel like it in the home that the feeling will come. Powerful post. I like the idea of creating a bit of separation… without abandoning her… to better be able to support her.

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