By the time I had a session with E on Wednesday afternoon, I felt confident that I was going to be able to talk about the part of me that’s been shut out. But it didn’t work out the way I thought.

E started by asking questions. What is this part like? Can I describe her? In response, I think I started too negatively. She’s passive. She doesn’t understand boundaries. She allows things to happen… Before I knew it, I had slowed down and then stopped talking entirely.

E recognized before I did what was going on: shame storm. I was coming at it from the wrong way, and it was too painful and shameful, so I retreated. Or the part retreated. At any rate, I was tongue tied.

We paused for a bit of grounding, breathing. “Rubbing the back of your neck, that activates the vagus nerve and releases oxytocin,” E reminded me. She learned this at a recent workshop and is very keen on the idea. I rub my own neck but don’t feel flooded by good emotions or a sense of calm. Still, the break is good.

We start again. E asks me to tell her something good about this part. What are her strengths? What has she given me?

I can’t think of anything. That’s the problem. Even though I think I want to this part to come out, that I want to get to know her better, I obviously don’t think very highly of her. So why should she reveal herself?

I don’t mean to be so judgmental. I don’t want to be. And yet at the same time, this part exists because of the connection I’ve made between sexual arousal and shame. At least, I’m thinking that’s why she exists. She exists to shelter me from the shame of arousal, something like that. Particularly the shame that comes from being aroused in situations where I wasn’t in control and didn’t want to feel pleasure.

As I think about this later, I can see this means that she has done something for me. She has protected me from shame (or at least greatly reduced my shame) while still allowing me to have sexual relationships. And because she’s not entirely blocked from my consciousness, I’m partly/mostly aware of these relationships, even if later I can’t recall all the details.

But I couldn’t get to this realization during Wednesday’s session. I could only stumble around clumsily, feeling ever more alienated from this part. That alienation also felt like it was my fault for focusing on the things I didn’t like about this tender part of myself.

I texted something like this to E in the evening and very unusually, she didn’t respond. That didn’t feel good, but I reminded myself that I trust her. There’s probably a reason she didn’t respond. Maybe she went out for the evening. I’m proud of myself for not spinning her silence into a story about how she was disappointed in me and the way the session went.

This morning she did respond:

Remember that quote, “Anything worth doing is worth doing awkwardly at first.” I like your awareness of the part being delicate and tender. So true. Don’t blame yourself for not making her safe enough. Wounded things are very sensitive to touch, even to the most gentle and benevolent touch…

I’ve returned to these words a number of times today and decided that E’s right. It’s okay that it didn’t go well the first time. I can get better at respecting and treasuring this part so she doesn’t need to hide so deeply in her cave.

Nervousness says: Maybe. Shame says: No way. Hope says: Keep trying.