Thoughts From Therapy #70 – The Rageful Child

**Note: This was supposed to be published last Thursday but I got too busy to finish this uber long post so now it’s out of place.**

S and I make a great team. I’ve known that for a while now because of how almost effortless it is for us to hash things out and to come to well founded conclusions about my psyche.

Today’s session though, completely confirms that notion that I’ve always had about us. We had a huge breakthrough – a huge win that I have been desperately needing since my world came crashing down a couple of weeks or so ago.

As I’ve mentioned in my last post, I haven’t stopped crying since Monday and yesterday’s session was just me fighting through my tears to speak. I was crying so hard and so much in S’ office yesterday that I was shaking and my voice was so cracked and shaky that it was hard for me to even say words.

Today’s session was accompanied by some tears but I was completely rational, heck intelligent even, in my analysis of things and my ideas about myself. I shed tears when we were at certain points that elicited some strong emotional response but overall, I’d say that I was pretty collected for the most part.

This, like all my other “Thoughts From Therapy” posts, will be a long one. But boy, what a win! I was so excited because I felt, for the first time in a very long time, light. Sure, I was still carrying all my burdens but somehow, I am able to carry it better this time. I don’t know how I’ll feel later in the day or even tomorrow but for now at least, I’m stable.

I felt so light that while I was waiting for my Starbucks order, I couldn’t stop the H in my ADHD from being out of control. I kept trying to talk to the barista who obviously didn’t want to talk. I was hyper. I bought 4 Green Tea Lattes – one for D, the receptionist, one for S to thank him for his efforts and support, one for me and one for my friend, CG, my coding buddy and the first friend I ever made in college who believed in me so much that he never stopped bugging me about joining him in Computer Science.

When I walked in to CAPS today, I was feeling confused because I had overslept and got confused about the time I was supposed to meet S. I am almost never late for sessions but today I was about 3 minutes late which completely threw me off. It was hard to start the session because of that. My anxiety makes it difficult for me to cope when my day doesn’t start as planned.

After some difficulty, I was able to talk a little more freely when my mind started to focus better. I started talking about how my life is falling apart and how the things that I expected to last forever isn’t going to anymore. I talked about the passive aggressive way that I lash out and how I use that method to cope with the pain, instead of coming right out and saying what was on my mind.

I admitted that I was angry because S caught me lying about how I really felt.

“I was more angry at the circumstances, you know?” I had said.

“It sounds like you’re angry at the person, not the circumstance, in this case,” S quickly interjected and pointed out my obvious lie.

“Yeah I guess I am…” I said after stuttering a little. S wasn’t accusative when he pointed out my lie though. He knew I would try to avoid saying that what I really felt was anger towards a person. It’s so easy to hide behind anger towards circumstances because there’s no real person who bears the brunt of the anger. “Yeah I’m angry at him for some things, not everything. I’m just angry at how things turned out. I’m angry at myself for how I’ve acted too… It’s just kinda complicated. Somehow, I always want to blame others for my failures and suffering. I think it’s because it’s so hard for me to acknowledge that I had played a huge part in making the decisions that led to how things have turned out, you know? It’s easier for me to pass the blame to someone else…”

S nodded.

“And I think I’m just angry that if there’s nothing wrong with me, then why can’t I find friends easier? Why can’t I find a partner easier?”

“It feels like there’s something wrong with you,” S said.

“Well… Yeah because it’s like, thinking about my whole life, it just feels like there’s never really been anybody I could really depend on.  Even friends… Friendships just fall apart, or people back stab me or… Even my parents aren’t dependable. I can’t trust them to watch my back.”

“That’s kinda how it all started…” S said with a realization of the source of my difficulty with people.

“It just feels like I can’t sustain relationships. Somehow, something will happen to break them…” I said, feeling really sad and frustrated.

“I wonder if that’s what’s leading to the hopelessness you were talking about yesterday?” S asked.

“Yeah it just feels like there’s no fixing things. That my life is just a mess. I don’t even know what to fix… You fix one thing and 5 other things break. See how hopeless it all is?”

“You know, it seems like you go back and forth. Yesterday, you talk about the good things you’ve done for people that have benefited them. And today you talk about how you can’t sustain friendships and that it must be something wrong with you…”

“Yeah, that’s frustrating too because it’s like I have two completely opposite sides of me. And both exist at the same time and it just doesn’t make sense…” I said. “I just always feel like I’m never good enough. That I’m always doing something wrong…”

“So you take on all the responsibility on yourself?” S asked.

“Yeah… It’s like you know, I need to stop blaming other people for things, you know? It’s just that sometimes I think to myself and I think about the time when I was a child. I can’t stop blaming that incident for shaping who I am…”

“Blaming the boy and your parents?”

“Yeah…”

“It’s hard, I mean… I hear what you’re saying… You want to stop blaming other people but at the same time, you have a right to the anger that you feel. You have a right to be mad at that boy, to be mad at your mom for what she put you through. And I know that things are complicated with J but some of that anger is legitimate too because of specific things he did,” S said, “So yeah, I think it’s good to accept some of your decisions are what led to this but that doesn’t mean you have to shoulder the responsibility for everything. That you had to deny that your own feelings are ok…”

“It’s just hard to differentiate where my anger should end and where the blaming should end, and where the legitimate anger should start. So I guess I just feel confused…”

“Yeah…” S said, sounding like for once, he was at a loss as to what else to say.

“It’s hard to know what I should be angry about or what I should accept as proper response, and what’s just me blaming people…”

“What are you angry about?” S asked, “Forget the ‘shoulds’…”

This was when he opened a huge can of worms because this was when I started to go through my life and listed every single thing I could remember – or everything that stood out. Of course, we didn’t get to all of the things I have in my mind that I’m angry about but I managed to list quite a few things.

For the next 20 minutes, I just listed everything I could remember – we paused at one particular memory because he wanted to know more details of what had happened. I talked about how angry I was at my parents for not protecting me and for not being there for me when I needed them most, how angry I was with the teachers who didn’t take the time to help me understand what I needed to understand in school, how I was angry at the people who had bullied me, how I was angry at the boss who took advantage of me by making me work on projects that were above my paygrade and never once rewarding me for said work, how I was angry at all the gossip that was going around concerning me, and how angry I was at how my life had turned out.

I just feel like as I look back to my life, all I see are all the messes that people have left that I have to clean up.

“Yeah… That’s why I feel so hopeless. I don’t even know where to begin. It just feels so painful because it’s like every decision I have, every decision I’ve made, every person I’ve met have left some kind of a mess I have to clean up…” I had said to S. “Last week, I thought to myself, the rage is back. I couldn’t figure out what I was so rageful about. It’s just there you know? Yesterday, I was alternating just wanting to curl up in bed and never come out of my room ever again and smashing things and destroying things in my room. I was just going back and forth between that. I had so much anger that I didn’t know where it was coming from…”

“Sounds like it’s been there for a long time…” S noted.

“Yeah… It’s stuff that you keep with you, you know?”

“There’s a reason that it’s there. You can move past it. You don’t have to feel this way all the time but the way through that is the anger. Not trying to get around or not think about it.” S said to me.

It made sense. I’ve been running away from all the uncomfortable feelings all this time. It’s bound to come back and haunt me somehow.

As we hashed things out more, I got to a point where I told S that I feel like I’ve been learning who I want to be around and who I don’t really care to have in my life. It’s like when you’re at the lowest point of your life, you really learn who your real friends are. I’ve been able to discern the people who truly love and support me and those who are just in it for their own gains.

“I realized that you know… I’m starting to figure out who my friends are…” I said.

“That’s a really good thing. It sounds like you’re also starting to figure out like who you are, more about what your values are…” S said, sounding very pleased.

“At one point, a friend of mine told me that I’m the hero of my own video game. Just fight and win. I said to her, ‘What if I’m just tired of this game?’ I’m tired of the grind. In every RPG, cuz that’s what we’re in pretty much, is an RPG… There’s always all these things you have to do to grind to get gold, so you can buy armor and things like that. So I grind… I buy that armor… Now I gotta buy a sword. So I grind again… Now I’ve gotta buy something else. It never ends… You just keep grinding for that other thing you’ve gotta get. Everything is a grind and I said that, ‘What if I don’t want that armor? What if I don’t care whether my stuff’s upgraded or not? What if I just don’t want to play this game? Why do you have to play this game? I want a break. Can I pause? Come back to it later? Or can I just not play at all?'” I said, getting nerdy with the RPG jargon.

Thankfully, as S is equally nerdy, he followed my thought easily.

“What does pausing and quitting mean to you?” He asked.

I paused for a while. “Quitting means um… To die… So I don’t have to be a part of this game anymore…”

“That’s what confuses me… I mean just now the way you were talking, there’s this kinda really hopeful feeling – at least maybe that’s what I was getting, and so that’s what I was putting on it. I thought about the kind of people you want to be around, the values that you have – How does it go from that to wanting to die?” S asked, looking confused. There was a tinge of frustration in his voice.

“I know, I feel like I’m a really… What’s the word? Very ironic person. Um… I feel like I have two completely opposite sides of who I am and I go back and forth really quickly between the two. I get really hopeful one second and then another, and that confuses me too. I don’t know why…”

“What happened for you just then as you were talking?” S asked, trying to help me pinpoint why my demeanor changed so suddenly.

“I just started thinking about how tired I am. How much work I have to do. How much work I have left to do. And I felt overwhelmed. There’s just this… Unexplainable kind of exhaustion I feel. Feels like just walking is a chore. Everything’s a chore…”

“Ok, so just feeling overwhelmed, feeling exhausted… What do you think you could do right now to shift back? Get back to that hopeful place? I mean you were just there,” S asked.

At this point, I had gotten sidetracked and I ended up not answering his question. Instead, I had said, “I don’t know. It’s like there’s a glitch somewhere… That shifts that feeling of ‘Yeah I think I’ll be alright’ to, ‘No, I’m just really tired’. I mean which I am. So, I don’t know why I feel this way…”

“I’m thinking about when you were talking about how angry you are, it all kinda starts with your parents. And that boy… But more your parents – At least from my perspective. I mean, how devastating it is that you couldn’t trust your mom to be there to protect you. I mean that’s your early world. It’s hard for that not to color the way you see things sometimes, at least that’s what I’m getting. As much as you fight and you try to be as optimistic, and a lot of times you are, you see the good in people, you see the hope… But it makes sense to me at least that sometimes, you would wind up back in that place.” S said, trying to make sure that I wasn’t blaming myself for everything.

“The cynicism comes back…” I said, “I guess I’m really cynical…”

“You are complicated… I don’t think we should say ‘I’m this, I’m that’. Some of that’s true in part but it’s really hard to get a sense of who you are on the whole…” S said, countering what I said.

“I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to decide what I really want. What I want to do…”

“The fact is, I think it’s pretty well established that you are brilliant and very talented. And that you can do a lot of things if you wanted to but I think it comes down to your own values… What you want to pursue…” S said.

“Yeah… I think I kind of had a little battle with myself yesterday. I thought about what you said. Once you’d asked me about what my purpose was, and I’d said something like helping people with depression or whatever… And then you were like, ‘Why not do that? Why not be that?’ I thought about it and I was like, ‘Why? Why do I want to do that?’ And then, the other part of me was like, ‘Why not? It makes you feel good… Makes you feel valued and wanted. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?’ And then, the other voice was like, ‘Because it’s futile and pointless. People don’t appreciate it. People forget so quickly… It’s just a grind…’ So it’s just this all the time, you know?” I said, feeling the helplessness creep in again.

“Back and forth?”

“Yeah…”

“Will you ever say to that voice, ‘Would you shut up for once?’”

I chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever tried that, but I’ve had moments where I’m just like, ‘You know what? F*ck you’ You know?” I said, hesitantly using the F-word.

“That’s good!” S said encouragingly.

“I’ll do what I want. See the thing is it’s like… I know eventually I’ll be fine. I know what people are saying. I get it. I believe it. But I also don’t…”

“At the same time, you believe it and you don’t…”

“Yeah, and that’s so frustrating. Because it’s like, I want people to tell me that things are gonna get better. I want comfort. But when people give me comfort, I don’t want it…”

“Then you reject it?” S asked to clarify.

“Yeah, I get angry. Somehow…. It makes me feel weak…”

“What does it do for you? Like, to have people comfort you, and to reject that comfort and to not believe it.”

“Um, this thought of nobody understands how I feel comes in. Kinda reminds me of what that group member said, ‘You don’t get me, you don’t understand’”

“There’s something about that place that does something for you, or is comfortable…” S noted.

“Somehow, I always want to say that I don’t have friends. Or nobody understands. And I know that that’s not true… I feel like a part of me wants to stay there. Stay in that place, where nobody does understand because I’m not making it easy to understand…”

“Wonder if that somehow feels safer. Even though it’s sad and lonely…” S said.

“Yeah… Somehow I feel like I put myself in that place,” I said. “Even when I don’t have to feel sad, I make myself feel sad. And now you see why I’m so angry at myself. Now I see why I’m so angry at myself. Because I know that a lot of things are in my power to change. But I don’t want to change it because I want to be this way. And then I want to scream at people and say, ‘You don’t understand! Nobody ever will!’”

“Who are you really talking to when you say that?” S asked.

“I don’t know… Now I wonder… I wonder if it’s my parents I’m trying to reach. If it’s my parents I want to hear from. To tell me that things will be ok…”

“Maybe you also want to say, ‘You don’t understand’. You want to scream at them” S said.

Something clicked in my mind. This was when I realized that S and I really work well together to unlock parts of my mind that I wasn’t even aware existed.

“Yeah, I think that may be why I’m stuck here… I think that’s why I keep myself this way. Because I haven’t heard from them…”

“So maybe if you’re still this way, maybe they’ll see the need at some point and they’ll come…” S said, realizing what I was saying.

“Yeah. And tell me that it’ll be ok…” I said, “And tell me that they were wrong. That they should’ve done something. That they’re sorry for not supporting me…” I couldn’t control the stream of tears that came as I started talking about my parents and what I wished from them.

“It’s a way of finally connecting to them. Because a part of you knows that if you become this capable, strong person, then you won’t need them anymore…” S said, uttering one of the fears that I have. He was right.

“Yeah… And I think I know that… I think that’s why there’s that part of me that wants for us to get out of this rut. Because I know I can do some great things. But if I do, then I don’t get this comfort. I think that’s why I’m so afraid of losing you, our sessions because you validate me and I want to feel that. I want to feel like a parental figure cares,” I said, feeling really vulnerable. I always feel that way whenever I talk about how I feel towards him.

“If you can’t have them, at least you’ve got me, or at least you’ve got J (Hubster),” S said, getting a clearer picture of what I was feeling.

“Yeah I think so…”

“Maybe that’s why this is so hard for you…”

“Yeah. That if I also move on, then I lose that. I think… I think I told you once that I had a feeling that the child is somehow connected to all this. I think I realize now it is the child…”

“It’s the child that doesn’t want to get better?” S asked.

“Yeah, because she’s so afraid she won’t get any more comfort. From anyone outside of myself. She doesn’t want comfort from me…”

“She wants comfort from mom and dad,” S said.

“Yeah, and I think that’s why I can’t self-validate. It does nothing for me…” I said. I was starting to realize more and more things about the child – she’s the part of me that I don’t have much understanding of.

“Mmhmm… Because the child part won’t accept it”

“Yeah… It’s becoming clearer to me now. Yeah… I’m glad we found out who it was!” I said, realizing that the child was the one responsible for a lot of the rage that I’ve been feeling my whole life and responsible for not wanting me to get better.

“Yeah, at long last!” S said, sounding very excited.

“Yeah, she’s good at hiding. Then showing up disguised as other things. She is a child after all…” I said, thinking of how playful a child is and how clever they are hiding and pretending to be other persons.

“Yup!” S said, “How are you feeling right now?”

“Um… I feel really vulnerable… Kinda feel what she’s feeling…”

“Mmhmm… What is she feeling?” S asked. He always wants me to name my feelings and to speak my feelings, not just feel them.

“Scared and vulnerable. Powerless. She couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t protect herself. So I need to protect other people because I couldn’t protect myself. So much pain. So much pain… She’s so sad. It feels like she’s stuck. She can’t grow up. It’s like she’s trapped.”

“It sounds like a lot of what you’ve been feeling lately,” S said. He was right. I didn’t even think of that before.

“Yeah. Yeah! She doesn’t want anybody else’s help. She wants mom and dad who’s not reachable. The adult tells her that they’re not coming. You know?”

“What does the teen tell her?”

“Um… That we need to rely on ourselves, you know? That it’s ok they’re not coming. We can get through this by ourselves. I know that I can. Yesterday when I was skateboarding, I was feeling great. As I was doing that, I thought to myself, I can get through this. I started feeling bad for being so negative but deep down I knew that I was going to be ok. But that child lashed out. I think that’s why I get so petty. Because it’s very childish. The passive aggressiveness and things like that…”

“It gets to a point where you just want to lash out and hurt you and hurt other people…”

“Yeah, it makes so much sense now…” I said, feeling the sense of accomplishment that the epiphany was granting me. Somehow, it felt good just to uncover that truth.

“Is she the one that’s angry at all those people?”

“I think so… I think the teen just helps fuel her rage. ‘Cuz the teen’s so angsty. The teen gets influenced so easily…”

“Hmm… So it’s the teen that gets influenced…”

“It’s the teen that wants to drink and do all kinds of stupid things… It’s the adult that’s always really cautious. It’s the one who’s got her head screwed on. The one who gets abused by the other two. This makes so much sense,” I said, feeling more feelings of awe wash over me. I always felt that way whenever I find new realizations and epiphanies.

“So now I think it’s time to listen to the child, like you did the teen. I didn’t realize I was talking about listening to her when I asked you about your anger. She needs her space too, huh?” S said.

“Yeah…” I said, “I guess, I’m so uncomfortable being angry that I just… Shh… (I mimed pushing the child into a closet or a room). You know? Just like…”

“‘Go to your room'” S said, finishing my sentence.

“Yeah. I guess we got a lot of anger to work through…” I said.

“Mmhmm, but now we know. It seems like now you can access that anger maybe a little better. Hopefully it won’t feel as threatening…” S said.

We wrapped up here because I was feeling so much calmer and so much more stable. Somehow just finding out who was behind all the anger, rage, bitterness, and fear was in itself a powerfully positive feeling. I also couldn’t help but feel so awed by S and his skills. I felt really grateful that we worked so well together. It’s actually really exciting when we get to these epiphanies.

The reason I know that we work well is because this hasn’t happened just once – it’s happened multiple times before. It’s like S said, “We’re a good match”.

This session was definitely the positive little bump that I needed for this week as things have been so bleak and painful for me lately that even a little thing helps to sustain me for the next few days.

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