Add to Technorati Favorites

Friday, October 22, 2010

Conversation with Therapist

me: Before I go, I need to tell you something and you can tell me what you think if you want to, but I don't want to do any assignments in conjunction with this. I'm just telling you.

Therapist: Okay, what's up?

me: Something is happening with my feelings about my mom. Remember how I said every time I think of something good about her, I follow it up with memories of how she messed me up?

Therapist: Yes; that's a normal thought pattern.

me: I know. But lately that's changed. I've been remembering the good things...and that's all.

Therapist: For example?

me: My mom read to me every day when I was little--sometimes several times a day. When she noticed I was reading on my own, she took me to the library a couple of times weekly. 

Therapist: How old were you?

me: It was the summer before I turned four. I thought if I could read I should be able to go to school. It didn't happen. I was heartbroken when my sister got to go without me for one more year. But my mom made worksheets for me with counting and addition games, and crossword puzzles; and she bought me a word search book.

Therapist: And she read to you every day?

me: Every day.

Therapist: What else?

me: She wanted me to have her wedding ring. I don't know if she still does, but I remember one time we were alone and she said, "Sam, do you like my wedding ring?" I told her I did, and she said that when I was very small I would sit in church quietly looking at the ring, sometimes touching it and moving it so the stones caught the light. Then she told me when she died she wanted me to have it, and asked if I would like that. I think I was ten. I said yes, but I was more preoccupied with the idea of her death which I hadn't really thought about before, than I was with the wedding ring.

Therapist: Why do you think she chose you, out of all your siblings?

me: I don't know. 

Therapist: It's a good thing to think about.

me: Maybe. But the reason I'm telling you this is because I'm remembering lots of things now, but the memories of my mom are no longer followed by sadness or resentment. She did some reprehensible things. She did a great deal of harm to me. But that's not the complete picture. I know it was hard for her to hold me or touch me, but she did other things that were helpful and caring. I think she wanted to love me. 

Therapist: I think she loved you.

me: Well, you can't really know that.

Therapist: Actually, I think I can.

me: Why?

Therapist: I know you. I've known you for more than four years. I know her, too. I think the timing of your birth displaced a whole bunch of natural emotions. I think she knew she should feel more for  you, and she tried. She just had too many needs of her own that weren't being filled, she was grieving, and she grew up in a situation where physical nurturing and love just didn't happen. She didn't know how to recover from that, and you bore the brunt of it. But Sam, most adults are very much like the children they used to be. I'm guessing you--at the core--are still the same person as the little girl your mother didn't know how to love. People are naturally drawn to you, and I'm guessing they were when you were a child, as well. I think your mom loved you. I think she grieved because something not only stopped her from expressing that love, but drove her to mistreat and abuse you. It's inexcusable, and hard to understand, but it happens.

me: I don't know. I think maybe you're right, but I don't want to spend time on that because I'll talk myself out of it. Instead, I think I'm just going to let the memories happen. I'm not going to dwell on them or try to insert meaning into them. I'm going to experience those memories, appreciate what they tell me, and not weigh them on any values scale. I think this is important. And when I'm ready, I think I'm going to tell my mom what I've remembered.

Therapist: Why will  you tell her?

me: I need to thank her. 

Therapist: Samantha, this is why, even if you're thirty minutes late for your appointment, I'll make time for you.

me: Because I'm going to tell my mom about my memories?

Therapist: No. Because you allow yourself to heal, and you share that process with me. You've done it many times in the past few years. But then you take it a step further. You allow others to heal with you. Do you understand how your gratitude and acknowledgement of the good things your mother has done for you will help her heal, as well?

me: But that's not why I'm doing it.

Therapist: No. Which makes it authentic and believable. You're doing it because somewhere inside you believe it will be helpful to you. But some of my other clients believe it's more helpful to be confrontational, to repay hurt with hurt. You, on the other hand, wait until you can repay hurt with dignity and kindness. And because of this, I believe you will be completely whole again--soon.

me: I can't think about that right now.

Therapist: Someday, Sam, I hope you will. When you can recognize you're rather extraordinary and someone who will go out of her way to help others--especially when you've been hurt by them--not just because it's the right thing to do, but because you care deeply about them--I think then you'll start to understand why those feelings that you are ultimately "bad" for people are not accurate.

me: Well, for now, I just want to remember. I don't want to figure this out yet.

Therapist: Did you hear what you just said?

me: I know. It's not what I normally do. I would usually be trying to research and write things down and scrambling to understand everything. But this was a little bit unexpected. I don't remember a time when I've been able to think about my mom without feeling pain and resentment. I think I just need to sit with it for awhile.

Therapist: I think that's a good idea. And don't try to figure this out either: I'm proud of you. 

me: Okay.


  1. Beautiful. I hope you continue to enjoy the memories.

  2. I really like this, Sam! I like what's happening with you--some really great progress! I like how you explained it to your therapist; I like her responses and I'm amazed that you could remember the detail of that conversation. I never can after seeing my therapist. Wonderful! Wonderful!

    (Sorry it's been a while since I've been around. It's been a hard year.)

  3. Thanks, Sis. P. I do, too (and I also think we should have lunch again some day :-) ).

    Debbie: Good to see you out and about. :-)

    You have had a difficult year. I hope things are settling a bit and you've had some peace. I've been thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate what you've said.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful post. I have had a difficult, often toxic, relationship with my mother since I was very young. Reading this post helped me cast new light on my feelings about that relationship and gave me some hope for experiencing some healing in myself. I hope you gain much by just sitting with your memories a while, as you said.

  5. Thank you, Pablo. I've worked for many years to try to establish a relationship with my mom. She abused me physically and emotionally and caused much residual scarring which I'm still sorting through--and I've had some success as I've tried to build a relationship with her. But I have to say, that would not be at all possible if she had not been willing to get help, make huge changes in her life, and ask for forgiveness. I hope you're able to find peace in your relationship with your mom. It's not an easy thing to do.

  6. Beautiful Sam, thank you for sharing this. I love how completely you are able to replicate conversations, and your documenting of the healing process will benefit many I think; it touches me. You are a hero and we love you.

  7. Thanks, Jared. Very glad you stopped by. :-)