A very helpful therapeutic excercise

I saw F for therapy this morning. I was in a rotten mood when we arrived because while we were in the car my mom had told me we’d have to stop by the supermarket on the way home because my jerk brother had helped himself to our fruit basket when he had been over to pick stuff up this morning. I always have difficulty with spontaneous changes in plan and was angry at mom because I felt like she never considered me with anything she did.

Mad at her, I didn’t want her anywhere near me during my therapy, so I went into the room with F alone, while my mom waited. (Sometimes I want my mom along, and F lets me.) Anyway, so I was alone with F and in a bad mood and of course she could tell and asked what was up. So I explained to her how I felt like mom didn’t take my feelings seriously, yada yada yada.

Then F introduced me to a therapy technique that I found surprisingly helpful in the end – so much that I want to share, because who knows, maybe it helps someone else, too.

F asked me to conjure up before my mind’s eye what we call my “safe place”. My usual safe place includes my mom, but today I was mad at her and didn’t want her at my safe place, so I visualized my safe place without her. We do the “safe place” visualization often, so that by now I’m pretty good at going there in my mind and noticing when I need to return there if the stuff we work on during therapy gets overwhelming.

Anyway, so I was at my safe place. F then asked me to focus on the situation that upset me again, and to identify my thoughts and feelings as closely as possible. I ended up with:

  • feeling ignored
  • unloved
  • worthless
  • overpowered because the decision had already been made and I hadn’t even been asked
  • helpless
  • panicky
  • angry over feeling helpless and panicky
  • angry at mom for not doing her job as a mother right
  • abandoned

The next step was that F asked me to keep holding on to these feelings, but let the present day situation fade away at the same time, so that just the feelings remained. That was a bit challenging, but I managed.

Then F asked me to allow my mind to wander and see if it recalls a situation from when I was younger where the same feelings applied.

I did and it didn’t take very long before a situation from a group home came to my mind. It was the group home I had been in after my first hospital stay aged 15, and I had been at the group home for three weeks (or so) at the time when suddenly the woman who ran my group, a social worker or something, decided I was going to be moved to another group home outside of town. Just like this. I had only just settled in with this group, only just started to open up to some of the caretaker people there, and suddenly that woman just said “pack your things, you’re going to move later today”.

Apparently they had only taken me temporarily while they were waiting for a longer term placement to become available, but nobody had told me this. Anyway, so that was the situation that came to my mind when F asked me to see if I could find one that matched the feelings I had.

F made sure I still felt safe, and then asked me to remember the situation from the group home and my feelings in this situation as vividly as I could. And once I had that she asked, if there was anyone who I wanted to be there with me in that memory situation to help me or to give me what I didn’t get for real back then.

I nodded and really wanted my mom (like, my mom now, not my birth mother) to be there. So F asked me to imagine what would happen if she went there. So before my mind’s eye I saw myself all upset and confused and feeling helpless and afraid and angry because I was getting pushed around and shoved off to another home because not one single person in the world even cared for me. Then I had my mom come into the room with me. I made her come in, be very gentle and respectful, like she is in real life, too, and she looked at me in this way that says, without ever speaking a word, that she sees me and feels for me and wants to be there with me. Then I had her talk to me and explain to me how she is going to be my mom one day. Not yet now, because we don’t really know each other yet, and that she’s sorry we don’t, but that she’s gonna be there for me and loves me and that I’m going to be fine and that she looks forward to when we meet for real.

F asked me to monitor what my feelings did while I was imagining that, and go figure, they went away. I felt sad and unhappy for having been in such an unhappy place, but also better not like nobody loved me anymore. More sorry that I’d been so bitchy to mom.

I asked F if I could get mom for real and she was fine with it, so I went to where she was waiting and while mom was all surprised and a bit concerned that I was coming out before the time was up, I just put my arms around her neck and suddenly felt so overwhelmed that I couldn’t help crying. In the slightly-confused-yet-relieved way. It’s embarrassing, actually. I bet mom had no idea what the hell had happened.  LOL

I really liked this exercise. I felt a lot better afterwards. I can’t even explain why exactly. We stopped by the supermarket and it was okay. Once we were home again, I even felt good enough to continue with the sexual healing journey a bit. And even now I still feel kind of elated and like my family loves me and look forward to the rest of the day. Life is good. 🙂

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grainne
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 18:35:39

    Wow! What a powerful tool that is. I’ve never done this exercise but am most certainly interested in bringing it up to my therapist. Thanks for posting this..it sounds very healing and like you managed to put all of your emotional chaos inside back into order….if even for a short time, that sounds like such a relief.

    • Lola
      Jan 25, 2013 @ 20:11:49

      I found it surprisingly helpful. It may have been a lucky connection of the right thing happening the right time, but it was a really good thing to happen. I found it very relieving to feel a little less helpless about a situation that has already happened and that I can’t really be changed for real anymore. Might as well change it a bit in my mind instead. Good luck if you want to bring the exercise up to your therapist. xx 🙂

  2. aimeecatherine
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 22:43:43

    That as so moving to read. Thank you for sharing xxx

  3. nobodysreadingme
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 11:02:42

    Safe places are good. I have one. I went there last night, eventually. I know you know what I’m talking about.
    Stick with it, Lola. You continue to amaze me

    • Lola
      Jan 26, 2013 @ 11:27:53

      Thank you. And yeah, safe places are really good and I know what you’re talking about.

      When I’m in therapy, the safe place excercise is always the first exercise we do before we do any other excercises, because we’re not working on anything, ever, if I don’t feel safe first.

  4. prideinmadness
    Jan 27, 2013 @ 00:08:49

    I’m glad you had a good time!

    My safe place is a forest. I used to live near one and it was nice going there by myself.

    • Lola
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 08:29:33

      Thank you. 🙂 A forest is a great safe place. We live right next to a forest and it’s nice going there in the summer.

      It’s funny you mention a forest, actually, because my safe place is a castle on a hill with a big man-eating jungle around it. So in a way I’ve got a wild version of a forest to keep me safe, too, to keep the bad stuff out. Inside my castle are all the things that are dear to me, and I’m fond of the mental image of my jungle snatching and eating people like my stepfather or anyone else who’d want to mess with me.

      • prideinmadness
        Jan 27, 2013 @ 15:49:31

        I love the idea of a man eating jungle! Sometimes I can spend a good chunk of time thinking about how I could get back at the people who I don’t like and as long as it’s in my head I feel better in the end.

        I live near a lake now which is nice to go to when it’s warmer 🙂

        • Lola
          Jan 27, 2013 @ 16:15:23

          Haha, yeah, I sometimes entertain those kinds of thoughts, too.

          Living near a lake sounds way nice! I love looking at lakes, they always have such a calm feeling to them.

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