Hero Child


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Spirituality Cements Childhood Blindness
The Futility of Punishment


IFS therapy session, December 24, 2009

the origins of idealization

never in a million years


Barbara to therapist (whose responses were not recorded while I taped this session over the phone): How are you? You have been traveling and going for a long time...

Well, I have been a lot better. I have really been pretty well, I must say. I still feel sadness, and I want to work with it today. But I think that the time in Chicago was good for me. To see you in person was good for me. I think we did good work since that happened with Alice Miller; so I think I'm coming out of this hole, I'm climbing out of there. I also feel better about living in Mexico after being in Chicago and seeing what it is like there economically for many people. I'm not saying it's easy here, but it's much better than in Chicago. I also can work here as a therapist, which would take me years in Chicago. And I know that I am doing good work. It's interesting that most of my clients are in other countries; they find me through my website and we do therapy by phone or by Skype. It works really well. So in many ways, I think I am in a really good place here. I feel really good about being here this Christmas; it's amazing.

Therapist: That sounds very different than you were thinking and feeling a while ago.

Barbara: Yes! (Laughing) We have done good work together. And I must also say that -- I don't know how to say that -- it's so unusual to invest time and money into therapy. Not many people do that. (Laughing) They would rather do a million other things than that. So I was thinking: it's paying off, you know, it's a good investment to invest something into yourself. It certainly also helps me in my work with my clients. It also gives me more confidence because when I know that this therapy works with myself -- then I can be differently with others.

I still feel sadness. It's not so strong, but it's still there, so I would like to work with that. When I think about the sadness and the sad part that I feel and know it's there, I also feel my right arm right now. I have had gentle tendinitis in that arm; it comes and goes as a silent pain sometimes. It certainly came when I wrote the response to Alice Miller. During this time, my arm started to hurt. I cannot use my right arm freely, like I want to, neither playing the piano nor typing on my computer. If I do too much, there's a pain right away. And right now, I feel it again.

Therapist: Then let's listen to it, what it has to say.

Barbara: The pain says that not in a million years did I ever think that this would happen with Alice Miller. I know that I am not the only one -- you know that her books have reached thousands and thousands of readers. And my arm and my sadness, they say that she was like a soul-mother for many people. People who knew that they did not have good parents had her books. And I remember (crying), I really remember when I came back from Chicago with my first husband in 1984. The first Christmas back in Germany, I could not stand being in Essen, close to my parents during Christmas. So we traveled to Switzerland and stayed in a hotel over Christmas. I remember being in this hotel and missing Chicago like I can't tell you how, and having on my nightstand her books. And whenever I would feel desperate, or alone, or didn't know how to survive the next day or being back where I was -- I would read them. There would be always a part or sentence, something that would give me comfort. And I know that there are many, many people who feel the same way.

You saw that I was traumatized by what had happened when Alice Miller attacked me -- and I know about others who like me have been traumatized and hurt by what happened.

So this part says: Never in a million years did it think that this would happen. So my question to the part is: why did you not? Why was she so important to you? The part says: she made me feel like I had a home, that there was someone who understood me and that there was somebody who was on my side. And the part says that I never had had that feeling: that there was somebody who could understand me, who saw things the way I saw them, and who was on my side. In 1980, I read "for your own good" and in 1982 I entered therapy. My father had entered a mental hospital, my brother had a severe depression, my family situation became very unstable and I had anxiety. So I started therapy with Allen Siegel. But I don't think I would have done that without her book because the book gave people, who read it, the hope that there was a way out. In that book she recommended psychoanalysis as a way out, and I'm sure that many people followed her into psychoanalysis. And then she said: well, that doesn't work; and she recommended primal therapy. And then she said: this doesn't work either. Now she recommends her website and raging at your parents. (Laughing) And that doesn't work either; that is not a good way either.

But there was of course in her books the promise of healing; the promise of being able to be truthful about your childhood, and about how you saw things, how you saw your family, or your country, or religion -- many things. So this part is standing there and saying over and over again: "Never in a million years did I think this would happen."

And I can't help going back to my father and the time that you and I were working with the incest. (Crying) You know, when the anger talked about incest, and I would come into my sessions and little Barbara would cry and say: "My father would never do this. My father loves me." (Crying) I think it's the same part.

Therapist: I think so too.

Barbara: I just want to ask this part what it wants to say right now. I don't want to analyze or interpret anything. I just want to listen. What the part says is that my father meant the world to me (Crying). It meant safety from my mother, and joy. Also that he did not beat me. I was not afraid of him. I know that I yelled at my father -- something which I didn't dare to do all my life with my mother; I didn't even dare to contradict her. I don't remember it, but my sisters remember that as a teenager I yelled at my father, and would fight with him. So this part says: as much as it was possible at home that I could be myself, and feel safe as a child -- it was with my father. And the part says that she felt close to my father. Particularly through music. Many people, and my brothers and sisters, too, they say that I was his favorite child. (Long crying, also deep and long crying while I am typing this)

So my question to this part is: what are you so sad about? And the part says that it was not just that she believed that my father loved me, and that love exists. The relationship with my father also gave her self-confidence and really joy. It is very much the same with Alice Miller. I loved working for her website; I enjoyed responding to the letters of readers. You know how passionate I am about this, and that I like to think about things. And I am just as passionate with music. And it is not because anybody forces me. But when I am passionate about something -- that's just how I am. When it interests me, I love to learn; and I like to learn new music, and I like to read texts. It's a very strong connection into life.

And the part says that when this abrupt end happened with Alice Miller -- and the abrupt end with my father that I did not even consciously know because I forgot the incest...

So the split -- you know now that I know more about it, this split -- I don't even know how the brain does that. It's just unbelievable that I functioned as if nothing had happened although I really, a part of me, had ended the relationship with my father. I didn't use to remember dreams until I entered therapy with Allen Siegel -- then I had very clear ones, and the first dream about my father was that I came to my father's funeral, and I looked into the casket. In the casket is my father's upper body -- but not the lower body. I saw the dream as that I had ended my relationship with him -- but I didn't know why. There was no connection between the lower part of the body and the funeral. My father was alive when I had this dream. I still even had relationships with my parents when I had this dream. I had not broken off relationships. The part says that my father meant the world to me as a child. He was really really very important.

I want to ask the part: how does it feel to know about the kind of man that my father turned out to be. I mean, it was really not just the incest. It was a very misogynist man who not only despised but hated women; who didn't encourage me to study, to learn; who really, really, really stirred my life, you know, like a captain, on a course that was not good for me, and that I look at with regret and sadness today. So I wonder how the part feels about that. The part says, it's the same feeling as with Alice Miller: not in a million years did I think that he would turn out as such a man. I didn't see him this way.

This part remembers, now when memories come, the things that my father used to do. (Crying) One of the things that he used to do, and that he did contrary to my mother, was to bring joy into our childhoods. I remember particularly my father was always there for Christmas eve, when we would decorate the Christmas tree. When we were 14 years old, we were allowed to participate. So we would hang the ornaments, and he would have champagne and nice food. Christmas was a time when my parents were nice to us. It wasn't just the gifts. My mother yelled because she was stressed out -- but she didn't particularly yell at us. So the part says that my father brought a lot of joy into my childhood. And there's another memory that comes that my nanny told me that when we were really little, my father would take his three girls -- we each were born one year apart -- on a Sunday to a café for something to drink and a piece of cake. And my mother would not come along but be mad and say: you're spoiling the children.

So the part says that I had NO CLUE about the enormous difference between my parents when I was little. Because in that little scene, if taking your children out for a lemonade and cake, is spoiling your children, and the mother is so angry about it that she doesn't come along, stays home, and frets about it -- the part says that my parents were incredibly different, and that I could not understand it as a child. I could not make sense of it as a child. The only thing that the part felt was that things were better when my father was there.

This part is like a record stuck: my father meant the world to me, she says. Do you have any question that you want to ask her, or thought?

You mean, where she is stuck? And if I understand her? I certainly do understand her. She is a really little girl because I know that I saw my father as a teenager critically already, even if this part was still running everything. But there were already other parts of me. Even though I still obeyed and followed my father, I saw him critically. So this part says that she is a very young part that tried to make sense of a mother who was very strict and cold, joyless. I think the parts says the difference between these two was that one person brought joy and a sense of safety into my life -- and the other person made me feel terrified and was joyless and cold. And my father could be warm and joyful and did fun things with us when he was there. I mean, it was not his great joy, when we were children, to lecture us or to punish us or to beat us. That was not his agenda. That was her agenda.

So this part says that for her the difference between my parents is joyful versus joyless, and strict versus warm, and at least in some way caring -- versus a persecutor that I was terrified of. So the part says that for her my father was her whole world because when he was home and around, my mother behaved differently and I was safer. Life was different when he was at home. There was just more joy.

Therapist: Does the part feel that you understand it?

Barbara: It feels that nobody can understand that. The part says that I cannot understand it, and you cannot either. It says: nobody can understand what it meant when my father was there.

Therapist: How do you feel towards this part?

Barbara: Impatient. If I'm honest.

Therapist: Ask the impatient part to step aside and let you be with the sad part.

Barbara: It's still impatient. There is another part that is even angry at this sad part, and not just impatient.

Therapist: Maybe then we need to work with this part first.

Barbara: Yes, I think we have to, because there is a battle or something. I mean this part even uses bad language and says: this fucking idiot. Look at how it idealizes A MONSTER! This part is SO ANGRY at the sad part and it says: what the hell is this part talking about? A man who commits incest, who did nothing but hurt his daughter, destroyed her chances to work, to study, to pick a husband that loved her -- he ruined this woman's life. And this sad part is going on and on and on about how important this father was? The angry part is tearing at its hair, it is horrified and furious. When I say to this part: "Can you let me be with the other part?" Then the angry part says: "I understand that you want to help this other part. Maybe you need to acknowledge what I KNOW about your father and how I hate this man. And how I really think he destroyed so much for you." And this part also says the same thing about Alice Miller: she misled you and you trusted her so much. You have to stop being so blind and idealizing and trusting and really look at what's going on.

I want to ask this part if it feels that I'm making more room for it and for what it sees and what it knows and what we have learned together. If it can see that. The part says: yes, it does. It really does see that. Then my question is: "Why is it so hard for you that I help a part that cannot yet see that. It's really important that we help a part which is still stuck in idealizing my father." But this part says that it's just really, really angry with the sad part. When I say to the angry part: "You know, this sad part was formed when my father was different, and he WAS DIFFERENT when I was a little girl. So it's not this part's fault that she loved my father, that she felt close to him, that he was important to her. You are from a different time; you saw and you can see what kind of man he was. And I want to help the other part very much."

The angry part is so impatient -- I think I will go into the healing light with the angry part. I will see what happens because I don't know what else to say. I know what it thinks and I understand it; I have no trouble whatsoever understanding that.

So if I go into the healing light with the angry part -- there is an explosion from anger. It's not just a volcano that is erupting. It's a big red ball of fury and anger and OUTRAGE over my father. It's really huge. You know, the little part says over and over again: "My father means the world to me" -- and, well, this part says: "My father is a monster; my father is a monster; and I hate this man and I am SO ANGRY with this man."

So this part is really just like this BIG BIG explosion from rage, from outrage, from protest, from criticism. This is very clearly a sharp hatred of my father. So I'm just watching this explosion of rage and outrage and protest -- and also pain. There is a lot of pain in this explosion, too. You know, it explodes, and explodes, and explodes -- and then it lessens; it gets less and less. And when it's kind of over, when the energy has raged itself out -- you know, you can only rage so long, then you get calmer because you are exhausted -- what I see then is a very clear, strong woman who is very determined, very free of her father and her mother, very dedicated to helping other women become strong; hopefully younger women, too, who still have their lives ahead of themselves and not behind, or almost behind, as I do. There is a great love for my children. (Crying) And she wants to do something with her life that is really her life and her stuff. She is TOTALLY free from her parents; I cannot describe it any better. There is no bond, no connection. There is nothing that connects her to her parents anymore. She is just very free, very strong and independent -- and determined. It's a very determined woman.

So I ask her if we can be with the sad part now and she says, yes, it's fine, we can be with the little girl now. I want to say to this woman that I welcome her into my life, that I'm thrilled and happy she is there. I'm a little astounded almost that she is there, and how clear and strong and unafraid she is.

I go to the little girl, and I want to stay in the healing light because it feels just fine right now, because there is this little voice calling and saying over and over again: my father means the world to me, my father loves me, my father means the world to me. She is in a very scary place -- we have had this image in another session, you know, when you go on these monster rides, into a haunted house, where you never know what kind of terrible thing is going to happen. You go into a car and then you go into a dark place, and suddenly a skeleton drops out, and then another frightful thing. It's a scary ride. This part says: that's how she felt most of the time, that she was in a dark, cold and scary place where she was terrified of her mother and never knew what would happen to her, what my mother would do to her, how she would be attacked, accused, punished, put down, isolated. I mean this part says being with her mother was like being on this kind of a ride, always preparing yourself for the worst. And the part says, when the father was at home, it was different. She didn't feel she was in danger any longer; she says that there was more reliability, predictability, joy -- and warmth. It wasn't so cold. The house was warmer; it was brighter; there was more fun and also more security.

So this part is in this dark and scary place, and while she is on this ride through this haunted house, she is always saying to herself: my father means the world to me, my father loves me. I mean it's like: she's closing her eyes so that she doesn't have to see the skeletons and the scary things dropping out, so that nothing around her will touch her. While kind of inside, she is always murmuring the same thing. And that gives her a feeling she will survive this ride, she will make it through this ride. Some day this ride may end. She doesn't know how to end it, but she hopes she can end it.

I also think that there is a conflict in this child between these two places, a conflict which she cannot work out. When she is in the dark place, she wants to be in the bright place. And when she is in the bright place, she doesn't know how to keep it from going away because she doesn't want to go to the dark place. So she is very confused, she is very conflicted. The feeling that I get from this part is that she has no tools whatsoever to make any sense of this. And I really want to say to this part that I understand that because I think even for an adult it would be very hard to make sense of something like this. And for a child, it's absolutely impossible. You cannot make sense of that. It's a scary and terrible way to grow up and to be with parents.

When I am in the healing light with this part that is either on this dark, scary ride -- or in a place where she thinks she is safe and it's good, but she doesn't know how to keep it -- I need the help of the healing light. And the healing light first of all destroys and demolishes this is scary haunted house so that it disappears. It's gone, it's just gone. I go to this little girl, who is very little. She is maybe two or three years old. She is really very lost. She is standing there, not lying, she is standing there and longing for the bright place. She is in this state of total confusion. The word madness even comes to my mind. And I feel really sorry for her (Crying, also again while I am typing this) because it's a mad way to live. I understand that it made her mad. (Crying) And I understand why her brain would go in this circle that her father meant the world to her because she couldn't figure this out, and she couldn't change it. (Crying) What a horrible way to live. (Long and deep sobbing) I am very sorry for this little girl (Long crying as I write this) -- I really do feel sorry for her.

And I ask her if she wants to come with me and go away from this place, and come to a place that I have made, the life that I have made, where she will be safe, where I can care for her because I have cared for so many inner children. I will be glad to care for her too. And she will have a home that is warm and has a lot of light, where I'm good to her, and she doesn't have to be afraid, and she doesn't have to long for somebody who doesn't keep his promises or doesn't protect her, who never really was there for her to end this scary ride.

I say to this little girl: "Your father should have ended this scary ride. He should have never allowed for you to be in such a haunted house. He was not a good father to you. He gave you an idea of what life could be like -- but he should have made sure that you could have lived without fear, without darkness, without coldness, without being abandoned and isolated. He never did that."

I'm just thinking that my brother told me this morning that he saw my sons with their children the other day at a family gathering; he said they are very warm and caring fathers. I am very proud of that.

Therapist: You can be proud of that.

Barbara: I AM very proud of that. I'm saying to the little girl: "You know, these are cool fathers; they make sure that their children are safe and warm and cared for and not alone and isolated. Do you want to come with me?"

I think she cannot yet. I'm sitting next to her on the floor and just hold her hands, and she is willing to be with me. But she cannot leave because there is a madness in her head. That is the burden which she carries from this situation. The madness is like a -- I mean, she cannot think clearly. In her brain, it goes around and around and around and around. (Sighing) Yes, yes, she needs to unburden that before she can come with me. She needs healing because when this burden is gone, she can be with me. But as long as it's there, there is a curse on that place in her brain. And the healing light very very gently surrounds the little girl -- and I am quite aware that this burden is in her brain and not in her body. There is something in her brain that is wrong. It's not as if her brain is turning around and around. It is as if a part of her brain is sending out the same signal, over and over and over again. You know, when you are on a ship, and when the ship is in distress at sea, going down, they send out a signal, an SOS: · · · — — — · · · like beep beep beep, beeeeeeeep beeeeeeeep beeeeeeeep, beep beep beep. That's what this part of the brain is sending out. There is a part of her brain that sends out nothing but this signal. (Sighing) You know it's pretty unfathomable to me how this is going to work, how I can help her.

Therapist: It will work if she wants it.

Barbara: I'm not sure. I think she wants it, and yet she is so used to it that she cannot think she will survive without it. I'm holding her hand and say to her: "You will be better off without it, you will have fun without it, you will feel safer and happier without it. It's a terrible burden that your parents put into your brain. It will be wonderful when you are free of this burden."

It's not that this part of the brain goes away; this part of the brain is kind of unburdened by the healing light. It takes the signal away, it takes the restlessness away that is in this part of the brain, the despair, the fear, the confusion and the madness, really. You know when you think of this Morse signal: · · · — — — · · · beep beep beep, beeeeeeeep beeeeeeeep beeeeeeeep, beep beep beep. It's like lots of these signals disappear into the healing light; they are all going away from her brain. The part of her brain is getting calmer and being filled with healing light and filled with life. This restlessness and this beeping are disappearing from her brain. It's really nice to see.

Yes. The little girl comes into my arms, and I take her into my arms, and we walk away from this place and we go to my house in Mexico. She's very happy to be in my house and see my little funky Chicago Christmas tree, with those many, many tiny funny lights, changing colors and turning on my table. I assure her that my home is a place that she could not know as a child, but where she wanted to be as a child. And that it's here, and I have made it for her and me and other people who come and visit and can stay with me. I tell her it's a good place. And she feels very good here. She is very alive and curious; she wants to be creative, to draw or do pottery, do fun things, joyful things. She is not such a serious part of me as others are; she is more into fun and joy, doing fun things. She is very content now. She does not need to be in my lap and be with me for a long time to feel safe. She feels safe and welcome and good here. She is already going through the house and looking for things that she can discover and do. She is very active.

We did good work.

Therapist: What is happening with the woman?

Barbara: You mean the woman who became so determined after the explosion? She is surprised. She is a more serious part of me. She is really surprised because I think this child has qualities that she -- I don't quite know how to put it -- didn't know that this could be part of my life, too. She is a serious and very determined part of me, formed by her experiences in many ways. This very joyful and creative, active child that's so curious and alive and likes to discover things has a playfulness and an ease which the woman does not have. She is surprised -- but she is happy about it. She is very happy about it. And I invite her into my house, too. She feels strange about that because she has been so alone, fighting for so long trying to find a way for me to live and to do all the things that I have done. So she is almost a little distant -- not distant, that's not the right word. But she doesn't open so easily, let's put it this way. She doesn't open so easily. But she is coming into my house too, and I say to her that I am happy that she is with me and that there is room for her in my life and in my home. She will have lots to do with me; we will do good stuff together, and we will also have joy together. She is OK being with me and she relaxes. She also feels safer and warmer being in my house with me. That's how I feel, that's what I experience right now.


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