And now, I go to the sad part. That's always the part that says: "I wanted a different life for you." I mean, we have met it quite a few times. So my first question would be: what kind of a life? Well, the part says: "I wanted you to be surrounded by family and friends, and be popular, and go to the opera…" There is even the expression: "I wanted you to be somebody." In terms of, you know, as long as I was a part of my family, or married to my first husband – then you know all these people, you go out for dinners and you go to the opera, the children come and visit – it's a big social life. And this part is very sad that I don't have that. This part also thinks very often about one of my grandmothers whom I used to visit regularly as a child, every week or other week. We were allowed to go there for an afternoon. She lived very close; I walked 3 minutes to her house. She was the kind grandmother; we children fought over who could go and visit her. This part thinks about her, how nice it was that she had her grandchildren and children around. Although her husband had died, and my grandmother often cried about that, and she cried how she missed him, and how difficult it was to be old and alone – but she still had many grandchildren close, and two of her children, she had friends and nephews and nieces and other family. She always had people visiting her. I think of this grandmother very much right now, also when I cry right now because I feel alone (laughing) – I remember she did cry that she was alone. About getting older.
For this part, she still had a wonderful life because – my god, what would I do – I would jump up and down if my grandchildren came to visit me regularly. I have to travel to see them once a year. So this part wants this kind of a life: that my grandchildren are around, and my children, too; that I would be married. The thinking of this part goes a little bit into the direction of having a social calendar. When I am in Chicago and stay with friends, I sleep through every night. In Mexico, I often wake up during the night and cannot go back to sleep. This loneliness – it crushes me. I FEEL IT during the night because I am alone; because I live alone; I am separated from my family; my children live far away. It is a crushing feeling of loneliness.
This part says: "I worked very hard that you would never feel this." This part kept me in marriages, making invitations, finding friends and doing all this stuff that I did for many years. It's not that I don't go out and have relationships; but it's different now. This part worked very hard to have close relationships and to, quote in quote, "be somebody." That's the word that comes.
I ask the part if she wants to tell me more about the loneliness. The part says that I had no one as a child that I could talk to, that I could turn to and cuddle with – ever. The part says: "The closest you came to feeling welcome was with this grandmother when you could be there, and you could even talk about some things, and you could ask questions." I remember one day, she told me all her names; and I found them so hilarious – she had five first names – I learned them. I still can tell them: Friederike, Therese, Emma, Wilhemine, Irma. I made a point of learning them. She took me like a real person and I felt that this was a relationship where I was valued, where I felt I could have a brain and ask questions, and I could laugh about stuff, I could even laugh about her names. I told her: "You have the weirdest names," and then we practiced her names. So the part says: "She didn't hug you. You couldn't go to her at night when you felt lonely. At home, there was nothing."
For example, my youngest brother told me that, at night, he would come into MY BED (crying) to not be alone. I don't even remember it. (crying) I don't remember it. (crying hard)
Therapist: Stay with it. Tell the part to show you everything.
Barbara: The part says being in that house was like being in a black room that had all the walls painted black, and the room had no doors. You couldn't leave it. I couldn't go to anybody's bed. ( crying) And the part says: "This room was this loneliness, this absolutely crushing loneliness. You couldn't EVEN CRY. It just crushed you. It was like, you lie there, you can't sleep because it's so painful, you can't leave, there are no doors. It's just black all around you. There is nobody. You don't hear anything." The part says: "It just… it, it, it… it crushed you."
It's also like the tip toe part we just worked with; both these parts were there all the time. Always. The part says: "You were unimaginably alone. There was nobody to talk to. There was nobody to turn to. Even my nanny, Hotto – I know that we could cuddle with her because I see it in photos. But this part says: "If Hotto had really been there for you, you would have memories of her."
I have no memories of her. Maybe they were erased because she abandoned me and left me when I was seven and did not come back to visit. Except half a year later for a birthday party. Once, I called her when I fell in love with Earl (my second husband). We had separated in the beginning for, I think, two weeks, and I was so DEVASTATED by loneliness and pain, and she came up when I wrote therapy then; so I called her and I said: "When you left, Hotto, did you come back to see me?" She said, she didn't. She said that she went to a midwife school and for four weeks she couldn't go out. And I said: "But after those four weeks, why didn't you come?" And she didn't answer that question. So this part says that this abandonment was just… it was too much. The parts says: "You couldn't go to Hotto; you couldn't be with Hotto; she beat you at night when you were lying in the dark with your sisters and telling them stories. So Hotto was just as cruel as your mother in many ways, just more predictable. But she also was an important person in that she left."
The part says: "It not only DEEPENED this loneliness, but it also deepened the worthlessness that you felt, like, why doesn't she even bother to come back? What is wrong with me that she doesn't come back?"
Therapist makes compassionate sounds like Mmh.
Barbara: So this part says that the crushing feeling, which I experience in the loneliness, is also the worthlessness, the feeling that if I am so alone and nobody wants to be with me that something must be wrong with me. I mean, you feel like you have a horrible illness, like a leper: nobody wants to touch you, nobody wants to be with you. Now the part says that this feeling came back after my car accident. (crying) I was eighteen and I drove my car and hit this old man. (crying continues) And I remember clearly the accident and that my father came and hugged me. When a policeman came to question me, and my father said: "She is under shock. She cannot talk to you." And then I came home (crying) – and I don't remember anything. (crying, sighing)
One of the first things that came up in therapy with Alan Siegel was this time after the car accident, when I was lying in my room, I don't know for three days, that is the number I have in my head. And nobody came to see me. Nobody came to see me. (.. crying)
Therapist, compassionately: "Mmh;" and he continues this throughout the session.
Nobody talked to me. Nobody helped me. (sobbing) Walt (my first husband, then my fiancé ) came when the man had died (sobbing continues) and laid down next to me and told me that this man had died. (long crying and deep sighing) The first big thing that came up with Alan Siegel was that he believed me how alone I had felt and how alone I had been, at least during this time. And this part says: "You were always alone. It was always like this. It's just one moment where..."
And I did feel like a leper, I know that. I always remembered that. I definitely felt like that something was wrong with me. One of my sisters told me later that she could never understand how I could drive my car again. So the loneliness came along with a feeling of being wrong, of not belonging to my family, of having some kind of a horrible thing inside or around me that people could not relate with me.
I ask this part if it's not true that it was really there from the beginning. I was born and my mother wasn't there, and she didn't pick me up at night. So I spent night after night after night alone. I know I couldn't cry anymore, I mean, how often do you try? If nobody comes, you give up. And the part says: "Of course it was always there, and of course it started there. But the thing is that it never changed. And even somebody like Hotto, who would hug you, and it would make you happy that she would hug you – but she was also somebody whom you could not count on, that was not on your side, that was very cruel, who abandoned you too. Who pushed you even deeper into this loneliness."
The part says that it was always there, but it deepened and deepened and deepened. It deepened when my father turned towards my brother, when Hotto left, when I lost Walt, (crying), when I lost Earl, when I lost Alice Miller – these are really the most important relationships that I've had.
And this part is very tired (crying); it says: "You know, I have tried to get you out of this loneliness. I have tried to get you married, to keep you married. I tried to be a good companion to Alice Miller. I was a good companion for my parents, too, musically for my father and talking with my mother."
So, for the child, there is the loneliness – but there is also the part that says: "I worked so hard that you would not feel it. I made music with your father and I talked with your mother. And it was not only that in these moments you were not alone and felt connected with them, but you also felt that you were important (deep crying), you felt that your life had meaning. When your father spent time with you and made music with you, you felt like (crying) you had value, and also when your mother talked to you. Walt spent time with me, Earl spent time with me, and Alice Miller and I talked – these relationships were not just an escape from the loneliness, but also gave you a sense of value and worth," the part says. Somehow, this goes together. I need a handkerchief… This part also eats. There is a part that helps ease the loneliness by eating.
I ask this part if there is anything else that she wants to tell me. She wants to explain more what crushing means. (sighing) I think the parts says it's like you get littler and littler and littler. And that is really amazing right now because that is a childhood memory that I have and never forgot. I would lie in my bed at night, and I would FEEL as if the blanket would get bigger and bigger and bigger, and the room would be SO BIG. And I would open my eyes for the feeling to go away. And the part says: "It's really not about these things getting bigger as you thought and FELT it then. It was about you getting littler and littler and littler. Crushing means that you DISAPPEARED."
It was very frightening for me as a child. I remember this feeling of the blanket – it was suddenly such a big blanket, so big, and I would open my eyes – and the feeling would go away. And I slept in a room with two sisters when that happened. So the part says: "It wasn't about this stuff getting bigger. It was about you getting littler, and that has to do with the worthlessness because nobody wants to be with you and nobody wants to hold you. And nobody wants to talk with you and you can't even leave the room. I mean, I told you that Hotto would come in and beat us if I told my sisters a STORY because we were lying in the dark and could not sleep. We weren't allowed to read, we weren't allowed to talk. We were just in the stark black room, and we CERTAINLY were not allowed to go outside and leave. I don't know how we peed, if we had something under our bed. But CERTAINLY we were not allowed to leave that room. And it was not love that entered it; it was a person that beat us because we were talking."
The part says: "With the loneliness comes this feeling of getting littler, and that's being crushed: to get littler and littler and littler, and you disappear because it's like – you're not supposed to exist."
And the part says that the message that came, also PARTICULARLY with the way we were ALWAYS SO ALONE at night, as babies, as children, is that – YOU ARE BURDENS. I mean, we were even put to bed early; that's why we couldn't sleep; we couldn't go to bed when we were tired. We were shoved there at 6 o'clock, and then the door was closed. We couldn't talk; we couldn't read. We were just – off with you, off you go! We were BURDENS. So what kind of a thing is that – that you lie in the dark and all you think is – it's not even what you have you done wrong – but it's also an early question that came up with Alan Siegel: why was I ever born? WHY WAS I EVER BORN? What am I doing here? Lying in this room, alone. I can't talk with my sisters, I can't hold their hand, I can't get up, I can't cuddle. I mean, there was no human contact, no talking, no physical contact – just nothing. Just unbelievable isolation. And the part says: "It crushed your will to live. That's when you want to die. You want to give up. Who wants to live like that? Who wants to be in such a darkness, and feel so worthless, and feel also as if your life does not matter and you are nothing but a terrible burden that people want to get rid of?"
I want to tell this part that I understand that, that I know it was like that. I mean – I know that. The part also says: "That's why I worked really, really hard to be married, and that's why I wanted to be married, that I wouldn't have to sleep alone." The fact that I sleep alone now, even though in both my marriages I had my own room and sometimes would sleep there, but there was still my husband in the house and around. And I COULD go to him, or he would come to me. So the part says that this is not even an option anymore, that there is nobody around that I can go to. This is very, very difficult for this part.
I want to thank this part for talking with you and me. I also want to say that I understand everything it says. I mean, I know it, I feel it. Many things I always knew. I'm really amazed and delighted about the memory with the blanket. That's something that I do remember; even the feeling I remember, and, you know, the fear and then opening my eyes – and it would go away. And the part says: "That was the feeling. You were lying in the dark, you couldn't go anywhere, nobody would come to you, you couldn't cuddle, you couldn't hold anybody's hand – you would just be crushed, you would get littler and littler and littler. You felt not only like you disappeared, but you were supposed to disappear because you WERE a burden. You were really regarded as – and you felt like – a terrible burden."
I want to ask this part if she wants to go into the light. She says that it felt really good to talk about this and to cry about this and for her to connect with me. She wants to thank you for making that possible because that is something I can't do alone. In the light, she is the little baby who is alone in her room, crying, and nobody comes. And she is the little girl with her sisters in the same room, who tries to comfort them and herself by telling stories – and, you know, Hotto comes and beats us. And then the door closes – and it's just quiet, no words, no touch, nothing. It's like a tomb, really, where people (crying) lie buried ALIVE (crying)…
Barbara: (sighing) And the other side of this part is that it worked very hard that I wouldn't be alone at night anymore. I mean, I worked HARD in both marriages (laughing) to stay married. And when it ended – it just did. No matter what I did, it just wasn't working. I mean, I have other parts, too, that want other things in life, and so do I.
So, it's the baby and the little girl. Somehow, there is no teenager. Somehow as a teenager I began to have relationships with other people. When I was ten, I could go out and make friends and see friends that I met at school. I couldn't do that before I was ten. But then I could spend time with other families and have friendships. It's the first time that I felt connected with other people, so the loneliness is not so strong. And then I was married most of the years of my adult life and also had really good friends who accompanied me, and Alice Miller was certainly one of them. So that loss is a bad loss. For many years, we were friends. So that was hard.
There is nobody right now to replace a husband or to replace this kind of a friendship. But the teenager did not feel so alone anymore; she spent even nights sometimes at a friend's home and we talked; that was really nice. The teenager had the freedom to make other connections into life that the baby and child did not have: the baby could not walk, and the child could not leave that room.
I want to get the baby – no. You know, I have to go in there, go into the room, go to the bed and get this little Barbara out of that room where Hotto beat her and where she couldn't talk to her sisters. I have to leave my sisters there. I can't save them, I know I can't. They don't want to either. I really go through that room, out the door and down the stairs in my parents' house, and I take her outside. And I also go and get the little baby from her little crib. I take her with me and hold her in my arms. I just leave this house and take them into my life to be with me. They are like starved children. They are so starved for attention and love and human connection – they look like starved children with really big bellies. But they feel OK in my arms. They relax a little bit. I feel they are less tense. They just want to be with me, they want to be held. They don't want to feel alone and I tell them that I will hold them and care for them. I listen to them. I want to know them.
The light says to both these children that – this is another madness. You know, we talked before about the madness of interrogation. And this is the madness of not touching children, of leaving them alone, depriving them of contact, and to make them feel worthless and like burdens. The light says, this is not what life and humanity are about, and it's not what parenting is all about. The light says to both of them, the baby and the child, how sorry it is that they grew up in such a cold and dark world. The light tells them that my life is different and that they will feel welcome with me, that I do have contacts and look for contacts. The light also says that I enjoy human contact. Both parts just want to join me and want to be with me and want to be part of my joy of human contact, of my joy of being with other human beings. And I really do enjoy that so much more than when I was young and and very judgmental – or so afraid of any contact because I was just waiting for someone to declare me stupid and worthless. So – it's SO DIFFERENT now. It's so VERY VERY DIFFERENT. And I feel as if these parts just come inside of me. It's as if they were broken off from my heart – and now it's like you put a broken piece back into my heart, and the heart can, I don't know the word, fill in again, be whole again, more complete. That's the best I can say it.
Therapist: You got a lot done this trip.
(It was the first time since 2009 that I visited my therapist and could work in his presence; in between, we have sometimes sessions by telephone. In this two-hour session, we worked with four parts.)
Barbara: Yes (laughing), I had a feeling I would. And Thursday, I go to California for the first part of the IFS level I training.
Here you can read other IFS therapy session