(The therapist's responses were not recorded because I taped this session over the phone; I just put in what I remembered clearly.)
Barbara: I am not well. I don't know how I manage to sleep. I wake up around five, write a little, and then I can sleep again. I feel a lot of feelings. Basically, I am very very sad. I think this is a huge disappointment for me and my life. That this woman cannot manage to say one nice word about me, not one word, shocks me.
Therapist, laughing: "By now you did not expect anything anymore from her?"
Barbara: Well, I think a part of me was dreaming that she would say: "What a brave woman. She is right."
I know not to expect anything, but I do have a part that wishes she could see me. This morning, I woke up with a dream where she said nice things to me about me. So there is a part of me that wants to believe that this woman knows who I am and that she appreciates me. And she did, my god, she had my essays on her website. It's all gone now, as if I had never written a word. It's not just that the answers that I have written to readers' letters are gone, also my essays are gone. It is as if I were a monster. And all this happened before my response was published.
Of course, my rational mind knows what is going on, but I have a part that was hoping that things were different; and this part is suffering and in pain.
Yes, Dick, I think we need to work with this part today.
I also think there are moments when I am just SHOCKED, still really, really shocked, by the viciousness in this person. I mean, to even write something like her latest slander of me and to not be ashamed, I think that is pretty bad. She could write something like: "Barbara, you know I don't agree with IFS, and I understand that you are upset, but you have to accept that I don't like this therapy." She could have written something that at least sounded rational for someone out there in the world. But this comment is really dark. If you have "50 years of therapeutic experience" and find yourself repeating your mother's destructive behavior with others -- you don't want to see that. I can understand that -- but I still think it's horrible.
So there is a part of me that struggles, and I know it is connected to my past because of the time when my mother turned my brothers and sisters against me. I must tell you that this is something that's still takes my breath away. And when I recently met my niece and we talked about this, I told her that I will never forgive my mother for this. Never. (crying) No matter what she did to me in my childhood, but to me such a betrayal of an adult person is really bad. And now, coming from this person who knows something about betrayal and who knows something about childhood -- that is also really bad. If I were not working with you right now, she could crush me. I can feel my spirit fighting. If we were not working, I could not have written "escape," and she might have destroyed me. She might have broken my self-confidence and spirit all over again. That's pretty bad I think, that's bad. Because she knows what she is doing on a certain level, Dick. She is not like my mother that believed that she had to beat her children and could claim that she didn't know better. But this is on a level like my father: when you commit incest, you know that you are doing something wrong. Incest and what this person is doing now, these are things where people do know better.
I think that first I have to work with my sadness. It is so huge. I wake up in the morning and I am really, really sad. So I ask the sadness: why are you so sad? And the sadness says that for her the worst feeling of all the feelings and of all the disappointments is when somebody puts me down and does not see anything good about me. So the part says for this person to see none of this anymore in me, from one day to the next, because I dared to say something that she didn't like to hear -- that's like someone cut into my heart or my body, and it continues to bleed. It's a wound that doesn't go away. The part says that it makes her feel like: "What am I here for?" That is the question that we have worked with before. There is more. There is an awareness in me that there is something inside of me that some people appreciate -- and some people want to kill it. And this part just wants to scream: "How is it possible that this person would want to kill this?"
This part just wants to go and scream. Just scream. And not even scream words anymore. The part says: "Why does that happen? How is it possible that this happens?"
And of course it's the same question towards my parents that used my abilities but didn't see me, didn't notice me. This part is just screaming; it's also desperate because it says: life doesn't make sense. When life is about destroying what I have to offer and what is inside of me, then why should I live? (Crying) The part says then I don't want to live, I don't really care to live. The part says this life is about things that I don't understand, that I think are terrible, and I don't want to be part of this, of this deal. This is a deal that I did not sign up for. That's a deal I cannot take, cannot accept, that I cannot live with. And this part is also really angry. The part says there are moments when I feel I could kill the whole world. It makes me so angry, and I want other people to see what is happening -- and most people just don't care.
My question to this part is: when has she felt this way before. And the part says: Always. Always. Always. Always at home. Always with my parents. Always. Always. What was real about me, what was the real Barbara, the alive, and thinking, and feeling, and curious and questioning person, this real Barbara, every time she had a chance to get in touch with herself, she was trampled on. It was the totally hopeless battle off a tumbler who tried to get on her feet, to be herself, to live as herself, to live with what was inside of her. Because every time she did that, her parents stepped on her, and trampled her down, and told her that she was wrong, stupid, worthless; the father just put his finger to his temple to silence her. And the tumbler was down again.
And I really think that there is another part fighting this conversation because I feel that it is an enormous effort to get in touch with this sad part.
Therapist: "Let's listen to what it needs to share and why it is interfering."
Barbara: The part that is interfering is an interesting part. It says: " I believe AM, and I believe that what Dick and you are doing is just nonsense."
It's a very serious part, and yes, it is important that I listen because it keeps me like an inch away from the other part.
The interfering part says: "AM is right; Dick and you are wrong; this whole thing that you are doing does not work; and you are going into a trap; and this whole IFS crap is just baloney. (In a raised the voice) You will see it one day, Barbara, ONE DAY you will see that she was right and that what she wrote about you is true."
This is what this part says.
Therapist: "How do you feel towards this part?"
Barbara: I feel so bad, I don't feel much else anymore.
Therapist: "Ask this part what it is afraid would happen if it does not take this position."
Barbara: OK. I will ask it: "What are you afraid will happen if you don't take this position, if you don't think in this way?" The part says that it's much safer to live this way because when she believed what my parents said -- then I wouldn't be put down again. This part says it made sure that the alive part, the real Barbara, didn't get a chance to come up. Because somebody had to make sure that my parents couldn't hurt me all the time.
I am crying. I feel so sad that this part had this task and I think this sadness is almost the part's sadness too because what I feel from this part is: it didn't want to do what it had to do. That it kind of did this to make me safe, so that I wouldn't be hurt all the time.
I tell this part: thank you for making me safe. I appreciate it, and I know that you had to do this because they might have killed me if I had been true to myself. I mean, there was not even a corner to be true to yourself except when I was not with my parents; then I was freer. But this part says when I was with my parents she had to make sure that I did not cross the lines. And she made sure that I did not do that, and believed what they told me, and stayed within their parameters of their thinking. The part says the moment that my parents were not around, even as a child, and certainly as a teenager -- as a teenager I got my own room -- and the part says when I was alone and could be alone, and I could get in touch with my feelings -- then she could step aside and other things could happen inside of me. She says that she was very strong in the presence of my parents so that I would not be in danger and that she could kind of figure out what my parents wanted to hear and what I should say. And the part says that she helped me have a relationship with AM for so long because the part says: no matter when you would have spoken up, be it in the summer of 2007, or a year later, or even earlier -- the relationship would have been over, believe me, Barbara, the moment you spoke up.
This part is very clear that this was not a relationship where I could speak up. The part says that with E. (my second husband) for example there were many moments when I spoke up, and there was much more freedom in the relationship. And at the end, other things happened inside of him so that he could not hear me anymore. But with AM, the part says, there was no room for contradiction; this was exactly like you describe it in your paper: a relationship built on admiration cannot tolerate contradiction; it will just not work.
So I thank this part, and I also thank this part for all the information because it makes sense to me and I understand it. I ask this part if she needs anything else or if she has to say anything else. The part says it wants to go into the healing light right NOW because she says she needs to change or leave because she does not want to interfere in my talk with the other part because she thinks that is very important. And she says she will interfere. So I just take her into the healing light.
The image that I get in the healing light is that I see a tiny little child, and I see two GIANTS standing in front of this small child and really stepping over her. And she lies there, and I see this part that is trying to prevent this from happening. It's almost like I see a very busy presence -- I don't see a figure, I don't see that -- I just see a very busy presence that constantly wraps this child into like cotton, you know, into something soft, and wraps it around this child, and around this child, and around this child, and tries to get the child out of their way. I mean, there come these two giants, and they have these huge feet, and they just step down this child, over and over again, every time she gets up they trample her down. So this part puts something around this child and tries to move her out of these giants' path to get her out of their way. So this part is a really active and busy, concerned and worried part, whose work it is to keep this child safe and to prevent these steps from coming and from knocking her down.
I am so angry at these giants that I not only scream at them -- and I am their size, I am just their size -- I not only tell them but I also really feel what a crime they have done and what recklessness it is to mistreat any human being in this way -- but particularly your own child. And I tell these parents that they had the responsibility to nurture what was good about this child, and what was precious about this child, and what was special about this child, and genuine, interesting and true. I tell them that I cannot believe that all their lives, until their deaths, my parents and this person have nothing better to do than to crush what is it real and alive -- not just about me, this is not about me -- they scrunch life! It's not just me. I just make it visible to them what they don't have or what they are envious of. I don't care anymore about them because all that they do is: wham, wham, wham -- they knock it down. And I tell them that I am outraged by this, and I tell them that I have a lot of understanding for a lot of things. But that I don't have any tolerance and any understanding for anybody who does that. I am a very patient person, and I have a lot of understanding, but I am like: when the final drop hits the bucket and then you go too far... then I get really angry.
And this, such destructiveness, to me is going too far. If you made mistakes as parents, if you did things wrong -- and everybody screws up -- but if you continue to believe that your hatred of life, and of the aliveness and the true self in other people is justified, and that you are entitled to continue this destructive work -- that's a crime! So I tell these parents: you did it when I was an adult, you did it when I was a child, and now I have another person who is like a therapeutic parent figure to thousands of people. And she does the same thing. And I am just really angry, and I scream at these parents, and I scream at this person who is coming along behind them, and I really want to make them FEEL what they are doing. I want them to FEEL what a crime this is.
And they are like, I don't even know what they are like, they are like robots. These are not humans marching, these are robots marching that have a computer program inside. So now, I take a big bat -- and I crush these robots. I just crush them. I say: "What you are doing has nothing to do with who you were meant to be and who life meant you to be -- you are just servants of evil. And I will not allow you to do this evil work! I will STOP you!"
And I crush these robots. And I take this child and the cocoon part, which is constantly trying to protect this child, and I take them to my house here in Mexico. I don't even see the child because she is like in a cocoon with all these protective things spun around her. I mean this part is so busy protecting her that she has disappeared behind all these woven patterns of protection.
And now I feel the part that did all this work like a real presence, like somebody who wants to protect me, just a warm and caring presence. It's not as strict as it sounded at first. It's a very warm presence and I hold this part. I still don't see a figure. It's just like a warm and caring presence. And I say to this part: "You don't have to do this anymore. You really don't have to do this anymore. This child is safe now. My parents are gone, AM is gone. They cannot interfere anymore, and cannot keep me anymore from being real and alive. They have no more power. You don't have to work so hard anymore."
And this part just wants to be with me. It says it's part of my caring about life. The part says: "I had to work so hard and do all this stuff that I had to do in order to keep this child safe."
And I say to the part: "I thank you very much for keeping her safe. And you have -- because she is still there. They did not kill her. And they did not kill my aliveness, and I have fought very hard for it. But it's still here. So I know that you have done a great job. And I thank you very very very much for that."
And this part just kind of flips inside of me as part of my caring for life. I mean that's what the parts is. It just had to do another thing.
And I can hold the child, and I can take off all this woven cocoon around her. And I just see an alive and beautiful, very small child, maybe even a baby. She is definitely there, and she is not hurt. The healing light is there now, and it says: "That is your essence, and this cocoon part has saved it. And you have it with you now. And there are no more people in your life that want to destroy it. There may be people in your life who don't quite understand it, but they don't want to destroy it. The people who wanted to destroy it, and who had the power to destroy it because you looked up to them as a child and as an adult, they are gone. So this child is safe now and you can take care of her and be with her now."
In the healing light, this child is like a -- I don't want to say a diamond because that's a stone -- but it's kind of like a shining presence, a glowing essence. And the healing light says: "That's your essence and it belongs to you. You were born with it and your parents were supposed to nurture it, and they didn't. And now you have it in your life and in yourself to nurture it."
And the healing light brings this essence into my body. And it's as if my whole body is alive, and warm, and shining, not in a loud way, but just in a really alive way. You know, the aliveness is just vibrating through the whole body. And the light says: "It should have always been this way, and it's very sad that one more person tried to take this away from you and destroy it. But it's yours. It's there. It's safe. It was protected but separated from you -- and now you have it back."
So now I can go to the other part, the sadness. The sadness says that in this scenario of the essence and the part that protected it, there was another part walking two face these three giants. And this sadness is like a wailing woman. You know when people die and you have women or men, people who express their mourning; and they really scream. Like I said in the beginning: this sadness comes without words. It's just a scream. And the scream is: "Why is this happening!?!"
I mean, we are humans (crying) and we will die. So every human being comes to a point when you say: "Why do people die?! Why do people die?! Why do people whom you love go away?! Why does that happen?!"
And that's a very painful part of life, I think, and a sad part of life.
But this wailing -- this part has always walked beside these giants -- the giant robots stepping on the aliveness -- and the cocoon part trying to protect it.
This wailing scream was running on the side and saying: "WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!?"
I mean we are here only for a short time. Why do we destroy then what life is all about? Why do we want to do that? Why is this happening?
This wailing is like beside herself, just beside herself from sadness, from pain, and also from powerlessness because, you know, these are big giants. And this person is a giant in her field. My parents were giants, and not just physical giants. What I mean by giant is also having emotional power over others, or financial power, or intellectual power over others.
So from this wailing presence, I sense a very strong powerlessness. And when I listen to this part, it stems from her childhood because this time as an adult I was not powerless. I spoke up. I stood up. So I want to ask the part more about the sadness and the powerlessness. The part says that she was there every day of my childhood. The part says that every day of my childhood she had to see how I was attacked by my parents, by Hotto. Except for these two grandparents, who did not attack me and made a big difference in my life, people told me that I was -- this and that, and this and that, and this and that; I was too this and too that: too loud, too quiet, too bright, too stupid. It was always wrong who I was and what I was. And the part says that she was very sad about this, and she felt like screaming the whole time. But she also was totally powerless to do anything about it. It was like, you know, the sun goes up in the morning and goes down in the evening, and then the moon goes up and the moon goes down. It seemed that this was the nature of things, the part says.
And the part also says that a big part of her scream is the powerlessness and that she wanted somebody to help me and to change this, and to see this child, and to see who she was and what she was all about, and what she wanted to ask, and what she was feeling, and what she needed and what she was thinking. But whatever came from this child -- it was perceived by these robots as aggression, and certainly as dangerous. So the part says that there is a HUGE powerlessness in this scream. It's a sadness: Why is this happening -- and it's a powerlessness that says: I want to change this. I want to change this. I want to change this. But I can't. I don't know how.
So I want to ask this part how do you feel about me writing "escape from the fog of admiration?" And the part says that she cannot be with me yet; she would be really excited and FEEL that something has changed -- but she is also still caught by the mechanisms of what happened. So she wants to go into the healing light too and then she thinks maybe things will change again.
So in the healing light, I go back to the robots, and the essence and the protective part. And on the side is kind of walking along this wailing presence that is screaming and that wants to do something. But all she can do is walk along and observe and watch this; she can't even scream loud because then this child is in trouble too. So these are totally muted, silent, but very passionate and very, very BIG, BIG, BIG, BIG screams. I feel her like a, and the word that came was giant; but she is not really a giant, she is like a very strong, powerful observer that sees the truth and that sees what's happening. That is very bright and clear and strong, and that doesn't like what happens. But there is no way she can do anything about it. I think this part also has a very strong sense of justice and injustice.
So I go to the changed scenario, you know, after the robots are smashed and the child and the protective part are inside of me. The healing light brings the wailing part to me, at the end of the previous healing light. I just take this part into my arms. And again, I don't see a figure, I just feel this presence of strength, of passion, of justice, of very strong feelings. I just hold this part and I say: Thank you for being there. I tell the part: it's great that you are there; I love you and I know you, and I know that you have probably even inspired me to write this paper without me knowing about you. I just want to say: welcome and I love you. I really, really love and treasure you. And I am so moved that you are part of me and that you are with me now. And that you are not out there and don't have to wail and scream in that past hopelessness anymore. But that you and I, that we can do things together and be strong together.
And although I don't see a figure, I feel a very warm hug from this part. I feel as if something that was always a part of me, and should have been part of me, now is surrounding me and holding me and coming into me, becoming part of me. And the healing light holds all of us: the essence, the protector, and the passionate, strong sense of justice and support for the real Barbara. And the healing light is aware of all of them and of me, and it says: "Thank you for writing this paper. You all have already written this paper together, but you weren't really together yet, you were still caught in the past. But now you are together, and you also came together by writing this paper. Writing this paper has made Barbara aware of your presence."
And it's true because these feelings have been very strong ever since this paper has been out there. The healing light is just really happy. It says: you continue your work, Barbara, you continue your writing. You continue what is important to you. These people have no power and no truth. I am glad you are rid of them and you can go your own way now."
So, this was pretty good.
Therapist: "That was great."
Barbara, laughing: "Yes, this was very good, and it was also important."
Here you can read other IFS therapy sessions