Hero Child


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getting to know my self-hatred


IFS therapy session, November 18, 2008

Why are you on her side?



(to therapist whose responses were not recorded because I taped this session by phone):

I have begun to translate AM's [see footnote # 1.)] emails and maybe this week, I can send them to you. I don't think it's too much reading, but I think that it sheds some light on what is going on here because it's so difficult for me to really be on my side. I always feel like one of my legs is still on her side. That's really how I feel. Yes, and we also have the "corduroys part" that we wanted to work with that says that my mother is *different*. You know that spoke up to my first husband when I was really a young woman, years before I entered therapy, when he said: "your mother is an emotional cripple" -- which is true -- and I got all upset and I said: "No, she is different, she wears corduroys." So we wanted to work with that part. But maybe we start with that I feel that I have still one leg on her side and like I am almost torn apart. It's interesting this week too because I heard from someone else how she was attacked by women, in a higher position and with power, for her work. And I remembered that the philosopher Nietzsche as a young man made compositions and showed them to a famous conductor that told him: "This is horrible, totally horrible." And so Nietzsche never ever wrote another composition. He was just crushed. Why I think about him now is: he used to be a good friend of the composer Richard Wagner, for many, many years; he spent time with him, he went to Bayreuth, he talked with him. And then very late, I think when Wagner had written his last opera, Nietzche turned against Wagner in a very public way and attacked him... ... Nietzsche did, yes. Very publicly. I don't think that Wagner said very much about it. But I know that Nietzsche did. So I was thinking about that. And so I was thinking: AM attacks me publicly, and all I do is -- I am quiet. As if I had nothing to say, if I have to swallow this, if this is not a public matter. Particularly if she drags it into the public. I mean it really occurred to me this week for the first time that I may have a right to speak up...
(my therapist wonders why I have not done so.)
... ... Barbara: I am not there that I could do it. I mean, I have done what I can do, written and put on my website what I can right now. But maybe that is part of the feeling of being torn: you know, that one leg is on one side, and one leg is on the other side. So maybe I let both legs talk? One leg that is here and one leg that is still there? I'll start with the leg that still is in her camp:

And this leg -- well, this part of me says right away (in a reproachful, aggressive voice): 'How DARE YOU!?! Who ARE YOU?!? You are just a stupid NOTHING; you don't know anything and you want to go and criticize this famous person with all this knowledge and "50 YEARS EXPERIENCE" -- you remember this from her attack against me. 50 years of experience! I mean this part of me says: 'that it is just horrendous; you can't do this.' And the part says: 'you know too much about her; you were her friend; you cannot use the knowledge that you have against her because that would be unethical and it would be a betrayal and that would be wrong and that is' -- the part says: 'WE DON'T DO THIS! I mean WE as in: Barbara and all her parts. WE DON'T DO THIS! We don't betray people; we don't stab them in the back; we don't use information that someone gave us against them.'
I don't hear much more.
And maybe the part also says: 'I want to be a good person and I don't do these things. I don't attack people in mean ways, and I don't betray people and I have my morals and my ethics and that's just out of the question. I don't do that! I want to be a good person. And a "good person" in my eyes is somebody who keeps confidence, who does not speak about things that other people entrust to me.'

And now the other part -- the leg in my camp -- says: 'This IS a public matter. There is a difference between having compassion for someone because of her life-history and her childhood and all the things that I do know about her -- and allowing her to not only publicly attack me but also to mislead other people into believing that she has a valid and functioning concept of therapy. I mean, I have like my conscience -- I have two consciences -- the one that wants to be a good person; and the other conscience that says I have to pick THE TRUTH! It's not only about protecting other people but also about the truth because it's not true, this perfect therapy concept; I can see that now. And this part says: 'You WERE NOT her therapist. You were not paid. There were no boundaries.'

Your (my therapist's) and my relationship has very clear boundaries in terms of what we expect and how we approach our relationship. And I like that. This other relationship where we had been friends for about twenty years, but then I became a "therapist-friend" --and that is a very different matter. That is not a friendship anymore. I was not an equal anymore, I became like a therapist but without the proper boundaries: a therapist who listens, who understands, who asks, who can be called any time when there is a need to talk, and listens endlessly and patiently, who steps into the background with my own feelings and observations, except when they are very strong or she asked me about myself. So, this part of me says that my loyalty should be to the truth and to protecting other people, and it should not be to somebody who did not respect boundaries, who really exploited me, took advantage of me, and expected me -- and when you read the emails you will see that: she really expects a devoted follower who serves her needs and her expectations. And when you don't do that anymore it's like "Slap, Slap!" And off you go. You are dismissed. As: now I cannot use you anymore and, of course, on top of it, you get the blame and the guilt for that. It's not a problem of hers -- it's YOUR problem.

This part of me is really angry and says: 'Why are you on her side? Why can you not see -- it's not just a matter of expectations -- it's a matter of: WHY CAN'T YOU SEE how WRONG she is?!? and how WRONG it is what she is doing?!?' This part even says to me -- 'if you don't speak up you become complicit and that is against MY morals.' This part has very different morals; this part says: 'You know -- why did you write the book? Why did you write the articles? Why have you done all this work? Because the truth has always mattered to you. And you have fought so hard to stay true to yourself and, as much as you can, speak truthful.'
So this part repeats -- what I told you (the therapist) last week: 'You have a conflict, Barbara, and you have to resolve this conflict because this is a serious conflict. You can't just wiggle your way through this. You have to take a stand.'

So I am going to ask the other part now; I just going to ask the other part what it thinks about this. And the other part says that 'I have been taught that *one* does not speak up to authority.' This part says that she was trained as a child to think of herself as dumb, ignorant, as unimportant, as worthless -- and that gets me really angry when I hear all this and I start to cry -- and the part says: 'That's what you were told, and not just told but shown in so many ways over and over and over again.' It's like one of the deepest programmings that I have. It's the programming that authority knows best; authorities have all the answers; authorities are always right; and I am a worthless, stupid, dumb, unimportant nothing who has to really be on her knees ALL THE TIME in AWE of authority and serving authority.
And it's ironic because right now it comes to my mind that last night at 3:30 I heard my cat outside, so I opened the door for her. And I have four steps going back from this door to my bedroom. And after three steps I *thought* -- quote in quote -- that I was at the bottom, and I wasn't, and I fell. I mean it was as if my legs were like pudding suddenly, and I just fell on my knees. You know me: of course I ended up writing for two hours why I fell, and it was just very clear because that's exactly what I am telling you right now that came up in my writing: MY parents had power, or they gained power, not just by beating me and persecuting me, but by making me feel so guilty that I would fall on my knees over and over and over again. And they WANTED THAT! They wanted me to admire them, to adore them, to think of them as all-knowing, all-mighty, all-important and wonderful people. And if they had problems I had to feel sorry for them and feel pity for them and never ever question them.
So this part says: 'I have been trained to be on my knees. I have been trained to admire my parents and all authority to NEVER EVER question authority. Never. It was not just my parents, there can be a pastor who says stupid things, or Hotto (my nanny) who does horrible things, there can be grandparents whom I may even want to know more about -- but everybody high up was always good -- or you did not talk about it. A child was always bad, wrong, guilty, stupid, unimportant, sent away. You know that we children lived in the house on the third floor; we barely saw our parents; we were shoved off for months in the summer; when my father had sons, the three oldest girls went into complete obliviation. I mean, we really learned that we had much less value than a boy child. So the message was so clear that we did not matter to our parents and that we had no value and no worth. And that part says that it's impossible for her to question authority. She can't do that.
So my question to this part is: "How does it make you FEEL when you have to question authority?"
She cannot tell me. She says she is deadly afraid to do that. She says that she was so punished for that that she is really deadly afraid, and she is also afraid that she is too full of herself. She is very convinced that she doesn't have the right to do that.
I want to tell her that I feel sad for her and that I feel very sad about the way that she was programmed and terrified into believing. And I want to tell her that this to me -- and I mean that is not just in Germany, but in Germany it was really particularly severely, I think, reenforced, and my parents are both kind of children of Hitler. So that was a time when authority was everything. This whole society was built on obedience and bowing to authority. So I'm not surprised that she feels this way and that I understand it, and that I also understand the terror that my mother made in early childhood to make sure that we never ever contradicted HER and questioned her. I mean, my brothers and sisters still can't do that, and they are a little younger than I am. They don't; they can't. Here and there they have said little things, but none of them has ever really talked to me about our mother. They are still terrified; they are still all obedient, frightened children.
So I tell the part that I understand and that I know that this is a deep and early programming from my mother. It was also in society. It was also in my parents' families. I mean our grandparents and everybody else, they were good people and beyond criticism, and children were criticized day in and day out, all the time. I mean, it was like a sport. You crush children, you condemn them -- it's not just criticize. We were condemned and judged and crushed and silenced and laughed at and sarcastically demeaned and my father full of his contempt for women. We could not even question this. It was just like: "BE ON YOUR KNEES and SILENT, ADMIRE ME, SERVE ME, do WHATEVER I WANT. And it's an HONOR if I take a look at you. It's an HONOR if you may speak with me."
It was AN HONOR to make music with my father. It was and HONOR that I could listen to my mother for hours and talk with her. I mean, I felt like FINALLY god has come down from heaven and taken a look at me and I have SOME worth. So everything was totally our of proportion.
So I am listening to what this part is saying to me. The part says that it was a horrible and very difficult way to live; and that she feels very confused right now because she understands what I say, and she knows that it's true what I say.
My question to this part is: "What is confusing and what would you like to do? Where would you like to go? Or what would you like to be?"
The part says that actually nothing is confusing because she understands that what I say is true; and she can see now that what she was taught and programmed to believe was a lie and was meant to keep her in line. And not just to keep her obedient and an adoring, serving, giving daughter but also -- and that's a word that came last night in my writing again and again -- the word LIFE-LONG. I mean you were really trained to be a life-long follower of your parents and their ideology. It's like a -- you know Jesus; he had disciples -- is that the right word? I mean the program was not just to have power over me but to have a disciple for life that would be there like the disciples were for Jesus: I mean FOLLOWERS of my parents' wishes, expectations, and ideology.
(Therapist comments about AM.) Yes -- Yes. Absolutely. Yes, I mean that's true. I was the same thing for her. And she expected it of me. Now, the other part is talking and says: 'That's like my parents. AM says: "I don't want to be a guru." But SHE DOES. Clearly - everything is ABOUT being a guru. She attacks ME and the forum -- that I want to be a guru -- and recommends somebody else as "not a guru." It's stunning that she does not see how illogical she is arguing and making her case." So this other part says that part of my problem are the lies that I have been taught and bought into, like, you know: *I'm not a guru* -- but she is. Or like my mother: *I wear corduroys pants so I'm not a rich woman and I'm not like the other women in this suburb who only care about their clothes. I am different. I don't care about what people say about me.*
And it took me a long time in therapy to understand how much she DID CARE about what people said about her. It was just in a different way than people who wear fancy clothes.
So, now we are really kind of with the other part that maybe we need to work with. That's the corduroys part that says: 'She is DIFFERENT!'
I just need to listen for a moment inside what is happening.
I think the first part, the authority, submissive part is more peaceful now and I just want to ask if this part needs anything from me and what it wants to do. And it says it wants to go in the healing light later and it WANTS to help me question authority because that's what she would have liked to do when she was attacked in these ways and was so programmed to never ever do that. And she says she might actually have fun doing that.

So then there is the other part that says: 'AM did not respect boundaries; she took advantage of you. And why are you not on your side?' This part is kind of angry and upset and also sad that I cannot be on my side, that I feel so torn. So I am asking this part if it would be a good idea if we worked with the corduroys part. YES, and the part says: 'OK! That's a good idea!' Because it is also kind of blocking me and in my way.
So I am asking this corduroys part: "What makes my mother or what makes AM or what makes my father DIFFERENT? And what does DIFFERENT mean -- in your mind, in your way of thinking?"
The part says that she has a need to put people on a pedestal. She says she has a need to make them look good. Mhm, to admire them -- to put them on a pedestal. She says that is her need.
So my question to this part is: "Why do you have this need and where does it come from?"
The part says two things. The part says that's what my parents wanted. You know the fairy tale with the mirror where the queen comes and asks: "Tell me, mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of all?" And that is also what came tonight in my writing: I had to be a mirror who always said: "You are the most beautiful. You are wonderful. You are the best mother and the best father and I adore you." They wanted to hear that. So I was answering that. Part of it is the training to obedience. But there is another side to it and that is that it was my parents' need that I was responding to. And by responding to this need they looked IN THE MIRROR. You know: the mirror had an importance. I could gain importance by saying what they wanted to hear, by putting them on a pedestal.
And there was another part to this. It was their need; and it also gave me their attention if I fulfilled that function of admiring them and putting them on a pedestal. That's when they gave me attention.
One thing that comes to my mind now is the incest that I did not remember for so long and that happened when I was sixteen. And when I think of how I tried to please my father when I married my first husband with eighteen -- it just shocks me. It still just shocks me how devotedly, without that my father even needed to say a word, I fulfilled HIS expectations because I wanted him to pay attention to me; I wanted him to see me, to acknowledge me. And in order to do this I brought him the husband that he wanted; I dumped the boyfriend that I had; I overlooked how I was being manipulated. I mean had I remembered the incest and known about it, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I would have run away from home, I guess. But instead I still functioned with eighteen and twenty until I was thirty, until I entered therapy, and even longer, as a devote disciple and follower, particularly of my father.
So I want to ask this part: "Why is that so strong? I mean this was a father that was so unscrupulous and a very calculating and mischievous man; and I also realize more and more that AM is calculating because I don't think she is unaware of what she does. She is smart; she is psychologically trained; she KNOWS that she is exploiting me. And she has no qualms about it. She sees it as an honor for me to serve her. This is like my father. He KNEW what he was doing. He used me to get a man that gave him what he wanted for his addiction to be somebody, I mean, the addiction for recognition, and my father was FULL of that. So all I was is a servant for him to get more, and I was a servant for AM to get more of it, too.
So I ask the part: "Why is that important to you?"
The part says for different reasons: When I say my mother is different and my father is a wonderful man -- then she could believe that they were good people and she could love them and she could believe she could trust them and she felt safe then. She didn't worry about anything. She felt that she was -- again comes the word: a good person because she did what my parents wanted. The part says that she fulfilled the need of my parents to be seen as good people, as wonderful people, and she says because there was no love to speak of, nothing -- this was a way for her to feel loved when she gave my parents what they wanted and if she looked at my parents in the way that they wanted me to look at them. My mother wanted me to say that she is not an emotional cripple but that she is great because she wears corduroys. And my father did not want me to see him as an unscrupulous, manipulating, calculating asshole, which he really is, but he wanted me to see him -- I mean, really -- like a GOD. This part says my mother did not want to be a god, she just wanted to be admired and pitied -- but this part says my father saw himself as a god and he expected from all his children -- and we all have this -- complete devotion to whatever he wanted, to every whim. His belief was: "You have a boyfriend you love -- I don't care about it! You bring me a man who has a big name and a lot of money, then you can marry and then I am satisfied." It was NEVER about me or what is good for Barbara and what makes her happy and does this man love her and will he protect her. It was about: "I am your god and you bring me whatever I want from you. And that's what you are there for." This part says it was even stronger with my father, it was more than the corduroys, it was like a cult. It was a cult where my father was the absolute leader. The part says he had a way of brainwashing and manipulating us into thinking that he was a god.

And there is another part, and that's also me -- I KNOW that I did not like him as a teenager! I KNOW that I questioned him! I KNOW he always said the same stupid stuff and I HATED that as a teenager! And yet, I did everything to please him, and I have this part inside of me that wants HIS recognition, just his GLANCE. You know, when I did what he wanted, he looked at me, he acknowledged me, and for a moment, I existed. So this part says that if she believed that my parents were worthy of my adoration and my devoted services that my parents then looked at me and acknowledged me and saw me -- not for who I am but for what I did for them -- and the part says that is how I survived my childhood. And the part says that helped her survive my childhood. It helped her get a sense that she was loved. When this happened, she felt loved.
And I want to tell this part that this is not love. It has nothing to do with love. It's just really, really very, very sad because it's exploiting somebody for very wrong and perverted needs that come from my parents' childhood but that have nothing to do with me. And I want to tell this part also that these two people were really -- and also AM -- that these are really very immature people, and people who use others to boost their god-like self-image and their reputation. That's not love, that's not human -- that's just sick and wrong and crazy and unscrupulous.
And the part says that she can see this now and that it felt really good for her to talk to me about how both my parents wanted us to admire them and be a mirror for them that always says: "You are wonderful; you are the best. I will do anything that you need and want from me. And I will be there for you."
My question to this part is if she needs anything else.
The part says that I still don't really understand how my whole family was built on this principle that parents were gods. For example my mother -- although I am so unreligious by now -- but I certainly remember the first commandment, not in English but in German, and it says you should not have another god beside me. And my mother, and my father, both, expected that. We were NOT supposed to have another god beside them. This part says, you don't remember, but sometimes, when I went to a dance as a teenager and would come home, late, my father would sit at his desk and wait for me and MAKE A SCENE. I mean I see this today as a jealous rage. I was not supposed to have another god beside him. I was not supposed to fall in love. And this part now even says something that I have never before realized so clearly before: that it was NOT JUST that he rejected this boyfriend that I had for two years because he didn't have money and he didn't have an important name and he didn't have a father -- his father had died in the war so his family in my father's eyes was NOTHING and NOBODIES. The part says: that is part of it, yes, but the other part of it is that he saw that I was in love -- and he didn't like it. He destroyed it. He destroyed it for two reasons. And when I brought him the other man and really was in conflict about that after a few months of being engaged -- it was clear to everybody that I was in a deep conflict and that this marriage was not right for me -- I was drowned in tranquilizers and sleeping pills -- and went to the altar and married the man my father wanted. That's what happened. The strong and constant anxiety and sleeplessness that I experienced -- it was addressed by my parents in one talk that they had with me, where my mother was silent and my father seemed even empathic and understanding of my agony because he told me he had suffered in the same when he was engaged. But my father did not question the course of his action. And the part says now also that in my father's thinking, you don't marry for love. You marry for this and this and this reason. And the part says that my father was just fine with everything that was happening. I mean, a good father may have said: "Why are you marrying this guy now? You had somebody before whom you loved. Maybe you are unhappy. Maybe you are confused. Let's talk about it. What's going on with you?"
Nothing. Nothing. It was clear I would marry this man and that was a good thing to do. That's what he wanted. So the part says you really need to understand that the system was built on this: parents are gods and they don't want other gods beside them. And you were part of this way of thinking, of this ideology; and the function that you had in this system was to be a mirror that says: "You are wonderful. You are my god and I will do everything for you. Everything that you want."
And I did -- until I entered therapy and was 32 years old -- most of the time that's how I lived. I mean I did SOME things that displeased my parents -- so I had parts that did not agree with this ideology. So there are a few steps of my own, against my parents, that I know of very consciously. But I still was ruled by -- this was still the biggest outer self, or one of the big outer selves besides from my fear of my parents -- it was to please and adore them.

So I want to ask the part who wants to speak up what she thinks now. This part says that she is very relieved that I have listened to these two parts, and she says that they were really blocking me, and that she feels calmer now and a little more confident that I will with time find the courage to be on my side.
And I am asking this part: "Well, do you feel that I am not on my side?"
'No,' the part says, 'you ARE NOT on your side.' And the part says that she thinks it takes a little more time. The part says what I am doing is questioning very deep programmings that I was not aware of. So the part says that she thinks I need more time.'
I want to ask this part what she would like me to do if I could be on my side. And now I feel particularly the first part getting anxious -- well, I just feel it. And the part that is on my side says suggests -- in fact, I have already done this, ironically, in one of the nights when I write: I started an open letter to AM. It happened already some time ago and I have forgotten about it. But this part says that this might be a good idea how to speak up. And the other two parts, particularly the first part -- I mean the anxiety and the feeling that this is wrong and that I CANNOT do this -- it's very strong now.
But the part that wants to speak up says that she would like to write an open letter and write about my experiences with AM. And I mean, right away, there is a SCREAM inside that I can't do that. I mean a SCREAM inside that I can't do that.
(My therapist commented something like that he thinks it's a good idea.)
Barbara: NO, NO! I CAN'T. You can't see this. There is NO WAY that I can decide this now! But it's really an interesting conversation for me that is happening because I have started, I have written 3 pages, but I have not even looked at them again -- I wrote them one night because it became so strong that I wanted to do that, that I wanted to say something.

The therapist asks if the parts want to go into the healing light.
Barbara: Yes, they do. And they want to say thank you to you for a good session. Now they are thanking you; I just want you to know that. Not just thanking me, but you too.

In the healing light:
The part with the submissiveness to authority -- that's a little girl on her knees who is beaten and yelled at, who is sent into corners to stand there, who is left by her parents -- I mean she is a totally abandoned, beaten, terrified child who is convinced of her worthlessness. And my mother is beating her and my father -- I don't think that he ever physically attacked me -- but in this internal image that I get from this part my father is kicking her as if she was worthless garbage that he can do with whatever he pleases. And you (my therapist) are with me in the healing light, and I want you to speak up to my father and send him away and tell him that he is NOT a father. Send him away, yes. And I want to tell this unscrupulous monster: "You pretended to be a caring father because you never beat us. And by NOT beating us, you instilled in us this adoration that you were a good parent. So we thought you were different. But you used my mother to terrify us, and you had us EXACTLY where you wanted us. You are not a father, you are an exploiter, a person who only used his children for his own personal gain. Just get out of here. I don't ever want to see you again!" The light is SHOVING him away and he is leaving, he is just gone away. And there is my mother who is still beating the child, and I we both take her arms and we take her away from the child, whom I take into my arms. And we both tell this raging maniac of a "mother" that this is A CRIME. It is torture. It is deeply inhuman and deeply wrong and that she is unfit to be a mother because she never, ever questioned how she acted and what she did and thought that her ways and her insanity were all good things and she had a right to do this. And I am telling her: "You don't have the right to beat children; you don't have the right to beat any human being. Even prisoners should not be beaten. It's a law. So DON'T BEAT CHILDREN." I tell her also that I feel relieved: "You never deserved this child and her love, ever." And I hold the child in my arms, and I take her to Mexico and I comfort her, and the light is with us; and it takes out of her the fear and submission and the bowing to obedience. And the light says: "You were terrified into believing lots of lies, and they will go away with time."

And now I sense the other part -- it is the part on her knees, you know, in front of a big pedestal where there are two gods, a mother and a father, and I just take her into my arms and the light melts the statues. And I have the child in my arms and tell her: "You don't have to adore anybody anymore. You are with me now and in MY LIFE. And it's not about adoration, and it's not about being on your knees, and it's not about serving people anymore -- but it is about people and respectful relationships with people that care about us. And I do care about you, and I don't need to admire anybody anymore, and you don't have to believe the lie that such people are different when they are cruel and mean and selfish and arrogant and calculating and unscrupulous. You don't have to think anymore that these people are different. You can see them for who they are. You have the permission." And the light also says: "You have the permission to see the truth and to stand up and speak up for the truth."

And the part that wants me to be on my side and wants me to speak the truth -- I don't have an image of her. I can't tell you who that is. It doesn't seem like a child to me... ... ... A woman. It's a woman who says she is the real Barbara. She says she is not a child. She says she is a strong and clear and brave woman who has fought for many years to speak up for herself and be true to herself and speak the truth. She says she is coming out and that I am working on that. And in the healing light, I don't know yet -- well, I see myself walking hand in hand with her. So that's what I see.

Yes, we did good work. Thanks for being there with me.


Here you can read other IFS therapy sessions