My therapist and I observed that in our last few sessions I’ve been avoiding something. All the progress we’ve been making with Chair Girl seems to have come to a screeching halt. This wasn’t my intention, at least not consciously. But in our sessions, I’d find myself wasting his and my time, talking about some extraneous or trivial thing that has little or nothing to do with the work we’re trying to do. This is also why I have been posting so little–nothing has been happening.
My therapist decided enough was enough. In the middle of this week’s session he suddenly stood up, went over to the empty chair in the room where Chair Girl has often sat (but lately it’s just been an empty chair), and pulled her chair really close to me–uncomfortably close. I felt almost overwhelmed with shame and awkwardness. I felt myself turning inward and beginning to fidget. I laughed because I didn’t know what to say. I continued trying to deflect the topic to other things, tell stories, jokes, etc.
But he wasn’t having any of that. It was time for a little tough love.
“Look at Chair Girl,” my therapist ordered. He looked almost angry.
I looked. I felt nervous and fidgety again. I cleared my throat, shifted around in my chair. I looked at the ceiling.
“Look at her sitting there. What emotion is she feeling right now?”
I looked back at the chair. “She wishes I’d pay more attention to her.”
“What does she want?”
I thought about this for a minute, and then suddenly I blurted: “Don’t judge me. Love me unconditionally.”
“Where does she live?”
Without hesitation: “A cold, dark prison cell.”
“Does she ever get to come out?”
“Yes, but I always have to lock her back up because of the way she makes me feel ashamed and embarrassed.”
“So you punish her.”
“Is she afraid of you?”
“No, I am afraid of her.”
“Because she acts like a baby, out of control, and brings me shame and disapproval”
“But she is only a little girl, about 6-7 years old.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“Does she feel like you judge her harshly?”
“Yes.” My voice broke.
“Does she have any good qualities?”
“She…she has a kind heart.”
“Tell me again what she wants.”
I felt my eyes welling with tears but they did not spill. “She wants to be held and told everything will be okay…she wants to run barefoot in the grass, turn somersaults down the hill…she wants to love and be loved. All she wants is to be accepted for who she is.”
“So…she wants freedom from her prison cell.”
“More than anything,” I said.
I judge and reject Chair Girl. I do to her what my abusive mother did to me when I was little and I internalized that, continuing the abuse against myself.
“I’m giving you a homework assignment this week,” my therapist said.
I dabbed at my damp eyes and looked at him, waiting.
“I want you to bring her a gift.”
I have no idea what to get her but I know it has to be special because she is special. It has to be just the right gift though. A gift that shows her that I’m sorry for rejecting her and judging her and also one that lets her know I won’t ever abandon her again.
I feel like this kind of work is helping to integrate Chair Girl back inside myself. But allowing myself to accept and love her unconditionally, including her flaws, I learn to love and accept myself. The process itself is almost laughably simple. But making myself do it can be so very hard.