Down the Rabbit Hole

#13 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”

When Dr. Rita heard about my exploits last week with “The Inner Child Workbook” and the applesauce caper, she said, “Well, I thought you could do some reading, but we don’t recommend doing those exercises unsupervised.” Now you tell me; the damage was done. [FN1]

I was terrified by my lack of bonding (attachment) which the Workbook had revealed.  But from my notes, I was too terrified to realize that I should try to describe it to Dr. Rita.  Anyway, she had her own agenda, which caused more damage.

Inner Child Garden w. fairyIn guided imagery, a professional creates a script for a sort of dream sequence and has the patient imagine it, to uncover feelings locked in the subconscious.  It’s a fine tool in the right situation, but this weren’t it.

“Close your eyes,” she said, “and imagine you’re going down, down, down below the ground. You emerge onto a path to a secret garden. You see a little girl about 5 coming toward you. Imagine you take the child’s hand; notice how tiny it is.”  She had me sit with the girl by a stream awhile “to get used to each other,” then lean against a tree to “see whether she’d sit on my lap.”  But I still could find no child inside me; trying just created more anxiety.

Next Dr. Rita said “Let’s ask the child some questions. Respond without thinking, from the gut. What’s your first memory of Father?”  “A pair of slacks going behind a closed door,” I mumbled.  Spontaneous, yes, and I’d never said that before, but that was me talking.  No child involved.

“What’s your first memory of Mother?”  “I got a B in kindergarten and I was afraid to go home.  So I hid in the class bathroom trying to erase it.  I wrote an A over it, but I got caught and it was really awful.” Again it came spontaneously, but this was me talking, and it was an incident I’d remembered all my life.  I can still see the inside of the class bathroom door and feel the fear.  But I’d just tried to forget it since Mom was a fact of life, like the weather.

“You had to put on a front because they didn’t accept the real you,” Dr. Rita announced.  Me, I never would have thought of any of this.  She, however, had a whole analysis: “Both your father and mother abandoned and rejected you.” Gosh I never would have thought of that, that sounds really embarrassing!

“You have ‘repetition compulsion’- you’re compelled to find men who abandon, so you can recreate the problem ‘on stage.’  So you can go back and fix it,” Rita went on. “But you didn’t break it – you don’t have to fix it.” I wrote that motto on a large 5 x7 file card and it’s still on my desk today.  It sure sounded like plausible and useful data.

But where was the Adult Attachment Interview, needed to diagnose anyone starting therapy?  It’s been around since 1996. Why didn’t she tell me about Attachment Disorder in adults like me, as well as in children? That might have given words to my terror at my lack of bonding. [FN2]

Instead it was all head talk, and the solution was even more head talk.  Dr. Rita, my second therapist, concluded with the same advice verbatim that my first therapist gave at the end of my Oct. 11 blog: “Just let it go,” she said.

“Just stop trying to fix it with men, and let the past go. It’s an act of will.” Just think your way out of it.  But “trying to fix the heart using the head, is like trying to paint with a hammer—it only makes a mess,” as I later learned – much later. [FN3]

Isolation Again

Then Rita lowered the isolation boom—again. “You are the one who has to do it,” she intoned. “You have to feel the little girl in your heart and comfort her, love her, and heal her.  She wants you to be the one to make her feel safe and be the Mom she never had.

“You have to do it alone, that’s the whole point. If you go to other people, she’ll be frightened, because she’ll think you don’t love her, if you’re running to others. You’ll scare the little girl away if you go to anyone else. A child will always run from anyone other than Mom.  Especially from men.  If you go to men she’ll be terrified.”

Forza-zinka-milanovStill, there was absolutely nothing that felt like a child inside me.  I tried and tried; I was paying good money for all this! I listened to Rita’s “Garden Path” imagery over and over on a tape I’d made of her, and did all the exercises; no result but despair.  It was more like “down the Rabbit Hole.”

I got out Verdi’s epic “La Forza del Destino” in which Leonora is consigned to live alone in a monastery cave unto death, to repent of her ill-fated love affair. I sang her farewell aria until I sobbed. I took it all very seriously, and Zinka Milanov (right) rocks as Leonora. But I felt worse and worse.

“I can’t do any of this if I can’t find a child!  Is there any way to put a structure on this process?!” I actually said the following week.

What I meant was “Have you no methodology?  I’m drowning over here!” The more I look at my notes, the less I can understand why no one could understand my protest.  It was a really loud call for help.

My emotions may have been shot, but my thinking brain could still perform.  My notebooks show it all.  I had just worked 30 years to restructure the global monetary system, build rail and water infrastructure projects, and launch billion dollar satellite systems.  So if Rita’s RX made sense, I could get it.  If I could find an inner child, I would. My predicament was bizarre, but no one listened.

Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t she read any adult attachment disorder books or anything on adult attachment theory or adult attachment disorder?  But no.

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This is from Chapter 2 of Kathy’s forthcoming book DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.  Watch for the continuing series of excerpts from the rest of her book each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about adult attachment theory, attachment disorder in adults, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

Footnotes

FN1  Taylor, Cathryn L. MFCC, “The Inner Child Workbook,” Penguin Putnam, New York, 1991

FN2  Main, Mary,  “The Adult Attachment Interview: Fear, attention, safety and discourse processes;” also titled “The Organized Categories of Infant, Child, and Adult Attachment: Flexible vs. Inflexible Attention Under Attachment-Related Stress,” Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 2000, 48:1055-1095. At: http://70-40-200-36.bluehost.com/documents/Main.pdf
–This is a very difficult topic to research, so I did it for you; check my blog on it, with more footnotes at the end: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/adult-attachment-interview-aai-mary-main/

FN3  James, John W., Friedman, Russell, “The Grief Recovery Handbook,” Harper Collins, New York, 2009 (original 1998)

Tagged With: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Disorder Books, Adult Attachment Theory, Attachment Disorder in Adults, Adult Attachment Interview, Divorce, Rebound, Emotional pain, Grief, Inner Child, Therapy, Trauma, Limbic Brain

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12 responses to “Down the Rabbit Hole

  1. I recently found videos by a therapist named Pete Gerlach who talks about healing all this stuff. He has a website called Break the Cycle which is basically a textbook of all he learned during his career. It’s got worksheets and exercises and i think it offers hope. I’m just starting with it myself, but i’ve ordered the grief workbook you suggested too. I have a lot of theory, but getting through the emotion is the hard part. Thanks for your story. I very much relate. I had a man very much like your Dan after breaking up with my husband of 18 years. I like your analysis from a previous page of how these men are created by being raised by enmeshed mothers. That very much seems to be the case with my exboyfriend.

  2. I liked this blog. How do I heal from this? I have this same issue. I am numb, but can feel so deeply my inner child inside. This child feels STUCK, like I am not meshed in to a whole adult body. Crazy! I feel emptiness and guilt. I KNOW I have to regress to find this child, but I don’t know HOW? Also the idea terrifies me, and my overwhelming guilt stops me too. I need to get to my core, but my little child is terrified of accessing these feelings of deep depression. I know thats why I’m numb. I have the same experience with therapists. Please can you give me advice or say what to read that might help? I just need help from someone that ‘gets it! Which book am I supposed to read? I wasn’t sure if you’re saying to read that “Inner Child Workbook” or your own book?

  3. “Then Rita lowered the isolation boom—again. “You are the one who has to do it,” she intoned. “You have to feel the little girl in your heart and comfort her, love her, and heal her. She wants you to be the one to make her feel safe and be the Mom she never had.”
    This is sooooo common these days and I feel like it’s such a harmful & ignorant theory. Like you, it only makes me feel worse – truly isolated, and doomed. Our problem is too much emotional isolation to begin with. How is more of that supposed to help?

    • Exactly! ! My therapist repeated this only a few weeks ago and I have told her it doesn’t help and makes me feel worse. What should they do then?

      • If they’ve only been trained to do one-size-fits-all, they won’t know to do anything else. At some point it’s the client who must decide to find another therapist with experience in deep infant attachment trauma.

  4. Pingback: Mommy Doesn't Like Me | "Don't Try This at Home"

  5. The problem was when I was IN it in 2008, I didn’t know any of this. I just knew it felt like Hell on wheels and no matter how I tried to tell them it wasn’t working, they kept telling me I was the problem. Ouch! Thus my book, so others who read this don’t have to go through this. Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

  6. Michael Williams

    Doctors get caught up in being sure that a patient has whatever the doc’s own particular schtick is! Good thing you saw your way out.

  7. Hmmm. These two therapists didn’t know their methods were not working and their best answer was simply “let go of it”? I’ve heard that one definition of mental illness was repeating something over and over again that doesn’t work. Makes me wonder about those two therapists. Why didn’t they try something different?

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