#14 in my ongoing book blogs from “Don’t Try This at Home”
Last week my second therapist Dr. Rita was telling me to “heal yourself” to where I was reduced to singing Verdi arias about being doomed to live alone in a cave forever. So I just felt worse.
Yet Rita continued drumming in the isolation message. “You don’t need Dan,” she scoffed about the rebound guy. “You don’t need anyone else. What you need is, to stop trying to heal the child who’s sick, with some guy’s d–k. Just heal yourself.”
No, I may have New York potty mouth, but that did not come from me. Yes, you did see that in this polite book on brain science, because that, verbatim, was the instruction from a therapist, at my great personal financial and emotional expense.
That is a quote directly from this refined, soft-spoken, highly educated lady, right in the middle of her technical shrink-speak in my 2008 notebook – and I doubt she coined the rhyme. It must be standard trade jargon in some PhD circles.
Note the irrational but seamless segue asserting that only total isolation can work. Going to other people, anyone at all, is linked to the disgust and mortification of “going to some guy’s d—k.”
I’d never heard of different ways to “go to other people” back then, but what about Dr. Rita? Had she never heard of a middle ground somewhere between an isolation cell, and a “d—k?” Say, go to a pastor, a divorce seminar, a women’s group, or a girlfriend?
Or maybe, gasp, go to your therapist for emotional support? I sure never wouldda thunk of that at the time! By then, that would have sounded to me like a nice outing to visit Torquemada. “Why do they call him Torquemada?” asks Mel Brooks. “Because you can’t torq him outta anything!” [FN1]
While it did turn out to be true that neither sex nor romance can heal childhood emotional pain, can it be done by lying alone on a sheet covered in applesauce? (Oct. 11 blog)
”But this is a Death Sentence,” my emotional limbic brain, otherwise known as my heart, responded forcefully from deep within. “This feels like a Death Sentence,” I kept telling Rita, “This isn’t working!
“I do need someone else to love me!” I would go to her in tears saying. “If you tell me do it myself, that means I’ll be alone forever! Something feels terribly wrong! It makes me queasy to say I have to do it myself, like I’m not good enough that someone else would love me enough to help me. It’s a sinking feeling. You’re telling me that no one else is going to love me enough to help me, which means I must be intrinsically unlovable.”
By making clear to me that they wouldn’t work with me unless I found a phantom inner child I just could not find, both my first and second therapist were in fact telegraphing just that. “You’re the problem, everyone else can do it, you’re uncooperative, we can’t work with you, you’re a failure.”
Not too far from “unlovable,” is it?
I joke now about Mel Brooks pronouncing death sentences (above).
But back then, as I searched for an inner child, all I could feel was a bottomless well of emotional pain and terror like something out of the real Inquisition. I’d find something really horrifying deep inside which I was afraid to look at, and have repeat nightmares about dead fish with horribly dead eyes (or worse unmentionable themes). No inner child, just horror.
Is that horror, me? Am I a freak with some kind of inner dead fish or inner monster, instead of a “normal inner child”? The whole time, I can find no mention in my notes of the word “trauma.” But what, I ask you, was all of this, if not trauma?
The only thing I could do, once in this down-spiral result of the isolation, was to sit in my room hugging a pillow, and repeat to myself how badly I wanted to be held by someone, anyone — anyone at all. Then I’d think of how Dan the rebound guy held and caressed me head to toe for hours and days on end, for the first time ever in my life. (For some reason my ex preferred tennis rackets, and my parents were too busy.)
In particular, I would recall the overwhelming sense of relaxation I experienced with Dan, in a way that bowled me over. Granted, a funny way to talk about relaxation. But it was that big a contrast to my “normal” of the time, which after all was a very high- performance, finish-off-the project and bring home the bacon “normal” more suitable to someone as relaxed as, say, Donald Trump (possibly the least relaxed being on Earth.) “You just take all the tension out of my body” I used to tell Dan.
It got to where I’d walk into his room after work, take off my watch and literally throw it against the far wall – hard, because it was a really big room – at which point we would both dissolve into gales of laughter. Temporarily.
Romance vs Therapy?
But now all that was gone, and I was the living opposite of relaxed. Now the original Dan emotional pain which drowned out my Dad’s funeral, blew out my transcontinental air budget, hijacked my world and sent me running into therapy would start all over again, in an endless loop of grief.
Certainly my thinking brain was growing dimly aware that for all his tractor-drivin’, gun-slingin’ he-man manners, Dan was not much of a real man when it came to women. Somewhere in the same 2008 notes I also wrote quite reasonably that his no- attachment credo couldn’t be right because “if all men treated women that way there would be no one to care for the children and no more human race.” Wouldn’t a real man stand up to protect a woman (from guys like him) ?
Yet go tell that to my emotional limbic brain while it was locked up alone. Ha.
How was I to stay away from men, when romance was the only thing left on the planet which appeared to offer some semblance of holding? I felt sure this kind of holding must be “bonding” (aka attachment). [FN2] I had been totally unaware of the existence of this wonderful thing until the “Inner Child Workbook” revealed it to me, and also revealed that I lacked it so utterly. Now, all I could think of was: couldn’t I please get some bonding before I die?
Around this time without even thinking I wrote something in a notebook, then blanked out on it completely and put it away. A few months later going over my notes, I noticed it with a shock and here is what I wrote: “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.”
Huh? An astonishing thing to say, given Dan’s predatory behavior and utter lack of regard in throwing me out of his farm house days after my dad’s death.
Still, I stared at that sentence for a long time: “Dan loved me more than anyone in my entire life has ever loved me.” And then I had to admit to myself despite all reason, that it was true — not that I’d dare tell another soul, least of all my, er, therapist.
I just flat out did not feel as though I had gotten anything near the kind of love that Dan had given me, however meager, in the almost two years we were together, from my mom, dad, ex, or anyone in my life before.
A sad statement on the state of my soul but still the truth is the truth.
And hey, compared to both my therapists, Dan did love me a heck of a lot more. What after all, did they give me? No wonder I kept trying to crawl back into Dan’s arms in subsequent romances – at least from Dan I got something!
Where were the diagnostic tools – or any diagnostic method? Where was the Adult Attachment Interview, I ask again? Hadn’t Dr. Rita read any Adult Attachment Disorder books or anything on adult Attachment Theory or adult Attachment Disorder?
Once again I thought, Fall, 2008 surely was the end of my world. Surely it could get no worse than this.
This is from 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.
FN1 Mel Brooks, “History of the World Part I” (film), 1981; Brooks plays Grand Inquisitor Tomas Torquemada (among others).
FN2 Technically there is a fine distinction between”bonding” and “attachment” in recent psychiatric literature, but for years therapists used the terms interchangeably.
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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