Black and White Thinking

I had a double session today. I had to skip last week because of an after hours meeting I couldn't get out of, so since it was my week off I figured I could double up.

I was asked to make a list of things my mom has taught me, both good and bad. I have a lot of resentment towards my mom in relation to how she handled my abuse, in addition to other things. The list was not hard to make because it didn't really place blame for anything, it was simply a fact-based list. After discussing some of the good things she has taught me and why I enjoy being around her, we began to discuss the negative things and I could feel myself turn on the "minimizer". I feel intense guilt for feeling and thinking bad things about my mom and that causes me to downplay things she did that have effected me.

I told her how confusing it was to go from resentment when I am apart from her, to feeling as though nothing is wrong when I am with her. That's where the black and white thinking comes in. There is no middle ground when it comes to my mom. I respond to her the way I was taught by her. Everything is always OK on the surface, but behind closed doors is where the real emotions lie. We talked about how easy it is for me to "live in the gray" with my dad. My dad has let me down in many ways, but I accept his faults and don't feel the need to shield him the way I do my mom.

"Why is that?" she wonders.

As bad as it is to say, I never expected any emotional support from my dad. He was consistent with not providing that... but I expected so much from my mom because I knew she could give me what I needed. She was inconsistent, but it was there. I always hoped that next time would be different. She's hurt me too much for me to be in the gray right now. I learned to deal with my hurt by separating my emotions into two compartments; black (the angry, resentful feelings) and white (the feelings I needed to have in order to maintain the facade).

We also talked about how I feel my progress is going. I was honest in telling her that I feel as though not much has changed, but that I am more aware of how things have affected my life and my reaction to those events. She said that because we are still in the process of acknowledging the events and people that affected my life, that there are generally not huge gains in healing and growth but that it is a necessary step to get to the next part where most of the healing happens. This part deals with all the emotions and thoughts tied to all these events and working through them to find a place of peace within each subset. She was lengthy in describing the work that goes into this step and I told her how overwhelmed I felt in knowing what I had ahead of me.

She said instead of focusing on all the work ahead of me, that I should go back and look at the work I have done. Although I may not believe it, she told me that she has seen huge changes in me since we started working together 5 months ago. She told me she is proud of what I have done, especially telling her my story. In the face of so much pain, she is proud of how brave I am and how as much as it hurts and is uncomfortable that I continue to show up and do the work. She told me that even though I don't see the bravery and strength she does, that one day I will. It is a good feeling to know that someone believes in you when you aren't strong enough to believe in yourself.

To continue the shift into "Phase 2", my homework is to look over a packet on shame. I have intense feelings of shame with the abuse, which have filtered into my relationships with my family and friends. There is a list of common thoughts of "shame-thinkers" and I am to highlight the ones that I feel/think and what thoughts provide me proof that this is who/what I am. In addition to that, I told her that I had bought the book she recommended but was having a hard time reading it more than a few pages at a time. I've had it for almost 3 weeks and I haven't gotten past Chapter 3. I am having trouble acknowledging the things that some stranger is writing are the way I think and feel. It's very exposing to know that someone else thinks/knows about things when you thought you were the only one. So in addition to the packet, I am to go back and write down the things that made me feel that way so we can start incorporating those into the emotional work as well. I jokingly put a smirk on my face and raised a fist "Yay!" We both got a good giggle. She and I both know that as much as the homework assignments challenge me, I do them because I need to, not because I want to.

Until next Tuesday, I have a lot of stuff to write about.


imaginenamaste said...
March 19, 2009 at 12:11 AM

thank you so much for your support! i'm with on shame--my therapist even made me chart how much shame i feel.

i hope that you have a good rest of your week!