Five days ago, I worked on extracting the poison that has been toxic to my behaviors and not only harmed my marriage and my girls, but actions that have damaged myself to the core.
I grew up in a family where children were seen but not heard, where I learned not to trust others, and where I learned that it wasn’t safe to express feelings. I used the analogy in Part 1 that for me to heal, I need to stop attacking the leaves and the branches of my tree, but go all the way down to the source, right to the limb where my behaviors were learned.
The main issues I wanted to focus on were:
- Being a surrogate spouse to my mother at the age of three, then having her emotionally leave me for a new man when I was six
- My belief that to be connected as a family, my step-sister had to be there
- that I wasn’t important enough to have my step-father, mother and I be connected as a family
- the belief that I was a third wheel
- Having a temper tantrum in my room, but no one knowing how to take care of my needs
- My step-father’s unexpected and uncontrollable anger, rages, and outbursts
- My Grandmother’s use of shame to control my family
My hope is that through EMDR, I can heal from these early beliefs that has kept me shackled to a current life of pain. Like the adult elephant who can’t seem to break out of the thin ropes that bind him, I want to learn how to break from those restrictive bonds.
My therapist explained that we wouldn’t be able to touch on all my issues in one session. She asked me to pick the one I wanted to work on the most.
I chose to work on the piece about being a surrogate spouse and having my mother emotionally leave me when my step-father came into her life.
That’s been the piece that comes up with my divorce. That’s the piece that comes up with my ex’s friends. That’s the piece that struck a nerve and triggered a cavernous wound when my ex expressed that she was ready to start dating, even though our divorce had not been finalized.
The realization that there is no more hope for our marriage and that I’ve done as much as I could, yet I was still not able to let go was why I knew I needed more EMDR. And I needed it the other day.
My therapist and I started our session catching up where we left off a few months since we had last talked. I had sent her the blog The Greatest Adventure is My Wish prior to our meeting.
Doing surgery on my psychological trauma is The Greatest Adventure. I’m about to take my recovery one step further to transform my soul.
My Wish on this adventure is to learn how to detach, with love, from my ex and release her from my own constraints. I need to let her go so she can be happy. I need to let her go so I can be happy. I need to free us both.
During our initial discussion, my therapist acknowledged something that I don’t feel anyone else has truly acknowledged, at least from the depth and understanding she gave. Maybe it was because of her empathy and compassion. Maybe it was because of the state of mind I was in. But this time, I truly felt heard.
I guess I heard it from our mediator and counselor during the divorce process, but I heard it more as hope. That’s how I wanted to hear it. I made that my reality. I didn’t hear it as grief.
“Phoenix, you love your ex,” my therapist recognized. “You do have to take responsibility because you broke your vows, your word, and the trust that she had in you. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t love her. That doesn’t mean you haven’t tried to do everything you could to grow and change. Your love for her is obvious. That’s why it hurts so much as you let go. This is more of a grieving process for you. To let go of someone you really truly love.”
I flashed back to a year ago when she told me, “The greatest gift you could give your ex is a divorce. As long as she’s still married to you, she’s still married to ‘that guy’. The best amends you can give her is her freedom.”
I have tried. I notice as I talk about this I am starting to feel the old painful physical sensations coming back. Maybe that’s why I procrastinated this piece (I re-read the other two parts numerous times). Maybe I was afraid that those old feelings (both physical and emotional) would surface again. But then, that means I still have work to do.
Acknowledgement and Truth
My therapist acknowledged that I did love my wife. My therapist acknowledged that I did love our family. She pointed out how committed I was to recovery, my wife, and my girls. But she also reminded me that two years ago my ex was not willing to take the leap to trust me again. That the trust had been broken and the marriage had died.
It hurt to hear that. It still hurts to hear that. I always hoped that there was still a little spark, just a little ember, that with the right conditions of kindling, wind, oxygen, and little bit of luck, that spark would reignite and our love could once again become an inferno.
I had written over 120 reasons why I needed to let go of my ex. I read these daily for almost two years to force me to learn how to let go. I prayed. I had daily readings set up morning, afternoon, and night that spanned every day of the month. I had so many different things that I was doing to make it so I could give her the freedom she deserved.
But try and try as I might, I could not let go. I still held on.
She called it my fantasy. Our other couple counselor called it denial. I called it hope.
I think it was more stubbornness and strong will that kept me hanging on. I kept telling myself I would be happier, she would be happier, and our girls would be happier if I would just let go. But I was stuck like fly to fly paper, wings buzzing frantically to get free.
The energy of holding on was like a force field that only made her bounce farther away from my grasp. And the farther away she bounced, the harder I held on.
She called this energy my “craziness.” It was the energy that made her feel unsafe around me. It was the energy that I tried to control, but then it exploded out of me.
This was not her, but my inner child reliving the immense pain my mother’s divorce and subsequent marriage had on me. It was felt on an emotional and physical level that I couldn’t get away from. The pain, the grief, the fear, the sadness, the physical ailments overwhelmed me. And yet, no one understood. How could they? I didn’t even understand.
Well, cognitively I understood. I knew it was that faulty belief that if she would just trust me one more time, forgive me, and if we learned how to manage the triggers we both had, everything would be fine.
It was that “if only” belief. Totally external to me. “If she does this, or if she does that, or if the world stops turning for one brief second during the rise of The Harvest Moon, etc.”
I need to find out why I have been holding on so tightly to that branch that has been killing me.
It’s time to get to the limb, insert the needle, and start extracting the poison.
Get the fucking poison out of my body!
The EMDR Experience
For EMDR this time around, my therapist decided to use the alternately pulsating method (underneath each leg) with my eyes closed. The intent was that I could go deeper into the experience. The hope was, that I would have greater healing doing it this way.
WOW! What a painful, yet relieving process!
Kind of like when you go to the gym. Your muscles ache as you do those final two or three reps. They’re screaming at you to stop, but you push them out: one…two…th..r..e..e. Then you collapse in a heap. After a couple of minutes, you feel refreshed, you feel stronger, you feel like you can move mountains. Well, until you try another set.
That’s what this was like. Very painful yet liberating.
As I reflect, I do wish I had taken more notes immediately afterwards. The memory of the actual experience is fading. This is partially because I’ve written the other two blogs first and partially because I’m still in a “wow” state of mind. I’ve experienced a shift, a change; a feeling of being more grounded.
There is one part in that hour that has lingered in my mind. It was quite powerful.
My therapist had me visualize my mother nurturing me. “I’d like you to visualize you laying your head down in your mother’s lap,” my therapist initiates.
My mind instantly goes to the session over two years ago where she had my ex put her head in my lap.
“Picture your mother stroking your hair. As she strokes your hair she tells you that she loves you. She strokes your cheek. She tells you that you are valuable to her. That she loves you just the way you are. Your mother is holding you, cradling you in her arms, your head on her lap, stroking you telling you how much she loves you unconditionally and how much you mean to her.”
Tears start streaming down my face. My body is tense. My gut is tight. My fingers tingle. And my brain is screaming at me. Literally, yelling for me to say what I don’t see.
“I can’t!” I gasp. “I can’t picture that! She wouldn’t do that. She didn’t do that. I have to take care of her! She needs her head in my lap. She needs me to stroke her hair, her cheek. She needs me to nurture her. That’s my job!!!”
My mind flashes back to my ex in my lap. I see her body, tense, stiff. I see her face tight, uncomfortable, and forcing down or trying to hide the anger I make up she feels for being put in this vulnerable position. Her body language looks pissed off and anger seems to permeate from her body like sweat after a long work out.
Not only do I feel fear that she’s mad at me for being put into this situation, but I feel sadness and pain that she doesn’t want me to nurture her. That she doesn’t want my touch. That she’s repulsed by me. She can’t let go and trust that I will be here for her. With her ebb and flow of emotions, the tide just washed away and who knows when it will come back.
I feel the pain in my gut. I realize that not only will my ex not let me comfort her, she doesn’t want to comfort me either. I feel that loss. The want, need, and desire to be nurtured, but the belief that I’m not good enough for that. I feel the pain as my belief is that I NEED to care-take, but my wife doesn’t want me to be taken care of.
I feel the pain as she once again pushes me away.
I feel lonely. I feel alone. I feel lost.
Together We Can Heal
The tears fall harder now. Thankfully the Kleenex had already been moved next to me. All this had taken place in a matter of seconds.
Without missing a beat my therapist changes the visualization. “Phoenix, picture that you are holding your younger self in your arms.” My body starts to relax. “You are stroking your child’s hair.”
Together We Can Heal.
“You are telling your child that you love him.”
Together We Can Heal.
“You are stroking your child’s face. You tell your child he is valuable and that he means the world to you.”
Together We Can Heal.
My mind slips and thinks, how do I parent my own girls? Do I give them that much nurturing? Do I stroke them and tell them that I love them? Is it even appropriate now that they are getting older? What is appropriate? I need to let them know more how much they mean to me. I need to care for them the way I never was.
Together We Can Heal.
I feel my emotions subsiding. I feel a sense of calm coming on. The pain is releasing from my body. I feel myself becoming grounded once again.
Together We Can Heal.
My Huge Shift
The EMDR part of my session lasted about an hour. At the end, I felt completely exhausted and yet at the same time, full of energy, liberated. Extremely hard to explain. How does one feel drained yet also wants to kick his heals and celebrate.
The next few days I notice that the same thoughts are there. I miss my ex. I wish my ex was coming down and joining me on my trip with both my daughters than just my one daughter (although I was quite excited about that too).
I want to talk with my ex.
Sort of. I do and I don’t.
I heard she spent another night with her male friend again watching the Grammies. I sense a tinge of jealousy and sadness that she has connection with him, but not with me. That her decision a year and a half ago of not wanting to give up his friendship meant she was willing to give up ours.
But there is a HUGE shift.
I don’t feel the physical pain!!
I don’t feel the obsession.
I notice the thoughts. I notice the emotions. I let them float by.
I’m not constantly looking at my phone and feel sadness that she hasn’t texted. I’m not having the urge to want to text her, call her, or communicate with her.
I miss her, but it doesn’t bother me that we aren’t communicating. In fact, I don’t really have the desire to communicate. Why try to communicate with someone who only wants to communicate with me when she needs something or wants something?
I feel like I’m lighter than air. Like I’ve found my sense of self again. Like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.
It’s not black or white any more. It’s not the thought that I won’t be ok if we aren’t together. I am ok now.
It’s not like trying to keep a boundary from her is like an alcoholic trying to white knuckle drinking while walking back and forth and back and forth outside his favorite bar.
It’s more grey now. It’s like the thought pops up, “I’d like to share that with her,” followed by, “Nah, not really. It’s ok if I don’t share.”
I’ve noticed though that I am craving sweets. I want cookie dough. I want chocolate. I want ice cream. Lately, that’s when I know my emotions have been off. My emotions are still off. Just not to the extent they were before.
I realize I need more EMDR. I need more time to continue working on those childhood issues that plague me. I know there’s still a lot of residual stuff in there that needs to come out. I haven’t got all the poison. This is just the beginning. There’s a lot of fucking shit in there!
I am ready for more.
I want more.
For the first time in 2 years 4 months I feel hope. Not hope for my marriage, but hope that I will survive divorce.
I really don’t want to admit this. Quite humiliating actually. But my deep-seated belief was that I would die if my spouse left me.
What a terrible belief to have. What a painful belief to have when she wants out. And what a horrible amount of pressure, guilt, and shame I placed on her for wanting to follow her truth.
It’s not the destination, but the journey and I am grateful for the journey.
I’m so grateful that I’m finding connection. But not the connection that everyone else thinks I need. I don’t need to bounce back into a relationship to heal from my divorce.
I am connecting with me.
I am learning to love myself.
I know I am worthy and I am ok.
And I am finally starting to feel that I am OK in my physical body which helps solidify my belief that I AM worthy.
Adult Phoenix is connecting with Little Phoenix.
Together We Can Heal!
As I reread what I had written, I’m reminded how my initial vision of my website changed through blogging. Initially, I wanted a resource for people who were struggling to come together, share their difficulties, learn they weren’t alone, and give strength, courage, and hope to others with similar issues.
When I wrote Nurture Your Inner Child, I realized that in order to heal from our deepest wounds we needed to learn how to love ourselves. And we can’t truly love ourselves if we haven’t learned how to care and protect our inner kid. “Together” became a much deeper meaning for me than a community of Fledglings. It meant integrating our adult with our inner child.
Eight months ago, through EMDR, I experienced what it was like to give myself the nurturing that I never received from family growing up. I had such a deep well of love that I believed I needed to pour onto others in order to give me worth, when what I needed was to pour that love onto myself. It’s pretty cool when you give yourself what you believed you need to give to others.
It’s easy to get busy in life and to say, “eh, I’ll get to that tomorrow.” Trust me, I’m not even close to perfect when it comes to taking care of Little Phoenix. But it is very important to take time out for you! Recharge your batteries. Nurture your little one. Love yourself.
Today, tell your inner child that you love him/her. Visually caress your inner child and tell him/her how beautiful and valuable he/she is. Tell your inner child that you will take care of him/her and that you will never leave. Love yourself like you deserve to be loved.
Keep doing this and then watch as the rest of your world opens up right before your very eyes.
Together We Can Heal.