DS: I get that you have no reason to trust me. She’s been betrayed by lots of people who told her to trust them, and she’s gotten her hopes up and been disappointed lots of times. I also get that you’re determined to keep those things from happening again, and you have a lot of power to do that. You’re the boss, and we’re not going to do anything more with her traumas without your permission.
CP: You’re an asshole! I know what you’re doing right now with this caring therapist bullshit. I see through you, asshole!
(Now a part of me was saying that this was a pointless and tiresome waste of time and it was sick of being insulted. I asked it to step back.)
DS: OK. As I said, I don’t expect you to trust me until I’ve proven myself to be trustworthy. I do appreciate that you let her continue to see me even though you have these feelings about me, and I want to check in with you frequently to see how we’re doing. Now I’d like to talk to Colette again. Are you there, Colette?
Colette: Yeah. That was weird! He’s always been so mean to me that I never realized that he’s trying to help me. While he was talking to you, I could feel his sadness.
DS: So how does that make you feel toward him?
C: I feel sorry that he has to act so tough when he’s so sad himself.
DS: Can you let him know that? See how he reacts?
C: (after a pause) He seems softer. He’s not saying anything, and just seems sad.
As Colette listened to me talk to her protector, she got a different sense of that part. When I asked how she felt toward it afterward, it was clear that her self was more present. Her voice was calm, and she exhibited a confidence and compassion that had been missing in earlier discussions about this part.
She still felt sorry for that protector in the next session, so I had her convey her new compassion to the part through inner dialogue. Initially it reacted with the same kind of contempt for her that it had shown toward me, telling her that she was a worthless fool to trust me. But as I helped her keep her heart open to it, the part disclosed that it liked that she’d finally realized it had been trying to help her.
Later in the therapy, after Colette had unburdened many more exiles, she began with my support to make big changes in her life. She stopped bingeing and purging and left a relationship in which she’d been recreating some of the original abuse patterns. I’d become fond of her and reveled in her growth and in my ability to help her. Then one day, I got a phone message from her that gave me chills. The voice on the message was deep and menacing. “You can’t have her. She’s mine!” it said, and then hung up.
I called back and got no response. Suddenly I felt a knot of panic in my belly similar to the one I’d felt with Pamela. Here was a client who might be in danger, and I couldn’t reach her. Fortunately, I had a few days to work with my distress before our next session. I asked a colleague to help me with a part of me related to a time in my early life when I felt powerless to help someone. This work turned out to be revealing and valuable.
When Colette came to the next session, she looked downtrodden and reported that she was back to square one, bingeing again and attempting to reignite the relationship she’d left. She was having suicidal thoughts for the first time in years. She remembered calling me, but couldn’t recall what she’d said. Because I’d gotten so excited by her progress, I sensed my heart drop and a familiar inner voice question whether we’d achieved anything at all in our work together. I asked this part to let me stay present. I connected to her and felt the shift toward more spaciousness that comes when my self is more embodied.
I told her to focus on the suicidal impulse and ask the part of her that feared it to step back, allowing her to simply be curious. Then she was able to ask the other part why it wanted her to die. The scary voice from the phone message replied that its job was “to take her down.” I got my own nervous parts to step back and helped her stay curious about why that part wanted to do that. It told her that she deserved to die, and it was going to make sure she did. Colette looked at me and said that it seemed like pure evil. I told her to just stay calm and curious so she could talk to it and we could see if that was true.