In today’s therapy session, I told E. that I felt like I needed to bring Doubt into the room with us, in a constrained way. It didn’t mean I was inviting her back from her long vacation. It just meant that I was feeling stuck (for example, in being able to talk more to my husband) and it seemed like it would help to deal with Doubt a bit more.
“I like that you have a sense of what you need,” E. told me.
“But I need your help to keep her in check. I only want her in this room, not in the rest of my life, not now. And I don’t really know what it means to bring her in this room,” I told her. “That’s where I am relying on your skills and creativity.”
E. smiled; I think she loves challenges like that. She thought aloud for a bit, “I guess we could invite her to be part of a discussion, but not to take a leadership role. We could make it like she is in on a phone call with us. And to keep it constrained we could give her ten, maybe fifteen minutes; set a limit on it. I have a timer we could use.”
Okay then; we set the timer for ten minutes. E. said, “We invite Doubt to talk to us, through Q’s voice. I think it would be great to hear about how she’s feeling about her long vacation, what energy does she have, what is she wanting to happen? Is she clamoring to come back?”
I just said the first things I felt, without overthinking it. Speaking as Doubt, I said, “I am feeling two things. One is that I can see Q is doing better since she’s sent me away. And that’s good. Contrary to what she thinks, I am actually not her enemy. I don’t bear her any malice. I see myself as a support to her, keeping her rational and skeptical, making sure she doesn’t fall for any nonsense.”
“A second issue,” Doubt went on, “is that I am still not convinced that believing the girl is a rational thing to do. There’s no evidence to support what she says. The young Q. never went to the doctor with injuries. No one seemed to think anything was wrong. No one else has ever suggested her father was an abuser. Her memories are not like other memories. I realize that at this point, it’s virtually impossible to find evidence, but still, I don’t feel comfortable just accepting this claim with no evidence.”
E. was thoughtful, “So in a way you feel you are a force for keeping her honest? Making sure she doesn’t believe or claim anything that can’t be supported scientifically, by evidence?”
“So you get along well with atheists, I guess,” E. said. “If there is no evidence of God, or some higher power, there can’t be one, even if you see that believing in God does some people a lot of good?”
“So you would not want anyone to believe, even thought it does good for so many people?:
“And also does bad things for many people,” Doubt replied.
E. agreed that was also true.
Doubt went on, “It is true though that spiritual beliefs do many people a lot of good. And I will accept that there may be a level of spiritual feelings that we don’t fully understand.”
“So could you accept that Q. has an ability to sense something, to know something, in a different way? That she has an intuition that says: this is what happened to me. That she knows it without having the level of evidence you are asking her to provide?” E. asked.
Doubt pondered that a bit. “Maybe. But how do we distinguish between intuition and making up a lot of sh*t?”
“Well if it isn’t intuition, what could it be? Some deep pathology, a desire to make up stories? That’s not really consistent with the rest of what I know about Q. She’s not delusional. She doesn’t usually make up stories. And if she is doing this for ‘attention,’ why isn’t she telling anybody?”
Doubt didn’t have much to counter that with. E. noted that there was only a minute left; should we agree to continue? Yes, five more minutes added to the timer.
“So what do you want, Doubt?” E. asked.
“I want to still be part of the system. I think I have something to offer. But maybe I don’t need to be the loudest voice in the room. I’d be willing to take some other position in the system,” Doubt said.
“What position would that be?”
“I don’t know exactly,” Doubt said. “I was hoping you might have a suggestion.”
E. considered t that. “Well, we could probably design something different. I know Q. does value discernment and would still want you to provide that. Not being the loudest voice in the room is a change for sure. In the past you have overridden her intuition, her deep sense of knowing what happened to her.”
“Not just me,” Doubt pointed out. “Some of that first came from her parents, and a lot from her first husband, Miguel. She learned not to trust her own instincts. But she still had to pass judgments and make decisions. So she turned to me, and I helped her out. Maybe I shouldn’t even be called Doubt. I could be called Rational Empiricism, and I gave her a way to decide things.”
“And maybe now you could take a less dominant role, one that would allow for some intuitive ways of knowing?”
The timer went off. “Okay, Doubt, time’s up. Thanks for talking to us,” E. said, firmly cutting her off while there was still time for us to process what had happened.
We talked a bit about assigning a different role to Doubt. What would it mean, if she didn’t shout over everything else? We also talked about how strange it all was. I would never have said, before the session today, that Doubt wishes me well and is willing to change her role in what E. always refers to as “the system.” It is so surprising that the whole conversation just spilled out like that, yet it felt right (says Intuition?).
“This is one of the things I love about my job,” E. told me. “I really do believe that all the parts of the system ultimately want to work toward wholeness. I don’t really believe in self-sabotage. I think there are problems in the system that come when we bury some parts or shut them out. But when we listen to them and acknowledge their concerns, we find there is room for all our parts.”
I’m going to have to think about this some more in the coming days. It is so weird: Doubt worries about me making up the incestuous abuse, but there’s no problem with me just speaking as Doubt in the therapist’s office? Yet it felt helpful. Maybe I’ve been overdosing on Rational Empiricism and need a little creative improv to shake up the system.