Two Very Different Parts

Here in the U.S., we are all on pins and needles, waiting to see who won the presidential election. Keenly aware that I can do nothing, at this point, to affect the outcome, I clean my house and work on sewing projects. We control what we can.

It’s Wednesday, which means today I have my my weekly session with E. A few hours beforehand, I realize I am not sure what to talk about. Political anxiety has banished most everything from my mind besides, “what is happening in my country?”

But I don’t want to waste my precious time with her, so I sit down with my notebook to think. (Incredible how much better I think when writing!).

E will ask, “How are things in your internal world? How are you doing with your grieving?”

My internal world–my house, actually, which is how I always envision it–is in comparatively decent shape. For the time being, at least, I am able to hold the contradictory emotions of “I love my father and am so sad that he died,” and “I still feel angry that he wasn’t a more responsible person and protective parent.” I’m allowing both of these to be true.

What continues to sit unresolved is the question: did he actually sexually abuse me, as I sometimes think he did? I don’t think I will ever resolve this question. It’s gnawed at me for 25 years, and I’ve never been able to say yes, I believe my fuzzy maybe memory or no, it‘s a confabulation. Or rather, I have been able to say both things, but later I change my mind again. What I’ve never been able to do is a resolution that I can stay with.

Given all the years that this has hung out there for me, this terrible, painful uncertainty, it’s likely that it will never be resolved. Or al least, let’s say for now that it will never be resolved, not if I live to be 100 years old. It seems like the task then would be to come to peace with not being able to decide which is true. Even more than that, I need to come to peace with the fact that I will probably flip back and forth, “he did,” and “no way he did,” repeatedly for the remainder of my life.

And let’s be honest: that right there, the not knowing, sucks.

But imagine that I want to make it suck a little less. Imagine that I want to make it a little bit easier for the parts of me that are most activated when I decide “yes, it’s disgusting but my father made me do xxx to him when I was a girl” and the parts of me that are triggered when I am sure that “my father was funny and kind and affectionate; he would never do such a thing.”

One part that gets set off is Self-Loathing. She works in close partnership with Doubt, the part that doubts anything happened. She pounces on me, sticks hot knives into me, and wants to punish me for accusing my father (even if I never speak the words aloud).

On the other hand, there is the part I think of simply as “the girl.” She’s maybe eight years old; I’m not sure. And when I decide that nothing ever happened, that I somehow made it all up as a way to explain why I was depressed and dysregulated so much of the time, she gets very worked up. She feels unseen, uncared for. She becomes frantic because she is alone and no one even notices her pain.

E has told me that all parts are welcome. They all have a role to play, and they all ultimately want me to be well, though they may act is strange ways to achieve their goals. If I take care of them, if I recognize their needs and try to meet them, she tells me, I will be healthier and happier.

So I wonder, how do I take care of Self-Loathing and of the girl, when they seem so different?

So later in the afternoon, when I meet with E, online this week for the first time since May, I tell her what I have been thinking about.

“Let’s say I want to be nice to both parts,” I tell her. “I know they will likely be triggered at different times, because I won’t ever really know the truth for sure.”

E likes that I want to be nice to my different parts, instead of scolding them for doing what they do. She spends some time asking me what I think Self-Loathing needs, what she is trying to accomplish. It doesn’t take very long for us to decide that Self-Loathing is, in a twisted way, a protector part. Sometimes she sucks away all my energy and leaves me in bed, depressed. Sometimes she convinces me to harm myself (that’s more in the past, though). Sometimes she tells me I am a terrible daughter, a shit human being. She’s not what you would call one of my more charming parts.

Naturally, our discussion leads E to task me, “What might Self-Loathing be protecting you from?”

I squirm around with this a little, trying not to commit myself to any one interpretation. But later in the session, I finally say, “Probably her role is to allow me to love my father.” E jumps on this right away, not in the “Aha! Gotcha! I knew it!” sense, but more in the “Oh, uh huh, how reasonable” sense.

I think it’s right, actually. It feels right. It kind of pains me though, because it suggests that underneath it all, Self-Loathing also believes that my father harmed me. But she feels this is a threat to my attachment to him, so she tries to pretend it isn’t true.

It doesn’t just pain me. It scares me. Is it possible that Self-Loathing and the girl, who seem like opposites, actually believe the same thing?

CREDIT: Photo by Diogo Nunes on Unsplash

11 comments

    • You know, the uncertainty is something I have carried for 25 years now. I don’t expect it will go away, so I’m just trying to grapple with the question: can I make the uncertainty less painful, less harmful to my mental health? I don’t even know if it’s possible, frankly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you. Although I’ve had some memories, I know there’s the aching tension of an awful lot of question-marks out there relating to certain events in my life. Even with the memories I AM certain of, I still tell myself it can’t be true! And in the end I looked into false memory and found it had been pretty much implanted by someone else, which wasn’t the case with me at all. And when you look at the aftermath abused children are left to try to live with, I do seem to qualify for a lot of them.

        But even ‘benign’ things, like moving schools to escape the bully, are things I tell myself can’t possibly have happened, even though they undoubtedly did! It just still feels unreal and I doubt my own reality. Having said that, I do think it would help to know all the details, at least then it would be like with the school bully, I might tell myself it didn’t really happen and I must be imagining it, but there a paper trail and other people corroborate what happened, so at least then it’s a 50:50 argument in my own mind.

        What does E have to say on the matter? I remembering asking T once about his own life story and he too had an awful sinking feeling there was something, but he might never know, and he seemed to be bothered but not acutely bothered, if that makes sense. I wonder if the importance of ‘knowing’ distances itself from us when we are caught up with other stuff in life, accepting there could be some truth in the saying ‘the only certainty in life is uncertainty’.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I am short of words today but wanted to say that I understand the struggle of loving someone and also disliking, and the pain of not knowing. Gentle hugs if OK.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such an insightful post. The connection you’ve made about Self-Loathing is really powerful. I’m continually in awe of the way you are able to connect with your various internal parts. It is so important and also very inspiring. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Connecting with internal parts is a very important way for me to heal, I think. There are just so many parts I have walled off (or tried to wall off) and parts I have taken for enemies. But really they aren’t. They all exist for some reason, so I am trying to learn to understand and even appreciate them. (Admittedly, it’s easier to appreciate some parts more than others!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I find a lot of value and meaning to building these connections as well. I just struggle to separate and identify these parts. Sometimes they feel so tangled together that it’s hard to connect to and learn to understand them. This is why I find your writing inspiring. Your connection and communication with your inner parts helps to spark questions and insight within my own.

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  3. One of my parts has been playing the blame game this week and last and the idea that two parts who seem to believe opposite things actually believe the same thing rings true in my own experience. I think you’ve hit on something very deep. Likely it will be something you continue to grapple with, and that uncertainty may never fully leave. I’m sorry that this is all being triggered right now. It’s a lot to work through when you are grieving. Hugs. 🤗💗

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    • I’m also sorry to read that you have a part that’s giving you a hard time. Those parts! Sometimes they think they are helping us, but it’s in an odd, backward, convoluted way. I hope she will calm down for you soon, realizing that your wisest self is able to cope and she can maybe relax some of her more bothersome strategies.

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      • I definitely think that our parts are trying to help us, even if it doesn’t make sense or feels backwards to our wise adult selves. The parts are all about surviving, right? It’s actually a really ingenious thing that our brains did for us— the parts hold all the trauma and big feelings and allowed us to go on with life, until we got to a point of being safe enough to let them speak their truth. I try to remember that when parts are acting out of control. How are you doing now?

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