After about eleven years of working with E, I had my last session scheduled for 2pm last Wednesday afternoon. I felt solid about it when I made the decision and told E. I felt solid about it thinking and journaling at home… until about two days beforehand. Then I started to feel… upset. Triggered, I guess. And it showed up in the ways it usually does: suddenly, I had no energy, no ability to focus. I spent long hours in bed, too depleted to go outside and enjoy summer in my garden. For the first time in many months, I started to feel depressed.
So there I was, lying in bed, wasting time (again), when I remembered, wait, I know what to do when I feel like this. This is when I need to check in with all the parts of myself.
There’s a million ways to do that, of course. For me, it works to place myself in the big house I’ve imagined, the one where there is a room for every conceivable part (including the ones I might not know yet). Sometimes when I don’t know what part needs attention, I imagine myself going to the living room, a big room with expansive windows out to the ocean (picture a house on the beach at Malibu–it’s imaginary, so no worries about the cost of the mortgage). I settle myself into one of the comfortable sofas and invite my parts to come join me. “Does anyone need anything? What’s up? Who wants to come talk?”
This time, however, when I entered the big living room, it didn’t look like it usually does–spacious, tidy, comfortable, simple, with a focus on the ocean view. Instead, it was a mess. There were toys and dirty socks, crayons and an overturned tricycle on the floor, food packaging, crumbs and sweaty sneakers on the table.
I have children, so I have seen my real house look like that before. But my internal house? Never.
“Somebody is really upset,” I said. “Probably more than one somebody. Who needs some attention here?”
After a while, I’d rounded up a young teen and a nine-year-old and some very young toddler part. It didn’t take long to figure out that they were frightened at the thought of losing E. Who would care about their feelings? Who would want to hear what they had to say? Would they be alone again, as they used to be?
I used to really resist the idea that I had to comfort and soothe my parts myself. After all, I’m not the one who hurt them or abandoned them! Why should I have to do it? But over time, I’ve come to feel differently about it. Now I see that I am lucky to be the one to care for them, because I know better than anyone what soothes and consoles them.
E has been wonderful to me, patient and generous with her time. But sometimes she said the wrong thing. Sometimes she thought that pushing was needed, when really the parts needed a rest. Sometimes she emphasized my inherent strength when I felt weak, and that accentuated the sense of not being seen. I don’t have to make those errors, because I am so much closer to the needs of the parts.
On this day, they needed reassurance and comfort. They wanted to know that someone saw them and cared. So with a little magical wave of the hand, I cleaned up the mess (I really like imaginary cleaning, so efficient), and I opened up the windows out to the ocean. There was a bit of a breeze, and the sun had just set. We moved the big sofa closer to the windows and cuddled up together, the four of us, with the littlest one on my lap. I told them that I saw how afraid and upset they were. I saw their fear of being forgotten. I reminded them that I loved them and was committed to them. I’d keep visiting them and listening to them, even without therapy. I wouldn’t ignore or override them. I used to do that in the past, but that was because I used to believe I had to do that to survive. Now I knew them, knew how to be with them, knew how to connect with my inner wisdom to support them. I had learned these things from E, and I intended to use them… forever.
After a while, we grew silent and just watched as the stars came out. The littlest one fell asleep, her head on my shoulder. Then one by one, the others fell asleep, and finally I did, too.
It still amazes me to (re)discover how calming it is to simply pay attention my own inner world.