When we are abused as children, we don’t get the protection and care that we deserve from our parents. We grow up not knowing what really good parenting is. My father was a charismatic character who had many good qualities, but also self-indulgent narcissistic ones that led him to abuse me sexually. My mother loved me, no doubt at all, but she was emotionally distant, depressed, and weak.
As fragments of memories of abuse returned to me, I needed to turn to someone else for help. Fortunately I had a marvelous therapist, Sarah, but allowing her to help me was difficult. I was used to taking care of myself. Slowly, with many fits and starts, I began to depend on Sarah. I began to trust her care and know that she would not abandon me when my feelings got intense and when I had ugly, disgusting memories. She was not like my birth mother.
My trust was childlike. I needed Sarah intensely. It was an enormous leap of faith to allow myself to depend on someone, especially since I only saw her once a week. I asked Sarah about that and she said,
“It’s all right. You may feel childish for a while, and I know that’s scary. But it won’t last forever. You are a basically strong person. And it’s fine to depend on me. I won’t run away and I’m not scared of feelings.”
Sarah modeled a good mother’s care, understanding, and love at a time when I couldn’t find those things in myself. She reparented me, and I had to be willing to surrender to her care in order for the magic to work. The magic of transference. Gradually I developed an inner Big Jane who can do much of the mothering, but still Sarah is a part of my inner landscape as a beloved internal character.
This is the journey I describe in The River of Forgetting.