Therapy as Reparenting for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

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.

1 comment:

markh. said...

yes my counsellor is a lovely person, patient and kind, understanding, and thoughtful; i hadnt thought of it this way but, yes i suppose i do depend on her. Counselling is a much more patient friendly approach because its more gentle and can be taken at the patients pace.
I have make contact with my little one(s) and he has rewarded me with small truths at first and more recently, stronger memories. I still have my reactions to things and these are his reactions too; but i am learning to validate and affirm him that its okay, that i am here for him and i will support his corner! Hes such a terrific little guy and its a real pleasure knowing him. I doubt i could have done this had i not been attending my weekly appointment, but most of the work i have done myself; after all, its MY recovery! I just dont think i'd have been so far down the road had i not had My counsellor to talk to each week! I could not have done this all myself; i need the experience of a properly trained counsellor to help me, to encourage me, to inspire me each week! And i have that, its not all easy, i am coming to some of the harder parts now, but i know i'll get through it all!
Your memoir "the river of forgetting" has also been a big inspiration to me!

You are an inspiration not only to me but to many others i feel! Thank you Jane!