By P. Berman, A. Hosack & K. Hecht,
It’s risky. What will she think? You must do it. You can’t chance really hurting Davy.
It was very real, yet very weird but Claire was arguing with herself. This two-sided, one-person argument had been going on since early this morning. There was no one to distract her from this now because Mr. Carson hadn’t entered the building since Claire had jumped out of the car right at the street corner. This had become the norm since the first time Claire did it. Mr. Carson had gotten use to rushing in to the drug store, by the parking lot, and getting a newspaper to read, before he went in to wait for Claire’s appointment with Dr. Berman to end.
Claire was still in the waiting room, arguing with herself, when Dr. Berman opened her door and invited her back; it happened right at the moment when her “you have to tell” voice had just started up again. This must be a good omen. Claire would talk about her last nightmare. She started slowly, pausing a lot. Dr. Berman was very quiet as Claire began to talk about beating Davy. As she progressed deeper into the abuse-dream, tears began to stream down her face. Dr. Berman handed her a tissue.
Claire looked at her in surprise, “How can you help me when I am telling you how terrible I was? Just like my father!”
“Were you being just like your father?”
“Yes, everything was the same!”
“Did your father start crying when the beating was over, and he saw you covered in blood?”
Claire looked up with a puzzled look on her face, “Of course not. He would kick me and tell me I got what I deserved.”
“Did you kick Davy once you noticed the blood?”
“No, I started screaming and then I heard Mrs. Carson’s voice telling me to wake up.”
“What happened next?”
“I saw Davy was scared. As soon as I got myself under control, I played a game with him to calm him down.”
“Did you ever see your dad try to calm himself down?” Claire shook her head “no”. “Did he ever notice how terrified you were and try to help you calm down?” Claire shook her head “no”.
“What did he do?” (two- minute pause)
“He locked me down in the basement because he knew I was afraid of the dark.”
“Did your dad ever start to cry, like you are crying now, because of how terrible he felt for hurting you?”
“No. (pause) My dad was not the type to cry.” (five-minute silence, Claire stopped crying) “My dad was the type to yell, kick, scream, and beat.”
“You don’t sound like your dad at all.” Claire burst into renewed crying and Dr. Berman sat quietly with her until the crying stopped. “What are you thinking about Claire?” (1-minute pause)
“I needed to use two more things, besides staring at my fish, to calm myself down. I was so completely terrified when I woke up, a 10 on my emotion scale.”
“Did Mrs. Carson help you?”
“No. (two-minute silence, very softly) I did it myself.”
“I am impressed you could do this yourself Claire. (1-minute pause) Mrs. Carson must have been proud to see that you could calm yourself down and then be able to calm Davy down.”
“Yes, she gave me a big smile.”
“You don’t look happy as you say this.”
“I am still having nightmares. I must get over this. (pause) I am safe now.”
“You are safe living with the Carsons. Your whole childhood was filled with traumatic experiences piled up one on top of each other. Your mind and spirit have a right to need more time to heal.”
“If I was strong enough, I wouldn’t need all this time.”
“If you weren’t stronger than most people, you wouldn’t have survived this level of abuse. (5-minute pause). You are so strong that you want to be perfect at everything. A perfect foster daughter, perfect mother, probably a perfect dental hygienist.” Claire starts to laugh and then makes a goofy “Davy” face at Dr. Berman.
“You have such a great laugh. Thanks for sharing it with me. I like that smile on your face.(pause) I want to see it more often please.”
Claire is struggling with demanding too much of herself; highly critical thoughts keep demanding more of her. Learning to control how these thoughts stream through her head is another type of regulation she needs to learn. We all have these negative thoughts from time to time. But, if we have negative thoughts more often than the positive ones that encourage us, we can get trapped in a negative whirlwind. Do you ever have positive thoughts like, “You did it? Wow, who would have thought I could do this. I can succeed if I don’t give up.” If you are curious about how your thoughts can influence your behavior, consider reading the article in Psychology Today below.