“If I really let myself cry, I’ll never stop.” My college-age client looked out the window as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. I’d been seeing her for several weeks and today, we’d begun to discuss her painful childhood. It was just her and her mom. Her dad had left when she was four and she rarely saw him.
“I just wish my mother would have listened to me, for once.” She looked at me and lifted her hands. Shaking her arms, she leaned forward. “Every dinner, and I mean every one, I had to listen to her complaints about working at the paper cup factory. After a while, I gave up trying to tell her about my day. She never asked. And I had to sit there for half an hour. I couldn’t leave. She wouldn’t let me.” She fell against the chair back as tears ran down her face.
Handing her a tissue, I asked, “Was there ever a time she listened?”
“No, that’s the whole problem. I felt invisible. She could have been talking to the air. And that’s still what she does. I called her yesterday to tell her about that “A” in sociology, but before I even said anything, she started about her job.”
“Feeling invisible is so painful, isn’t it? I’m sorry you have to deal with that.”
This client is a composite of several, (not the person in the photo) but representative of so many of us who were hurt by our parents’ sins. After we identify those sins and identify the feeling, we need to follow that feeling to it’s core belief. Feelings have reasons. They don’t come out of nowhere. Yes, it is scary to let ourselves feel what we feel, if the feeling is intense. But that’s where the gold is. Let’s not waste those feelings. Let’s mine them, rather than cover them up. It is in the mining that we find the nuggets of self-knowledge that will help set us free.
Yes, we need to find a safe place to do that work. For example, this young woman eventually felt safe enough in therapy to follow the sadness to her core belief: “I’m worthless.” She felt “worth less” than her parent’s attention. Not only had her father left, but her mother’s self-centeredness left no room for her. Her mom had provided food, shelter, and education, but had not provided attention, affection, or respect. Identifying that core belief allowed her to let Jesus speak his truth to that deep, painful lie.
Father of truth, help us mine our pain to find those buried lies.