One day (recently) in the middle of the night, out of the blue, this image flashed into my head. It took place in the same place as the visualizations I had been working on in therapy.
I was a little girl, about four years old, curled up in a tight ball terrified. I lay on the floor in front of a wooden door. I knew behind that door was a ferocious monster, part bear, part wolf, part lion. As this visualization invaded my mind the same emotions this young four year old me felt invaded my body. I felt as terrified as I would have felt if I was four and a monster really was on the other side of that door.
The most terrifying thing was that I KNEW there was nothing I could do to keep that monster from opening the door and attacking me. I knew I could not lock him out. I knew I could not bar the door, or board up the door, or put a hundred million locks on the door. I knew the monster had the power over the door and NOTHING I could do would stop him from coming in and attacking me.
I got no sleep that night after the visualization. The next day I walked around like a zombie through my life taking care of the standard daily needs, all the while feeling inside like a terrified four year old girl. By the next evening I had time to reflect again. And maybe I had a chance to talk about it with my husband, I do not remember. I needed a solution to help that four year old girl not feel terrified. I needed an option to not feel her terror, so very real, myself.
I came up with a solution that is fitting for a four year old girl. I remembered the door shredder from Monsters Inc. I called in Mike and Sully, I had them put the wooden door leading to the monster, in their shredder. I was just about to tell Sully to shred the door when my subconscious mind told me that my therapist would like to talk to me about the door, before I shredded it. So I told Sully and Mike that if there were any signs of the monster trying to open the door they should shred it immediately.
I cold not stop the monster from opening the door, but I could shred the door before he got out again. Once this door was guarded by Mike and Sully my four year old level of fear and panic melted away. Any time the fear and panic threatened to come back up I checked in with Mike and Sully to make sure they were still standing there ready to shred the door the instant they saw any signs the monster was trying to break it open.
They were great protectors. Sully stood dutifully with his hand on the shredding leaver. Mike stood dutifully watching the door like a hawk, for weeks. Because it took a long time for me to be able to talk about it, and a long time of me talking about it with my T before I could solve the problem.
Fear and doubt were still in this picture. They feared I would rush in and try to “solve” the door with little regard to how it would effect me. Fear drew a yellow square around me, and instructed me to stay in that square and not approach the door.
One day I found myself enraged with anger over all that monster stole from me, the years, the pain, the anguish, my life, so much of my life. Instantly I was back in my visualization, fear was to the left of me, and I thought, “watch this, I will not leave the yellow square.” Instantly a javelin appeared in my hand, and before fear could react I lunged it at the door. The javelin stabbed through the door more then a foot, and stayed there in the upper middle of the door. Satisfied I walked away from the visualization, I did not even look to see what fears reaction was, and I went back to my daily life.
A funny thing happened the next day. I realized the monster was gone. In fact there really was no monster ever at all. The monster was my dad, a human being. I knew where my dad lived, and he was not behind that door. There was no monster behind that door. There was no monster that could get me today. (My therapist later explained something about, how the part of our brain that deals with fear does not recognize the passage of time, that is why the fear can still feel so real so many years later)
Then a day or two later I realized I killed the monster in my visualization, all that was left was a door with a hallow room behind it and a javelin wedged into it.
In our next session my T was amazed at my bravery. I was all matter of fact about it. I feared and hated that monster and I wanted to take my life back from all he took.
The monster was gone. But we are still working with fear and doubt, and some new characters, shame and guilt. But I think I am getting close to working through their concerns and getting to a place where they have a more balanced place in my life, soon.
My therapist seemed to know, based on clinical evidences that I had experienced a near death experience. I was angry at first that he hinted to this, because I did not want to face any more tragedy or trauma memories. But he seemed confident that I could, and needed, to find more healing by looking at that experience.
Eventually the memory of my medical near death experience came back to me. I have only managed to write about part one. Part two was much more traumatizing to a little 4-5 year old girl. It is so traumatizing, that I can only think about the experience at an emotional distance. I can say what I felt, but I can not feel it. Which is unusual for me. Often trauma memories bring with them the flood of negative emotions just as if they happened that day. My therapist reassures me that this is because the emotions are so overwhelming my subconscious is holding them out at a distance. This makes sense to me.
My therapist has done some visualizations with me around the topics of fear and doubt, in order to help de-lever their extensive hold on my emotions. In this visualization I was in a black, blank space, and fear and doubt were funny cartoon characters that made me laugh at their ridiculousness. My therapist says these emotions present themselves in the way we are ready to deal with them. I needed to see them as silly cartoons in order to handle them. In fact he has seen fear and doubt take over my body and almost paralyze me and cause me to be almost mute. I guess I had to see them as cartoons in order to not be paralyzed and muted by them in the visualization.
I have been one of his most resistant patients to face fear and doubt. Because in my home growing up fear and doubt, and their symptoms were synonymous with being insane and invalid. My whole identity was at risk if I faced fear and doubt.