Coming to terms with loss

Over a period of 7 years my therapist helped me to become aware of my inner parts and how to attend to them with care and sensitivity. I continue to do this but it is a work in progress and sometimes certain parts of me(alters) take the lead and operate unilaterally, however, on the whole, my way of making decisions is radically different from before therapy. Back then it was more chaotic.

Right now I have a new therapist who was trained by my previous therapist who retired nearly 2 years ago. This is good as there is continuity, however there is the inevitable comparison and the process of grieving for my previous therapist. Since working with the new therapist there has been a pandemic, the death of my mother, and my youngest child leaving home. A lot of changes.

I’ve been working on the concept of individuation, i.e. the separating from my old therapist who I felt was like a father and the process between myself and my daughter.

Individuation involves coming to see the parent as an equal instead of an omnipotent being who is always there to take care of us. It’s also about learning to take care of ourselves without the parent. As I couldn’t do this work with my mother the process has taken place through the attachment to my previous therapist. This takes time and even though I had been seeing the previous therapist for 7 years I hadn’t done enough work to start that individuation process with him, consequently, my young alters were extremely frightened when he retired.

Therapy enables a part of us to develop through the relationship with the therapist, it mimics the parental relationship whereby a good parent keeps us safe, provides experiences that are age appropriate, mirrors back our feelings and helps us to make decisions so that we can learn to trust our inner self. This was happening in therapy, however, the part of me that was learning how to manage my inner parts (there are 26) wasn’t sufficiently confident to take on this task without my therapist before he retired.

I trusted my therapist implicitly, he acted in a way that no one had ever done before and consequently my young parts put him on a pedestal which on one level was needed to replace the inadequate parental introject that was in my psyche from an abusive and neglectful childhood.

The process of individuation is to take the parent off the pedestal so that we can see them as human and to learn to accept that no one is perfect so that we learn that it’s ok for us not to be superhuman. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen within the relationship with my therapist as I needed to do a lot of work to address the damage of the relationship with my biological parents. Like most clients I only saw him once a week for an hour so there were no other opportunities to interact with him in which he would have demonstrated other parts of himself that challenged my image of him as God like. It was a very young transference.

In fact, one of my young alters was very worried that my new therapist would present the retired therapist in a less than perfect way and take our idolised introject of him away. It was as if the loss of that introject would mean that powerful parts would begin to take over again and that I, without our previous therapist, would be powerless to stop this.

However a wise alter reminded my young alter that we (i.e. the system of parts within me) had an introject of the previous therapist and no one could take that away from us. No one could spoil or undermine that parental love and care he demonstrated and that we could still feel that and use the strategies he had taught us. Once my young part felt safe I could also present the notion to the young part that even if the previous therapist had been perfect in her eyes he still was an imperfect human being, for example he had to retire. He too had parts and had had to end the relationship which was like working through a symbolic death.

I’ve been studying the Bhagavad Gita over the past year and a key concept is that we are not our body, our mind or our intelligence. These aspects are material and temporary, however, what never dies is our internal spirit soul which is a tiny part of the greater Self. I feel as if I was able to experience my ex therapists spirit soul and simultaneously be faced with the temporality of his material being. Studying the Bhagavad Gita has helped me to come to terms with the end of my relationship with my therapist, my mother and the changes in my relationship with my daughter. It is also a preparation for the death of my body with the idea that my spirit soul will be and has been eternal.

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