Life Span Integration - Part Deux

July 16, 2008 Candace Morris 11 Comments

I had posted a while back about preparing for a counseling session wherein I would participate in Lifespan Integration. I thought I would revisit and reshare this experience, since I didn't even really talk about it to anyone.

This was the idea behind it:

I think the whole premise is to help integrate a life – to help me see my child and adult as all part of one person – to see the good and bad and to get a holistic sense of my life. Perhaps to discontinue the thought process I have of the “unhealthy” candace and the “healthy” candace existing as separate entities, but instead as one whole being.

This was the preparation:

I was given the assignment of writing out a list of the years I have lived.
1- 30 and then going through my childhood memories and assigning them to an age.

You know, like parents divorce=age 1, swallowing a staple in school=age 8, solo visit with grandma=age 9, first kiss=age 12, wanted to be a missionary=age 16, boy crazy=age 18-22, etc

This stage is a lot of work, and I put it off for quite some time before the session. I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to remember most of my life, but as I sat to do it, more and more kept coming and even after I left the assignment, more flooding memories took over.

(Turns out I didn’t have a horrible childhood – I guess I forgot)

This is how it went down:
So I took this piece of paper with only a fraction of most my life (you never know what to put down or not put down – I mean the session is only 1.5 hrs), and sat down with my counselor of over two years, and proceeded to have the most uncomfortable, stretching, agonizing 1.5 hour of my adult life.

She asked me if I had any presenting issues that day, and I mentioned a recurring problem with my body image.

She then asked me to think back to a time in my life/childhood where I felt the same issue presenting, and to describe how I felt in that situation.

She then asked me to find a safe place in my childhood where I could see my inner child and go to her as the adult I am today. Then she wondered: “Does your child have anything to say? Does your adult want to say anything to this child?” Always my answer was no.

She then asked me to ask my child if I could take her on a journey through her life. The child nodded reluctantly.

She then asked me to visualize taking my child through my life – and she read back to me the sheet of memories I had prepared beforehand. She would occasionally stop and ask if I had brought my child with me, and most of the time I was still processing the events as an adult – and I think this is because even at the ages of the memories, I was analyzing and processing as an adult – never, almost never with childhood innocence.

(I conjecture that this happens when a child is forced to grow up too fast - I don't know, just a hunch)

The most disorienting thing of this exercise is that I didn’t know this little girl at all. I would try and help her feel welcome with my adult, but she just kept cowering from the adult. I can’t blame her, it’s not like most of the memories were terribly pleasant and I can’t imagine her wanting to grow up and go through all the pain of arriving at my current age – even though this era has proved to be remarkable.

But it took a damn long and painful road to arrive here. Why would this child want to see all the pain she would need to go through?

My therapist repeated this process (find your child in a safe place, ask her to go on a journey with you, show her your life, do you have anything to say to her?) five times (FIVE FREAKING TIMES, I SAY) and I was just itching to get out of the exercise and analyze it.

I like to analyze the aftermath of fire, but I can’t say I enjoy the squirm of the b.u.r.n.

Then again, who does?

This is what I was left with:

To my counselor’s credit, I must admit that I hate being led. I am fiercely independent and often spend most of my sessions just talking and talking – and she occasionally directs or asks a pointed question – but basically, it’s my dump session.

Because, you see, as a strong introvert, I do almost all of my venting, processing, analyzing INTERNALLY and I error on the repressing side of communication, so often times my sessions are just a huge purge, and I feel so much lighter afterwards. (I think this also helps me to not put too much pressure on relationships because I have really learned to comfort myself and not expect others to help – if they arent available or in a good space to do so).

But back to my point, I have never had such a scripted session, and I can say that I rather hated it. I want to go where my subconscious and boundaries and comfort level most naturally take me, not where someone else thinks I should go. I don’t need a therapist to enlighten me to myself, I am already overly-aware and analytical, what I need instead is just someone to listen and direct me and validate.

So this scripting of my childhood, this trying to envision my adult and child interacting was just a huge mind trip…I felt confused and anxious and really unsafe. (
lest you criticize my therapist for doing this to me, recognize that she was assessing and being very sensitive for the duration of the session).

I felt jolts of hot tears well up, but I pushed them back down because I
didn’t want her to think this had been successful – that all of a sudden a huge damn was breaking loose because of this silly exercise.

And the truth is, I don’t think it’s silly. I can see it really working for some people. My therapist asked me later if I had felt any lightness due to the session, and I felt the smallest amount of relief when my inner judge finally released a bit of shame.

(Turns out we are all sexual. Maybe you
didn’t know. And apparently, humans sexuality and development is normal and expected. Who knew? (This is yet another thing I blame on the ill-taught doctrines in Christianity). )

ice cream cake
aching neck
red nail polish
the last 30 pages in Eye of the World
camping with Joel
jeremy’s painting
mailing packages
thin nerves
blonde hair
maxi dresses
dirty house
dying plants


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