I went to meet C, and it was more difficult than I expected. Outing Sundays seem to be more difficult than the Sundays I come to hostel and she is not allowed to leave. Probably because that means moving towards me more. The struggle with “I want my mommy” is greater. I didn’t know how it would go, and I may have made it worse. Or better. I actually cannot tell sometimes if I am retraumatizing her, or helping her process things, and I don’t get feedback from her. It’s all guesswork.
So I went to the hostel, because I knew she wouldn’t be able to come to the gate to meet me. I’ll tell you what I remember. There are little gaps in it, when I think I kind of checked out. She was washing dishes when I came and her friend went to call her. After a while she came. She said nothing to me. She didn’t make eye contact with me. She went on with things like I wasn’t there, but of course she did know I was there. She was trying to cope with that. She started to wear National Dress, and she couldn’t get it right. She kept saying she was fat. I said a couple of times you aren’t fat. So she was picking at herself. Calling herself fat, getting frustrated with her National Dress not getting arranged right. She had that feeling: I am not good enough. Here are the reasons why. I can’t put my clothes on properly. My body is ugly. Then she kind of adulted and she said she would drop me at the school’s gate on her way to run her errands. So we went out together.
We were walking towards the gate together, and I saw she had tears in her eyes. She had that angry child look on her face. I don’t want my mom to leave me. Impulsively, I said, “Come to bazaar.” I can’t remember how she responded. Not positively.
We got to the gate and the discussion continued. She was going to wait for her friend. I said I would wait with her and sat down. So we waited. Her friend came fairly soon, and I said again to come down with me. I said, “You want to come, Chimmi. Come.” I stayed there for a while, mostly saying nothing. She talked some to her friend, I suppose about that. Maybe about something else. I got some angry child telling me to go, and some adult telling me the reasons going was impractical. After a while, I felt that frozen sense inside, that’s sort of an emotional paralysis. I realized she was feeling that. She was feeling I want to go, but I can’t, and I am stuck between these two intense impulses. It’s a really terrible feeling. I pondered that feeling for a minute, and then I kind of pushed, saying softly to come with me, to try to help her move out of it. I might have gotten more angry child after that. I got something. After a minute, she completely switched, “I’ll come next time.” Completely Detached Mode. I don’t like Detached Mode. It makes me feel like someone stole C. But I ought to be able to understand C is still in there. All the little parts are in there, and they are listening to how I respond to Detached Mode. Anyway, I think I said okay. I might have gotten Detached Mode because I pushed too hard. After another minute, I began to move to go. I said, “Come here,” meaning I’ll hug you. I always say that. She wouldn’t come at first. I said something about it in kind of a pained way, the way you talk to an upset toddler. “Oh, your toy broke. So, so sad.” Like that.
Then she let me hug her, and I had in my arms a very sad, ashamed child who turned to leave with her head completely down. It absolutely broke my heart. Because it’s a record, isn’t it? These modes are a record of what has happened to her and how she has felt during abusive experiences. And how do you do that? The child in my arms felt about 3 years old. How do you do that to a 3-year-old? I mean, in the sense that that 3-year-old ashamed child never got hugs or comfort, never got to learn how it is to feel ashamed but still okay, and so that 3-year-old ashamed child is still in there, totally not integrated with the rest of the child.
I don’t know if it helped C, that the ashamed 3-year-old could come out and get hugs and love and comfort. It might have. I don’t know. It might be I pushed too hard, and it would have been better to leave C in control of herself, momentarily teary, but adult, which is what would have happened if I had said nothing.
I did know that wanting to come with me was prompting the feeling of shame in her. Those are paired emotions. I want or I need and I feel ashamed. And I also know suggesting she come with me intensified those feelings of wanting and of wanting to be wanted in a way she might not otherwise feel.
But walking down I thought I can respond to C, because I understand the trauma. When I can cope with my own feelings, I can help her cope with hers, because I have an empathy for her experience which someone who hasn’t experienced this type of abuse would not naturally have. I think I had this idea I needed to heal to “normal”—meaning not abused. But I am this other person. I am myself, with my experiences, and I am not the only one who has had those experiences. I don’t need to discuss them all the time or shout them from the roof tops, but they are there in my head, and they allow me to imagine the experiences of other people and to be able to respond to them in a way that I think can be helpful.