Arian believed she was not good enough of a daughter to her father when he remarried. This is a typical experience we have as children: since we see the world in relation to our own behaviour, it is difficult to understand how adults can do things that we have no power over. Sometimes, the assumption that our parents made a particular choice because we failed them, sticks.
Arian feels triggered: The last counselling session with Mark revealed how much her fear of ‘not being good enough’ compromises her ability to build a healthy connection with Mark. Arian feels sad about how she lost her father to his new wife – or so it feels to her. She is also pragmatic enough to know that this was good for her father and cannot be changed. That she is now an adult and has no longer any claim on her father’s emotional closeness. Yet, her emotions seem to get the better of her each time she thinks about visiting her father and his wife and, much more annoyingly, they seem to impact on her relationship with Mark, too.
The past remains alive in our emotional world.
Arian has been to Counselling Therapy before about the death of her mother, and has found it enormously helpful to deal with the grief and the loss she experienced as a 12-year-old. Yet, she begins to understand that she somehow also lost her father but never acknowledged this openly to herself. It doesn’t take long for the tears to come up when she brings this to her individual counselling session.
Arian’s story of ‘not being good enough’ is about failing to keep her dad close to her emotionally.
Gently, the counsellor creates a space for Arian to express her feelings more openly than she ever has allowed herself to do before: She speaks from the frustrated and furious place of the 14-year-old who wanted her father close by, who wanted to share the horror of the loss of her mother with the only person who could fully understand what that meant to her. She wanted to have a stronghold to come to when the sadness mingled with the confusion of growing up and a safe place to hide. She also wanted to have someone who believed in her and could tell her that she would be okay, that she would grow up somehow being able to manage this world without a mum.
Instead, her father looked at her for support in his own devastating sadness. She understood that and grew up quickly. Putting here needs away in order to be there for the person who was close to her. But when her father found someone else to support him and to actually be strong for, Arian was furious. Yet, she never spoke the words to her dad that got stuck in her throat at the time.
Completing the unfinished business from the past can change our present and future.
She did now. While the events lay a long way in the past, talking about them in this supportive and empathic space brought the feelings back to the surface. With gentle guidance, Arian allowed the emotions to be put into words, addressing them directly to her father, who she imagined sitting there in front of her. It was a painful exercise. Speaking out the despair she had held in for so long, the longing for the strong adult in her teenage life, the frustration about her dad’s incapacity to ‘see her needs’; Arian said it all.
Unfulfilled needs of the child and the incapacity of the adult to fulfill them are realities that need to co-exist.
Once the emotions subsided, she was able to put the experience into context: The need she had as a child was real – as was her father’s grief and incapacity to fulfill this need. She realised both these realities needed to live side by side. Arian understood that she had never loved her dad any less. But she had not been able to express her feelings to him ever. So they remained there, in the background of her life, ready to emerge whenever the opportunity arose. Whether that was in her own relationship with Mark or in her relationship to her father and his new wife.
No longer ‘not good enough’ to keep the important person in her life, Arian re-discovers the man she is married to.
Arian felt tired and relieved when she drove home. After a day she noticed an ease in her connection to Mark, that was new to her. His approaches to her bugged her less and she was able to respond willingly, whether he invited her to sit on the couch with her or to go for a walk before cooking dinner. Somehow, Arian noticed that Mark had moved into a different light for her. Later, she was able to call it ‘being more present’.
She noticed Mark more as someone she wanted to know more about, felt attracted to and could laugh with. Yet, Mark had not changed that much. Well, he had a little bit: encouraged by Arian’s new-found openness, he told Arian to free up her Friday afternoon, organised the kids, closed his own shop and the two of them drove off to watch one of Arian’s favourite theater productions and stayed overnight in the town where the performance was presented. They laughed, bantered and joked for many moments during the trip and Arian thoroughly enjoyed herself.
If you need help with building strong and healthy connections, book a free 45-minute check-in-session with Mattie or Michelle now.