Thursday, February 15, 2018


“I had this unbelievably horrible day yesterday,” 76 year old Joan Green begins. With dyed red hair and raised eyebrows penciled to match, she challenges everyone around her and looks perpetually amazed by their response. She is my patient only because a psychologist colleague of mine begged that I see her. She had moved to Boca Raton, Florida a year ago after her daughter who lives in Phoenix could no longer tolerate her and feared her mother would destroy her marriage. Her son, my colleague, was not faring much better and told his mother that he would no longer have anything to do with her unless she went into therapy.
She continues. “I spent my whole afternoon in the pain doctor’s office and didn’t even get everything done. The pain is terrible. Everything hurts me – my back, my hips, my neck, even my feet. I can’t take it anymore.”
“Did anything go well yesterday?” I ask, perpetually trying to find something positive in Mrs. Green’s constant tales of woe. I doubt I’m the best therapist for this patient. Constant complaining is not my forte, especially when someone is so resistant to looking at her part in the interaction.
“I liked the doctor.”
My eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Well that’s important. And positive.”
“Well, he was nice, but I don’t see why he couldn’t give me an injection yesterday and not make me come back.”
“Did he tell you why?”
“He needed me to get an MRI first. And he couldn’t do it in his office – I guess he doesn’t have the equipment. That wasn’t good either. And he said I had to call for an appointment. I don’t know why they couldn’t call for me. I don’t carry my phone with me. It’s way too heavy. I didn’t want to have to go all the way home and then go out for an MRI another day. I’m in pain! Obviously or I wouldn’t be in his office. I told them – I was in the waiting room by then, arguing with the office staff - I’d be willing to sit wherever and wait until they could take me.”
“Mrs. Green, does it seem to you that you have lots of expectations of other people, expectations that might be impossible to fulfill?”
“What! What expectations?”
“Well, what are your thoughts about that?”
“Why should I have any thoughts about that? You’re the one who brought it up. You should be the one telling me.”
Annoyed at this constantly demanding patient, I try to step back. “I wonder if you feel so un-given to, so lacking in nurturing that you have a profound need to be taken care of, whether that’s me answering your question rather than your thinking about it yourself or wanting a doctor to have every possible piece of machinery  available in his office, or needing others to make phone calls for you.”
“That’s just stupid psychobabble. Probably because you can’t answer your own dumb question.”
Feeling angry, I’m silent, trying to figure out what I want to say next.”
“What? Cat got your tongue?
“I wonder what you get out of being so difficult and demanding. I know that it can’t possibly get you what you want. Your daughter didn’t want you in the same city as her. Your son won’t deal with you unless you’re in therapy. But therapy is about looking at yourself. And if you’re not willing to look at yourself instead of blaming everyone else for their insufficiencies, we’re not going to get very far.”
“And that would be my fault?! How about your looking at you?”
“I’m happy to look at how I may be contributing to the difficulty we’re having, but that means you’ll need to look at how you might be contributing to the difficulty too.”
“Okay. So tell me. Both sides.”
“I’m going to answer that question, Mrs. Green, but I want to point out that you’ve again issued a demand and as a result of that demand I don’t really want to answer the question. I am going to answer the question, but I suspect that most people who aren’t therapists wouldn’t. They’d see you as an entitled, demanding, angry, embittered woman. And, from my perspective, that’s all true. But I do think there’s a reason you’re that way and I’m willing to work on us trying to figure out what that reason is which might help you to make some changes.”
“And what’s your part?”
“I think it may be particularly difficult for me to have people make demands on me without my wanting to resist their demands and that might make our work together more difficult.”
“So should I find someone else?”
“That’s certainly your choice. I’d be happy to give you some referrals if that’s what you decide.”
“You’re probably all alike. I’ll stick with you for a while and see what happens.”

“Okay. Fair enough.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New Year – Part II

As I open the door, I am surprised to see a smiling Heather waiting for me. Quite a change from just three days ago, I think.
Once comfortably seated in the chair across from me, she says, “Not the person you expected to see today, right? Rob and I got back together.”
“How did that happen?” I ask, while silently thinking, oh no.
“He called. Said he made a mistake and wanted us to be together. Turned out that Brad was actually living with another man and Rob decided he couldn’t deal with the free-wheeling gay lifestyle.”   
I struggle with whether to remain silent or share my concern. While deliberating, Heather says, “You don’t approve.”
“It’s not a question of approval, Heather. I just wonder why you were so quick to take him back. He told you he wasn’t in love with you and you certainly know that you can’t choose who you’re attracted to.”
“We had great sex after the breakup. I remembered what you and I talked about and tried to be more aggressive. It was terrific. We didn’t tie each other up, but I tried to do more to him, like … umm …. doing oral sex and … I’m not sure I can say this …”
“Like putting my finger up his ass. I thought I’d be grossed out, but it was okay.”
“So you’re saying that you tried to be what you consider more masculine.”
“I guess.”
“It’s like what you said last time, you thought if you could be more of a man you’d be good enough.”
“Why are you trying to take this away from me?” Heather asks plaintively. “I was so miserable; I felt so shitty. And you can see how much better I feel.”
“I know that breakups are horribly painful, but it seems to me that you’ve put yourself in the position to be hurt all over again. If Rob is gay, he’s going to find another man he’s attracted to and …”
“No, he told me he wouldn’t.”
“Okay,” I say, asking myself why I am pushing Heather so hard. Why am I trying to protect her, rather than looking at the underlying dynamics that have led Heather to return to this relationship? Am I re-enacting something in her family dynamics? Something in my own?  
Backing off I say, “What do you feel would be helpful for you today?”
“Oh!” she says, obviously surprised. “I don’t know.” Pause. “You just stopped. You didn’t keep badgering me. My mother never did that. She didn’t talk to me much, but when she did she was always trying to convince me to do what she thought I should, even if it made no sense.”
“So what do you want to do?”
“I want to stay with Rob, see what happens, and try to be more assertive.”
I think of all the rejoinders to her comment, but decide that confronting her directly will only feel like her old arguments with her mother. “And what would you like me to do?” I ask.
“Hmm. I’d like you to help me be more assertive.”
“So perhaps you’re being assertive right now, by telling me what you want me to do.”
“I guess, but it’s easy with women. Like I pretty much did what I wanted regardless of what my mother said. But with my father, there was no way. I toed his line.”
“So we’re talking about the power your father had and how being male was prized in your family.”
“Oh yeah.”
“And last week you talked about not feeling good enough to keep a man because you weren’t male enough.”    
“Yeah, weird as that is.” Pause. “So I guess I’m saying that I’m going to try to be more male.” Pause. “I guess that’s okay.” Pause. “What do you think?”
“It depends how much you’re twisting yourself into someone you’re not, vs. how it flows naturally.”
“It doesn’t flow naturally.”
“So are you saying there’s no hope?”
“Depends what you’re hoping for. If you feel you to need to be a man, there’s certainly no hope for that. If you’re talking about keeping Rob, I’m dubious – although I could be wrong – because I think it’s about him, not you. But there’s certainly hope that you can give up feeling your womanness is inadequate and feel that you’re more than enough for a man.”
“Right now I just want to make it work with Rob.”

“I hear you. And I’ll be with you in any way I can.”

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The New Year

Heather blows her nose and rubs her very red eyes. “I feel as though all I’ve been doing since the New Year is crying,” she says. “I was sure Rob was it. I even thought he might propose on New Year’s Eve. Instead I just sat there waiting for him. Eventually I got panicked and started calling hospitals. He was always punctual. I don’t know why he couldn’t just call and tell me!”
“There you sound angry,” I say.
“I guess. But I can’t hold on to the anger. Mostly I just feel sad. And I think really stupid things like ‘it’s such a waste’ or ‘he was pretty good in bed.’ I know that’s ridiculous, he is who he is and that’s that.” Pause. “Except that I love him,” she exclaims, crying. “And I thought he loved me. When he finally got the nerve to call on New Year’s Day, he gave me that old line, he loves me but isn’t in love with me. Thought he could make it work until he met Brad and they just clicked. I had the sense they practically fell into bed two minutes after they met. And there I had one of those awful thoughts again. I was going to say, isn’t that what gay men do? I don’t want to be thinking that. That’s not who I am. I’m the most tolerant, liberal person around.”
“Perhaps that’s your anger speaking.”
“Maybe.” Pause. “This isn’t the first time,” she says softly.
“Isn’t the first time …?”
“I was involved with another man who realized he was gay. We weren’t quite as serious as Rob and I, but we’d been going together for a while.” Pause. “I’m not sure why I never told you. It was a pretty big deal to me, especially at the time. And now it’s happened again.”
“What are your thoughts about not telling me about the first man?”
“I’ve thought about it. I think I was ashamed. Ashamed that I wasn’t enough of a woman to hold onto a man. Or maybe ashamed of being a woman, that being a woman in and of itself isn’t enough.” Pause. “I think my mother thought that. I wasn’t enough and she wasn’t enough.”
“Enough for what?”
She shrugs. “Enough to be successful in the world, enough to be smart and educated and intellectual like my father. Enough to hold my father’s interest. He was never interested in her. He’d rather sit around with his fellow professors and have philosophical discussions. You know, I’ve told you, as a family we kind of weren’t. We all went our own way. My father paid attention to me when he wanted to impart some tidbit of knowledge, otherwise I was just kind of there. As for my Mom, we never talked, not even when we went on vacation. Just the two of us. My father never came.”
Heather continues. “You know. I wonder if there’s a connection between my not feeling like enough and choosing – unconsciously choosing – gay men. Almost like – this is ridiculous too – they’re less of a man and I’m less of a woman, so maybe I’d be able to hold onto them.”
“What was it like for you sexually, Heather? Did you feel like less of a woman in bed? Did you feel they were lesser men?”
“They weren’t lesser men. Rob was a very attentive lover, always wanting to please me. In fact, he embarrassed me. He wanted me to tell him what it felt like, what I felt when he’d do one thing or another. I didn’t like all that focus on my body. It embarrassed me, made me self-conscious. He’d always satisfy me, always. That made me uncomfortable too because he didn’t always … umm … ejaculate.”
“And the other man?”
“Now I’m really embarrassed.” Pause. “That was different. That was a lot rougher. Sometimes he’d tie my hands and like take me really hard and fast. It was a turn-on. For both of us. When he told me he was gay I asked him about our sex, about how exciting it seemed for both of us. He said it made him realize how much he wanted done to him what he did to me. That made me feel less than. I couldn’t do what he wanted, not only because I didn’t have a penis, but because I just couldn’t. I couldn’t be that aggressive.”
Heather pauses and then continues. “So what am I saying, that I’m not enough of a woman because I’m not a man? Wow! That’s wild. That’s messed up.”
“You’ve described your father as the source of power in the family, the person both you and your mother hoped to ‘interest,’ so it’s not surprising that only maleness feels like enough. How that relates to your choosing gay men isn’t clear – at least to me – and something we’ll have to continue talking about.”
“Definitely. I’m not interested in repeating this for a third time.”  

Thursday, December 14, 2017


“I’m trying to decide whether I should join the hashtag MeToo movement and tell my story. All these courageous women are coming forward. Why shouldn’t I? I mean, I don’t have the same story. There was no famous actor or congressman, but still, I have a story.”
You most definitely have I story, I think to myself, remembering when Amber first started working with me many years ago, an almost mute thirty-five year old who held herself rigidly together, staring blankly into space. It took her over a year to tell me her story of sexual abuse by both her father and brother.
“And, after all, my brother is a pretty hot-shot business executive,” she continues.
“Is it that you’re concerned your story isn’t …” I hesitate. “…news worthy enough?” I ask, puzzled.
She pauses. “Maybe.” She pauses again. “You think that’s kind of crazy, don’t you?”
“I don’t know about crazy, Amber, but it confuses me. It’s definitely up to you whether or not you tell your story. I’d just want us to consider the consequences of your telling or not telling.  But what’s your fantasy here, that you expose your abusers and no one really cares? Is your wish that it be front page news?”
“I hadn’t thought of that but it’s a good question.” She sits in silence. “I’ve never told anyone except for that feeble attempt to tell my mother who obviously didn’t want to hear it so I immediately backed off. And you, of course. But even that took me a long time. I have considered confronting my brother.  Not my father,” she continues. “That would be way too scary. But I haven’t even said anything to my brother. What am I scared of? Having them deny it? I guess. Not having anything to do with me? That would be no great loss. But now I’m thinking of telling the world that my father and brother took turns raping me while the other one watched. It’s disgusting. I can’t even say it without feeling nauseous. How could I imagine telling the world?”
Although I have some thoughts about what might be underlying Amber’s conflict, I stay silent, waiting to see what she’ll come up with herself.  
“I would love to expose them to the world. I want the world to know how these seemingly normal upper-middle class men – boy in my brother’s case – can be brutal rapists. I was only 11 for God’s sake. And it went on and on until I finally got up the nerve to say ‘no’. And what would people say? That I could have said ‘no’ sooner? That I could have told my mother? Or somebody. I’ve certainly told myself those things often enough.”
“You say that it feels scary to confront your father, but it sounds like you find it less scary to imagine exposing him to the world.”
“I suppose I do. It feels more anonymous, like he can’t get to me. Standing in the same room with him and confronting him, I don’t know what he’d do. Scream his head off at me, for sure. Smack me across the face? Very likely. Kill me? I don’t know. Maybe.”
Feeling my anxiety rise, I say, “Amber, I don’t know whether your fear that your father might kill you is your fear as a child or your adult fear, but if the adult you is truly afraid that your father might kill you, I can’t imagine that your exposing him publically would decrease that risk.”
Amber’s eyes widen. “Now you’re scaring me.”
“I’m sorry, but when I said I thought we should consider the consequences of your speaking out, I wasn’t thinking about your placing yourself in physical harm.”
“But how do I know whether my fear is coming from my child self or my adult self?”
“I don’t know. We definitely need to talk about it more. And I should ask you if you’ve ever known your father to physically taken revenge on anyone.”
“I know I told you that he beat up my first boyfriend. I guess he didn’t want the competition. And that he sometimes beat up gay guys in bars. I know he has guns, but I’ve never known him to use them. Used to say it was for our protection. That’s a joke.”   
“Let’s step back a minute. Let’s for a moment ignore the possibility of your father retaliating and look at what you’d feel about publically telling your story.”
“Scared.” Pause. “Victorious. Like I finally got them back.” Pause. “But then I wonder what everyone else would think of me. Especially my fiancĂ©. I haven’t even had the nerve to tell him. I’m afraid he’ll think I’m garbage. Or that he’d treat my brother and father differently.” Pause. “When I hear myself say that I think I must be crazy. Why wouldn’t he treat them differently? And why do I care? You know, I think maybe I should work on telling the important people in my life before I decide if I’m going to come out publically.”

I smile. “Sounds like an excellent idea.”

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Beth smiles wanly at me as I open the waiting room door. I anticipate a long, dreary session.
“I’m still miserable,” she says, sitting down, immediately confirming my worst fears. I do understand that Beth has good reason to be miserable. Her husband divorced her after 20 years of marriage, leaving her with two teenagers, three dogs and a six bedroom house. It’s a lot to deal with. And we’ve been dealing with her misery for almost two years.
“Of course I had another problem this week. The kitchen sink started leaking. I freaked out. I went running around to my neighbors to ask if they knew a plumber. Luckily one of them did.”
Knowing I am about to make a futile statement, I say, “So that’s something that worked out well.”
“Not really. It took me days to reach the plumber and then more days before he could come. And in the meantime the kids and I had to eat out which certainly doesn’t help my budget.” She sighs. “It’s all so complicated. I don’t know why life has to be so difficult.”
I wonder how many times I have said things such as, ‘life can be difficult and you’ve certainly had a difficult time, but life can bring lots of joy as well.’  I remain silent.
“Well …?” she says.
My stomach tightens. I feel as though she is commanding me to respond.
“What is it that you want from me right now?” I ask. I hear my choice of words, the tone of my voice and realize that Beth is making me feel as she feels – burdened, put upon, ineffectual, despairing. Ineffectual. That’s an interesting word to flit through my mind. Perhaps that’s what Beth feels. Now alone, she feels unable to competently contend with life.
“I need you to reassure me, to tell me that it will all work out okay.”
“Would you believe me?”
Beth opens her mouth to speak and then stops. After a pause she says, “Well if you said it, it might reassure me.”   
This time I don’t hear Beth’s words as a command to speak, but rather a wish that I take care of her. “I understand that you want reassurance, but you often hear that reassurance as empty words.”
“But I don’t know what to do. I have all these responsibilities. The kids. They’re certainly becoming more than a handful. How am I supposed to handle two teenagers by myself?” She takes a breath. “And what if I get sick? That’s all I’d need. How could I take care of all the things I need to take care of if I got sick? Who would take care of me?”
“I definitely hear how overwhelmed you feel, Beth. Like there are all these things that happen on a day to day basis and then there are all the things that might happen. How are you going to cope?”
“But I wonder, Beth, if it would be more helpful to you if you were able to see your own strength, if you were able to realize that you’re far more capable than you think you are.”
“But I’m not!”
“Do you really feel as though you’re not a competent, capable adult or are you afraid to let yourself know you’re a competent, capable adult?”
“They always said I wasn’t.”
“Who’s they?”
“My parents, my sisters, my husband. Even my children. They say I’m a wreck, that I can’t do anything right, that I’m always running around in circles. And I am. I’ve been doing that my whole life.”
“So what would it feel like to be competent?”
“How do I know? I’ve never felt it.”
“Would you like to?”
“Of course!”
“Beth, can you think about that a bit more? I wonder two things: If feeling competent feels so foreign to you that it would be like you’re becoming another person and that in itself would feel pretty scary. And two, you’re not sure you want to be all grown up before you find someone who’ll take care of you.”
“My husband said he’d take care of me. But he never did. He just nagged at me for what I didn’t do right. Even my parents. I was the fifth girl. They’d had enough by that time. I was kind of an add-on.”

“I understand, Beth, that it’s very difficult to give up on wanting the love and caretaking you never had, but there’s no way to get that kind of caretaking as an adult. It doesn’t mean you can’t be loved and cherished, but you can’t go back to being the child and, in the end, it does feel much better to have confidence in your ability to take care of your adult self.”  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Anger: Expressed and Repressed (Part II)

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Jacquelyn begins. “I’ve been thinking I should take a break from therapy for a while.”
Internally, I scream, ‘What!? I thought you said you were going to think about your anger?’ To Jacquelyn I say, “And why is that?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for over a year, seems like it’s time for a vacation.”
“Does your desire for a vacation seem connected to last week’s session when you realized you were angry at your mother for not protecting you as a child?” I ask.
“I didn’t say that.”
“Not exactly, but you did want the woman in the TV show who reminded you of your mother to be killed by the serial killer.”
“I didn’t say that either.”
Disappointed that Jacquelyn has moved so far away from her more open, insightful stance of last week, I ask, “What’s your sense of what’s going on between us right now?”
“Nothing special.”
Feeling increasingly exasperated, I ask, “Can you say what you think is going on between us even if it’s not anything special.”
“You’re mad at me. You’re mad at me because I want to stop therapy.”
“I am annoyed with you, Jacquelyn, because I felt so hopeful last week, hopeful that we’d made a breakthrough, that you experienced your anger at your mother and that although you were scared of the repercussions, you went away wanting to think about it.”
“It was too scary.”
“I do understand that, Jacquelyn,” I say, thinking that perhaps she’s put one toe back in the water.
“But why were you angry at me if you understood?”
Hmm, I think to myself, I wonder if Jacquelyn wanted me to feel angry so that I could feel what she feels – angry but thwarted in its expression. I decide to keep that thought to myself. “I can understand and still be angry. Anger is a feeling. We can’t control what we feel, although we can control what we say or what we do.”
“So you don’t feel scared when you feel angry?”
“No, I don’t feel scared when I feel angry. Except some times.”
“Like when?”
Although repeatedly answering a patient’s questions is unusual for me, I feel that in Jacquelyn’s case it is a helpful form of modeling, perhaps making her own anger less frightening. “Well, I guess like in that TV show you talked about last week, I’d probably be scared if I got angry at the serial killer because I’d be afraid if my anger showed he might immediately kill me.”
“That’s it!” Jacquelyn says staring at me, her eyes wide open. A second later she’s sobbing, pulling at her hair.
“It’s ok, Jacquelyn,” I say quietly. “There’s no serial killer here and your father is long dead.”
She continues crying, but seems calmer. Through her tears she haltingly says, “I never even knew I was afraid he’d kill me. Like he could read my mind. Like he’d know I hated him. I was always so scared, so scared, so scared,” she says cradling her body in her arms and rocking in the chair.
“I’m so sorry, Jacquelyn. I’m so sorry that you had to go through all that. You were only a powerless, dependent little girl. You were so scared.”
I can see Jacquelyn bristle. She stops crying and lifts her head. I went too far.
“I’m sorry, Jacquelyn,” I say, “I know it’s very hard for you to be aware of how powerless you were as a child. It makes you feel all the more frightened.  It’s more than you can bear.  
“Maybe it is time to take a break from therapy.”
I look at Jacquelyn tenderly. “No, it isn’t,” I say. “I know I went too far. You were back there being that little girl and I so terrified you that you had to come back to your adult self, had to go back into a defensive mode. Will you forgive me?”

She is again crying. “I don’t think in my entire life anyone asked me to forgive them. I used to dream about that. I used to dream that one day both my mother and father would take me aside and apologize for all the bad things they’d done to me. But of course that was ridiculous. Except it’s kind of like you made my dream come true, even though you didn’t do anything nearly as bad as they did.” Pause. “Yes, I’ll forgive you,” she says crossing both her hands on her lap and staring directly at me.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Anger: Repressed and Expressed

Thirty year old Jacquelyn looks unusually pensive as she settles herself into the chair across from me.
“A weird thing happened this week. Kind of disturbing ,” she begins. “You know how I tell you that I always watch those gruesome  shows like Criminal Minds or CSI, but that I have to cover my eyes during the particularly gory scenes?” she says grimacing.
I nod.
“Well, one of those gory scenes came on, and instead of covering my eyes I felt sort of compelled to watch it. And I – this is kind of embarrassing. I, umm, I actually felt kind of excited and found myself rooting for the serial killer. I wanted to watch him kill that, that, umm, that woman.”
“What did you first think of, Jacquelyn, before you said ‘woman?’”
Jacquelyn lowers her head. “First I thought to say ‘bitch,’ then ‘sniveling baby,’ or ‘coward’ or ‘idiot.’ But they sounded too negative, so I settled on woman.” Pause. “You know, you’re always telling me that I have lots of anger, but that I keep it buried inside me.” Pause. “I didn’t feel angry, not even when I was wanting him to kill her.” Pause. “That doesn’t make sense when I say it out loud.”
Jacquelyn’s last comment is encouraging. Although I’m sure she’s at least of average intelligence, she tends to be quite concrete, has difficulty with self-reflection, and is often unable to take in what seems to me the most obvious of connections.
“Was it that you wanted this particular man to kill the woman or did you want this particular woman dead?” I ask.
“Do you think I’m terrible for thinking about this?”
“Not at all. You weren’t killing anyone, you were watching a TV show.”
“I guess,” she replies dubiously.
“You want me to answer your question.”
“I wanted this woman dead.”
“And can you say more about that? Why did you want her dead? Who did she remind you of?”  
“I don’t know.”
“Well, how about thinking about it now.”
Silence. Jacquelyn squirms in her chair.
“Can’t she just be a woman?”
“If you think about a woman, what woman comes to mind?”
“She wasn’t like my mother.”
“Does that mean your mother was the first woman you thought of?”
She nods, looking down.
“And what’s the similarity between your mother and this woman in the TV show?”
Still not looking at me she says, “They were both housewives.” Pause. “They had children.” Pause. “Umm. Umm. They couldn’t stand up to their husbands.”
Thinking to myself, ‘now we’re getting somewhere,’ I ask, “How did the woman in the TV show not stand up to her husband?”
She looks up. I suspected that it would be easier for her to talk about the TV character than her mother.
“There’s this scene at the breakfast table where her husband is screaming his head off at both her and the kids. You know he’d be cursing in real life but of course they can’t show that on TV. He goes off on the little girl when she spills a glass of milk, calling her an idiot and worthless. The little girl starts to cry and the woman tells her husband to calm down and that does it, now he’s really off the wall, screaming at the woman and even looking as if he might hit her. She cowers and turns back to washing the dishes while the father starts screaming at the girl to stop crying and when she doesn’t he slaps her across the face. The woman doesn’t do anything.”
“Does that sound familiar, Jacquelyn?”
Tears roll down her face. “I didn’t want to kill my mother. Oh my God, I hope not. I hope I didn’t wish her gone, because then I would have been left with him.” Pause. “We were both such cowards,” she says now sobbing.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
“Both of us. Neither of us could stand up to him.”
“Jacquelyn, you were a little girl. How were you going to stand up to him?”
She shakes her head and continues sobbing. “Cowards. We were cowards. We should have done something.”
“You’re angry at both yourself and your mother for not being able to fight back.”
“We were cowards.”
“You can’t accept your own vulnerability, Jacquelyn.”
“No! I can’t!”
“So you wanted to kill the woman in the TV show because of her ‘weakness,’ because of her vulnerability.
“I didn’t want to kill her, I wanted her dead.”
I think Jacquelyn has had enough for today and decide to back off.
“You’ve done a lot of good work today,” I say. “I wonder how you’re feeling.”
“Scared of?”
“I’m not sure. Being slapped across the face like the girl in the TV show. That’s silly. I feel bad, like I did something wrong and I’m going to be punished.”
“I understand, Jacquelyn. You’ve gotten closer to your anger than you’ve ever been and I think that’s frightening you.”
“You think so?”
“Yes, I do.”

“Okay. I’ll try to think about that.”