While there was nothing wrong with the chair per se, I suddenly felt very intimidated and small. It was just a fold down chair, with a white paisley cushion.
“Sure,” I said, “I will give it a try”.
I caught myself looking at the door and encircling my thumb and forefinger around my wrist and rotating it furiously, my body giving my mind away. It does that a lot, I’ve come to learn which is both good and bad knowledge at my disposal.
“What do I do exactly?”
She explained the process to me although I admit I was only half listening. The gist was that I spoke to the chair, the ghost of my mother, and tell her how I was feeling. It sounded simple enough and I had said all of these things to her before, if only in my head. The second part, however, is what intrigued and unsettled me. I was to sit in the chair, and embody my mother, that impossible woman I’d loved and loathed in equal measure. I’d tried so hard, for so long, not to be like her that I was afraid to even give it a go. There was a lot of stuff bubbling under the surface all of a sudden, and I was too close to losing control of myself.
She reassured me that she would not push me far. I hated her in that moment. It was supposed to be just her and me in this space, my space to let it all out and not fear the repercussion. I had steadily developed my trust in her and had made progress. But know, she wanted to bring in my mother into the room, so strong was her presence already. I felt betrayed, even though I had asked her to push me a little. I wanted to be challenged, I’d said, I need to move forwards. Turns out, I was happier in the unhappiness I’d created in my life. It was comfortable, familiar. I had a sense of control over it.
I felt hot and teary though we had yet to begin. My stubbornness is acute, and I was going to give it some sort of a go, if only to please my long-suffering therapist, I told myself. Alarm bells, co-dependent behaviour; self-awareness can be such a tenacious bitch.
So I began talking to this empty chair, feeling as uncomfortable as it looked, and found it easier than I thought. I rambled on, tears streaming down my face and was surprised by my words and memories. Finally, after twenty odd years, the little girl I was found her voice and the courage to say how she felt.
I exhaled sharply and nodded at my therapist to signify that I was finished. Before processing it, my therapist asked me to sit in the chair, take a breath and speak to myself as that little girl.
I sat. I closed my eyes, took a breath and flicked the back of my hand towards my empty spot on the sofa. I tried to find some words but couldn’t. I exhaled but it sounded more like a grunt of disregard. It was all I could manage. I felt disappointed in myself, and told my therapist so.
“I can’t do it, I just can’t”.
“That’s ok,” she said, “I think we have plenty to work on with just that”.
She smiled at me, and gestured towards the sofa.
“Tell me, what was going on for you?”
And we were back, as normal, just the two of us in this space, my space to let it all out, no-one listening or watching and no repercussions to worry about.