Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Psychotherapy

Without a script

My eyes retrace the
Tortuous path from
There to here

No magic formula
No prewritten script
No sense of how this
Will play out

With every page
My eyes tear up
Full of anguish
And the pain of
Reality writ large

Planning notes plus
Letters of disbelief
And anger magnify
the stakes on all sides

Win-win is not guaranteed
In this upside-down world
In which eldest daughter
Persists to the bitter end
Not for money or a break-through
But for her own sanity
And adult identity

During the last several days I reviewed my 1993 planning file for a  once in a lifetime meeting with my parents. I chose the eve of my 50th birthday. At the time, I was a professor at the seminary, depressed, and unable to relate as an adult to my parents. My father was a pastor, my mother was a church musician, and we four daughters were the preachers’ kids. A high stakes family.

My depression had become unmanageable. I needed professional help. One of my pastors, a woman, recommended several psychotherapists. I was terrified when I made my first enquiry. In my family, we never sought out “worldly” help for anything that smelled like psychology. Church and the Bible were all we needed.

Still, I took deep breaths, made my first phone call, and began seeing a psychotherapist twice a week. At my intake interview I never mentioned my difficult relationship with my father. Nonetheless, the woman interviewing me suggested I consider a meeting with my father. I was horrified.

Working with my therapist, I began from scratch. Not immediately, but after my first few years of therapy. This would be my meeting, structured and led by me. It wasn’t about ensuring a successful end or pleasing my parents. I lived in Pennsylvania; my parents lived in Georgia. My job was to initiate, plan, and produce an agenda for a meeting in Georgia. No dress rehearsal or second chance.

But first I had to clarify my boundaries. This changed everything, even before I began working on a meeting in Georgia. More about boundaries in a later post.

Thanks for stopping by. Praying for clarity, wisdom and courage in these troubled days.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 October 2021
Photo found at

Working on My Nightmare

This morning I poured creative energy into rewriting a nightmare I had over a week ago. In the dream I was in charge, and found myself suddenly in a situation of growing danger. Yet I couldn’t speak directly and clearly to the danger. Not just danger to me, but to others.

This inability to speak clearly and directly in situations of danger is the most difficult damage I carried into my adult life. I don’t like the physical, spiritual and health fallout from being abused in body and spirit, but I can handle it.

Yet when it comes to my voice, whether written or spoken, I sometimes flinch when dealing with difficult issues. Or I speak out, followed too often by loss of confidence and the urge to sit down and shut up. Or stop being so emotional.

We live in a shrinking world tormented by personal, familial, national and global horror. It stares us in the face every day. Almost like a nightmarish taunt that won’t go away.

So I had this nightmare that began badly, became even worse, and finally woke me with my heart pounding, afraid for my life. It was all about threatening men, or so it seemed.

Since then, I’ve thought about a nightmare I had back in the 1990s, after I’d begun working with my psychotherapist. In it I’m running for my life from two or three men carrying loaded rifles, determined to silence me. I’m carrying a large umbrella. Hardly a match for loaded rifles.

I run into a room with an exit door at the top of concrete steps. The men are close behind me. There’s no way I can fight them off or stop them physically. I race up the stairs to exit the room and discover to my horror that the door is locked.

Of course I wake up with my heart pounding, afraid for my life.

Back then (as now), my psychotherapist encouraged me to rewrite the nightmare. Creatively, using only the material I have in the nightmare. Which includes my voice.

I’ll never forget how excited I was when I figured out what to do. I was at the top of the steps. Suddenly I turned around and pressed the button on my large umbrella. It flew open immediately, and I danced and, as I recall, sang my way back down the stairs and into the small room. The more I danced, the happier I was. I even invited my pursuers to dance with me!

The men were so flabbergasted they didn’t know what to do next, and I was suddenly in charge of my voice and the situation.

That’s the kind of ending I want for this nightmare. And I think I’ve got it! Which is for another post.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 November 2017
Image found at

Are you relaxed?


Annie Wright Schools Kindergarten — Tacoma, Washington in the 1940s

It’s 1948. I’m in kindergarten in El Monte, California. I love kindergarten. I love my kindergarten teacher. I adore rest time!

The routine is always the same. Rain or shine. At the appointed time, each of us picks out a brightly painted plank of wood – blue, green, red or yellow.

I carry my red plank to the middle of the room, find a little space between classmates, put the plank on the hardwood floor, and lie down on my back, on my make-believe bed.

I also shut my mouth and close my eyes. Until it’s perfectly silent, my kindergarten teacher won’t begin the fun part. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dean and I | Part 11

Griswold Letter to ERF

Do words in old letters ever die? Here’s Mr. Griswold’s thank-you letter about my work in the dean’s office at Harvard Law School. Click on the letter to enlarge it.

When it arrived in 1967, I showed it to David and put it away. Our first baby was almost ready to be delivered. Besides, Read the rest of this entry »

Starving for Sisterly Conversation | Part 2 of 3

The last line of the dream names my hunger:  “She seems lonely for someone to talk with about real life.”  Other parts of the dream identify behaviors I might want to leave behind, and a few unexpected personal capacities and resources.  This post focuses on my hunger, and describes how things begin falling apart. Read the rest of this entry »

Survival Rules for Good Girls | Part 2 of 2

When I read through my list of survival rules, my heart sinks. By age 7 or 8 I’ve found a way to do what Daddy wants me to do by explaining it to myself my way.  For all my supposed independent thinking and determination to be my own person with my own will and my own voice, I failed. Or did I? Read the rest of this entry »

Survival Rules for Good Girls | Part 1 of 2

By the time I’m 7 or 8 years old, I have a daunting list of survival rules.  Later they backfire in every part of my life.  In the meantime, they have the virtue of seeming to get me through.  Here they are, Read the rest of this entry »

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