First of all, my initial visit with my new therapist on that April day in 2010 gave me hope because she gave me a tentative diagnosis of Complex PTSD and told me that I had a choice of treatment modalities.  She presented me with my choices, and I chose Ego State Therapy with the idea of preparing for EMDR.  Ego State Therapy appealed to me because I’d known all my life that I had a lot of parts of me inside my head, and from the time I was a child, my parts had conversed with one another.  I remembered how as a little girl I had taught myself to solve problems by setting my parts up to talk together in order to find a solution to what bothered me.  Ego State Therapy sounded like what I had been doing since I was a child, so I felt comfortable in choosing it over the other modalities she described.  My therapist let me know that preparing for EMDR work might take me a while but that the preparation was essential if EMDR were to be helpful.  For the first time, then, I had a definitive diagnosis and knew what I needed to do to help myself heal.  I had a direction and was eager to begin the work.    

From the reading I have done on Ego State Therapy, I have learned that traditionally, ego state work is done in a therapist’s office with the therapist available to help the client identify ego states and facilitate a useful and beneficial interaction between client and ego states.  In fact, several articles have described the therapist as facilitating a family therapy session with the family members being the client’s ego states rather than being individual human members of the client’s family.  Most of the time, from what I have read and from what my therapist has told me, the client is asked to imagine herself sitting a large conference table and inviting her ego states to come to the table and introduce themselves so that she and they could meet one another and begin what might become a beneficial interaction and relationship.  

I didn’t understand at the time my therapist introduced the modality to me and told me about the conference table why I objected so strongly to the traditional setting, why I couldn’t have simply done my Ego State Therapy the way I was “supposed” to have done it.  The day in April when my therapist mentioned the conference table concept, I told her there was no way meetings around a conference table would work for me.  I would have no part of that!  Boring, boring, boring!  Nope!  I was not doing that!  She appeared shocked or puzzled as I left her office that day after my outburst, and I was shocked at myself.  Normally, I didn’t do outbursts.  Normally, I did as I was told.  Later, though, I realized that I associated conference tables with the meetings I had been forced to attend when I taught in the community college.  They were boring and often a waste of my time.  I resented being forced to attend them when I could have been grading papers or planning lessons.  Yes,  I knew that I had hated going to meetings, but I had not realized how intensely I hated meetings until my outburst in my therapist’s office.  Aha! 

By the time I caught my bus to go home that day, I had thought about my situation and realized that if I were not willing to sit at a conference table and interact with my ego states, then it was up to me to find another way to accomplish the same thing.  How did I want to do this?  I understood the basic principle–I needed to design a way that suited me to accomplish the same thing I was asked to accomplish around a conference table.  Coming up with my own substitute for the conference table would be risky, I knew.  Maybe my therapist would insist I follow the usual procedure, insist to the point of refusing to work with me if I didn’t cooperate.  There was that possibility.  Oh, well, if that happened, I supposed I’d have to find another therapist.  But I was 70 years old, old enough, surely, to be allowed to do this in my own way.  Thus, I began to construct my own setting for my therapy. 

First off, at home I decided I needed to think of a setting for my therapy.  Where would I like to have my ego states gather?  Since a lot of good memories centered around the location where I had done archaeology work back in the late 1950s, I chose Jasper Canyon as my locale.  Because I loved to watch dressage events, I decided to place an indoor dressage arena into this canyon.  The super-deluxe indoor arena would have apartments for all my ego states, and when they needed to meet, they could meet in the show area.  The space was flexible and would allow for small group meetings, large group meetings, and for meetings of all the parts together.  This decided, I was ready to greet my ego states.  

Who would arrive first?  I waited a few days, but nobody arrived.  What to do?  And then I remembered my brief course of art therapy in 2002 and how that therapy had allowed me access to memories and information that seemed inaccessible through deliberate thought.  So I got out my trusty oil pastels and my huge pad of newsprint, let myself go into a light trance state, and began to draw.  I’m no artist, for sure!, but by drawing, I allowed myself to meet my first group of ego states.  

Cowboy arrived first.  Here is a picture of her: 



Cowboy is the part of me that flies into action when action is called for.  She gets her energy from all the anger I have kept inside myself throughout my life.  Cowboy is not a delicate, sensitive creature, but she gets the job done–whatever that job might be.  Cowboy and I have been old friends from my childhood, and we respect one another.  She is direct in her speech and manner, and she is not terribly respectful of the unwritten rules governing social interactions.  In other words, Cowboy probably rubs a lot of people the wrong way.  But she is honest and hardworking, and she fights for the underdog.  Luckily, some of my other ego states/parts know how to work with Cowboy so that she does not completely run roughshod over the rules governing social interactions!  Cowboy has been part of me since I was a child.  I believe she was born when I first knew that my parents would punish me if I showed anger or if I contradicted them.  I endured quite a few hard spankings when I was a little girl before Cowboy took over the reins and protected me from the effects of my parents’  physical abuse.  

Along with Cowboy came her counterpart and companion, Internal Therapist.  Where Cowboy initially acted without considering the effects of her actions upon others, Internal Therapist’s job was to help Cowboy become aware of possible consequences and the effects of her behavior on others and to use that information to temper her behavior.  This, at any rate, was their relationship in the beginning, when I first met these ego states.  Later, Cowboy and Internal Therapist appeared to integrate to a certain point, and Cowboy actually took over Internal Therapist’s role herself, retaining the qualities of blunt speech and the ability to fly into action when needed.  Today I am no longer aware of Internal Therapist as being separate from Cowboy, and I cherish Cowboy’s presence in my psyche.  I know that when I am in a difficult situation, I can put on my chaps, my boots, and my spurs, and Cowboy and I can tame the wildest bucking bronco.  That’s my Cowboy!  

Shortly after meeting my first ego states, I became aware of shadowy, menacing figures slithering and creeping along the perimeters of the arena’s huge main show ring.  I recognized these figures as being a threat to my well being, and I wanted to simply annihilate them, get rid of them.  When I told this to my therapist, she gave me the one and only rule I was to follow:  Do NOT kill or get rid of the shadow figures because they may have played a protector role at some time.  Instead, preserve them and see what happens.  See how they evolve.  Over the months, I had grown to respect my therapist and to believe that she had my best interests in mind, so I agreed to follow this rule–not, however, without objecting to it, of course.  I kept my word to her, and as time passed and more ego states found their ways to the arena, these shadowy figures slowly changed.  Eventually, they became staunch protectors of my spirit.  When I look back and think of what might have happened if I had tried to kill them off simply because I was afraid of them, I shudder.  During my journey through Ego State Therapy, I kept the one rule my therapist gave me in mind.  Doing this led me to accept and be willing to acknowledge the value of each and every ego state who arrived at the arena.  By accepting and valuing each of my ego states, I have grown in my ability to accept and value my whole self.  I no longer feel worthless.  That’s progress! 

Next:  Part III, I meet an amazing set of twins who isn’t really a twin.