Marble Jar

I have an unhealthy tendency to look for evidence to support my belief that I am alone and not cared for. Like an internal scorecard, I keep a tally of incidents to prove that others cannot be trusted. This is a highly effective tool for self protection, and it is also a guarantee for loneliness and isolation. Perhaps to counter this faulty pattern of mine I can try to infuse a more hopeful approach in building and developing relationships.

Trust is built over many tiny moments – our brains record and store these moments, building a case for growing safety and connection in relationships. The hope is that over time safe people emerge in your life that can hold space for all of you in a genuine and unconditional way. Each trust building interaction adds reinforcement and stability to the relationship, allowing for deeper and more meaningful connection while keeping small disruptions within this healthy environment from fracturing the relationship beyond repair.

Brene Brown uses the analogy of a marble jar to demonstrate this idea. Each time I show up for a friend in a meaningful way a marble is added to my jar, over time creating a solid foundation of trust in our relationship. Marble upon marble of fueling connection helps to build safety and stability. When, as a flawed human, I fall short of expectations and a marble is lost we still have a full jar to lean on and can continue to rebuild and grow from those small breaches.

Long ago, I was not seen and was consequently routinely abused in plain sight. Trust was used as a weapon against me. My high school coach carefully manipulated his way into the most trusted and valued position in my life. Over the course of a year of grooming he deliberately and methodically crafted moments to fill his marble jar and guided me into a position of complete trust and obedience. He then smashed the marble jar right over my head the day he first violated me. His actions over the course of the following several years deadened the parts of me that could soften in the safe presence of another person. And from those moments new internal protective parts were formed to try to keep harm away. Decades later I carry these protective parts into each new relationship I encounter. They have a keen sense of danger. They expect it, releasing warning signs to keep me at arms length from others at all times.

I have a new therapist. As with all new relationships I am guarded. Yet I show up to my appointments trying to let down this guard in order to seek help for the wounded parts that tremble inside of me. My rational brain tells me that I need to open up and let her in in order to receive her help. Yet the guarded parts of me will not be subverted. These parts try to convince me that she cannot be trusted. They reach and search for evidence to prove that her care is not real, trying to fill her scorecard with enough distrusting tally marks to keep me far from her. I know two things about this response in me – this was a very critical life saving protective defense that was created inside of me long ago, and it is no longer serving to help me but is in fact now a hindrance for me.

In one of my first appointments with my new therapist I brought with me a series of drawings and paintings that represent various internal parts of me. I did not hold expectations around what it would feel like to share these with her. In that moment I was merely trying to bring more of myself in front of her. As I sat across from her and opened the folder revealing each piece of artwork, she watched intently. After I held up and described each piece that I chose to share she then leaned in and asked if she could take a closer look. I reached across the space between us and handed them to her. Then I watched as she slid down from her chair onto the floor, carefully spreading these pieces of me all around her. She then picked them up one by one and studied them. I watched the way she held each piece, bringing a few of them in close to her as she described what she saw and felt in them. That moment left a mark on me that I could not identify in session but worked to unpack in solitude afterwards. The parts of me that I brought into her office that day had never been held that way by another person. She saw those wounded parts of me and offered comforting support in the attentive way she held and tended to each one of them.

I have since then been trying to understand how all of my internal parts feel about her and the help, care, and support she is offering. From the youngest parts I feel a hopeful longing. They want to crawl out of the darkness closer to her. They want her to see how much they hurt. They want her help. Other parts of me are harder to convince. They keep looking for the trapdoor. They are convinced that her words are hollow and will just lead us to more hurt and isolated misery. And then there is the adult me in the room – the one that carries around all of these fractured pieces that exist inside of me. I sit before her and wrestle with all of these conflicting thoughts and feelings and am often unable to make a sound. None of it makes sense. It’s a tangled mess of incomplete thoughts, layered with fragmented images and sensory experiences. In those moments I cannot answer how I am feeling. I’m not withholding. I simply can’t grab hold of anything. It’s all spinning, tumbling, and tangling around inside of me. I don’t have a voice in those moments. No one does. It feels like a crowded bus in an uproar with all passengers fighting for the drivers seat, but no one has control. The bus just gets jerked in different directions while moving at a higher and higher speed.

I keep coming back to that moment in her office with my artwork and checking in with all of my internal parts. How do they feel about the way she held us that day? The parts that want to lunge forward into the comfort of her arms believe in her. They are craving to be seen and cared for so badly that they are ready to trust her. This feels reckless and naive to other parts that struggle to believe. They impose a judging eye roll while they resume their scorecard tallies. These are the parts that need more time. These parts need more marbles added to the jar before they will soften in front of her. So that is precisely what I have decided to give them – more time and more opportunity to build trust. These parts prefer to hold onto questions and thoughts because they fear that releasing them gives another person power over them. But what if I can allow these thoughts and questions to emerge? What if I can lay down my scorecard for a moment and provide an opportunity to offer my therapist just one small marble at a time?

18 thoughts on “Marble Jar

  1. It sounds like it would be incredibly difficult to trust anyone again. But you are aware of this and recognize this which can be the first step forward.
    And here in this blog, in these articulate posts, the part of you that wants to be seen, is indeed visible. Not only have you courage to share your story, your words may help someone else in a similar situation.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you for this. Your thoughtful comments are deeply felt. I can only hope that my words have impact outside of my own mind.
      Thank you again…truly. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This resonates so much. It’s a slow dance with a new therapist. She sounds good from what you’re saying and I’m glad she doesn’t time and took care with your art (parts of you). I understand how hard it is having a bus of chaos-mine’s like a rammed school corridor and the little ones often get overshadowed by the older, taller parts. You know your protectors are there for a reason, and whilst it feels like they sometimes thwart the young parts’ chance at getting what they need we know they’re just as much a part of the system – and vital, too, for long period of your life. Might you be able to really give them some space? My A is really good at this and has done a great job of building trust with my protectors… although this week it all went full circle and I felt back to square one! Trauma brain is just the pits isn’t it? Take good care 😊

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are absolutely right. Those protective parts are just as much a part of the system and need to be tended to in their own way.
      As much as I struggle and wrestle with this new therapist dance, I do have a good feeling about her and feel hopeful with each baby step I take with her.
      Thank you so much for your thoughts. It really helps to feel less alone in these experiences. 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for sharing this powerful and vulnerable experience. I appreciate what you have said here, and believe deeply in the healing experience of trusted connection. I am glad you are honoring yourself and taking your time. 🤍

    Liked by 4 people

  4. This is so beautifully written, thank you for posting it. I can fully understand your reticence to trust with all parts. You have every reason to feel that way. But she sounds like she was holding you very carefully, with a great deal of thought, and if that is true, time will prove her trustworthy to you. To all parts.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. This is an incredibly powerful and deeply vulnerable post. You laid your line of thoughts, experiences and analogy out methodically. Your analysis of your feelings seems to recognize the defenses that keep you from connecting. I find that relatable in myself as well, subconsciously nodding to several sentences in your post. Amazing write! Thank you for sharing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You have awareness and you have courage, the next step is just to learn to let go. I know it seems lot to you, but it’s not. We create our beliefs and feelings with our thoughts. Start changing your thoughts, lock the good ones in then watch how your feelings (fear) change for the better.

    I also have a program (you can find it on my blog) that could help your inner self open and heal.

    I’m sad to see how much time people spend living in fears and not in their full power.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sara,
    This speaks to me in many ways. I love that you were able to be present to the therapist holding your artwork as a holding of you. In that moment you were vulnerable and allowed to feel cared for. It takes courage to explore our thoughts and feelings. I hope you celebrate your bravery. In time you are learning to trust again.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Building trust in this way is such a complicated dance, but you are absolutely right and taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate the little victories along the way is so important.
      Thank you again for your thoughtful comments. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

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