Home > acceptance, anger, boundaries, earned attachment, feelings, hate, healing, needs, pain, safety, self-worth, shame > It’s still no, but still helpful

It’s still no, but still helpful


I am back with the promised update on my last session with BN. (For background, see my previous post The Whole Story of the No.) It was an intense, difficult session but a very productive one and I left feeling better than I came in and with a much clearer understanding. And a lot of respect for everyone’s comments as they highlighted a lot of the material we ended up talking about. I do want to put up a language warning as both BN and I were indulging in order to convey the emotions.

It felt scary driving to BN’s office, but I realized something very important that also felt like a significant step forward. My fear was about how difficult and painful the feelings would be that were evoked by what we needed to talk about, not about the relationship. It hit me that through this whole thing I have not been worried about our relationship in terms of its ending or being damaged beyond repair. I trusted BN to handle any of my feelings that arose and any anger directed at him and I also knew whatever we decided, we could work through it. This level of security has been a long work in progress, and has been building very slowly, but it was satisfying to realize I had come this far.

BN let me into his office with a kind smile (which is reassuring considering my last communication with him was to say I was angry). In fact, he was beautifully non-defensive and very open through the session. I kind of got the feeling at times that he would have been happier if I had been angrier. 🙂 We did the usual exchange of my asking how was his Christmas and getting a brief positive response then he asked about mine. I talked a little about our Christmas, then told him one more thing I didn’t want to forget, then said “The Book.” And yes, it came out with capital letters. 🙂 I told him that I had written a blog post about it and gotten a huge response both in terms of traffic and comments. That there was a lot of good insight and I had realized there was a lot going on around this issue, that I wasn’t certain if I agreed with him saying no about reading it together, and that I had also realized that it wasn’t just about Christmas but the content of the book. But where I wanted to start was by hearing the reasoning behind his decision.

His response was what I expected. That his reasoning was the same as he had given about the hug (we spent a LOT of sessions working through that no). That the request, while being completely reasonable, was at its base an attempt to obtain that which I had not had as a child. That it couldn’t possibly be enough to compensate and that I would be better served by talking through how I felt, and examining the deeper meanings behind the request (I am desperately trying to remember his exact words and can’t but it was eloquently put and conveyed a lot of compassion). That he did not enjoy saying no to me, or the pain that it caused. That it was entirely appropriate and even a good thing that I asked. That he had felt very strongly based on my response to his quoting Robert Fulgham about wanting to be carried up to bed, that this was about how much I had wanted that and the loss of not having it. That he totally understood my being angry about it; that of course I would be angry about not being able to have had that then and being denied it now. It was clear, concise, sensible and something we have discussed exhaustively in the past and I did not disagree with anything he said.

But my response (reinforced, I think, by his being so clearly accepting of my anger) was a very vehement “I don’t give a shit! I know all that and I don’t care. I don’t want to accept this gracefully or maturely, I am angry that I can’t have what I want.” BN made it clear that I didn’t have to be calm, or accepting or mature, that it was safe to be angry about it. I told him that after I left our last session, that I kept thinking through that I knew what this was about, it was about my past, I needed to face the loss and grieve… and then I realized I was trying to talk myself out of how I was feeling. BN’s immediate and approving response was “Exactly AG, but you are entitled to however you feel about this.” I told him that I realized that the truth was that I was angry about being told no. And hurt. That here I was, doing what he told me to do, risking to ask for what I needed to change my beliefs about asking, and I did and here I was, hurt again. That it was only reinforcing my beliefs about asking being a bad, dangerous thing to do. Here I was again, in that terrible place.

BN said “that he understood how frustrating it could be, that anger was understandable. That a therapist tells you to take that risk, then says no, that son of a bitch. (I must confess that in my head I was thinking that epitaph was a little mild. ;))But a therapist should never tell you that you will never get hurt in therapy, of course you will, it’s impossible to have a relationship, or go through life for that matter without getting hurt. Just as everyone has to hear no sometimes. So the only promise is that you will have somewhere safe to express all of your feelings and be understood. Think about a child of five, they do not turn to their parent when they are sent to bed and say “thank you for being so considerate of my well-being.” They get angry and express that and sometimes they even hate their parents. You never had a chance to do that, to protest the things you didn’t get, but you can now. I don’t care how well you understand the necessity, you should be able to get angry at me for saying no to you.”

I said that I was still left in that place knowing I couldn’t get something I longed for so deeply. BN asked me “and what can you do about that?” I gave a very impressive blank stare. 🙂 To which he said, “you can recognize that you did not have this when you should have and grieve the loss so you will stop looking for it. But that while you didn’t get what you needed then, doesn’t mean that you can’t get what you need now. That’s why its important to learn how to ask, because many times you do get what you need.”

I told BN that at one point I was so overwhelmed with feeling like he was the only therapist that said no to so much, I pulled up and consciously thought about all the stuff he has said yes to (I wrote about in one of my replies to a comment). But the no evoked such pain that it wiped out the memory of all the times I got what I asked for.

He told me the real problem was that my reaction to hearing no was the immediate belief that I didn’t deserve anything and was wrong even to ask. That of course I had deserved to experience that. I said that it was my immediate “go to” reaction and BN readily agreed. He said it was important to remember that someone else’s no says nothing about you. I had to learn not to go there when I hear no, as a matter of fact, it would be better if my reaction when I asked someone for what I needed and heard a no was then “go fuck yourself.” (He then apologized for dropping the f-bomb so much during our session, which was pretty funny considering how many times I’ve said it. :D)

I had shared once with BN about another person I knew who showed up at a therapy session with her husband and another therapist to pressure her therapist into using touch in their relationship, and its something we refer to often, and joke about. BN mentioned it and said you cannot focus on the demand that someone provide you what you want no matter what. It’s a defensive move to avoid the pain of hearing no. That it’s so important to learn that you can be disappointed and hurt and tolerate the feelings. The only way to not get hurt is to not live fully. But to live fully, to experience love and joy, also means that you’ll know pain and hurt and its important to know you can move past them. That working through and grieving the loss evoked from hearing a no is important so that hearing no will not be so overwhelming or threatening.

I told him that my Christmas had been really lovely. Both girls were home from college and my sister had come also and we had a really wonderful time together. We had our traditional Christmas Eve of going to church, then out to one of our favorite restaurants, then Lights on the Lake. We all enjoyed being together and had talked up a storm and laughed a lot. That I had realized that even though I could not be with him, I was surrounded with love and I have such a deep sense about how blessed I am and how much I have now, that actually it was kind of amazing I have what I do considering my past. BN responded that I was able to see my children experience what I had missed and even though I could really appreciate what I have now, that an awareness of what I didn’t have would creep in and no matter how much I have now, I could still get sad when that happened. In what was a very open, intimate moment, I told him that I really love Christmas, but it’s also a time during which I feel sudden stabs of sadness. “It’s really confusing” I said, to which BN gently replied, “Of course it is.”

I asked BN if he had read the book yet and he said no (which I will confess bothered me a bit). So I described the plot to him and described how Santa manages to fix the relationship with Esther and her brother. On Christmas morning, everyone had what they longed for and the last page described how they had a wonderful Christmas together and “for once everything was right with the world.” By now, I was crying, but managed to choke out that what I really wanted was for BN to be Santa and fix all this and make everything right. At which point I broke down completely. My memory of what he actually said is a little blurry, but BN stayed with me while I cried, and made it clear that wanting that was natural, that anyone would.

When I was done, I was left in a place where I was keenly feeling the loss, both from the past of my childhood and the present of knowing we weren’t going to read the book together. As I sat, I felt so hurt and sad, but I knew BN would hold the line and it felt like I was trapped in this place of pain, there was no way forward because it FELT like the only solution was to have BN read the book with me (and on a deeper, symbolic level, fix all the deprivations of my childhood). And that was when I had one of those visceral “aha!” moments where you finally get on a gut level something you’ve been discussing for a long time. It hit me that the only way out wasn’t to have my desire fulfilled, to hear a yes. Right then I was feeling that sense of shame and unworthiness that we had talked about earlier, that my belief was that this pain was all there is because I had not deserved to hear yes, and that I would never get what I needed. But following swiftly behind was the memory of how many of my needs had been met in my relationship with BN, how he had taught me to carry that out into the world and get my needs met from other people and how I had come to learn that I mattered. I did not have to stay here. I may not have gotten my needs met as a child, but there was no need to continue in that deprivation. I really am capable of getting my needs met and I deserve to be able to do so. So the no I was hearing wasn’t “go away you needy, pathetic thing, of course you can’t have that.” It was “I am sorry that we can not go back and change things so that you got that, but you are worthwhile and your present needs can be met.”

There is an analogy I have used throughout my work with BN to describe how I felt. It’s a Dickensian scene, of me standing alone outside in the snow, barefoot and in rags, looking through a window at a scene of warmth and plenty and fellowship, knowing there was no way to get inside. I told BN that sometimes I hated him, because he showed me exactly what I had missed, and then cruelly told me I still could not have it, that I was looking at him through that window. But when I had that “aha” moment, I realized that although I had stood outside for so long, now I knew how to open the door and go inside where everything I needed was available. But as wonderful as it was being inside, it made sense that sometimes I would be sad remembering how long I had been in the cold. BN totally agreed. I told him I couldn’t remember where I had heard the analogy, but the result of trauma could be compared to facing the back of a three-sided cell. You were free to walk out but not until you were able to turn around and see that nothing was holding you but your inability to see a way out. He really liked that one.

I asked him if he thought I was stuck in the grief, did I have this strange masochistic need to be in pain? He told me that he didn’t see that, that I was much further along than I realized, that he had seen changes just in how I dealt with this situation. That he heard from me very shortly after our session, and then came in and was able to express it directly. I was willing to ask for an explanation. That a very reasonable grief was evoked, but that I was moving through it faster than before. That the core of healing is that when these feelings arise, I will be able to notice them, and place them in context but also know “oh yeah, I understand why I’m feeling that but I’ve faced that and can let it go.”

I told him there was another big difference I had noticed in my behavior. Normally, I think through the gifts I give him and am very introspective about why I am giving that particular gift. I gestured towards my cross stitch which hangs on his wall and said “for heaven’s sake, I worked on that for six months!” But this had been very impulsive, I didn’t think about it and just bought the book. He looked me right in the eye and quite firmly said “you might consider doing that more often!” I started laughing and said “but that way lies madness” and he laughed with me. Then I said, in a slightly anguished way “but it’s so messy!” and he said “yes it is, life is messy. But you’ll enjoy it more.”

So at the end of the day, right or wrong, this is BN’s boundary. He told me that he couldn’t be completely sure he had made the right decision, but he doesn’t think of it in terms of right and wrong. It’s using what you know of the truth, and making the best decision you can based on the knowledge you have, knowing that you can face the consequences and even change your mind later if you decide it wasn’t a good decision. Based on what he knew about me and our work together, this was the choice he was making. So this was an opportunity to learn how to deal with hearing a no. But hearing this no is not going to destroy the relationship. In fact, BN was very clear in encouraging me to not be so preoccupied with getting it “right,” that its ok to be more comfortable making my needs known or doing things I want knowing it will be ok. There is all the room and acceptance that I need to understand and learn from my choices. It was not a bad thing that I asked for this, it was a good thing and even important to bring this up.

So if you look at this request as ONLY the desire to share a story with my therapist, a no can look ridiculous, needlessly withholding and cruel. But when viewed on the deeper symbolic level, the request was really about wanting someone to change the past, be the parent I had needed and didn’t have, and make the loss disappear. BN was right to speak the no out loud, since he was not capable of meeting the symbolic request. And to just read the book would have been a way of lying to me and saying that he could make the loss disappear. The argument could be made that having that kind of nurturing and comfort now would be a reparative experience, and I am still not completely sure BN made the right call. But what I do know is that once he made the decision, he didn’t turn to me and say “tough shit, deal with it!” or “how dare you question me!” Instead he was compassionate and accepting, ensuring that I had a safe place to express any and all of my reactions, while focusing on my needs with no move to protect or defend himself from my anger.

So in the end, what was important wasn’t the answer but what we did with it.

The last thing BN said to me as I was on my way out the door was “thank you for being so open with me about your feelings” and I said over my shoulder “you really need to consider getting some help.” Sometimes, it’s nice to get the last word. 😀

  1. January 7, 2013 at 12:06 am

    AG, I love the conclusion that you have come to: he did what he believes is right for good reasons and so you can accept it, but to some extent you disagree with him. #And that is OK.# It is safe to disagree. It won’t risk your relationship. It doesn’t mean that you are bad or stupid or wrong headed. It just means that you disagree. You don’t need to- and shouldn’t- try to conform your needs and desires to what another is willing/able to give.

    It takes great courage to be so fully you and willing to confront something that goes so much to the core of who you are. This is a huge deal for me as well, so thank you for writing about it!

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  2. January 7, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Cat,
    Thanks so much for saying this. It has taken SO very long for me to learn that two people can be complete and both be standing at the same time, that one person does not need to negate their feelings, desires or needs, to make way for another person. It is ok to disagree, and recognize that disagreement does not mean a lack of care or respect, we’re just different people. My experience with my father was that he was the only one allowed to have needs, I had to subjegate my own personhood to that, BN has worked hard and long to teach me this one. It is truly a gift to have this reflected back to me, epecially since I didn’t connect. I read this with a very welcome shock of recognition. So glad that you found it useful to read, as I am so often helped by your posts, and its nice to return the favor. 🙂 ~AG

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  3. Liese
    January 7, 2013 at 12:28 am

    ((((AG))))

    I don’t know what to say. I feel quite sad after reading this (probably putting myself in your shoes here) but this really made me laugh:

    “and I said over my shoulder “you really need to consider getting some help.”

    Your Christmas Eve sounded lovely, btw.

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    • January 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

      I’m sorry it made you sad Liese, truth to tell although I am considerably better, I am still sad myself. The truth is that abuse by a parent leaves behind a terrible legacy, and sometimes it hurts. I am learning to make room for both the gratitude that I can heal and the realization that it allows me to live fully, while still understanding that sometimes this is going rear its head and I will be sad, or angry, or hurt or [insert emotion here]. But no one gets through life without some scars, at least I know I have strengths to show for what I’ve been through. Glad you liked the last line. 🙂 The last time I said that to BN, he broke into a wide smile and said “I’m fine.” So I didn’t wait for an answer. 😉

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  4. GreenEyes
    January 7, 2013 at 12:53 am

    AG you wrote this so beautifully and vividly I felt like I was in the room with you and BN. Sounds like you were incredibly brave, honest and open with your thoughts and feelings and BN did a great job accepting them and staying with you. The Dickensian image you portrayed of being out in the cold and wanting to be part of a warm, safe and loving environment that you feel excluded from is very similar to an inner experience of my own so I can empathise with how painful this experience is. But how wonderful you now have the “keys” to get inside and be part of it and can see how deserving and worthy you are and how legitimate your needs are. Love the parting comment too 🙂
    Hugs to you

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    • January 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Greeneyes,
      Thank you. I do want to say that my ability to be brave, honest and open is due in large part to how safe BN is. I have a long track record of how well he reacts to whatever I bring to him to trust to. Goes a long way towards making it easier to speak up. Hugs back. 🙂

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  5. January 7, 2013 at 6:02 am

    I have found this hard to read, knowing that I will invariably have to deal with all those hard emotions. I wanted a nice trite response that would make all the pain go away. I wanted you get get want you want so that you didn’t have to feel so much, which would in turn give me hope that I would be able to do this also. I am still dealing with memories with my emotional response being turned off. I can deal with this, it is hard but I don’t have to feel it. I don’t know that I can get to that place of having no other choice but to feel. It is crazy scary. Good on you for find a place in the craziness to be okay with it all.

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    • January 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      Grace,
      I can imagine this would be terrifying to read early on in your healing. There was a time my emotions were frozen solid. But I want to offer you two things that may provide some comfort. We are not the same people and no matter how strong the resonance my healing has for you, your own healing path will be unique to you. This is a place you may not have to go in order to heal. But if you need to, remember that you’ll work your way up to it. I have years of work behind me learning to have my feelings, learning to express them and facing this grief. This is not the first, or even close to the first time that BN and I have had this conversation. You do not have to face this grief all at once or until you are ready, if ever. It’s like deciding to learn to climb mountains and deciding Everest will be the first peak you attempt. You start out smaller and train and work your way up. Try not to look too far down the road “Sufficient to each day are the worries thereof.” Just keep working on whatever comes next.

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      • January 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm

        Very wise words, AG. I do get ahead of myself often, pushing for this journey to end when it has only just begun. It is hard to know healing is a long process. It is hard to know that all the hurts may never be quieted. Thank you for your encouragement. One day at a time. Wise words.

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  6. liz
    January 7, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Another great post! When you wrote“Go away you needy, pathetic thing, of course you can’t have that” it sounded sooo familiar, it made me smile.
    I also hated BN a little when he told you that it’s impossible to go through life without getting hurt 🙂 I don’t know if this happens to other people too, but I still have this annoying little thing that occasionally switches on in my brain and makes me believe that, since I’ve suffered a lot, OF COURSE I’m going to get some sort of refund from the universe at some point, it’s just a matter of time, obviously… Which makes it so much harder to hear a no and to process the information that life is a mess and sometimes it hurts.

    You should be proud of the way you managed this whole book thing, and when I say “you” I mean both of you (every time I read about you and BN going through tough situations without fighting/screaming at each other/throwing solid objects around the room, I experience five minutes of serious regret for not having chosen an older therapist :-))

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    • January 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Liz,
      Oh yeah that voice accusing me of being pathetic can ring quite loudly. Learning to ignore that has been quite helpful. FWIW, I hate him a little too when he tells me there’s no way to avoid getting hurt. And I totally sympathize with your expectation of a refund. I know I have felt that I had such a crappy childhood that contained enough pain for a lifetime that I should get a free pass and nothing bad should ever happen to me again. So I totally understand. I have been learning (quite slowly as I am very stubborn) that accepting that suffering and hurt are part of life, actually makes it easier to get through it. But yeah, it sucks. 😀

      Thank you for saying I should be proud, but just for the record, I did do a *little* screaming. 🙂 I will grant you however that BN’s over 30 years of experience probably helps make him so unflappable. Then again, he can be awfully stubborn too. 😉

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    • GreenEyes
      January 9, 2013 at 1:19 am

      Liz I am with you on wondering where my refund is after enduring a terrible childhood and adolescence! And it can make those no’s agonisingly painful because we feel entitled (and fair enough following such deprivation) to compensation and the no can trigger terrible deep held shame. Hugs to you

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      • liz
        January 9, 2013 at 11:57 am

        (I shouldn’t complain so much, actually: my therapist’s attitude towards boundaries is pretty loose and I get to do stuff in therapy that other patients don’t even dream of) Still, I’ve had to face a no a couple of times, and I came very close to tearing down the room, so I know what you’re talking about 🙂 At some point, you just have to give up waiting for this “refund” and go out and get it yourself.
        Speaking in economic metaphors, there’s also a lot of free stuff out there, if you know where to look 🙂
        Hugs to you too!

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  7. Ms. Sharkey
    January 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    That sounds a very hard and productive session. (Why are the productive sessions always the hardest? Why can’t they ever be fun and light and fluffy? 😉 )

    I have to admit that I winced when I read that BN hadn’t read the book yet. Do you think it was just on oversight on his part or a more deliberate decision, that he didn’t want to read the book until you and he had discussed it and he understood what the book and the potential reading of it meant to you?

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    • January 7, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      (Why are the productive sessions always the hardest? Why can’t they ever be fun and light and fluffy? 😉 )

      I know, right?! For some reason, learning always seems to involve pain. But I think I am about due for some fun and light and fluffy. 🙂

      As far as him not reading the book, knowing him the way I do, it was simply a function of schedule. I hadn't asked him to read it, so it terms of where it fell on the list of things to do, it was probably pretty low. It took him over four months to read my blog after I told him about it and it didn't happen until I went back and told him that I was feeling angry and hurt that he said he was going to but hadn't (a straight up “no” would have been different, that would have been a boundary I needed to respect, but he said he was going to read it, then didn't follow through.) The truth is he has a very full schedule and a long list of stuff to get to (like the rest of us), it’s not about me or about him not caring about me. But yes, I can hear that tiny little voice saying "but if he really cared…" But I know he cares, I have a lot of experience to back up that belief, so this is definitely not a hill worth dying on in my book. It also helps when I am tempted to think he is perfect (which is often!). Thanks for telling me you winced though, its comforting to know that someone else feels that way. ~AG

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  8. dpblusee
    January 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Dear AG,

    I read your previous post on this subject–I wasn’t able to respond due to my own healing–but was waiting with great anticipation to hear what happened. (Know there are even more people out there transfixed by your stories!!) I just wanted to say another huge and resounding “THANK YOU!” for posting your journey with so much honesty and courage. When you write about your sessions, I feel like I am there, in the room with you and am feeling with you. It has helped me to have courage with my own T, to go in and talk about the same feelings.

    When you said: “…wanting someone to change the past, be the parent I had needed and didn’t have, and make the loss disappear.” it SO resonated with me, as that is exactly where I am at in my own personal recovery. I struggle with asking for what I need from my T. This last holiday break was particularly difficult–I didn’t have a session for ten days, which was long for me, since I have been seeing him twice a week for months due to current life circumstances. Even though I had some phone contacts with him over the break (which I also felt guilty about) when I returned I told him the ten days was “too long.” I told him even though I know it was necessary for him to have a holiday break, in the past I wouldn’t have voiced my frustration over the separation–or my need to see him. Now I did. Then I said to him, “It’s just a need. I am only human. Humans have needs.”

    (Now if he would just meet all my unresolved childhood needs everything would be perfect! 😉 )

    I wish you all the best. I am so glad to hear about your Christmas with your current family. It sounded lovely.

    Take care,
    DBS

    Like

    • January 8, 2013 at 12:19 am

      DPS,
      You are more than welcome! You have no idea what it means to me to have you say that what I write helps you to have courage with your own T. Its the best possible reward I could have for writing.

      And ten days is a long time! I actually have developed a standard I call therapy units. A therapy unit is your normal gap between appointments, so if you normally see your T twice a week, then 10 days is three therapy units, which is equivalent to a three week break for someone who goes once a week. And that’s a long time. Not to mention all the stuff that gets kicked up by having your T leave. I think its great you’re able to talk about how you feel about him leaving. You’re completing a developmental step of experiencing your attachment figure leaving and returning. Do this enough times and like a young child you’ll learn to trust that they’re coming back. Its one of the things you CAN get in therapy.

      Oh, and if you figure out how to get him to meet all your unresolved childhood needs could you have him give BN a call? 😉 ~AG

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  9. Liese
    January 7, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    “It has taken SO very long for me to learn that two people can be complete and both be standing at the same time, that one person does not need to negate their feelings, desires or needs, to make way for another person. It is ok to disagree, and recognize that disagreement does not mean a lack of care or respect, we’re just different people. ”

    This reminded of the time my T said to me recently, “Liese, I think we are at the point in our relationship when we can have different feelings about things.” I immediately shook my head no and he had the “nerve” to disagree with me. LOL! I suppose it is some kind of step forward in a relationship when we allow space in the room for differences and should be celebrated in some way – even when it doesn’t always feel good at the time.

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    • January 8, 2013 at 12:46 am

      Liese,
      This was another lesson most of us didn’t learn as children. A loving, attuned parent recognizes that their child is a separate person with their own feelings, thoughts and desires and respects that. They provide safety and encouragement for that child to explore who they are as well as their world. In tolerating the child being separate person, the child learns implicitly that its a good thing and not threatening to have their own feelings and thoughts while respecting that another person has theirs. We feel threatened by having it now because it was dangerous to insist on our own feelings and needs at one time. I do think it should be celebrated, its an important milestone. ~ AG

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  10. MetaMantraMe
    January 7, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Hey there AG –

    Struggling lately, and this part that you wrote is my answer:

    I said that I was still left in that place knowing I couldn’t get something I longed for so deeply. BN asked me “and what can you do about that?” I gave a very impressive blank stare. To which he said, “you can recognize that you did not have this when you should have and grieve the loss so you will stop looking for it. But that while you didn’t get what you needed then, doesn’t mean that you can’t get what you need now. That’s why its important to learn how to ask, because many times you do get what you need.”

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    • MetaMantraMe
      January 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      But it is so, so difficult sometimes to feel the difference. How can we tell if we really are being denied something in the current time that we should be receiving? Or if it is, indeed, a projection of the unmet, and old, need from before onto today? I guess my answer is that when I return to my best, vast, adult, grounded self, I know.

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      • January 8, 2013 at 1:01 am

        MMM,
        I’m sorry to know that you needed this answer, but glad to know that you got what you needed. It can be very difficult to sort out what is a present need that can be met versus a desire that represents a loss. So much of the work in therapy revolves around learning the difference, but its a complex, painful, messy process. If you don’t mind, I’m going to answer this in my next post. Green Eyes asked a question in the comments of my last post about how do you face the struggle of accepting there’s so much we can’t get that we want and work through the pain of the boundaries. In my experience, these questions are all closely related so I want to write a post to answer all of them. I gave Green Eyes nagging privileges, you may join her. 🙂 ~ AG

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  11. Liese
    January 7, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Hi AG,

    Wasn’t able to write any more earlier but I’m back with a couple of questions. These are things I wonder about in relation to me and my healing although they seem to be pretty universal even though I’m asking about them in the context of what happened with you and BN.

    ““you can recognize that you did not have this when you should have and grieve the loss so you will stop looking for it. But that while you didn’t get what you needed then, doesn’t mean that you can’t get what you need now. That’s why its important to learn how to ask, because many times you do get what you need.”

    My first question is, when will we know that we’ve grieved all the losses from the past and that what is happening to us in the present is from the present? In other words, when will our feelings simply be about what is going on now?

    And, did he help you figure out what the “present’ need was in all of this and how you can get it met and by whom?

    Thanks,

    Liese

    Like

    • MetaMantraMe
      January 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm

      Liese –

      Yes, exactly. What you said. 😀 My best answer is that when I’m done being triggered, when I feel grounded and connected and vast, and ok, the thing that felt SO SCARY isn’t any more. I can see it for what it is. My therapist says that if something bothers me, and I think or guess that I might be triggered, I might be looking at it with child eyes, then I have to wait until I get back to my best self, and then look at that same thing from my adult headspace eyes. If I get into fully adult headspace, and I STILL feel upset about something, then I need to have it addressed. But when I’m triggered, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it is in the past. It’s terrible.

      Like

      • Liese
        January 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm

        HI MMM, (sorry to hijack, AG. Although it’s all related, I think! Woudl love to hear your thoughts and everyone’s)

        I KNOW that the way I did attachment in the past was dysfunctional. BUT, if all these strong feelings are dysfunctiona and from the pastl, then I don’t know how to do secure attachment. I don’t know how to do attachment at all. I don’t know what secure attachment FEELs like or what the levels of it feel like. Like, this person is a close friend vs. an acquaintance vs. an enemy. Does that make sense? I almost feel like we’re learning NOT to feel so I don’t know WHAT to feel.

        Like

    • January 8, 2013 at 1:03 am

      Liese,
      If you look at my reply to MMM above, you’ll see that I’m going to address these questions in my next post. 🙂 And no need to apologize, I think discussions are great, I do not have all the answers and we can all learn from each other. I would love for my blog to be a place that happens.
      ~ AG

      Like

    • January 8, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      Hi Liese,
      I came back to grab everyone’s questions to work on my next blog post when I realized that one of your questions I could answer now.

      Liese said: And, did he help you figure out what the “present” need was in all of this and how you can get it met and by whom?

      In this case, the need really was one that was about the past; I don’t think there was too much of a present component. Which makes sense as those that are purely about my past tend to be the ones that I hear no about (just for the record, BN has told me “no” five times, three on major items (hugs, regular appointments and reading the book and two minor issues which were no problem, its not like he says it all that much, I just tend to notice it more than when he says yes. :)) So the focus was really on tracing the intensity back to see what it was I was really trying to get with this request. Which in large part, was about having a loving Christmas with an attuned caregiver, who would cuddle up with me and read a lovely story. And there’s the loss. But we did talk about the present in that I realized that I do experience a loving, caring Christmas with my family, and I have even experienced that loving time of reading a story to a child, its just that I was the parent. So my needs for safety, closeless and love are being met in the present, but to quote BN “all the food in the world won’t help if you’re thirsty.” The loss from the past is still a loss, even though I now have what I need. It’s why Christmas gets so confusing. I am surrounded by a loving family, which is a blessing, but it is also a vivid reminder of what I did not have as a child. I’ll talk more about what you can get in my next post, but if you go back to my “learnng developmental skills” posts (see Learning Developmental Skills Part I, those talk about the present needs that can be met in therapy. ~ AG

      Like

  12. Jane
    January 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    “So at the end of the day, right or wrong, this is BN’s boundary. He told me that he couldn’t be completely sure he had made the right decision, but he doesn’t think of it in terms of right and wrong.”

    That is the crux of it always. They make these decisions based on who they are and how they perceive the situation at any given time and we have to trust them. We accept that they are fallible and know there are ALWAYS other options and possibilities, but have to convince ourselves that they are making the right choices on our part. In addition, for me the ‘what if’ voice is torturous. What if I was more this or that, would he/she respond differently? As mere mortals I don’t believe they have one stock standard way of responding to all people, they must have an internal comfort zone based on who we are and how we present etc, so how different would their responses be if we were different in certain ways?

    Nevertheless, it sounds like your wonderful BN works confidently and effectively from his comfort zone and you have learnt how to best utilize and appreciate what he can offer from within there. If it is not given to him to offer a ‘hands on’ type of nurturing, then he is doing the wisest thing. Too many experiment beyond what they are comfortable/capable of handling and while SOMETIMES those risks can yield wonderful things, too often it goes awry.

    You AG have learnt to graciously accept BNs limitations/boundaries with you and still gain tremendously from what he CAN offer. I envy you that as I struggle with doing this all the time.

    Like

    • January 8, 2013 at 1:25 am

      Jane,
      Of course they would respond differently if we were a different person. Not because they liked us better or thought we deserved more, but because they base these decisions on what we need and what is best for us. And that is going to differ from person to person. And no they aren’t always going to get it right and sometimes their own stuff might get in the way, but that is true of all of our relationships. No one will ever treat me perfectly or always get it right. No matter how much they love me, they will fail me. Therapy is the place where we can learn that another person failing us, or hurting us does not negate everything in the relationship or have to end it. That if we are both willing, we can repair.

      I find it interesting that you see BN working from his comfort zone, as if his focus is on himself. Do you see him saying “this is the way I work and you must conform to it or go?” I think his way of practicing and where he sets his boundaries are based on his clients needs and informed by a lot of experience. And as you said, its important that a therapist does know their own abilities and limits, so that they can be consistent about what they offer. The truth is that all healthy adult relationships require that we respect another person’s boundaries as well as our own. This is a safe, nurturing place for me to learn how to do that. Proof is in the pudding I suppose. I have seen a noticeable difference in my life through working with BN. I do not believe he would be the right therapist for everyone, but I think he’s an excellent therapist for me. It may be that I idealize him and trust him too much, but so far he has not given me a reason not to trust him. And that’s a tall order for someone like me, who does not trust easily.

      And I believe the fact that you are struggling to accept that which you can get is the heart of the work. I think you’re much closer to being there than you give yourself credit for. ~ AG

      Like

      • Jane
        January 8, 2013 at 8:39 am

        No no, not working from his comfort zone because his focus is on himself, but working from his comfort zone because this zone is a safe and ‘known’ place from which to work, because yes, they do indeed have their limitations/boundaries as you have also discovered and accepted. It is such a hard thing to accept and certainly is part of the journey to adult wholeness. While my therapist seems more flexible than yours re boundaries, he still has limits and the dreaded ‘NO’ is given on occasion and it is excruciating to hear. But I do grow just a little from each experience with the dreaded word. I wonder if the more generous they are with boundaries the harder it is to hear the ‘No’?

        Yes, those of us struggling in a therapy relationship probably mostly do so because of our reluctance to trust. It is probably the biggest barrier and a big achievement to even consider TRYING to overcome it. It is no small feat for my therapist to have won my trust either! In the end all that matters is that our therapists style works for US. If to others they appear to be harsh or lacking here or there, what does it matter? You are right, progress in our life indicates they are the right fit for us. It is the ultimate proof.
        Thanks for saying I am closer to the heart of things than I realize. It seems the closer I get the greater the urge to run in the other direction!

        Like

      • January 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        Jane,
        Thanks for clarifying about what you meant. I think going through this kind of thing, I get defensive about BN because trusting is so scary. When I’m not sure he did the right thing or disagree with him, it can feel scary because it calls into question whether I should be trusting him, you know? That black and white thinking of “if he gets it wrong once, then he can’t be trusted not to hurt me.” Nor can he, he’s been very open about that. 🙂 Its recognizing that I don’t need to run. But that hyperviligance which keeps me always looking for the reason I shouldn’t trust can still tickle me, even with the level of trust and experience I’ve built with BN. I am simultaneously rock certain I can trust him while still feeling like I need to keep an eye on him for when the blow will fall. So I may have gotten a little jumpy, sorry. I do appreciate all the encouragement. ~ AG

        Like

  13. January 7, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    MMM & Liese, very interesting discussion.

    Like

  14. Liese
    January 9, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    I LOVE the units of therapy idea.

    Like

    • January 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Liese,
      Amazed you haven’t seen me say that before, used it all the time on psychcafe. 🙂 Very glad you liked it though. 😀

      Like

  15. Lannie Joseph
    January 9, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I think that you would have arrived at the same insight and worked through the same amount of pain, if not more, if BN had read the book to you, preferably while holding you. My therapist wouldn’t have hesitated to do so. In fact, he would have suggested it the second he opened the gift. I think that there is enough pain in the process of therapy without the therapist intentionally causing hurt by witholding simple acts of kindness. There is no harm in gratifications of this sort, and great harm in denying them. Now, if you arrived at every session book and blanket in hand, that would be a different story. I give him credit for the Robert Fulgham quote, but your BN will have fully evolved as a therapist and human being when he can hold you, and then tell you to remember that hug at those times when the child in you needs to be tucked safely into bed.

    Like

    • January 10, 2013 at 1:21 am

      Hi Lannie,
      I had a “nice” reply all written out, then decided I wasn’t being really honest. I absolutely agree that there is a time and a place during which touch, and holding and gratification in therapy are incredibly useful and very healing. But not always. Nor should everyone be shoved into a one size fits all box. That includes not defining a therapist as “good” or a human being as fully evolved based on how we think they should behave. BN has been an excelllent therapist for me, and I have done an enormous amount of healing with him. I was sexually abused by my father and BN holding a clear boundary around touch, while still being amazingly attuned and accepting, has been very important to my sense of safety and healing. May I confess that I found what you said to be a very strong judgement based on one act? BN does not need defending, he is quite capable of holding his own. But he is someone I care about very much and to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude for what he has done for me. I found it jarring, honestly, that you wrote such a sweeping condemnation of him based on one incident in my therapy. And he has never intentionally done anything to me for the sole purpose of causing pain; its not his fault that the process of healing is painful, nor is he the source of the pain. Criticizing someone else’s therapist is like criticizing their chidren; it should be done with a great deal of caution and ideally, only when closness has been established. ~ AG

      Like

  16. January 10, 2013 at 10:20 am

    BN (as well as you, of course) is so wonderful, and I always love how much he reminds me of my own T. I keep writing stuff and then keep deleting it, because I can’t seem to say what I want. I guess, just that your T’s reasoning seems completely valid to me (that sounds so..objective). I think the boundaries have to be different with a male T and a female client.

    In a bit of a response to Lannie’s post, I will say that I think you’d eventually arrive at the same place. However, I think that the pain of imagining what it would be like for BN to read the book is more “tolerable” than the pain you would have felt if he actually did read it. To me, it would seem like this thing you’ve longed for dangling right in front of your face, but you just can’t grab it. That’s just how I would probably feel – you might feel completely different.

    Anyway, I have absolutely NO idea if that makes any sense! I’m definitely not very eloquent today. Hugs to you!

    Like

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Thanks Kashley (and for the record you were making a lot of sense). I agree with what you said about BN’s reasoning being valid (and this is a situation in which objective is a good thing to be). He has been open and non-defensive about explaining his reasoning to me, and it is clear that he is doing what he thinks is best for me. And I do not get the feeling that he is being dogmatic or closed minded, just that at this time, based on what he knows, he believes this is the best course. I can accept that, even if I don’t always like it.

      And your description of something dangling just out of reach deeply resonates with me. I can feel that way about the things he does give me. The sad, terrible, difficult truth is that even if BN read to me whenever I wanted him to, it would not erase the loss of not getting that from my own father. For me, I think it is best not to obfuscate the issue by being able to pretend I can have that. I agree that seeing what it would have been like might have possibly intensified the pain (which isn’t in need of any help!). ~AG

      Like

  17. Little Blond Girl
    January 10, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I have followed your experience and discussion closely and for my own reasons haven’t commented, but it certainly has got me thinking. While your BN will accept gifts but not give hugs, mine will give hugs but not accept gifts. A couple of years ago I tried to give him one and we ended up having a series of sessions around it and my sense of rejection and although I would have never believed it at the time, I think it has strengthened our relationship – knowing that we can end up in a place where I feel incredibly rejected but work through it, talk about it and both me and our relationship survived. Of course that’s not to say that it didn’t hurt and that I don’t still long to give him things…

    I struggle a lot with the boundaries, but think that your experience and this discussion has allowed me to see that even if he did give me some of the things I want outside the room all it would do if mask the pain that I will eventually need to feel but would desperately like to avoid. And so while I do believe I will continue to struggle with the boundaries, I think you’ve helped me see a bit more clearly through your experience (not that I like it at all that I have to accept and grieve!)

    Like

    • Liese
      January 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

      (((LBG)))

      I just had to reply because your response pulled at my heartstrings. (AG, sorry if I’m hijacking again.)

      Everyone has boundaries. Some might be rational (someone’s married for instance) or they might be irrational. But even if they are irrational, it’s still their boundary. I think we are all looking on how to work on our relationships with others. Respecting others’ boundaries, even if and when we don’t like them or agree with them, is a huge part of learning how to get along with other people.

      I guess the trick is, learning what needs of ours have to be met and by whom. If we let too many of our own essential needs slide in order to maintain a relationship with someone with boundaries that don’t fit well with our needs, then that isn’t healthy for us.

      Like probably almost everyone here, running into boundaries does hurt and often feels like rejection. Most of the time, though, it’s probably just the other person’s stuff. Maybe our attachment style doesn’t mesh with theirs.

      And, as much as I hate to admit it (and I really hate to admit it), I have grown as well when my T has said no to me. For me, it had very much to do with a power dynamic. I had a need that the other had the power to deny or gratify. When they denied, I felt as though I had to either leave the relationship – and feel like a flag flapping in the wind – or stay and feel very very powerless. But where I found the growth to be was in doing exactly what AG did. It was in going back and saying, “I don’t like your boundary. I know it’s yours and I have to respect it but I still don’t like it.” I didn’t have to go back and kiss up just because he had the power to give it to me if I was “good” or the power to deny it if I was “bad”. I COULD be mad, just like AG could be mad. Somehow, doing that felt empowering and opened up a third way of relating to people. I wasn’t leaving – which feels empowering but was lonely. I wasn’t staying and submerging my need – which feels incredibly powerless. I was staying in the relationship and giving my needs a voice. He wasn’t meeting them because he couldn’t but that doesn’t mean he was invalidating them either.

      On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve voiced a need and he’s been incredibly and consistently accommodating because he could be. Perhaps at the outset, he hadn’t responded to the need because I hadn’t verbalized it but once I did bring it to his attention, he met it if he could. That taught me that my needs are valid and need to be met in order for me to function effectivcely though I am the only one who can truly advocate for myself. Sometimes, other people just aren’t as clued into us as we think they should be or think they are.

      It also taught me how people should treat each other when in a committed relationship, if the other CAN meet the need and/or SHOULD (say within a marriage, like fideltiy) meet the need but didn’t initially because they either didn’t know about it or just couldn’t due of other stresses. That, even when the other can’t meet our need, they are sensitive to our needs and our pain. It’s not that they are not meeting our needs because they don’t care about us. They care and feel our pain just as much as if it was happening to them. But they also have to be true to themselves and we really woudln’t want it any other way.

      Like

      • January 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        Liese, no need to apologize, I think what you said was insightful and valuable, I appreciate you taking the time. Learning our way around boundaries can be a confusing, painful process but I believe a worthwhile, and necessary one if we are to experience truly healthy, intimate relationships. ~ AG

        Like

    • January 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      LBG,
      Thank you so much for saying this. Seeing that our therapists drawn completely opposite boundaries was beneficial in two ways. One is in realizing that different therapists set their boundaries in different places and that does not make one of them wrong and one of them right. It means they’re different. The second way is that you have reminded me of an area where BN does not hesitate to say yes, much as it sounds like your T does not hesitate about hugs. I’ve given BN a lot of gifts in our time together and he has always accepted them graciously and made it obvious they meant a lot to him. No one gets everything they want. I know hitting the boundaries can be very painful, I’ve done more than my fair share of howling and railing against them, but I also agree with you that working through the times BN has said “no” has only served to strengthen the relationship. No one will say yes for everything you ask, and this has been a safe place to learn that someone else’s no doesn’t say a lot about me and that a relationship can be committed and loving and have room for a no. Not to mention the benefit of my seeing modeled that it is ok to say no to people you love (not a strong skill set for me based on my upbringing!).

      I am glad that reading this helped clarify things for you, but please trust I understand the desperately wanting to avoid this pain. That’s a sane reaction, no one would want to experience this kind of pain unless they needed to in order to heal. ~ AG

      Like

      • Little Blond Girl
        January 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

        Every relationship, like every person, is unique. And the needs and what each person can give in each relationship will vary depending on the people, the circumstances and the relationship and that is okay.

        In my more clear moments, I feel truly blessed that I have a relationship with my T – even if it is a therapeutic relationship. It’s just remembering that, or being able to see it still, when the waters get muddied!

        Like

        • January 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          LBG,
          Couldn’t agree more, I finally came to the conclusion that there wasn’t so much a right or wrong about this situation, there was just the way BN and I handled it in OUR relationship. I feel like a lot of good work came out of it, so much so that I told BN today I was taking a break of unspecified length (not really sure if it will be two weeks or six months) to process and settle into some of the changes I’ve made recently. So in my more clear moments, I also feel blessed, and I am finding that muddy waters are tending to clear up much faster these days. Thanks for your perspective. ~AG

          Like

  18. Ann
    January 10, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    I hope this doesn’t sound judgemental, but Lannie’s response sent up a red flag inside of me. I do think there does need to be clear physical boundaries between a male therapist and female client. If my therapist were to hold me and read to me that would be very confusing and encourage a dependency that I believe would be very unhealthy. I would either be totally terrified or develop an unobtainable relationship wish that would interfere with my own development. Your blog has helped me navigate and normalize all the feelings of wanting to idealize my therapist, issues of trust and dependency and the complex feelings that arise in therapy with a man. Thank you for your honesty and insight.

    Like

    • January 10, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      Hi Ann,
      I think that red flag is about you recognizing what you need to feel safe in a therapeutic relationship. I know I have at times when I have been doing really deep work with BN, actually felt in my gut, how utterly important it was that he never touched me aside from a handshake. I am aware that is not true for everyone, but it was for me. It sounds like it may be true for you also. I think it would have echoed too strongly the incest with my father and you’re correct, I would have been terribly confused and attempting to revert to the behaviors that kept me safe as a child. which are the same behaviors that have become maladaptive and that I am trying to change in therapy. Thank you for saying that my writing has been helping you to navigate through your healing, it really means more to me than I can say to hear that. ~AG

      Like

  19. January 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Hi AG/
    I have been lurking for a while and finally have something to contribute. I crossed a boundary regarding gifts ( I gave my T the opportunity to not accept the Christmas goodies and that it would be ok with me if he did) He did but never thanked me or did he show any appreciation for them. He did comment on batteries, the fact that I wrapped better than he did and other inconsequential nonsense. He then stated it was all inappropriate of me again. He cited every excuse in the book. Then finally he admitted I was problematic in his attempt to deal with his countertransference. The only solution- I had to go. Distance had to be created.
    Long story short. He terminated me at our next session citing that he did not have the skills to deal with me, his superiors commented that I had been there too long and I was not on his mandate per se, and that he could not give me what I needed. ie a positive healthy relationship outside of the office. This is not the usual dynamic- I am no victim, there is no imbalance of power, I am also in the helping profession. Unfortunately he is a Freudian and that means countertransference is dangerous from the get go-no exceptons. As a Humanist, I wholeheartedly disagree! I should mention I see this man as my kid brother There is no sexual component. And he needs a positive female role model in his life-long term.
    He agrees we do have much to offer each other but it just can’t happen. ( I ought to mention he has OCD and clings to ethical matters. He is overly moralistic. No flexibility. Only problem is our situation is simply not unethical.So after letting me loose he schedules me for an appointment in 2 months! What am I missing here? Go away a little closer.
    Has anyone ever had a similar experience? I am hurt, befuddled and furious. Now what?!

    Like

    • January 15, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Hi Jellocactus,
      Welcome to my blog and thanks for coming out of “lurkdom.” 🙂 I want to make sure that I am following this. Although you are also in the helping profession, were you seeing him for therapy? You said “I am no victim, there is no imbalance of power” but whether or not the client is also a therapist, the setup in the therapeutic relationship is such that there is always an imbalance of power (I think it is reduced when the person on the other side understands more) but it never entirely disappears. By definition, the therapy should be focused entirely on the clients needs, while the therapist keeps themselves out of the room. So the therapy is more important to the client, the therapist means more to them they do to the therapist (since he should not allow himself to need the client) and the client exposes so much more of themselves and so is more vulnerable. A competent therapist takes his responsibility to the client seriously BECAUSE he understands there is a power imbalance that he must not abuse.

      I cannot tell you what to do, as it would be horribly presumptuous of me, and I certainly understand your anger and confusion. But may I be blunt and tell you that your therapist’s behaviors are sending up all kinds of red flags. If he felt it was wrong for you to give him a gift, that his boundary was that he does not accept them, then he should not have accepted them. The boundaries are his responsibility. If he was not handling his own countertransference, I understand the need to refer you, but an ethical termination includes time to process the ending and referrals to other therapists. Ideally, the therapist should work with you until you have transitioned. And his begging you to come back just to talk? That certainly sounds more like it was about his needs and what he wanted, then your well-being.

      I also find worrisome your statement that “he needs a positive female role model in his life-term.” My first worry is that you know this in the first place. If you know your therapist has this need, then he is allowing his needs into the room, which is not appropriate in the first place. In the second place, he cannot use a patient to meet those needs. No wonder you feel confused, its sounds like a personal relationship got tangled up in the therapeutic one and in my experience that is always a recipe for disaster. I am sorry you find yourself in this position. ~AG

      Like

      • January 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm

        Hello AG,
        Thank you so much for replying. I have no one to talk to and I can’t get rid of that awful feeling of wanting to be ill or faint. I imagine others know the feeling. I knew the just to talk request that he was projecting. And he continued to do so. I was distressed that he would show no reaction to major reveals. I called him up on it. He said it was the only way he could do his job. That was the biggest red flag. He would not even pass the tissue box when I cried! I continued to call him up on his lack of affect and I quickly discerned he had learned to parrot me. A great acting job. There were times he seemed normal. But there were constant wee little lies or inconsistencies that kept nagging at me. I kept telling myself I had to get out of there. I have re-read my date book and could not believe the number of notations insisting I had to terminate. I was supposed to be seeing him for anxiety only but my other issues surfaced. The biggest one-disorganized attachment. So I kept going back to learn to repair and to experience object constancy, despite the crappy behaviour. It will come as no surprise I am sure that not much therapy took place. I spent the time listening to his problems. I was there the afternoon he had gotten his divorce earlier in the day. Unbeknownst to me at the time of course. Long story short, he sucked me into the melo-drama of his family life. He has three sweet little girls and I worry for the safety of one of them.
        Yes he saw me coming. Ah an empath who will listen to me, me, me. Yes he is a Narcissist. And my xmas gift ( which remained oh his desk, still in the box) must have frightened him to death. One night I was really ill and totally stressed out and started to cry. He called me sweetheart and put his arm around me. The next session he stated “You were really bad off last time!” No empathy again, I had made some Xmas mixed tapes for his girls as he had them during the holiday. There was also some of my favourite jazz singers. I nicely asked him what he thought of the tapes. He angrily said “I ididn’t have time to listen to them! I had my own things to do!” ( He had a week chiid-free.)
        Boy did this spin our of control. I never ought to have done what I did for Christmas but I felt so badly for his girls knowing the dynamics of his family. My heart just ached for them. So I made up some stockings for them and signed them Mrs Claus. Yes I was way out of line. I regained my sanity and told him not to accept them, but he did anyhow. ( Narcissistic supply from his children probably was his motivation.)
        Long story short Christmas is an ugly time for me. I have no family or friends so the holiday is when I am reminded of my orphan status. I have some BPD traits and they reared their ugly heads for the first time. I knew by January I would be back to normal. I tried to explain that to him, but he decided I had to go. He sees two shrinks himself and I am certain from his side of the story they would counsel him to cut me loose.
        So I am made out to be the raving lunatic and he the narcissist who gave me all signals it would be fine, comes out smelling like roses.
        Yes were more like friends than md/client. I kept insisting we had to stop the charade so I could exit therapy and really far down the line when he got healthy we could become friends. He agreed at first. Then he decided it was unethical. I told him the dual relationship we had now was unethical. Long story short the day he terminated me he agreed that he had been using the ethics angle as a red herring.
        When he did give me his rationale for not being able to treat me any more, well there were just too many reasons. He said he did not have the skills to deal with my issues. Then it was his superiors had asked all mds to create a faster turn around rate in the clinic as the waiting list was getting unreal.. (He was parroting me as I had asked him early on how he could justify taking me on as a patient. He seized that idea and made it his own.) Then he said I was not on his treatment mandate. I said non-sense as a psychiatrist he ought to be able to deal with my issues. He countered that I could be my own psychiatrist, ie I did not need him. Then he hung his head to the ground and started telling me all of my good qualities. At the time, I got confused as all get out. I told him I just did not understand. That we had plenty to offer each other and that I could be the older sister he never had, He gazed into my eyes but said nothing. When I finally left, he followed my down the hall and said nothing. That was the most chilling of all. So now I know he is a bona fide narcissist. And I feel sick all the time about it. And I now have to face a big dilemma-should an empathy-free narcissist be working there? ( Someone else posted on-line their concern over his disturbing lack of affect years ago.) I don’t feel he ought to be in the profession period.

        AG et al, I do so apologize for going on and on. I really don’t have a soul I can talk to so thank your for listening. I also post as a cautionary tale for others-I would not want anyone to go through this-ever. How ironic I went to therapy for a safe attachment and he cut me loose in a manner that triggered off all my abandonment issues… (Christmas had already taken care of that.) I wish I could give feedback to one of his therapists because I think he has her snowed. And he will never get the help he needs. And one less Narc on the streets is a better world. Thank you so much for listening – I owe you one!
        Jellocactus

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  20. January 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Oops! I realized very early third session that I had a conflict of interest with him and asked to be transferred to another physician which he was not keen on doing and obviously never followed through on. I then suggested I only come once a month and he pleaded with me to come just to talk. Yes he has issues-that is clear. It was never my intention to have a relationship with him until I was out of therapy and he was much further in his post divorce recovery arc. Now was out of the question.

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    • January 16, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Jello,
      I don’t have a lot of time right now and will answer more thoughtfully later, but I think you should check out http://www.psychcafe.ca It is a forum for people in therapy, I was moderator there for some time and there are a lot of people who struggle with disorganized attachment and a few who have been through this kind of disaster with an incompetent therapist and gone on to heal with another therapist. It is a terrible injury. And its perfectly fine to talk about it here, you deserve a place to speak. ~ AG

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      • January 16, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        Many thanks AG! And for the link. I shudder to think others have experienced this!

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