years now I have thought about how my psychotherapist sees me. I
guess maybe it was some imagined fantasy or something. You see, I was thinking
that he never SAID I was special, but he thought it. And that has always
been very important to me. Very, very important. . . .
when I asked him if he would come to my graduation, I fully expected him
to say no. . . . But when he turned me down, it was totally different. Totally.
What he said was, I dont attend any of my clients
telling you this because I feel, after finally realizing my role, that it
is time I begin to separate from him. I mean, when I think about it, how
stupid of me to even think of clinging to him. Of course I am only a client.
A very needy one. And somehow I have invented all these false meanings from
absolutely nothing. I feel dumb. But more than that, when I was thinking
about it all, I realized that I spoke so openly (for me anyway) because I
was speaking on the premise of a more complicated relationship. I was speaking
as a friend/student/client/andif I have to be honesta Priest-like
mentor. . . .
he knew how sorry I am for all of this. I mean, he NEVER said or did anything
deliberately to make me think otherwise. As I said, it was all an elaborate
fantasy of my own making. Now that reality is here, I just feel like I have
changed. I have grown up. And unfortunately, I know that I wasted so much
of his time. And I really, really regret it. . . .
dont really know what to do from here. I mean . . . it feels like wasting
more of his time. I just think maybe I have to mend on my own. In my own
way. It kind of feels like when my dad died of alcoholism. (Hows that
for dramatic? But the feeling is very similar to me.) I was trying to think
of anything that I would regret not saying to him if I didnt keep
our next appointment, and I cant think of anything. In fact, the
regrets I have are from talking, not things left unsaid.
. . let me know what you think is best.
The one word that stands out the most in your question
is dramatic. It reminds me of how some clients try to make
psychotherapy into a sort of melodrama: I took an overdose, and my
therapist came to my apartment with the police, broke the door down, and
rescued me! Its all quite similar to a heroine who, after being
bound, gagged, and tied to railroad tracks by the dark villain, is rescued
just in time by the hero.
sensational rescues were a commonly recurring theme of silent movies of the
past, the psychological appeal of such theatricality derives from the preverbal
stage of infancy. At this stage of life, an infant is completely helpless
and depends on a parent to rescue it from its basic physiological needs.
At first, the mother assumes the most importanceespecially for feeding
and emotional bondingand then, as the infant develops socially, the
father takes on more importance as a protector who can guide the child into
the social world.
parents perform their tasks adequately, the child will develop the verbal
communication skills necessary for proper social
For many persons, however,
because of the
in which they grew up as children, communication wasnt so much
communication as an entangled mass of innuendoes, lies, secrets, and
betrayals. And underneath all those innuendoes, lies, secrets, and betrayals
that have bound and gagged you psychologically can be found an unspoken
desire to be understood without having to say anything. Its a desire
to be rescued from the dark villainwho symbolizes the missing
fatherby a fantasy heroic father who, in his intuitive perception of
your needs, will make you feel lovedthat is,
having suffered from family dysfunction as a child, you now seek healing
from your emotional pain through psychotherapy. Yes, the healing process
of psychotherapy is a sort of rescue from dysfunction, but it is an unpretentious
process based on learning the
you failed to learn as a child.
your seeing the fantasy you created about your psychotherapist is genuine
progress, because it makes things more simple and less melodramatic. Once
you let go of the desire to be special, you allow simple, honest,
non-dramatic human communication to develop. But as long as you cling to
the hope of being special, you actually obstruct the psychotherapy and prevent
any real psychological
change. Why? Because
your fantasy of being special only hides your emotional painthe pain
of a child trying to rescue a father from his alcoholismbehind a dream
of recovering the mentor, the real father, who never was.
to make a dramatic spectacle by throwing yourself on the sacrificial pyre,
as if that is the only fitting punishment for wasting your
psychotherapists time, is really an unconscious expression of a desire
to punish yourself for wasting your own time trying to make your father get
sober. So, instead of staying tangled in
masochistic self-punishment, put the pain into
language. Communicate it to your psychotherapist, and, through him, to your
conscious mind. Stay with the process. Your healing is, simply, about you,
free from melodrama.
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