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Page Contents: How hidden anger at a mother comes out in psychotherapy.                    


I would like your advice, if possible, as I’m still feeling distressed about my decision, last week, to terminate my psychoanalysis with a very gifted analyst, whom I saw for five days a week for three years (and still care about very deeply).

I’m not AS distressed as I was, because the [deleted for confidentiality] expert to whom I spoke believed me, and even said that, were I to wish to, there “were adequate grounds” for a complaint against the analyst. However, I don’t want to complain. I think that, in many ways X (an older woman, very clever) was fantastic for me. It’s just that it all went sour, and I needed the professional reassurance that I wasn’t crazy.

But I still feel bad, and this is why:

I’m still very fond of X, who has been like a second mother to me.

I went to her because I had writer’s block (I write professionally). She was terrific for over two and a half years—until I got better—but then things started to unravel—especially in May, when I had a physical complaint. I mentioned this to a close friend Y (an energy healer—does something like Reiki—something I would normally dismiss as completely ridiculous) who said she believed she could help my symptoms, which are universally recognised as being stress-related.

Anyway, I stupidly told my psychoanalyst X how my symptoms just disappeared. She said very coldly that she was “not accustomed to having her clients visit other analysts”. Now Y is NOT an analyst—the process is COMPLETELY different and she doesn’t even pretend to do analysis—but I don’t think X believed me about this.

From that point the poison was lodged for good. If I mentioned that I saw my friend Y—even for a coffee—my analyst X would make sarcastic, jealous comments, needling me until I lost my temper. Our strong, helpful, working relationship simply deteriorated: I began to feel worse after seeing her!!! I resigned from therapy and was persuaded back, but in the end I knew that her jealousy is doing my head in, and left—without benefit of “termination,” simply because I could bear no more.

X also truly began to resent my improvement. When I cut down from five days a week to four, and then to three, she hated it—but that’s apparently very common. What isn’t quite so common is making sarcastic comments (“Of course, you know it all, don’t you?” she told me, and “Haven’t you ever HEARD of projection?”)

(Well, yes, actually, having read all of Klein and much of Freud, out of interest and enthusiasm!)

When I suggested we started termination she put pressure on me not to. Her methods included value judgments (“You OUGHT to be feel guilty about that!”) and telling me that I should pay double now that my husband has come into his inheritance. (Does she care about me, or only about the money? I wondered). She also belittled me (“So your sister was rude to you. Well, you told me last week you expected that would happen!”) No sympathy, no holding, no hovering, nothing like the earlier part of our working together!

I was shocked at first—and then despondent.

When I was at last able to start fiction-writing again—the principal reason for analysis—she wasn’t excited at all, even though we’d been working on this for 2 and 1/2 years, five days a week!!! This brought it home to me more than anything else could have done: X hates me now—and behaves hatefully to me.

It’s over, as I wrote to her yesterday: I’m not going back to paying to be emotionally abused.

So I feel sad and sorry but nervous and upset but also relieved. (X keeps e-mailing me, saying we need to “sort out our misunderstandings” but as far as I’m concerned, I’ve just sorted them. And she’s not LISTENING: that’s the worst part. She has a fixed idea about me—not true, by the way— and tunes out of anything that doesn’t fit with her theory. And the worst part is that, by NOT listening, she shows me no respect.)

Last week, in a state of complete frustration I called the [deleted for confidentiality] and spoke to one of the experts, who said that “it sounds as if there are grounds to make an official complaint”—but I didn’t want to make one. I just wanted the reassurance that I was right. It’s a lonely place to be—being right—when there are only two of you, and the OTHER is supposed to be the pro.

Actually, your analyst did cure you of writer’s block, so, instead of feeling distressed, maybe you should be grateful.

From what you have told me, I suspect that your writer’s block derived from unconscious anger at your mother. I have seen, from my own clinical experience, that writer’s block tends to result from some current pressure to be productive; it can be as if you are being forced to make your words speak “lies” rather than let them speak their own truth. This pressure can build to such a frustratingly intense creative blockage because unconsciously you are re-experiencing the frustration from your childhood when your own mother pressured you in one way or another. Back then, the anger was so intense—and led to such guilt—that you had to suppress it. Now, as an adult writer, the pressure to produce (even if it may be self-induced pressure) rekindles that old anger. In this sense, writer’s block is analogous to apathy, a particular form of anger that leaves you unable even to speak.

So, what happened in your analysis? Well, your analyst X, who, as you say, was like a second mother, unwittingly provoked you into anger at her. Thus by experiencing and acknowledging your anger at X, you symbolically acknowledged your anger at your mother. Perhaps your words about your analyst really speak the truth about your mother: maybe your mother was sarcastic, belittled you, never listened to you, had fixed ideas about you, gave you no sympathy, and showed you no respect.

This acknowledgement of your anger at your mother seems to have happened outside your conscious awareness, similar to the way that the energy healing happened so suddenly and mysteriously.

Moreover, the fact that your analyst got so upset over the energy healing, the work that cured your stress symptoms, points to the truth that she really doesn’t understand her own work, the analytic work that cured you.

Thus we reach the final irony: your analyst cured you inadvertently, despite herself.

That irony, then, is the truth that you needed to hear from me, to reassure yourself. You’re not crazy, you’re cured—cured of the symptoms that brought you into analysis in the first place. It wasn’t what you expected, and it wasn’t what your analyst expected, but it happened anyway. So relax, and be grateful.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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