Note: This is going to be quite a raw post – one that I have some doubts about sharing just because of how raw it is and how personal it is in some ways. But I’m going to share it anyway because I want to process this out loud and see if I get any responses… I’m going to put the “Read More” tag just because I want people who reads on after this line to really read it because they want to know and because they actually care since it’ll be a long post.
I never thought the day would come. I never thought that the day I would actually feel a negative feeling towards my therapist will actually ever occur because of how fond I am of him.
I had read this article: Hating Your Therapist by Dr Joe Burgo, a while ago and thought as I read it, “I’ll never hate my therapist… I can never be angry at him! He understands me more than anyone else in my life. I’ll never be angry at a person who tries so hard to understand me!”
While my feelings aren’t as intensely negative as some described in that article (that is, I don’t hate S), I did feel some negative feelings about two weeks ago and then last week as well. Amidst these negative feelings, which I described as irritation and not full blown anger or hate, I also felt extremely needy and clingy – my need to see my therapist more than once a week was overwhelming for these past two weeks.
I realized today that conflicting thoughts are always ever present in my mind – I often feel one thing and also a completely conflicting thing at the same time. For example, I want my husband to listen to me because I want to feel needed and my opinion valued, but I also don’t want him to because I never think that I’m worthy enough for him to listen to me. Another example is my need to go in for a walk-in session at CAPS but also not wanting to feel needy and insecure so I don’t want to go. So in the same way, I felt some irritation towards S – which is completely unfounded, I might add – but I also want to talk to him more.
Today, S and I were able to talk about some of these things. He had mentioned that he and J (the on-call therapist that I had seen last Wednesday) had discussed my walk-in session and J had mentioned to him that I had said something along the lines of, “I’m glad to hear your perspective, J because I know that sometimes I’m too fond of S to mention certain things…”. S acknowledged that yes, we had dealt with my transference issues before (sometime in the future, I will write a post about my transference issues) but he wanted us to talk about it again since I had mentioned it to J last week. I know that this is a persistent issue with me. I just didn’t want to beat a dead horse so I was actually glad that he brought it up instead of me.
So, I confessed that I do sometimes sugarcoat things. I may not necessarily tell him everything because of how much I am terrified of rejection and abandonment. He is after all, like I mentioned before, the only person (sans the Hubster of course), who understands me. I view him like a best friend I know nothing about. I confessed that I was thankful for J’s input because I felt like a different perspective really helped me see things clearer. I clarified – profusely, I might add – that I trust S completely. That it isn’t that I don’t trust him or what he tells me but I have also reached a point in my relationship with him that parallels my relationship with Hubster where though I trust him completely, I find it hard to believe the positive things he says about me. Hubster encourages me all the time and tells me that I’m awesome and praises my hard work. I just don’t believe him because I feel like that’s what good husbands do – they affirm their wives. In the same way, I am beginning to view S the same way. I trust him, but I can’t believe his positive affirmations. S succinctly puts it as, “Since I’m your therapist, you feel like I’m just saying these things because that’s what I should say and not because I mean it” Hearing the same affirmation from another person who knows nothing about me affirms S’ affirmations – which I can then believe and trust. I know it’s complicated and roundabout – trust me, no one hates it more than I do.
S listened and nodded. He iterated that I must feel like if I were completely truthful with him, that somehow he would hate me or stop liking me. That he will stop affirming me. I nodded and confirmed that I really want him to like me. He then mentioned that he has been thinking about my case and that he is drawing parallels between my relationship with him to all my other relationships – be it my marriage or friendships. He said that it seems like there comes a point in all my relationships that things begin to break down. He asked me, point blank, if I thought that this was where he and I are at now. That if our relationship was beginning to break down. I laughed – a short, “Ha…” because it was odd that he should bring that up now because it was a thought that had appeared in my mind sometime in the past two weeks (not quite sure when exactly).
I confessed the irritation that I’m beginning to feel. I told him that I seem to do this a lot. I invest myself into a relationship and obsess over a person. Then after a certain period of time, anger creeps in and I start to doubt the relationship. I start to project feelings of insecurities, fear and doubt towards these people in my life. I start to blame them for everything. Then the relationship crumbles. I realized today as we were talking this issue over, that this is probably why I have no real friends. I can’t keep them around long enough. This is a pattern that occurs with everyone – even Hubster. I told S that I realize now that our therapeutic relationship is reaching the point where I start to get angry. I told him that Hubster and I have been married 7 years and I’ve been blaming him for a lot of insecurities, fear and doubt for several years now – the fact that he’s still around despite this “abuse” is quite amazing. I really don’t deserve such profound love. S nodded thoughtfully.
He asked me why I felt the irritation. I told him that I feel like he’s not giving me enough… He’s not talking enough… S clarified what I said, “So I’m not giving you enough”. I nodded – certain at this point in time that surely he must hate me now, if he didn’t already before. I mean, who wouldn’t be mad at me for my irrational anger towards them? I then returned the focus to myself and told him that to be fair, I don’t ask him enough questions – so how can I expect him to say more if I don’t ask him any questions? If I don’t communicate my needs to him, how is he to know? That’s the problem with me, I want people to intuitively know what I need because I intuitively know what others need (or at least I assume I do). I want people to reach out to me because I’m tired of reaching out to them. But how are people to know that I need help if I don’t ask for it?
I told S, at this point, that I know that my irritation is unfounded and that I know that he’s trying to help me. I know all these things. Yet, at the same time, I can’t help myself from feeling like I need more from him. I can’t help but feel these feelings. Is it any wonder why I hate myself? I can’t reconcile all my feelings as they are contradictory in nature. I told him that I think I need to communicate more. That I need to ask him what his smile meant, what he meant by what he said, what he meant by that little head nod, what he meant by his posture etc. He nodded and agreed. He told me that sometimes when we’ve been working together so long (6 months! WOW!), it’s easy to assume things about each other. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just assuming that the other party knows what we mean. The thing is, with him, he never assumes what I mean – he always iterates and asks me for clarification. I need to imitate that and do the same.
S then explained to me that our relationship is almost like a lab – the office, a testing facility for relationships. He told me that in our work together, he and I can work on how to communicate, what a certain gesture means, what certain phrases mean, how to talk to others, how to relate etc. It made me realize that our relationship is almost like a mentor-mentee type of a relationship where he guides me through relational cues and strategies. He told me that in his office, we get to explore relational strategies in a way that I might not necessarily have an opportunity to do with outside relationships.
He didn’t seem fazed at all by all the things I told him today about us. Or at least, if he was, he didn’t show it. I felt quite fortunate to have him as my therapist. He’s experienced, calm and thoughtful. I know I don’t appreciate people enough – that’s another reason why people leave. I know that I don’t always realize how much they’re doing for me. I’m so inward thinking sometimes that I only see what I perceive.
I mentioned then that this is why I sometimes have really strong suspicions that I have Borderline Personality Disorder – I have really intense relationships that often fizzles out and are unstable. The fact that I’m still married is probably in part due to how hard Husbter works to keep us together. The fact that I’m still in therapy is because S works hard to keep me on track. Left to my own devices, I destroy relationships.
I expressed then that I realized that it’s probably due to extreme shame that I project anger, irritation and rage towards others. That I project blame and refuse to take responsibility for things that I have done. I can’t face my fears and shame so I just hide them under layers and layers of anger. I told S that it’s so much easier to deal with anger because I don’t have to feel anything but that intense negative feeling. Shame… Shame is another thing altogether. I can’t even begin to know how to deal with that. “So you feel all this anger so you don’t have to feel anything else…”, S said. I nodded.
Strangely enough, through all this, I didn’t shed a single tear – I usually am not this strong so I don’t know whether it’s because what I’m telling S hasn’t quite sunk in or whether I’m really processing through it.
I then told S that I have noted a pattern. The pattern is I would do or say something that I want validation for. Then when realizing that what I did or said was a mistake, I feel intense shame and self blame because I shouldn’t have done or said it. Then anger lashes out and takes over and I snap/shout/raise my voice at the person I was interacting with. After doing so, I would feel so guilty that I just withdraw. I withdraw like a dog with its tail tucked between its leg does. As I withdraw, I feel negative about myself, I self blame and the anger eats away at me. I then start feeling suicidal or self-harmful. In some cases, as a way to protect my own feelings, I start to blame others. I start justifying my own actions as true and others’ as incongruent to mine. Then when I calm down – sometimes this can take days – I repeat this cycle over again. And again. And again.
I told S that J had told me that my mind has come up with the perfect self-punishing loop that will continuously keep me in a depressed state. After all, it is familiar. Familiar is easy to deal with – all this living life and vitality sh*t? That’s not.
S and I dealt with a few other things as well but the two main things I’ve outline here were the most prominent. The take away I had today was that I need to communicate clearer and ask questions and that I need to overcome my self-punishment loop.
I can’t for the life of me remember if S and I resolved our conversation about our therapeutic relationship or not. I’ve since learned that my mind has a good way of blocking all memories of things that I don’t want to think about. I have blacked out memories – instances in my memory where I can remember absolutely nothing. For example, I can’t remember lots and lots of moments in my childhood.
It was a painful thing for me to talk about with S – my irritation towards him and my transference – so had he and I resolved our conversation, my mind might have blacked it out on purpose so that I can’t remember what it was we had decided on. I don’t know, my gut feeling says that he had resolved it by telling me that our relationship is like a lab where we learn to relate to others but I can’t be sure. I’ll probably have to ask him next week if we had resolved our relational issue.
Overall, I felt that this was a very successful session – one that I haven’t really felt like we’ve had for a while now. Between my depressive episode and not wanting to be better, I’ve been preventing myself from feeling positive after sessions because in my mind, the perception is once I’m getting better, I’ll get less attention or care. Someone had mentioned before that recovery is anti-climactic because no one actually pays any attention to the person who’s recovered – suddenly you’re just normal or like everyone else. Get on with your life. So I think in some ways, my mind wants to keep me in the depressed state because when I’m better, I won’t be speaking to S anymore, right? Why would he want to? I’m better…
I know how crazy that reads. I know how awful it is to admit as well. Here is someone who is trying his hardest to help me recover and I feel like he’s dragging me forward while I’m hanging on to the depression. It reminds me of a scene in Lilo and Stitch when Nani tried to pull Lilo up to her room and Lilo just drops to the ground like a lifeless body and Nani had so much trouble trying to get her up again. I feel like that – I’m Lilo; the lifeless body who’s resisting S’ efforts to help me recover because I’m so afraid of living.
Anyway, it’s a successful session because I’m beginning to realize all these more profound issues and beginning to acknowledge them. I’m acknowledging that I have trust issues, that I am afraid of rejection and abandonment, that I’m extremely ashamed of something (we haven’t figured out what yet), that I project my anger and blame towards others so I don’t have to feel, that I prevent myself from feelings things so that I don’t recover, that I have put myself in a continuous self-punishing loop so that I can stay depressed, that S is there for me even if I can’t believe it myself.
For the first time today, I practiced an empathetic model of conversation with Hubster as he related his own struggles. I shared with him what I learned of resiliency – while trying really hard not to say anything that he could misunderstand (last week, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s which has now been reclassified as High Functioning Autism in the psych community) and I’m determined to be more transparent in my communication. It’s going to be a hard week – I’m sure of it – because when I start to acknowledge things and unearthing things, more things will come up throughout the rest of the week. I’m assuming that next week, I’ll go in with plenty more to discuss with S.
If you’ve read this far and followed my thoughts, I congratulate you for your perseverance, patience and interest. I’m not the easier person to understand with the way my ADHD-addled brain works. Thank you for reading. Ultimately, I want understanding and empathy more than attention from anyone.
One thing to note, another psychologist that I read a lot of, Dr Richmond, wrote an article about anger towards your therapist and what to do about it – tl;dr answer is “Don’t hide anything from your therapist. Speak it”. If anyone is interested in reading it, it’s here: Anger At Therapist
PS: It’s interesting to note that I finally am able to clear up my confusion over the terms “psychologist”, “therapist” and “counselor” and find out which one S actually prefers. He told me that since he’s a doctorate holder, that he actually prefers the term “psychologist” as he is a licensed psychologist who is qualified to practice psychology whereas “therapist” and “counselor” are just general terms that can be applies to most people in the field. I won’t go back and change all my posts from “therapist” to “psychologist” but I think from now on, I’ll write “my psychologist” instead to reflect his preference for that title. Of course, for the purposes of general conversation, “therapist” is something people use quite frequently. It’s also interesting to note that it took me 6 months to ask him this one simple question. Sigh.