I am frequently perplexed by the fact that I both love and hate my therapist. In fact, it was one of the first things I ever wrote about on this blog. That was back in September, and I’m still none the wiser.
Everywhere you read about psychotherapy, there’s this message that no emotion or thought is unwelcome in the therapeutic process. It’s a training ground for real life, out here in the real world. But for those of us who depend on our therapist, it is so much more than that. It is real life. Those intense hours of talking and listening, being close and being heard. All those minutes are absolutely real. Sometimes they are the most real thing in my life.
At the same time, we know of course that the situation is contrived. We are paying for this interaction. What J offers me is a service, and I am the customer. That’s the only way this relationship could ever work. That’s why you’re able to be real, to feel that genuine connection. To put it bluntly, the therapeutic alliance is in itself a bit of a head fuck.
People who read my posts regularly probably know that I don’t hate J. Not in the simple sense of the word. I write a couple of times a week on what’s going on for me in my sessions with her. Occasionally I do wonder whether I am overly affectionate about her in my writing here, whether it gets annoying to read.
It would annoy me to read that. Because I’m a cynic, so I firmly believe nobody is perfect, nobody is all good. There’s always something to dislike about a person if you look hard enough. While I am incredibly fond of J, and hugely grateful for her support, I do get these sudden knee-jerk feelings of negativity about her too.
A few things have prompted me to write about this again. Firstly, J told me she is going on holiday in March. We all know how badly I take it when she goes away. The other was a dream I had, in which J was angry with me for writing about our sessions here. I shared this dream with her in a session last week. She knows I have this blog and she reiterated that it is my space in which to write anything I want to, be that good or bad.
I don’t write much about what I hate in therapy. Hate is probably a strong word to use, but these emotions are powerful. They sit down in my gut and weigh on me. I don’t want to have that inner conflict, but I do. And it is mostly about how my relationship with J makes me feel. I loathe the fact that I am so vulnerable to her. I despise relying on her so much.
Have you ever been in love with someone who you know isn’t good for you? You get this awful yet magnetic sense of being under their power. At their mercy. There’s a slight thrill / terror in knowing you need them so desperately, but they could (and probably will) ditch you at the drop of a hat.
That’s a bit like the emotions that my relationship with J stirs up in me. Not quite the same, as I’m not in love with her – but there are parallels. I suppose because I see her as someone so much better than myself, the dynamic plays into all my issues about not being good enough. On top of that, depending on her so badly touches on my ingrained fear of abandonment. She can reassure me relentlessly and I will still be terrified of her leaving me.
There is no straightforward way to describe how it feels to be so dependent. It makes me angry with myself for not being able to just act like an adult. Stand on my own two feet. Deal with my shit on my own like everyone else does. It is infuriating and frustrating.
I told J last week that I’d read a few posts from people whose therapists had ‘dumped’ them. Reading them made me feel sick with fear. I said I would be devastated if she did that to me. Her response was to explain that we would always have an ‘ending’. Apparently best practice says the process should always be terminated gradually, taking a week for every previous month of ongoing therapy.
Reflecting on it now, I realise that best practice wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to know that she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and that’s not what she said. Basically, I interpret her explanation as meaning that she might surprise me at any moment by telling me she’s only going to be around for another 12 weeks. That wasn’t reassuring. It didn’t make me feel secure.
I suppose when you boil it down, this conversation was a stark reminder that she can quit whenever she likes. I have to keep feeling what I feel and fighting what I fight and it is terrifying to know that ultimately I will have to be alone with that. J can go off on holiday and take a break from my life. So in essence, that’s what I hate about her. We are not in this together. She can choose not to deal with my issues and I really wish I could have that luxury.
Photo: Jackie, Creative Commons.