[The ‘reasons’ referred to in the title of this post are described in an excellent post by Dr Stein, reblogged here]
The thing about feeling excluded from your therapist’s life – it’s triggered by the smallest things.
I was usually early for my appointments with my ex-therapist, Jane, and I was used to the feeling of annoyance and jealousy when the client before me walked out of her office, saying ‘goodbye mate’ (‘mate’ – how dare he?!) as he left. On this occasion, though, he had what could have been no more than a ten second conversation with Jane on his way out of the door. I heard her interact with him – she said something kind and empathetic, as you might expect, though I can’t quite remember what.
She started our session in the usual way, asking me how I was and how my week had been. I went to pieces and started sobbing. I couldn’t talk – it physically hurt, right in the pit of my stomach. The emotional pain was intense, but so was the shock, surprise and embarrassment of what I was experiencing. It was the first time I’d had those powerful feelings of exclusion with regard to therapy, which seemed to just rise up instantly the moment I heard that interaction.
It wasn’t long before I had a similar reaction before another session. This time, thankfully, the client who called her ‘mate’ was absent, and Jane and one of the other therapists started talking while waiting for the next ‘therapy hour’ to begin. It was the end of the day, and there were no other clients or counsellors around. The conversation was perfectly innocuous – I don’t think they had met properly before. Jane explained she only worked a few hours a week and they spoke about attending some kind of staff event in the coming weeks. As I listened, the pain mounting, I put my finger against the glowing lightbulb of the reading lamp on the side table in the waiting room, drawing it quickly back when the pain hit, and replacing it with the next finger, and the next in turn.
A few weeks ago, my therapist mentioned that she would be out of email contact over the weekend as she would be at a conference. I normally find the gap over the weekend difficult, but this time, knowing where she would be, interacting with lots of other people, powerful feelings of exclusion kicked in and the pain and desperation were intense.
The following week, I arrived early for my appointment, and so I parked my car across the road from my therapist’s house and took out a book to read. Occasionally I glanced in the rear view mirror and stopped short when I suddenly saw her coming out of her gate and start walking in the direction of my car. She passed by, headed for the post-box further down the street, letter in hand. I don’t think she saw me – and I pretended to read, not taking in single word of the paragraph my eyes kept skimming over.
My therapist normally waits for me to start sessions, but this time I felt even more lost and incomprehensible than usual. I started to cry, just feeling like a jumbled mess of emotion. Feeling ridiculous because I was so upset, and because my upset my triggered by the fact that I had seen my therapist outside the context of a session, walking to a post-box to post a letter.
‘It’s like the feelings you had last week, when I was away. I’m sending a letter to someone – there are other people in my life’. Posting a letter; chatting with conference delegates; meeting a colleague; talking to a client. In his helpful post about the reasons behind the ‘exclusion’ of clients from therapists’ lives, Dr Stein (a retired psychotherapist), states that it is not unusual for clients to feel jealous of those who claim more of the therapist than they have access to. Yes, I feel jealous. But I feel so, so much more as well. Intense desperation, longing, frustration, helplessness. And pain. So much pain.
I want to scream and cry. I want to claw my way out of my body. I want to try and understand, but also fight desperately against the fact that what might in other circumstances be simple and ordinary human interactions, are completely outside the bounds of the unique (and in this case, uniquely tortuous) nature of the therapeutic relationship. It’s not just those that have more of my therapist that trigger these feelings. What drove my frustration and pain during the time when my therapist was at a conference, was the fact that complete strangers would have the opportunity of spending time with her without the stricture of the clock; engaging her in conversation about topics of mutual interest in which she would talk about herself and her views, as much as they would talk about theirs; asking her questions which she would reply to without holding back or wanting to know why they were asking.
My therapist sometimes speaks, in the context of my high and often unrealistic expectations, of finding meaning in the ordinary, particularly, for example, when it comes to evidence of her caring. But it is precisely the lack of opportunity to be involved in the perfectly ‘ordinary’ aspects of her day to day life that causes me so much pain. Unlike those strangers at the conference, I can’t strike up a conversation in which I ask her how long she’s lived in this city; whether her children are nearby; what type of food she likes or what sorts of things she gets up to at the weekend. I don’t know what her favourite colour is, or if she has one; whether her children grew up in the house in which she’s now living; what book she read last week; or where she goes to church.
I know I can’t be her daughter – however much I might desperately want to be. I know I can’t share in her life in the way a partner might. All of those things cause a great deal of hurt – but it’s difficult to be resentful of those whom she loves, and it’s more difficult to argue against genetics than it is to argue against the boundaries of therapy. But to know that in theory, every other person on this planet apart from me and her other clients (how many, I wonder – another question I cannot have an answer to) has access to her in a way that I can never have – that’s incredibly difficult to deal with and to face full-on. Clients aside, everyone else is a ‘potential’ friend – from the person she meets in a hotel on the other side of the world, to the person who lives in the house next door. They wouldn’t need to worry about asking her whether she actually hates the colour purple – the colour which, for some reason, I have come to associate with her. Clients aside, there is no one else who knows, with absolute certainty, that their relationship with her has a definite end (not related to both parties’ inescapable mortality), after which point further contact will not be possible. She might put her arm around someone she’s known for a few months – but even if I see her twice a week for the next few years, that will never ever happen to me.
I don’t understand why this exclusion is so painful – where it comes from, and what it means. I have a feeling it will take some time to get to that. And so in the meantime, I keep trying to hold on to the words my therapist said when we discussed these feelings in session. Rather than focusing on the things that being a client excludes me from, I am trying to remind myself of the things it gives me access to. Although I don’t get to know all of my therapist, what I do see is real. As she said to me, she may only see me for two hours a week, but that is more than she sees her very best friends. And as Dr Stein also mentions in his post, clients experience the individual as ‘therapist’ – an aspect that comparatively few people will come to know. In that capacity, therapists may only give their clients a limited amount of their time, but in that time, they are focused exclusively and intently on their client, giving them their full and undivided attention. Much more than that, giving them their unconditional acceptance, and listening with empathy and without judgment. And even more than that – sitting with them in all their strong emotions, whatever they may be, holding those feelings and keeping the client safe.
And though I may not be able to talk with my therapist about all the ‘ordinary things’ I want to ask her about – when she does share something about herself with me, it feels very special, and it creates a deeper bond and a sense that she trusts me too. That’s not something that happens simply in ‘ordinary’ conversation. And often when she tells me something about herself, because it’s in the context of a session it may not be something that would come up in casual conversation. It’s a memory about an event or a feeling, it’s an association, it’s a recollection about her own therapy, or about her own children. It feels more intimate, more as if it came from a deeper place. Maybe I do have more of my therapist – more than many, and certainly more than any ‘potential’ friend. Not in terms of volume of information, but in terms of meaningful, important memories and thoughts. Does it feel like enough? No, no of course it doesn’t. I’m not sure anything short of actual kinship would feel like enough, and Dr Stein makes some very good points about why that kind of relationship may start to lose its appeal! But in time, but I hope it will be enough to reduce the pain, frustration and desperation that comes with the feelings of being excluded from my therapist’s life.
I am a ‘therapy-daughter’ – member, by adoption, of a bizarre but special sort of family. All families have their limitations – goodness knows that’s one of the reasons that brings so many of us to therapy in the first place. But the quirky intimacy and joy of this unique relationship is one I wouldn’t be without – and I just have to keep reminding myself of that. Over, and over again.
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April 19, 2015 at 7:44 am
Reblogged this on Understanding Me and Her and commented:
This. Just. Read this.
April 24, 2015 at 7:50 pm
Thank you so much for the reblog, I am so glad this resonated with you….
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April 19, 2015 at 8:42 am
Wow, wow, wow!! THANK YOU for writing this post. I wish I could copy & paste your post and stick it in my mouth to verbalize…because I feel the pain, the jealousy, the confusing emotions, but I can’t articulate any of it. I often feel like a child who wants more of “mom”. Its that painful longing.
I actually had a dream a while back that I punched one of my therapist’s other clients to death because I was so jealous of their interaction… But in my waking life, I often have a sort of “no big deal” type of attitude at knowing about other clients. Little do they know…. 😉
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April 24, 2015 at 10:07 pm
Thank you VERY much for your lovely comment 🙂 And yes, it is so like being a child who is in desperate need of mother, and it is so heartbreaking….
I recognise that ‘no big deal attitude’ and it’s amazing how persuasive it is, even for ourselves, and how difficult it is to see through it 🙂 I used to think I had a ‘no big deal’ attitude towards my therapist’s holidays (in the sense that I thought I accepted the fairness of the principle that she should take breaks!) and I also thought I had that attitude towards the payment/business aspect of the relationship. And yet, I tend to feel angry with her when she goes away, and the moment I feel her asserting a boundary, I tend to start thinking about how I’m ‘paying her to care about me’. As she has said to me in the past, the adult in my might accept certain things, but that doesn’t mean the child in me has the same reactions!
Dreams are fascinating aren’t they, and our brains are amazing and capable of weaving the most wonderful stories and making the most amazing connections and then presenting them to us in such an elegant way – though sometimes they are a bit more literal and take us places in fantasy, where we would never go in reality 😉 But I remember an amazing dream in which I made a cut on my foot and pulled an empty name-badge holder (like the ones you get for conferences or meetings). I had been thinking about self-harm, and BPD and self-harm almost being an identity for me, and was stunned at the way my brain took those thoughts, and the fact I’d found one of those badge-holders in my bag, and put them together in that way…..
Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent! Thank you again for commenting and I am so glad this resonated with you 🙂
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April 19, 2015 at 4:24 pm
I’ve read that it’s important for the therapist to create a structure/frame that doesn’t involve becoming too personal / a “friend” with the client, because this helps keep the focus on the client and allow them to work on their issues. It doesn’t mean the therapist should be cold or emotionally neutral.
Did you have a mother or father, or peer-friend in childhood who would not let you be emotionally close to them as much as or when you wanted to? Is this experience of frustration replaying in your transferred relationship to the therapist, who is now viewed as withholding desired closeness? Maybe your therapist is being subtly maneuvered, via projective identification / countertransference responses, into replaying the role of one of these people from your past who denied closeness to you… and it happens to fit their role (as therapist who should not be too revealing), but it also upsets you because it reminds you of past upsetting experience?
Or maybe is there part of you that wants to help your therapist by having a positive relationship with them? Maybe this is related to part of you that once wanted to “cure” your troubled mother or father? Perhaps some part of you is not emotionally differentiating your therapist (as they really are) from your parents (as they in fact were).
By focusing on the ways in which your therapist will not allow you to be close to them (by knowing about their life), is part of you missing or avoiding the chance to be emotionally close and feel loved by your therapist when you talk about your own life?
Hopefully if you can carefully observe these patterns… which may or may not relate to your case… you can start to shift the pattern of how you relate to your therapist in a more positive direction that is more useful to you.
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April 24, 2015 at 9:57 pm
Oh wow, so many immensely helpful and thought provoking questions….I always like to reply in full, and point by point, but I need more time to think, and I don’t want to leave your comment unapproved for ages while I do that! So I just wanted to say thank you so much for reading and commenting in such depth and so thoughtfully. I will go back over your comment, and think about each possibility in turn, and let you know how I get on, and what conclusion I come to 🙂
ps my therapist is definitely all about keeping the focus on me – which is lovely, and I know it’s not proof of her doing something for my benefit, but also related to her genuine interest in me. I am grateful she is not cold or emotionally neutral, even though I think this is how I used to often perceive her (and still occasionally perceive her), particularly as her demonstrations of emotion or warmth don’t necessarily come in the form in which I would like them (i.e. explicitly stated in words!)…
April 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm
What I think is awesome is your humility and willingness to lay those vulnerabilities on the table. Whenever I have this intense emotion for people, I would never be prepared to show it for fear of rejection. I don’t look at my therapist anything other than a professional to talk to and that suits me, but I am also aware of how this reflects on my unwillingness to make connections in my own life. I worry that, if I got to know him on a personal level, I may well not like him. You’re right, we get the side of the Therapist that no other people are privy to and Dr GS post really hit home how anything more or less would not be conducive to anyone’s therapeutic journey
I wondered, when you talk about this in therapy, is there any kind of connection made to how you view relationships in your own personal life? Apparently, as you know, there always seems to be some connection. I just wonder if you ever explore that.
This is an amazing post. It’s a little uncomfortable to read in places, but only because I imagine it was uncomfortable and difficult to write about. Nice job
April 24, 2015 at 9:52 pm
Thank you so much Cat, it’s always good to hear from you and your kinds words mean a lot to me. I would never show this vulnerability with the vast majority of people – but my desperate need for ‘ultimate connection’ with one person, in this case my therapist, pushes me to take the risk. I think on some level I am desperate to be able to entrust myself to someone in that way, but at the same time I’m also aware of some bizarre need to be hurt. I remember a painful session a couple of months ago when I had the intense and upsetting realisation that part of me wanted her to hurt me. I’m still not quite sure why, though part of it is wanting the intensity and warmth of reconciliation, after the hurt. It’s almost as if being hurt and then reconciling, is the only way of getting closer. I suspect this is rooted in my past (it brings to mind ‘re-conciliations’ with my mother after arguments in which I would push her until she smacked me), but there is probably more to investigate at some stage.
I think your point about potentially not liking him if you got to know your therapist better, brings to mind Dr S’s point about the therapist ‘wearing a halo’ to some degree, and not being seen in ordinary situations in which he/she may behave more humanly and less understandingly than we might like!
With regard to other relationships, we do try and explore that, though too often I tend to say ‘I don’t know’ or can’t seem to put my finger on what the connection may be. I’m not sure I fully understand the pain over exclusion. I have contradictory memories/senses about my past and my parents, where this is concerned. On the one hand, my mother wears her heart on her sleeve and displays and talks about her emotions and anxieties even it would be better if she didn’t. In some ways, I was included too much in things. On the other hand, despite my mother’s emotions always apparently being on view, I also have a sense of her as someone who kept certain things very much to herself and never talked about them, and so a sense of being excluded from her life/emotions/thoughts. I think this is where my feelings of not being trusted come from, as well. I have a load of examples of the over-sharing, but the difficulty is I can’t really put my finger on what is giving rise to that sense of exclusion….I think I need to do a lot more thinking and talking about other relationships in my life. At the moment I am shying away from talking about my relationship with my children, and although I am much more comfortable talking with her about my relationship with my husband, I still have a tendency to focus a very great deal on my relationship with her….
I am so glad you liked the post, and would be interested, if you’re happy to share, in which sections you found a little uncomfortable. I have had friends tell me that some of my posts make difficult reading, but I think I assumed this was to do with having known me personally, for some time, and so it would be interesting to hear your perspective…. 🙂
April 20, 2015 at 2:01 am
I know what you feel… When my ex T told me she was expecting, I was gutted.
Recently, I asked current T how ex T and her newborn are doing – same hospital outpatient clinic after all. She said ex T is doing well and back and work, and I felt so envious they could be colleagues.
I would get so upset inside (though I never displayed it outwardly) whenever either therapist would just chit chat with the nurses and counter staff.
Always wondering about their other clients and wondering if I’m crazy for being so attached. I have an acquaintance who used to see ex T too, and I always wondered how she could just change psychologists like it wasn’t a big deal.
April 24, 2015 at 9:36 pm
Hi, I can absolutely relate to how you felt – I am actually really really anxious about the possibility of my therapist becoming a grandmother. I know she has grown-up daughters, and so it’s something I think about now and again. The thought of a new joy in her life makes me happy because I love her, but at the same time the thought of something else I would be utterly excluded from, and something else to take so much of her focus, just leaves me with great abandonment fears….
I also have the envy with regard to therapy colleagues – my therapist knows my ex-therapist (I live in a city, but not a large one), though I don’t know if they are just acquaintances, or friends. In fact, I asked whether they were friends, but of course I did not get an answer 🙂 But the mere fact I am sure they see each other now and again, even if just at conferences or events for therapists, does make me jealous, though I’m no longer sure which one I’m jealous of, or if I’m jealous of both!!!
I know a few others, personally, who have been in therapy, and simply from that small circle, there are a mixture of individuals who have become very attached, and others who value the work they do, have no particular interest in the therapist themselves, other than as a professional. I think a great deal probably depends on past history and on the reasons one entered therapy in the first place, and perhaps on one’s stage within the therapeutic journey (i.e. perhaps someone may start off not greatly attached, but this may change during the course of therapy….)
Thank you for reading and commenting, it’s always good to hear from you!
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April 26, 2015 at 5:06 am
Oh, I can totally relate to feeling happy for a new joy in T’s life yet feeling so much *pain* at the exclusion. It hurts and I’m sorry that you know that pain.
Even though my therapists have said many times that they care for each patient as unique people, I feel it’s really natural for people with abuse and/or neglect backgrounds to really yearn for more. To wish we are special like how a child should be to their parents. It’s a very painful reality to face.
The PDF “The grief that dares not speak its name” from sanctuary web is an article I reread often as I mourn the painful losses and “what should have been, but weren’t” of abuse/neglect.
I agree, even knowing they know each other however casually evokes a strong sense of envy. For me, I know they’re close colleagues so I’m both really happy for them (because they’re both compassionate and good people!) and envious. 🙂
But like a blog post you reblogged, I try to remind myself that I do get “the healing art” that is therapy. It helps that my current T is doing schema therapy with me, so I can really intellectually trust that the exercises we do are truly unique and special for each patient. So a child part of me feels “yay I’m special in my own unique, individual way!”.
I don’t know if you read “Tales of A Boundary Ninja” by Attachment Girl, too. I find her posts on disorganized attachment so true! 🙂
April 26, 2015 at 5:48 am
One thing that does comfort me a teeny tiny bit is hearing my T say that each of her patients really do matter to her, and in a way, understanding that others in her life (except her patients!) don’t get to experience “her as therapist”.
Fairly recently, I had an online friend who is a licensed counsellor tell me that she needed to keep professional distance from me because she was beginning to treat some online friendships like clients – including me, because my pain was very triggering for her and she was blurring boundaries.
It occurred to me that perhaps as patients/clients, we do get a side of our therapists that perhaps no one else does, except other patients/clients. 🙂
April 20, 2015 at 2:06 am
Hi! I just found your blog from Dr. Steins post. Oh how I can so related to that pain…that incredible pain of not having more, not being more, wanting so much more. I’ve seen numerous therapists over the past 15 years but none have compared to my current therapist in how huge my desire is to know her more, to know her better, to view her as a sister or friend, to have a connection forever. Also, previous therapists were never able to break down my walls as this one has. I have felt safe, comfortable enough to actually share with her, to speak words, to tell of tender hurts…which I was never able to accomplish with any other therapist. That has made the bond with her so much greater. This whole transference thing or obsession or desire for me has become such a huge struggle and honestly, I’m not sure how to resolve it. My therapist is aware and yet I just keep waiting for time to pass and these desires to fade. You know, it my head, it all makes sense. I absolutely understand why things have to be a certain way, and yet, like you stated, the idea that anyone else could have with her a friendship, a relationship outside of therapy…well, that gets to me. That hits me in my heart. It weighs me down and it takes focus away from the things I’m there to heal from. It’s getting in the way. I need to be able to let go of the idea of “more” and just be okay with her being my therapist, this unique, special relationship that I have with her and no one else. Only, I don’t know how to do that.
Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. Unless you’ve really felt that pain, there’s really no way to understand it. I’m sorry you know that and at the same time, what a treasure your therapist must be that you do know that feeling. – Jen
April 24, 2015 at 9:29 pm
Thank you so much for reading, and for taking the time to comment. As you said in your last paragraph, I’m sorry you know too, but also it’s wonderful to find others who understand, and I’m so glad you have the sort of relationship with your therapist, whereby you feel this connected to her. I have been extremely fortunate in my current (and indeed my ex) therapist. They were/are very different, but both treasures in their different ways 🙂
Your words are powerful and I relate to them so strongly – the feelings that hit you in the heart and weigh us down. Like you, I sometimes think that these feelings are so dominant they must be getting in the way, not just of sessions, but of life in general. With me, these feelings tend to be ‘exclusive’ i.e. they tend to push others out (for example, I sometimes feel like when my feelings for her are strongest, I am pushing my husband away even more….). Having said that though, I firmly believe that the therapeutic relationship is at the core of therapy, and without having these feelings and trying to process them, ‘progress’ will not take place. Like you, though, I have no idea how that happens in practice. Whenever I have had these feelings in actual relationships in the past, it has only ever ended by one of us leaving, and so it seems difficult to imagine a ‘resolution’ of a different kind….
It’s amazing feeling safe and comfortable, isn’t it, and to be able to tell someone the things that hurt and scare you most, and for those things to be accepted. It is definitely a wonderful bond, and a unique, special relationship. Like you, I wish in many ways I could let go of the constant pain, whether in the foreground or background, associated with the things I can never have or never change. We had a lovely session a couple of days ago – I turned up without ‘a plan’ (which always worries me!) and we had a meandering but enjoyable and important conversation, which gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside! But it also really saddened me and brought me down, because of the ultimate impermanence of the situation, and because of the restricted nature of our contact. Oh for unencumbered joy, and to be able to live in the present….
Are you able to identify what it is about your current therapist that is so incredibly special, and that enables you to open up in that way? She sounds like a wonderful therapist and a wonderful person 🙂
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me, I appreciate it so much – do keep in touch!
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May 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm
I can totally relate to this. I’ve been deeply hurt by the ‘sterile’ behavior of my therapist. If I didn’t think it would trigger me again, I’d go into detail. Hugs, Hope
May 29, 2015 at 10:33 pm
Hugs to you too x. I am so sorry you’ve been so hurt by your therapist….did you talk this through with them at all? I wouldn’t want you to go into detail if it would trigger you, but I do just want to say I’m here if you ever do want to talk about it, whether in a post comment, or through email (feel free to get in touch). I find all the feelings around therapist attachment and the fact their many behaviours and comments can be so triggering, to be a cause of both joy and great pain in my life. I think it really helps if therapists can be flexible, regardless of the ‘school’ of therapy that they come from or belong to, but there are so many concerns over ‘boundaries’, that perhaps this can be very difficult for a therapist to achieve in practice, and if one comes from a ‘blank slate’ school of therapy which is meant to promote better transference, then it can be difficult to step out of that, I imagine…..but I really really feel for you. I know how intensely painful these feelings are….take care x
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June 3, 2015 at 4:34 am
The time that I felt ‘hurt’ by my therapist was really my BPD in all its glory acting out. I had started missing appointments. I was suicidal and extremely depressed and she was about to have me committed to a facility for 6 months. But, that wasn’t the par that hurt me. Because I knew I was really bad, really close to death and I knew I probably needed to be somewhere as difficult as that would be for me. I trusted her fully. I felt she knew me and wanted the best for me and that we were ‘close’, ya know??
So, here’s the thing that triggered me into hysteria in her office (anger, sobbing uncontrollably)…
She simply stated that since I had been missing visits the past few weeks ( I was seeing her twice a week then), that she was going to have to charge me for missed visits. Well….you would have thought she shoved a knife into me. Immediately our relationship went from a ‘friendship’ to a ‘sterile doctor/patient relationship. At that point all I could see was that it was ALL about the money. She cared nothing for me. She was willing to abandon me if I didn’t pay up. One more person in my life who could honestly take me or leave me. Looking back on it now, it was a childish reaction thanks to my well intrenched BPD. I would say that it embarrasses me now to remember it, but I’ve learned to accept who I was then and be ok with that. It simply was how I dealt with imagined abandonment then. I apologized at the next visit, we talked a lot about it and although it did shift my perspective of our relationship to a more realistic “caring therapist/caring patient”, I’m fine with that. So….she and I are good…really good. I owe her so much…even the tough love that she shared, if only for a session..lol. Thanks for caring enough to write to me and even more, to sift through all this babbling I’m doing. Hugs, Hope
June 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm
Hi Hope, thank you so much for taking the time to let me know what happened, and for potentially opening up old wounds. I really appreciate your honesty and ‘confidence’ (despite the public forum!). I completely understand why the whole payment thing would have sent you into hysteria – I am absolutely sure I would have had the same reaction. Discussions over hospitalisation, though serious and very difficult, were, as you say, down to her caring, and so this, despite the context, was a ‘good’ feeling, meaning closeness. But I find anything that brings home to me the ‘ultimately professional’ nature of the relationship, is very upsetting. I think that I know it and accept it, but at the same time I depend hugely on that sense of closeness, the ‘specialness’ of the therapy relationship, that ‘surely’ (in my mind) is different to most other professional relationships. So it’s a huge shock to have something reinforce that this may be a caring relationship, but it is ultimately a professional one. And the whole question of payment is a huge reminder of that. But it’s also why it’s a subject worth discussing, as you did, and I’m glad that you were subsequently able to come to terms with that, and with the ‘tough love’. I really admire that, as it’s something i still struggle with hugely. My therapist and I had a bit of a confrontation last week, to be continued tomorrow, and for me it all centres around her not giving me what I think I need, and my perception that she is not reaching out to me as a person. I don’t think I expect anything from her that is unprofessional, but when I feel as though our relationship had been damaged and I need connection, what I need is something that feels as though she (as a person) is trying to reach me (as a person) rather than ‘do therapy on me’ as it were. Maybe there is no difference, in this case, but what I perceive as her ‘cold professionalism’ over the last two sessions, has been incredibly difficult to deal with. My head and heart tell me she is far from cold – that two weeks ago I would never have thought in this way, and that my current feelings and distress are the result of a conflict that ultimately has huge therapeutic potential and healing power.
I hope that one day I too can be completely comfortable with the caring therapist/caring client’ view. I thought I had got there before Christmas, and I think I did make some progress towards that stance. But I know I still have a tendency to ‘romanticise’ our relationship….
What is your therapy situation now? And how are you feeling? It sounds as though you were in a very difficult place back then….Hugs x
June 3, 2015 at 4:39 am
oh….and by the way….I didn’t have to be committed anywhere for 6 months. I am so much better now. Life is so much better now, even the lows aren’t even close to where they were….so these are good days. Hope you’re doing well too. Sounds like you and your therapist have a good relationship. I’m happy for you.
June 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm
Oops, sorry, should have re-read this before replying to your previous comment! 🙂 I’m SO glad things are much better for you now. And yes, I think you’re right that my therapist and I have a good relationship (even though right now I don’t know how I can trust her when it feels as though she hurt me so much last week). But I know that if we can work through this, it will make the relationship stronger….x
September 10, 2015 at 12:38 am
Yes, I feel this. I’ve never really put words on it, but I do feel excluded. My therapist and I are the same age, raised in neighboring towns, and have several mutual friends. It absolutely breaks my heart to think that I could have met her in a different context, one in which we could have become friends. On the flip side, I doubt that we would have been friends if we met in a different context. My self-esteem is way too low to think she would have liked me. I’ve finally accepted that she cares for me as a client, but still think that’s primarily because she gets paid to do so.
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January 4, 2016 at 2:30 am
Sigh. I so get this. Thankfully, not to the full degree, though. I have no jealousy for my therapist’s male clients, only his female ones. I have no jealousy for his very young clients, only ones from teenager years up. I have no jealousy for his colleagues or random people who might encounter him, but I’m terrified of some life change taking him away, causing him to move or work less or be less accessible. So, I suppose this is a comfort for me… I found this post, though, when in the throws of freaking out because I can’t “hurt” my therapist the way “he hurts me” by “leaving” (going on vacation, trips, etc.). I “hate” that he doesn’t feel the pain I feel…as I’ve said to him “I want you to hurt like I hurt so that you’ll understand and stop leaving me.” I guess because I feel like the parents in my life who left me also didn’t hurt like I did…and I’ve always thought “if they just understood, they wouldn’t have left…if they knew how much it hurt, they wouldn’t have done it.” But maybe that’s a flaw in my logic. Maybe people can know how much something hurts someone and still choose to do it. I do know this: when I cry for my therapist, I literally catch myself saying “I want my mom…” so, I know it’s all transference related. I know it, but it doesn’t make the pain any less.
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January 10, 2016 at 1:01 am
Thank you for reading and commenting, and I’m so sorry for what you are going through and have been through. The feelings in transference are real – even if they belong to another time or are felt towards a different person – and so they are as immensely painful as the events they relate to. I hate many aspects of the inequality of the relationship as well, and I feel so trapped by that sometimes. I can’t comment on what you have said about your parents other than to say, in terms of the logic, there is a crucial further step – that even if someone knows something, and does it anyway, that is a reflection on them and not on you or your worth. And I’m coming to see more and more that it might be questions of self-worth that are very much connected with my feelings of exclusion. Because part of it is comparing myself to others and what they have and I don’t – but it is almost as though I feel that is something to do with me, and not therapy itself. That I am excluded because I am less worthy, less loved, less significant – as opposed to because that it is the way therapy works….I really hope that as you work through the transference, things will, over much time, start to get less painful. Thank you for reading, I’m glad you came across the post, and do keep in touch….wishing you all the best…
January 30, 2016 at 1:55 am
I’m shocked there are others like me out there. I just want to be able to say how I feel to someone (not my therapist). I go through phases of being angry at my T. It stems from jealousy. I know too much. Not from being told but by seeing my T in public, seeing her with her family, her child and other things. It all hurts and it kills me. I try to just be happy for her because I really care about her. Sometimes I can be like that. Other times and most times it all just hurts. I see her holding hands with her child and my heart feels crushed. I see her with several family members and I feel she has it all. All I read online is about transference. I get that but this feels awful. I think back to memories of years ago seeing her when her child was younger. I have memories of seeing her walking with her partner hand in hand. I hold those memories and they upset me even today. It’s crushing. And I could never discuss it with her. I would be told I was not a friend which I know. I have never crossed boundaries wanting to be a friend so why these feelings? I can’t tell her out of fear she will pull away. I do need so much from her. I get upset that I am money to her even though she cares. I am upset at so many things. I wish I could say more. Who do I tell? I can’t tell her and it sometimes is too much and really scares me how much it hurts
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July 5, 2016 at 2:38 pm
Thank you for writing this. This causes me so much distress. I have had erotic transference for my therapist for two years, almost since we started meeting. A year ago, he disclosed that he felt attracted to me as well, but that we would not act on it and we could discuss it and therapy could continue. It has been alright, but the worst aspect is that I know that he dates online and I can see his profile. It has been torture to think of him seeing other women, enjoying their company, giving them what I want so badly, and probably not thinking twice about me outside of session. I am not sure he understands how much I hurt because of this. I don’t understand how he could feel emotionally enough about me to feel attracted, but seems to deal with his coutertransference so easily compared to me. He once told me that it is because it is his job :(.
July 7, 2016 at 3:12 am
Life in a Bind,
I have struggled greatly with being excluded from my therapist’s life (many tears, self-harm gestures, and angry emails to prove it), especially my ex-therapist to whom I felt very attached. However, in our last session, my current therapist disclosed something very big, and rather than it making me feel closer to her (what I’ve always expected), it actually made me feel upset and uncomfortable. I’m still feeling the effects a week later and struggling to make sense of why she said what she said, and how it affects our relationship. When I wrote my post about it, “Feeling Unsettled in Therapy,” https://bloominglilyblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/feeling-unsettled-in-therapy/ I was thinking of your exact post here and how ironic it was that something I long for so much, could end up feeling so painful (and yet I still long for it – it makes no sense!). Oh, life with BPD!!
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July 7, 2016 at 3:24 am
P.S. Your blog continues to be an inspiration for me, along with a few other blogs in the BPD community. I would love to join the BPD blogging support community but am feeling vulnerable and not really sure how to get more established. There’s the additional part that, while I love blogging, I have no idea if anything I write is actually worthwhile or helpful to anyone! I was wondering if you might have any tips for finding support within the blogging community and getting my blog out there? Somehow you have managed to do it, and I think that is amazing!
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August 15, 2016 at 8:42 pm
help 😦 I feel this now and feel like to never want to see her again I saw her with her child and my heart dropped. It hurts so much. I wish I could explain more I feel betrayed in a way. Jealous in another way. So depressed. I can’t tell her or she would know that I saw her
August 15, 2016 at 10:01 pm
Thank you for reading, and for your comment, and I’m so sorry you’re feeling this pain, this is really really hard. I accidentally caught a glimpse of a family member of my therapist, and it was incredibly painful for a while. I think all your feelings of betrayal and jealousy are completely understandable – I know it’s incredibly scary but my personal feeling is that it’s really helpful to talk about those feelings in session, and it’s by talking about them that, eventually, you will be able to find a way through them. They may still hurt, but less over time, and they will be easier to understand. I wondered whether you might find these helpful: https://lifeinabind.com/2015/04/26/have-you-googled-your-therapist/ and https://lifeinabind.com/2015/10/04/staying-connected-to-my-therapist-and-trying-to-be-kind-to-myself/ . It’s so easy to give ourselves a hard time over this issue, and also to be terrified about how our therapists will handle it. And although therapists may handle it differently, and I don’t know how your own therapist would react, many therapists will be familiar with these feelings both from other clients but also, perhaps, from having gone through their own therapy, or witnessed colleagues’ journeys through training/therapy. I hope that at some stage, if you want to, you are able to talk to her about this, and that reacts compassionately. Personally, I found it a relief to have these issues out in the open, and also I get the feeling she appreciates my transparency over it as well…Take care, and keep in touch…
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October 17, 2016 at 8:39 am
oh i think i write this i feel so jelousy to all of girls that write comments to my therapist i feel so jeolusy when i see previous client leave his session i just want him and his ntimacy for me and its so strange for me i need to know about him more i remmeber one time i see him with his wife in his car suddenly i was feeling so curouse and ashamed at the same time i tried to following him and then i lost his car i cried in my car cried so loud feeling so alone i was crying so loud and really needing his attention i know its so hard i really respect him appreciate him and beside of all i really want his intimacy and kindness but this tought that he is kind with all of his client is not acceptable for me i want to be more special for him oh god i m happy there are other people that understand what i say ,lili
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June 28, 2017 at 3:08 pm
Oh wow, I’ve just found this blog from doing a Google search of how I am feeling at the moment. You explain it all so perfectly, I am going to re-blog if okay? Thank you for writing this and helping me not to feel so alone with it xx
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June 28, 2017 at 3:14 pm
Reblogged this on Therapy Diaries and commented:
Amazing blog. Sums up some of the ways I feel excluded from T’s life perfectly.
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January 17, 2020 at 4:31 am
I’ve been crying throughout your story. I feel the exact way toward my male therapist. I feel often excluded especially because he’ll give details about his life. You would think you’d feel closer and it did give that feeling of closeness in the beginning until he would talk about people outside of therapy that he has taken under his wing and actually said “she” is family to me. I bought him a restaurant gift card for Christmas and he mentions to me he going to use it with her on a road trip this week. So, I don’t mean to be insensitive to your feelings about wishing your therapist would share more detail about her personal life but honestly I don’t think you want to know more because the more you get to know the more abandonment, rejection and worthlessness your bound to encounter. No fun picnic.
Thank you for your article it helped me cry it all out and I feel a bit better but it will be a week before he gets back and that can sometimes feel like a month. I’m writing a letter for his return about my feelings. I struggle a lot with ending therapy because I’m not sure if he try’s to hurt me on purpose to get me to open up my feelings more I hope not.
December 2, 2022 at 8:35 pm
Unfortunately, and yes I say UNfortunately, I have been very privy to my therapist’s lives. My first one, I was with for 4 years…I knew everything about her. Everything. From her childhood to her fights with her husband. From whatever diet she was on at the moment to what her car payment was each month. I knew way more about her than she knew about me. That relationship did not end well. 10 years later and I’m still angry at her. My second therapist wanted to get me into bed and I wound up reporting her to the state. My third, who was my first male therapist, was a little more private but I still knew a lot about him. After him, I took a 4 year break from therapy. When I started again last year, with a female, it was a repeat of my first experience. She talked about herself so much that I started the sessions with “and how are you feeling today?” We officially “broke up” a couple of months ago and my anger at her is still burning bright. My most recent therapist is open but only when I ask or when she feels it’s therapeutically relevant. Each time she shares, she stops partway through and asks if I’m okay. It’s very different from all the others. However, I know whatever I ask her, she will answer. I know her favorite color, what she enjoys doing on the weekend, things she does with her daughter, why she moved to the state she’s living in now, why she moved from the state I live in, etc. I’m angry at the therapists who shared so much that it stopped becoming about me. I paid them to talk about themselves! But I’m grateful for my therapist now who is very open but only when I ask. I don’t feel excluded and I don’t feel taken advantage of.