Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

Sexual feelings for your therapist – and what they can tell you

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Tonight is the night. I have been meaning to write this post since last November – so it’s only taken me nine months!
I finally decided I had to write it because of a comment I read on an amazing post called ‘Erotic transference‘ by Attachment Girl (AG) on ‘Tales of a Boundary Ninja‘. The individual making the comment thanked AG for the post, and said that it was a “great public service for people like me to learn from“. This immediately reminded me of the start I had already made, many months ago, on this post. I began like this:

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this post. I think the only way I can convince myself to do it is if I see it as some form of ‘public service’. So often I come across forum posts or bloggers who talk about the intense feelings they have for their therapists, and how they find these feelings incredibly confusing, painful and often embarrassing. And it seems clear that one of the most difficult things about those feelings is wondering if the are ‘usual’, acceptable, and shared by others. I want to show that the answer to that question is YES.”

I like the way my answer to my own question was an emphatic ‘YES’ and yet I still hid beneath a rock for nine months and literally couldn’t write about these feelings, which are so ‘usual’ and ‘acceptable’. But I’m going to come out from under that rock because I DO still believe that these feelings are experienced by many people, and that it’s really important to talk about them. And by talk about them, I mean talk about them PARTICULARLY with your therapist. And if you think you can’t do it – read this and cringe. And cringe some more -and then, please, have that conversation….

An important thing to say is that I find it impossible to define exactly how I feel about my therapist. The nature of the feelings changes and I have lots of different types of feelings for her. I used to find that quite disturbing, but I decided, in the end, that I didn’t need to define them. I know that I love her – but I no longer feel compelled to place a label on that love, and to call it one type or another. It’s complicated – and that’s okay.

At the same time, I am also trying to accept that I may never quite be able to separate out what is ‘transference’ (that is, what is actually a feeling about, or connected with, someone else or a situation from my past or present) and what is a genuine feeling about her. What I am completely adamant about is that I DO have genuine and strong feelings about her. When I say I love her, I mean I love HER – in as much as I possibly can, and despite how relatively little I know about her. The way in which I experience that at any particular time may well be a function of the type of transference we are engaged in during our work  – and who she most represents to me at that time. But I cannot cope with the thought that what I feel for her is all just a function of therapeutic process – and I am sure that is not the case. And, from certain things she has said in session, I’m pretty sure she agrees with that assessment.

This post is primarily about the sexual aspects of the feelings I have for her – although it is not those feelings which dominate, they are the ones that can feel the most difficult and the most confusing. Particularly when placed side by side with the other (and more frequent) types of feelings I experience. Often it feels like being deeply and intensely in love; but at other times it feels as though I want desperately for her to be my mother and for me to be her child.
There are two key things  I have come to learn about sexual feelings towards one’s therapist: that it is important to try and accept them rather than criticize, deny or feel ashamed of them (much MUCH easier said than done); and that it is important to try and understand what they are telling us. Because they have a HUGE amount to say.

I find that lots of things that we experience or talk about in therapy ‘stand’ for something else, in addition to their more ‘obvious’ meaning. And so the first thing I came to understand, is that sex is a very important metaphor for emotional intimacy. As adults, the place in which we are usually most emotionally intimate with someone, is in the context of a romantic relationship, in which that love and intimacy is expressed physically. It is not at all surprising then, that in the context of a therapeutic relationship – which is incredibly intimate in a very unique way – that the ‘adult’ reaction is for that sense of intimacy to become linked with sexual feelings and a desire for physical expression. When looking for a place to ‘put’ our feelings for our therapist, this is the closest parallel we can think of.

But there is another aspect to this, which Attachment Girl talks about. As a child, intense emotional intimacy existed, or should have existed, in a very early phase when the child was essentially non-individuated from the mother. Where there was complete merger, and no separation. Part of developing and growing up is moving through this phase, into healthy separation and a sense of self, independent of the parent. When this development doesn’t fully occur, and where there are unmet needs from childhood, we may experience that childlike longing for merger with our therapist, as with a parent; but at the same time the reference point for those feelings of intimacy from the point of view of our adult self, is a sexual relationship. Which can be why what we experience for our therapist feels so confusing – we may be experiencing a childlike longing, but through adult eyes and brain.

Understanding sexual feelings as a general metaphor for an adult’s experience of emotional intimacy, and understanding how a child’s experience of intimacy can transpire alongside this, was a key step in enabling me to accept my feelings for my therapist, rather than be so troubled by them. And once I accepted them, I was more prepared to explore them, and to try and figure out what they meant. Part of that involved trying to notice when those feelings arose, and trying to understand the timing; asking the question ‘why now’? It also involved thinking about the sexual imagery itself – the nature of the fantasy – and what that might be telling me. And it also, on occasion, involved me conducting ‘thought experiments’ to see what they had to reveal. It’s not just unbidden thoughts that can be of value – but what you are prepared to imagine, and conversely, which situations you find it really hard to think yourself into.

It was around a year ago that I finally figured out the meaning behind one of my most frequent and disturbing (to me) sexual images involving therapy. But it took me well over six months before I had the courage to say anything to my therapist. I still can’t quite believe that I did. The realisation was an important one – but the way in which it had tried to communicate itself, was extremely difficult and confusing to bear, until the meaning became clear. Understanding that a fantasy about me wanting her to watch me take care of my own sexual needs in session, was actually about ultimate acceptance from her, was both a revelation and a relief. The concept of desperately wanting someone to fully accept me and to delight in me; to delight in the idea of me as a separate individual, taking care of myself, without needing me to be dependent on them to meet my needs – THAT is what all those sexual images, which had caused me so much pain, had been about.  And, as described above, those needs related directly to what I felt I hadn’t had or experienced in childhood. Since I realised that, and since feeling much more accepted in therapy, those images have largely gone away.

At around the time of last autumn’s brief therapy break, I also started to realise that my sexual feelings for my therapist appeared particularly during, and towards the end of, a therapy break. And the nature of the images was again disturbing to me, as they felt so much at odds with how gently and lovingly (though still intensely) I felt about her at other times. The emotions felt almost aggressive, and that was also the tenor of the accompanying images. I felt an enormous desire for merger, but in a way that involved me ‘taking her over’ completely. The picture in my mind was of literally pushing her up against a wall and ‘giving her the time of her life’ – and yes, I did actually say that to her…..Go on, you can say anything to your therapist after that…..

Did she blush? Did she cringe? Was she horrified? Did she laugh? No, none of the those things. She was un-phased, as she had been when I told her that I loved her and asked her if that was okay, and she said of course it was. On this occasion she simply remarked that the image was as if I wanted to give her an experience so good that it was completely irresistible. And then I realised that yes – when I was nearing the end of a therapy break, what I wanted desperately was reunion, and for her to never ever leave me again. The ‘aggressive’ element was probably connected both to suppressed anger at her ‘abandoning’ me during the break to start with, as well as to a desire to be a ‘good’ and irresistibly interesting patient, upon her return.

But that image had more to give…..I realised that all my dreams or unbidden fantasies involving sex with women, all had that same ‘aggressive’ edge to them, and I always felt like a ‘perpetrator’. The encounter was never ever pleasurable or fulfilling, either for me or for the other party involved. I have come to link this image with the feelings described in my post ‘Total impact – BPD, helplessness and power‘. I think these images may be connected both with my desire to have more power (mainly, over myself) and to feel less helpless; but also to the sense that everything I do impacts upon people, often negatively.

Sexual images and feelings are, in general, reflective of more difficult times in my therapy. Which is also something noted by Attachment Girl, who commented that an upswing in her sexual desires for her therapist tended to happen when she was moving towards a difficult realisation, and the erotic feelings were almost serving as a distraction. Whereas once a major breakthrough had been made, her feelings were centred around gratitude and safety. That is exactly my experience – to which I would add feelings of great love, but not in a way that feels sexual.

I have slowly come to see that the fact that I am even having sexual feelings about my therapist, is a positive thing, for a number of reasons. I have always had the notion that the ‘perfect and purest relationship’ is a non-sexual one. I idealised Jane, my ex-therapist, completely, and sexual images involving her were so upsetting and painful, that on occasion I deliberately brought them to mind as a form of emotional self-harm when cutting was no longer proving as effective. Recently, a friend of mine started a sexual relationship with an older woman whom she had been close friends with for a number of years. When I spoke of it with my therapist, I talked about how I’d felt disappointed that their relationship had ‘degenerated into that’. My therapist asked why this might be, and I realised that it may well stem back to the fact that my mother exalted the mother-daughter relationship above all others and believed it held a unique place. Which of course, in many ways, it does – but she emphasized it in a way that was incredibly exclusive and sought to minimize, in comparison, every other kind of relationship. I was always aware that my father was very much ‘third place’ (at most) in her affections, being ‘outranked’ by both me and by my grandmother.

My acceptance of these feelings for my therapist means, I think, that I can see her as human and imperfect rather than idealised (though I admit I still do struggle with that sometimes!). But also, as I realised quite suddenly a few months ago – she and her body are one. I don’t love some mysterious essence of her,  I love her, and that includes everything I see before me. It shouldn’t be that I see a physical expression of love as somehow inferior or impure or imperfect. Or at least, no more imperfect than the wonderful person that I am privileged to love. Somehow, although I have been in relationships all my adult life, that was a strangely new thought.

The sexual feelings have made a reappearance during this therapy break. But they are different, and I’m trying to understand what that means. When I carried out ‘thought experiments’ in the past, to see what my ‘bidden’ rather than ‘unbidden’ fantasies could show me, I discovered that the thoughts and images were very much ‘milder’ and more loving than those more aggressive pictures I had had before. But they still involved my therapist being completely submissive – immobile even – with me paying her all of the physical attention. When I tried to imagine her touching me instead, it was very very difficult. Not just difficult to imagine, but difficult to accept, emotionally. And I don’t think that was just about the forbidden nature of sexual relationships in the context of therapy. I could sense that my reluctance to have her touch me, rather than me touching her, was about making myself vulnerable and letting her get closer. I think it was connected to the realisation I had, described in my post ‘Censored: wearing a mask in therapy‘, that I was still holding back, and not giving her access to my thoughts and emotions, as they happened.

And so it’s interesting to me that this time around, it’s about wanting to feel her touch me, and not the other way around. Accepting her touch, wanting her to show me things – rather than me taking control and ‘forcing myself’ upon her. It’s not even so much about merger, this time around – there is a certain separateness still, in wanting to feel her touch upon me. I used to want so much to merge indivisibly with Jane, my ex-therapist. But it occurs to me now that if I’m swallowed up by my therapist, I cannot see her – and I really, really want to see her. And to be seen. And that’s only possible if we do not occupy the same space.

This feels like one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. And it’s not because of the sex. It’s because of what I’ve JUST written – in the paragraph above. It scares me – so much.

So if you’re having similar feelings about your therapist, but you feel far too ashamed and scared to talk about them – I sincerely hope that this post will be an encouragement to do so. I truly believe that as well as being one of the most excruciating therapy moments you might go through, it could also be one of the most beneficial and healing.

I hope that this post will be an encouragement not just because of all the things I have admitted to in therapy (and if I can, you can too!); but because the fear inherent in talking about the feelings, pales when compared to what slowly comes as a result of the talking – the fear of progress, when you realise that something might be changing.

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51 thoughts on “Sexual feelings for your therapist – and what they can tell you

  1. Truly excellent post, and very brave. Well done..and thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I’m flabbergasted at this to be honest. I’ve been having similar feelings about my own therapist and I was talking to my mother about how uncomfortable I’d be if I mentioned this to my therapist because I am honestly afraid he won’t be able to work with me anymore. I don’t want a new therapist and I’ve been through too many to lose the one I have now. He’s been the best counselor I’ve ever had and the thought of losing him because of my feelings towards him kills me. My feelings for my therapist are more along the lines of a father/daughter relationship. My father died when I was 10 years old and my dad was only 53. My therapist is around the exact age my father was when he passed away and when I learned this, my first reaction was to run to his arms and hold onto him for dear life. He reminds me of my father in many ways and even though it’s been 22 years since my father left this world, it still hurts like the day he died. I haven’t had a decent father figure in my life since my father died and I was a major daddy’s girl.

    When I told my mother about my feelings towards my therapist she told me I should try to talk to him about it and I’ve been stubborn and scared to death since about doing so. When you mentioned, “The concept of desperately wanting someone to fully accept me and to delight in me; to delight in the idea of me as a separate individual, taking care of myself, without needing me to be dependent on them to meet my needs –” I can relate to that so well. I feel that way every day with my mother and my partner and even my children.

    All I can say is thank you so much for having the courage to write this. It has helped me realize that I’m not the only one struggling with intimate feelings for my therapist and not feeling alone is one of the things I struggle with on a daily basis. It’s also one thing that my family has a hard time understanding about me because I’m hardly ever “alone” in that sense.

    Liked by 2 people

    • THANK YOU for your wonderful comment, to which I want to reply in more detail, but cannot do so right now. I will come back to it tomorrow, but thank you again for reading and for commenting! Take care…

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    • Thank you so much for writing this, and for opening up in this way. Your struggles are clear and painful and having these feelings can be _so_ isolating, even more so when you’re feeling alone anyway. Those who haven’t been in therapy often struggle to understand how things can feel so intense, and how transference works (or even that it exists!) – but your mum’s reaction sounds quite positive, from what you have said, or am I misreading that? I hope you don’t mind my saying I agree with your mum and I think it would be immensely helpful to talk to your therapist about this. From the background you have given, it seems like it could be one of the absolutely core parts of your therapy, and given your dad’s passing, it is absolutely to be expected that you would form these feelings for your own male therapist. I think it is a sign of your good and trusting relationship with your therapist, that you are experiencing these feelings – from what I have read, that really facilitates the transference, and that is what will enable you to work through these feelings. Does your therapist talk much about your therapeutic relationship? How long have you been with him? Therapists are used to clients having these feelings for them, whether sexual or parental, from what I can gather through my reading, the parental feelings, certainly, are extremely common and every therapist will have experienced these. Although there are no guarantees in life (sadly!) and I don’t know either of you, it is extremely likely he would be absolutely fine discussing all of this, is probably expecting it at some point, and may well be inwardly very pleased at the progress it will show and the fact that it will enable some really good work. However, having said of all of that, we can only mention things when we are ready. Sometimes we don’t mention things because we are nervous, even though we are in other ways ‘prepared’ – but sometimes it simply isn’t the right time in therapy to ‘go there’, particularly if it’s such a major, difficult and painful area. Only you know the difference -whether you are holding back mostly because of what his reaction might be, or whether you simply cannot entertain the thought of probing those feelings and re-experiencing some of those things yet…..I wish you the very very best of luck with your therapy journey and I’m so glad you have a therapist you get on with and trust and really want to hang on to! If you want to, do let me know what happens, if you decide to raise this with him. Often the fear of doing something like this is much much worse than the doing – or at least, than the having done it! There is often immense relief afterwards….like a weight has been lifted….Take care…

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  3. Thank you for this post! Attachment Girl’s post “Erotic Transference” is something I’ve read many times over a couple of years.

    Your post resonated with me as I’ve had similar sexually aggressive fantasizes for my ex therapist and current therapist, as well as (like you) far more milder and tender ones.

    It’s good to know I’m not alone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much -and I will reply in more detail tomorrow! 🙂

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    • It’s such a good post, isn’t it! I’ve read a few times now, as well…..it’s interesting to know that your fantasies vary in their nature, a bit like mine, and that they cover a whole spectrum of emotions! Definitely good to know we’re not alone in this – it can be such a difficult thing to accept that we have these thoughts and feelings, without feeling that they’re somehow wrong. But so liberating when we can accept and just work with them and find out what they are all about! Have you raised these feelings with your therapist? If so, is it proving helpful?

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I haven’t raised them with my therapist, though I’ve mentioned “transference”. We didn’t have an in depth discussion, and I grew up in a highly sex negative culture, so I’m not sure of what might happen if I brought it up. 🙂 I think you’re really brave to be open about erotic transference! 🙂

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      • Thank you! I think that you will know if and when the times comes to talk about it -and if it is, I think you will find it within yourself to broach it despite the uncertainty 🙂 Thank you for your reply!

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  4. achingly honest and beautifully vulnerable post. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much 🙂 I’m glad you liked it – and it certainly felt ‘aching’ at times (very much so) to write it, but I’m so glad I did and that you and others not only read and comment, but share your own similar experiences as well. I’ve learned a lot about writing about vulnerability from yours and others’ posts, and I’ve been very much encouraged by them as well, thank you….

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  5. Such an important and powerful post. I’ve had some form of erotic transference with probably all of my therapists. I don’t bring it up because it never seemed relevant or important but I love the way you describe it here. I can definitely see the deeper needs being expressed through these images. I will definitely give more thought to the specifically sexual emotions and thoughts I experience around the therapeutic relationship.

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    • Thank you Andi 🙂 It’s really good to hear from you, and I will reply in a bit more detail tomorrow (my husband has just come back from a trip abroad, so I need to put aside WordPress for this evening!)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andi! I smiled when I read “I don’t bring it up because it never seemed relevant or important….”! I have often found that the things that I wasn’t bringing up because they didn’t seem relevant, were some of the most helpful and interesting things to bring up 🙂 I think everything has its right time – and we can only bring things up when we’re ready – but I guess all I’m saying is that I’m now much more wary of myself when I’m tempted to hold back from something because I think it’s not relevant – I now question whether that’s _really_ why I don’t raise it! Thank you for saying that you can see what is being expressed here – sometimes I ‘accuse’ myself of reading too much into things, almost to make myself feel better! So it’s good to know that all of things makes sense to someone else as well 🙂 It will be interesting to read how things develop in your therapy if you do decide to give more thought to these emotions and to raise them with your therapist – from what I’ve read, she seems _more_ than capable of handling them 😉 Take care x

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  6. Reblogged this on Marci, Mental Health, & More and commented:
    “Which can be why what we experience for our therapist feels so confusing – we may be experiencing a childlike longing, but through adult eyes and brain”

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  7. This is a fantastically written, vulnerable, insightful post. Thank you for having the courage to sort through the transference and write about it so that others may benefit.

    I have feelings of deep longing to be held by my therapist. She did it, once, and we also sit next to one another so that our arms are touching. Without this physical contact, I would be stuck in the black hole of therapy. I’m actually waiting for signs of erotic transference to indicate that I have matured, in a developmental standpoint, from wanting child-like contact to adult-like contact. I think it will be telling.

    Is your therapist an analyst? I love the complexity of the work you’re doing. Once you can get through the awkwardness and level of discomfort with the feelings, it really is incredibly fascinating.

    Keep writing! The internet needs raw honesty such as this.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Reblogged this on how to be an analyst and commented:
    I have yet to experience erotic transference with my analyst (I’m waiting for it!) – but here is a fantastic post on the subject that I will be sure to reference when the time comes.

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  9. Pingback: Feelings for Therapist | Stuff That Needs Saying

  10. Reblogged this on Many of us's blog and commented:
    Raw and honest, beautifully brilliant, well worth a read. Thank you for writing this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you SO much for the reblog, but more importantly, for your wonderful, kind words, which I really appreciate. I am so glad you liked the post, and that you found it helpful 🙂 It’s comments like this that help me to ‘take the risk’ and to write about incredibly personal subjects like that, in the first place. Keep in touch….

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sex is enormously maleable, as you’ve nicely illustrated. We are told what it is and what it musn’t be. There is a good book out there by Richard Posner, a world class intellect and jurist, for what it is worth. You’ve been brave in writing this. Nothing new there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you 🙂 More tomorrow, as my husband has just come back from abroad, and I feel guilty already for having stayed glued to my laptop!

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    • Thank you 🙂 I like the idea of sex being maleable and not precisely defined, in a sense. I still remember one of those ‘bonding’ moments with my therapist when I said I wasn’t really sure what sex was all about, and she implied that lots of people felt that way and my confusion was not unusual – but it was nice lighthearted moment… 🙂 I will definitely look up that book, thank you so much for the recommendation. And thank you for your kind words about being brave – it certainly felt like the bravest thing I have written. For the small number of friends who read my blog, I am trying not to think about the fact they may have read it! it’s a bit different being face to face with someone who is not your therapist, but who knows your most intimate thoughts in that way!

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  12. Hi I’ve read this post of yours because I’m worried about my own thoughts in this respect towards my therapist. I’ve had them before with other therapists, but this feels scarier because I haven’t been seeing her for very long. Why do I have these thoughts/fantasies after such a short time!? I did know her years ago – we are in the same professional area.

    Your blog was really helpful to read thank you. I feel less like a pervert now. 🙂 I have an embarrassing question for you though. When you talked to your therapist about your thoughts and fantasies etc, particularly the specifics, did you get aroused, or where you too mortified for that to happen? Sorry you don’t have to answer this question if it’s too embarrassing for you. I’m just worried for myself that if my therapist wants to talk about it and doesn’t reject me on the spot, will I embarrass myself more by talking about it and getting noticeable aroused. Fortunately I’m a female, so perhaps less noticeable! But still, those subtle things like pupil dilation and stuff.

    Would love your insight.
    Distressed and Confused.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and for your comment, and for being brave enough to ask the question! I think to start with I would make a really general comment but which is also applicable in this area – for me at least, my thoughts sometimes feel so real and so likely, that it’s impossible to imagine a different scenario. Once I’ve thought of something, or of it happening a certain way, it feels real. And yet the reality often turns out very very different indeed. And so how you imagine feeling in that situation may feel incredibly likely, but what actually happens may be a million miles away. I had the same worry as you – but as you predicted, I was way too embarassed for anything of the sort to happen. Talking about things often takes the allure or mystery or danger out of them, and makes them ‘more ordinary’ in some ways, than you imagine them being. There have been a couple of times when the issue of flirting or seduction has come up a little out of the blue when I was not expecting it – in those moments I felt brief emotional highs as described in my post on obsession attachments https://lifeinabind.com/2014/06/21/waiting-to-fall-bpd-and-obsessive-attachments/ but I would say that that was ’emotional’ rather than physical. Still, I ‘sat on’ those feelings pretty quickly in case they progressed in the way you’ve indicated, though perhaps I should have mentioned my fears to my therapist!! Thank you again for your comment and question, and I hope that things go well if you decide to talk about this with your therapist. Incidentally, I don’t think the length of time necessarily makes a difference to how likely this is – I connected with my ex-therapist from the very first session. A bit like ‘love at first sight’, it was instant. Whereas for various reasons (including grieving stopping sessions with my ex-therapist), the relationship with my current therapist developed very slowly and much more turbulently…

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  13. Life, I have been reading your blog for sometime now and casually leave carefully thought comments. I think I have thanked you often too for writing all and the way you do. This morning alone, I have read a dozen or so of some of your thrilling posts like this one. I was a client briefly and never felt such, but as a life coach now, I have a client who is apparently going through such and his obsessive attachment is also some concern. I admit I look forward to talking or seeing him too and yet I don’t want to bring those issues up unless he does so. He even thinks we could go out with each other and am calmly refraining from discussing his insinuations. I think he’s in a more difficult situation to worry about instead of all this emotional serial fantasies and all. Any advice dear?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marie, thank you so much for your continued interest and reading of my blog – you have been with me since the beginning and I am truly grateful for that! And thank you for your reading and ‘liking’ of my posts this morning! Your situation sounds really tricky – I will do my best to say something which I hope is helpful, but with the caveat that I am treating this like ‘therapy’ because I’m not sure how the boundaries etc differ with life coaching, and also with the caveat that it comes from the perspective of how I would feel in this situation, which may be different to how your client feels! I think you’re right to take your cue from him and to mention it if he does, rather than bringing it up. however, if you know that he thinks you could go out together, then I assume he is mentioning it now and again? In which case, I am tempted to think that it would be better to address it directly, rather than to refrain from discussing it. In my experience, keeping something hidden and ‘not talked about’ gives it more power – it makes it more mysterious, more exciting, and it ‘keeps hope alive’ and allows fantasy and speculation to grow. While you are silent on the matter, he is able to continue to fantasize that you might be interested, that you may actually go out with him, that you do not want to talk about it because you have feelings yourself and are embarrassed or fearful of talking about it. Painful though it was, I needed to hear, for example, quite clearly from my therapist that hugs would never be a part of our therapy. I had to hear it to believe it and to stop indulging in hopes that it would happen -and even having heard it my mind still tries to find ways around it! But hearing it was necessary, or so much energy could have been spent in speculating, wondering, trying to ‘achieve’ an outcome I wanted, etc. I think bringing a subject out into the open makes it more ordinary, less seductive, less mysterious, and less exciting. I think that in general, it leads to the subject having less of a hold over a person. It gives you the opportunity to be very clear (while still being compassionate) that while this is a subject you are more than happy to talk about, your boundaries as the same as they would be in therapy (if this is the case) and neither going out nor a friendship are possible, and would be, in your view, unethical (or whatever reflects your own position on the matter). I also think that if his insinuations are making you uncomfortable, this would be a reason to address them as well. I think the danger of bringing it out into the open is that I think it’s important to be very careful about the manner in which this is spoken about – particularly if you really enjoy conversation together, it might be easy to fall into (or, it would be for me!) a slightly jokey or flirtatious mode, which would be a manner of engaging with what he wants to pursue, rather than looking at the subject therapeutically. I am reminded of the way my therapist always questions what something _means_, in a therapeutic sense, and what its significance is or what it stands for – and I think this is the way in which it might be best to approach it. If he wants to pursue a relationship with you, what does this mean, what is he trying to avoid or to gain, why now, why you, does this reflect a pattern from his wider life experience? As I do, he may try and insist it ‘doesn’t mean anything’, it just is what it is, but I think you could keep pushing back with the therapeutic approach and line of questioning! Trust me, if the irritating nature of someone doing that the whole time isn’t enough to divert him from making insinuations, I don’t know what is! 😉 Sorry, joking aside, I know this is a serious matter….I think that one risk of not talking about it is that it may come to dominate your coaching partnership, at least within his own thinking. It’s hard to think about anything else if all your energies are taken up with trying to get someone’s attention, trying to reach a place of relationship or greater intimacy, and if all your focus is on one particular (and impossible) thing. Getting it out in the open, discussing it, and making the parameters clear, might hopefully him to concentrate on other things.
      Is any of this helpful? I have a feeling I am doing so much speculating about his intentions/motivations and about your partnership with him, none of which may be true! But I hope something I have said here is helpful. And it would be good to hear how it turns out, if you are able to share anything, without breaking any kind of confidentiality……take care dearest!

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      • Life, thank you so much. I already started looking at the issues both real and ‘imginary’ yesterday. One day, I’ll be freer to share more and even engage some either way…

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  14. Pingback: Memory Monday – “Sexual feelings for your therapist – and what they can tell you” | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  15. Wow, I can’t believe how familiar this is. I went through this 4 years ago with my first real T (female, a bit older), and beat myself up about it. When I finally worked up the courage to tell her, she seemed quite upset with me, and in a sort of horrified way, asked me if I pleasured myself while thinking of her. Knowing that truth at that point would lead to termination, I lied. Things devolved quickly anyway and “coincidentally” her rates skyrocketed. I left the practice and felt heartbroken.
    Several therapists later (none of whom I was able to bond with or trust), I still felt sad, years later. I’m now in therapy with a much older T, male, and again I find myself in the predictable paternal transference and the dreaded erotic transference. Your fantasy of having your T watch you “fly solo” is EXACTLY my fantasy with this T. I can hardly believe another person has had such a similar fantasy. Also, I think of “servicing” him, and I can’t tolerate the thought of him touching me. It’s excruciating but I will never ever have the nerve to talk with him about what this means. He is religious and I am sure I would be shown the door again. Which is crazy because I’m pretty harmless, I don’t dress or act provacatively…I have no ACTUAL desire for a relationship with him. I’m married 20+ years, and he is married too, with grown kids! Oh, and I am just as likely to fantasize about being a small toddler asleep on his chest as I am to think naughty thoughts. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your candid post. I may not be as brave as you, but at least I am not alone, and I am happy to learn from your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thank you so much for such a beautiful article. I can’t hold my tears back while i was reading it. Thank you for expressing the same feeling that i am not able to express.. It will help me a lot, i hope.

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  17. Wow. Thanks for your openness and bravery. A lot has been made clear to me by this post. It could have been written about me in many ways. Not brave enough to tell my therapist. ..maybe one say. Interested in exploring the link between the need for emotional intimacy and sexual desire…it has been very confusing and disturbing for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I’m not idealizing you (much!), but you are amazing. Your candor, insight and articulate delivery make yours one of the best blogs I’ve read. I wonder whether you’re interested in magazine writing? I might email you.
    Stay courageous!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This was such a good article, and you helped to make what’s so confusing for me understandable. I’ve had the same feelings for my therapist, most of the time it’s paternal transference but sometimes erotic. I don’t want to dominate her, I just feel close to her. There are moments though that I’ve questioned my sexuality because of it. Sexual matters have not been much a part of our sessions, most recently I’ve started writing these things down and sending it to her. I know now that I need to speak to her, I just hope I will have the courage to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment, and I’m glad it was helpful. I tend to believe things happen at the right time – not necessarily because of ‘providence’ or ‘fate’, but just because we know, internally, when we are ready. I’m sure you have the courage, but that doesn’t mean you have to act now, or even next week. You will do it, when the time is right for you, but I hope the post was an encouragement that it can work out well, when you do 🙂

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  20. I keep coming back to this post as it is so well written and full of insight – thank you for your courage in writing it. It took me two years to fall in love with my therapist but then it was sudden and very intense. I just wasn’t ready for the shock of it before. This is a woman who could be my mother by age which makes everything doubly confusing. Since then it’s been like what you describe – the nature and intensity of the feelings varies and the sexual element comes and goes at odd times. I dream about her in that way and find myself inexplicably aroused in session sometimes. The details of my fantasies also change in the metaphorical way you say. And like Amanda above it made me question my sexuality and come to the conclusion that I have supressed my feelings about women in general. I do believe for me it had the function of waking me up to who I really am sexually. I told my therapist all of this repeatedly with varying amount of openness and detail. Like yours, she wasn’t shocked or horrified, has acknowledged it and we are trying to understand it together.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ella, I also keep coming back to this post. I can empathise with it greatly, because in the past 10 days or so, I have developed similar feelings. They have only emerged recently, in light of the fact I became emotional and felt able to cry during a recent session. This is something I rarely do in front of others, particularly not someone I have ‘known’ 4-5 weeks, but on the other hand, don’t really ‘know’ at all. I am a female, and she is female, and older than me, by maybe 15 years. I am not normally attracted to women, but I believe that because sex is a very important metaphor for emotional intimacy, it is a desire for understanding/empathy/intimacy and emotional openness (rather than the fact I am now attracted to women, physically… which I am not), even though my desire for emotional intimacy and love has manifested itself in a sexual desire. It is not always that way, sometimes it is more a desire to be taken care of like a child or baby.

      I do wonder if these feelings will pass. I would be terrified to mention them to her in any detail (or at least, be so open about them), because I feel she will be revolted by the very concept. But then again, I feel most people if they think of any form of intimacy with me, would be revolted too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Kate, it is a very confusing situation, isn’t it? Like Life in a Bind says, the feelings will have a lot to say. Although there may be some points in common, it will be a different message for each therapy patient to whom this happens. That’s why it seems very important to follow your unique experience of it. For me it wasn’t just a metaphor and it brought up the issue of my sexual orientation. I’m grateful for that. And the love for my therapist is still there in all its many forms, nearly a year later. It’s confusing but I’m learning to feel OK with the confusion. If you are worrying about her being revolted by the thought of intimacy with you… you say you already experienced some emotionally intimate moments in session – was she revolted then? I’d say give yourself time, feel whatever you feel, observe how it waxes and wanes. If you feel the time is right or if it becomes too distracting maybe gently and gradually share some of it with your therapist. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. I know this post is nearly two years old, but I felt compelled to comment and to say thank you for writing it. There was a part in it that really struck a chord with me. I am not a crier, I usually have a hard time crying, but as I continued reading, I felt a stirring of emotions that I cannot describe. After reading the eighth and ninth paragraphs, my eyes began to well up. I suppose because it’s a truth for me and I had not realized it until I read those paragraphs. I too am struggling with an attraction with my therapist, but the only difference is that I knew them way before I began seeing them as my therapist and the attraction was intense even then and has only increased in intensity. I made this decision because it was a choice between see them or waiting a long time for the next available therapist. This action alone makes me tremendously guilty, because I knew better, but given the situation I was in I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice. Out of fear and embarrassment of not being in their care anymore, I have not told them and I am at the point where I could say something, but I usually talk myself out of it. I am going to do it it’s just a matter of when. Anyways, I just wanted to say thank you for this post.

    Best,

    Nicholas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your immensely kind words, and for letting me know the impact this had on you.I’m so sorry you are struggling and that you had such a difficult decision to make with regard to whether or not to start seeing your therapist in the first place. I am wishing you the very best of luck for when you decide to discuss this with your therapist, and I really hope your struggles start to ease rather than intensify. I found that trying to work out what the attraction/images/feelings meant in the context of the therapy (e.g. desire for closeness, control, desire to please etc) took the intensity out of them to some degree, however, I know your situation is different as your feelings were there before you began therapy, and you knew your therapist in a different context, and so this may not work in quite the same way….many thanks again for commenting, and take care..

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  22. I found this when googling the concept of erotic transference and found it very insightful and very reassuring. I am having a similar feeling at present. I was alarmed by it, and I have never known anything like it before. I have tried to understand the feelings – which have only emerged recently, in light of a dream I had about her. Much of the thoughts and feelings are more about wanting to develop an intimate but non-sexual relationship, like – for example – cuddling in bed and online shopping together. I feel very bizarre writing this, and I am not revealing my real name or location in case I am discovered.

    I suppose it could have all started when, for the first time, I was able to show emotion ion front of her (I rarely do it in front of others) and she was kind, empathetic, non-judgemental, etc, and the only person who really takes an active ‘interest’ in me. I get that ‘sex is a very important metaphor for emotional intimacy’ and I knowing this reassured me.
    I could also relate to the part of your article which stated “The ‘aggressive’ element was probably connected both to suppressed anger at her ‘abandoning’ me during the break to start with, as well as to a desire to be a ‘good’ and irresistibly interesting patient, upon her return.” This must sound awful, but I now feel like I am starting to want to dress in a certain way and look nice when I go, wearing things not too dissimilar to what she wears in terms of colour and patterns. It is early days. I have only had five sessions
    And it is only in the past couple of days I have even admitted this to myself. Now I feel when is see her it is going to be awkward and may distract from what we are meant to be talking about. It felt a bit like that when I last saw her (last week) too.

    One other part of the article I relate to is “an upswing in sexual desires for a therapist tended to happen when moving towards a difficult realisation, and the erotic feelings were almost serving as a distraction.”
    Needless to say, these feelings have made me feel quite uncomfortable and inappropriate. But in some ways, I enjoy it because I like feeling this level of ‘intimacy’ and openness even though it’s not the same as being intimate in the real world as the relationship is a different one, and in a way, that makes me feel sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I told my therapist that I loved her (after seeing her for 6 years) – not quite sure what kind of love but love nevertheless. She said she didn’t love me and that those feelings were not healthy. She was happy for me to terminate therapy (after 6 years!) so I could figure out what was going on, with another therapist. So, you can’t always tell your therapist anything…… #sad

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    • Suzuki, I am so so sorry both for my delay in replying, but much more importantly for what happened. Are you with another therapist now? You will probably know that I try and honour others’ therapy by not commenting in any way that could be undermining, but I’m struggling to understand the decision your therapist made here. Only the two people in the room know the full story and the context, and it may at its core be that she felt someone else might be able to help you more, and that it was her ethical responsibility to try and ensure you were in the best hands you could be. But I cannot personally agree with her statement that love for one’s therapist is not healthy – i’m not saying there are no circumstances in which it _wouldn’t_ be unhealthy, but generally speaking, I think it’s only natural that one would form a deep attachment and often a deep and genuine love for the person we have this unique relationship with. I’m so so sorry for this, and hope you are finding some support…..

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  24. I’ve been in therapy for little over a year now. My feelings for him started when I had a sex-dream about him. At first, I enjoyed the feelings, they gave me adrenaline and a boost when I was feeling very low and out of energy and down. But gradually the feelings started to become more like anxiety, all of a sudden the sessions started to get very painful (I cry after every session now) because I knew he would never reciprocate the feelings I had. That’s when I knew I had to tell him, so I started to tell him in bits. First about my dreams, cause I wanted him to interpret them for me, what he thought they meant. And when I asked him if he ever dreams about clients he said yes in a very dry voice, looked down and got all flustered and blushed.
    He understood my dreams and gave a very accurate description of what I thought they meant as well. But we only talked about them once. He hasn’t brought it up since. In a later session I told him that I’m having transference feelings that I find hard to understand. He said, very friendly that I understand that you are curious about me, but can you handle the feelings? I started to describe my feelings in a very distant, “bookish”, intellectual way. When he noticed that I got uncomfortable he dropped the subject. Since then we’ve danced around it a few times, but never really adressed it. I’ve always been extremely open with him about my past, and what I’ve been through, and what I feel about most things. He’s been very supportive and tells me that I am very brave for telling him about all this very personal stuff. He tells me bits and pieces from his life (not the whole picture, but I’ve picked up a clue here and there), mostly because I’ve been so upfront.

    He works pretty close to where I live, so we cross paths from time to time. Sometimes he greets me, says something nice while passing, but most of the time , he just stares at me. Our eyes meet, but he doesn’t say anything, he just stares at me. I never know what will happen, so I try to be nonchalant when I see him, but my heart starts pounding really fast every time. Afterwards, I’m like a melted puddle. I’ve asked if he’s bothered but he just says it’s fun, cause he gets a glimpse into my life.
    But he’s in my head most of the day. It’s fun and annoying. I think about the things we’ve talked about, and I get frustrated cause I just want to get this over with and tell him.
    So last session I gave him a letter where I told him all about my feelings, cause I didn’t want to “dump” it all in his lap at once. So I am going to see him this Friday and I am just a nervous wreck. I am hoping that he will treat me kindly and not freak out. If that happens, I will be heartbroken, cause I’ve told him so much , I feel so close to him. He’s been so nice to me, so it would be out-of-character if he did react badly.

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