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.


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

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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An open letter to my therapist

It’s been a long time since you’ve felt so much like the enemy. Since I’ve wanted to keep you at arms’ length and push you away. When I asked you a question at the start of our last session and felt brushed off by your reply, I was surprised at how much it hurt. Surprised because I’d been feeling so cut-off I wasn’t sure if you still had the power to wound me like that.  Before the Christmas break I would have just let go and cried, but instead I tried to contain it and keep it inside. I was guarded and I was holding back.

I’ve been turning away from you in session, I know I have, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed. It’s very subtle – just shifting in my chair so that I can turn a little to the side. It’s not deliberate, but I’m aware of it happening. Before the Christmas break I was pulling my chair closer because it felt as though the distance between us was too great; but recently I’ve been pushing myself back into my chair in an attempt to get further away. Sometimes I want to leave mid-session – it feels pointless to keep talking when I’m not connecting emotionally with anything I’m saying. It feels too difficult to carry on when you feel like an outsider and I feel so alone.

I feel disconnected – from you, and from my own feelings about you. I can’t reach you – you feel completely inaccessible. I feel as though I’m relating to you from behind a glass wall and I have no idea how to break through. What are you thinking and feeling? Are you feeling anything at all? Does anything I say have an emotional impact on you? And what do I have to do to get some sort of reaction from you that makes you seem real, human and invested in me, and not just like a well-meaning bystander?

When there’s a chink in the armour of my disconnection, I bounce between longing –  and anger and resentment. When I opened up to you about the more troubling aspects of my feelings for you, on some level I felt as though I was trying to forge a connection by bringing something to the table that you would find psychotherapeutically interesting – something to analyse and theorise over. It was almost as if I was giving you a special gift, not just of my trust, but one that represented professional excitement for you, and emotional intensity for me. But the reality was very different – it seemed to be just an ‘ordinary’ gift to you, and I felt little apart from confusion. As for you – I had no idea how you felt.

It was afterwards that the anger and resentment kicked in. You’re so keen to try and show me other viewpoints, other ways of seeing things. So keen to open me up to the possibility that there are explanations for things that don’t involve me blaming myself all the time. So maybe it’s you who cannot reach me; you who’s not trying hard enough and who’s failing to tune into me, and not the other way around. Do I really believe that? I don’t know. I want to hurt you and to protect you from hurt, all at the same time.

I feel so terribly unfair. You don’t deserve these words and on some level I know that they’re not true. But I’m so desperate and frustrated. Where is the person that I love? Where is that love, and why can’t I feel it as immediately as I did? Why do I hesitate to trust you?

I spend so much time not looking at you in session. And when I do look, I try and remind myself that what I’m seeing is thoughtfulness, rather than judgement; seriousness rather than dislike; amusement rather than dismissiveness. Sometimes I’m too afraid to look, in case it hurts. But sometimes I want to look and look at your face just to try and find something that I recognize. Maybe I want to see the smile that I love, and feel that it’s for me. Maybe I want to see empathy, understanding, or compassion. Maybe I want to see something of what I’m feeling, mirrored in you. Or maybe I just think that looking hard enough will be sufficient to build a connection again. But I could never keep your gaze for very long; and in any case I’m too worried that I could never keep your attention.

Therapy has such a limited repertoire of senses – and when I cannot look at you in session, the only thing that I have left is sound. Sometimes your voice changes – it’s one of the reasons that I’m here. I don’t know why, or what it means, but it’s beautiful and it makes me feel held and cared for. You used that voice in our very first session when I was drowning and in floods of tears, grieving over the imminent loss of Jane. You used it a few months ago when I was distraught because I thought that I was a ‘bad patient’ and was ‘failing at therapy’. It’s a warmer, softer, gentler voice, and I wish that I could remember it clearly, or bottle it and let it out when I need it most.

I so wanted some of that gentleness when we were talking about how overwhelmed I was feeling at work. I knew I couldn’t be physically held, but I wanted to be held by that voice. I wanted to feel it wash over me; for it to be my comfort. I needed you to reach me with that gentleness and to connect us with that warmth. But we don’t feel bound together anymore. There is no ‘we’. There is me trying to steer a course in a stormy sea, and there’s you trying to give directions from the shore. But all I wanted was for you to speak the voice that stills the storm.

I want to fix this. I want to fix us, but I don’t know how. You said I was resourceful – because I had tried to connect us by talking about things that I thought you would find interesting; by asking you questions to try and find areas of similarity between us and to draw us closer together. But this is my last resource; I don’t know what else to do. I wrote a letter to Jane once, about half-way through our sessions together, and it was the key that unlocked the most intense aspects of my feelings for her. Perhaps I’m hoping that it will do the same for us; or at least, that it will break down the defences that I feel I have been putting up so that I can release what I’m thinking and feeling to you, instead of holding it back. But I’m not sure that my last resource will work. Words are powerful, but on this occasion it feels as though they are failing me. They haven’t unravelled the knots that are keeping me trapped within myself. I’m throwing them out as a lifeline, but they’re falling short. They haven’t anchored me to you – like my spoken words, they still leave me feeling floating and alone.

It’s been a long time since you’ve felt so much like the enemy, but maybe I just have to trust that that will change. Unless we sit in silence when we meet, I have no choice but to keep on talking. I can keep on focusing on the ‘less difficult’ areas; I can keep trying to talk about you, and not me. But eventually I’m going to have to take a risk and talk about something harder, even if it feels like nothing. Eventually, I hope the nothing will start to feel like something and you won’t feel so distant anymore. In the meantime, please don’t get frustrated with me, and please don’t close yourself off. I’m trying to feel comfortable enough to feel – but I need to see you being you, to sense you’re really here. To quote a favourite TV episode of mine: “People who are broken don’t want you to be professional, they want you to be real”….

 

 [* quote is from the last episode of Season 2 of ‘My Mad Fat Diary’]

 


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Let it grow

flower in iceI am going to start by owning up to the fact that this post has nothing to do either with the film ‘Frozen’ or with gardening. So for those hoping for some insight on either topic – I am sorry to disappoint. Having said that, if you have any interest in the subject of therapy, or if you are in therapy yourself, I do hope that you read on.

A couple of months ago I had one of those ‘revelatory’ moments through therapy, that it is easy to live for, but hard to come by. It was a significant realisation for me, as it challenged my assumptions about the nature of therapy itself. Those assumptions had affected both my engagement with the process, and also my relationship with my therapist. The ‘revelation’ had an enormous impact on the way in which I approach therapy, on how I relate to my therapist, and on the expectations I have of what ‘should’ happen in session. (“There is no ‘should’, there are no rules”, I can hear my therapist saying….).

In ‘A matter of choice – BPD and self-worth’, I started by saying that therapy has twin tasks – to reveal the ways in which we really think about ourselves; and to ‘make up for’ what has been missing, and that those tasks can be more broadly described as dealing with content (or process) and with relationship. In that post, I said that both of those tasks were important – but that wasn’t the position I started with, several months ago.

So much of what BPD is about is concerned with relationships, and my absolute desire for connection had led me to place the therapeutic relationship at the centre of my therapy. It was my primary interest, and I thought it should be my therapist’s primary interest too. All the reading I had done had pointed to the fact (or so I thought) that the key vehicle for change, particularly with a ‘condition’ such as BPD, was the transformative power of the therapeutic relationship. I thought about it, and I talked about it, endlessly –it was my key preoccupation. Those with BPD are often said to have an ‘all or nothing’ approach to life – and this was certainly the case with how I thought about therapy. The therapeutic relationship mattered – and in the context of sessions, it mattered to the exclusion of all else.

Whenever my therapist suggested that content  and process were important too – or that her task was also to uncover my unconscious thoughts about myself – I argued that that was not possible until the ‘re-provision’ of what had been missing in my life, was well under-way. If the ‘patient’ has not already forged a rock-solid relationship of trust with the therapist, and has not yet been ‘re-parented’, how will they be in a position to cope with the potentially devastating realisations surrounding how they think about themselves? Nothing could have shifted me from that position (or so I thought) – and any attempts by my therapist to try and ‘re-focus’ me, I simply construed as rejection.

My husband often grumbles that I listen to my friends but not to him. He can make a point over and over again, but it’s not until I hear it from an ‘independent source’ (whatever that may mean!) that I actually take it on board, and trust it. In this case, it was only when I read the point my therapist was trying to make, in two separate books by Irvin Yalom (a well-known American psychotherapist and author), that it truly hit home. It grabbed me, in only the way that something can when it truly makes its home in the innermost parts of your being. It made both intellectual and emotional sense and I felt it as a conviction at the deepest level.

In his book ‘Love’s Executioner and other tales of psychotherapy’, Yalom describes his work with a client who, amongst other traumas, had suffered sexual abuse by her father. In that context of that tale, Yalom writes the following (the highlighting for emphasis, is my own):

When I first began to work as a therapist, I naively believed that the past was fixed and knowable; that if I were perspicacious enough, I could discover that first false turn, that fateful train that has led to a life gone wrong; and that I could act on this discovery to set things right again…..But over the years I’ve learned that the therapist’s venture is not to engage the patient in a joint archaeological dig. If any patients have ever been helped in that fashion, it wasn’t because of the search and the finding of that false trail (a life never goes wrong because of a false trail; it goes wrong because the main trail is false). No, a therapist helps a patient not by sifting through the past but by being lovingly present with that person; by being trustworthy, interested; and by believing that their joint activity will ultimately be redemptive and healing. The drama of age regression and incest recapitulation (or, for that matter, any therapeutic cathartic or intellectual project) is healing only because it provides therapist and patient with some interesting shared activity while the real therapeutic force – the relationship – is ripening on the tree.

In his book ‘The Gift of Therapy’, Yalom puts the same point in this way:

But it is not the content of the intellectual treasure trove that matters but the hunt, which is the perfect therapy mating task, offering something to each participant: Patients bask in the attention paid to the most minute details of their life, and the therapist is entranced by the process of solving the riddle of a life. The beauty of it is that it keeps patient and therapist tightly connected while the real agent of change – the therapeutic relationship – is germinating.

As Yalom also states, “In practice, there is a great complexity in the link between the intellectual project and the therapist-patient relationship”. And he does not deny that the key therapeutic force is the relationship itself. So my focus on this aspect was not misplaced – but my focus was certainly too narrow and too exclusive. The therapeutic force  – the relationship – needs feeding in order to maintain its momentum, and its food is both process and content. Its food is ‘the hunt’, ‘the intellectual project’.

I have a tendency to want to ‘do everything right’ – and therapy is no exception. It would be easy for me, therefore, to substitute an exclusive focus on ‘getting the therapeutic relationship right’, with an exclusive focus on ‘getting the content and process right’ – or to try and do both. But I think that would be to both misunderstand the nature of therapy, and also to misunderstand what Yalom is trying to say. In the same chapter in ‘The Gift of Therapy’, Yalom writes that he discovered that what he and what his clients remembered and valued about sessions, were very different. He tended to value intellectual interpretations, whereas they tended to value small personal acts that were relevant to the therapeutic relationship. The precise intellectual interpretation was not what made the crucial difference. He writes that, instead, “…the search for explanation kept us engaged and our engagement ultimately made the difference”.

I take that to mean that it is not necessarily the precise content of sessions that is most important, but the process of talking about the content, and indeed that it what Yalom said when he talked about the ‘treasure hunt’ being more important than the contents of the ‘treasure trove’. And I have seen this borne out in my own therapy. Recently we discussed a difficulty in a friendship, for which I felt a failure and was blaming myself entirely. My therapist kept offering up suggestions for what might have been going on with my friend at the time, and when I thanked my therapist in my next session for the fact that I had since felt much better, she said she had been trying to give me a different perspective. However, what I took away from that session was a sense that she was on my side. Without that sense, I would have been unable to get through my distress and take on that different perspective. The intellectual interpretation and the personal act: two different views on one session, in which our relationship was made stronger through our shared endeavour and exploration.

What I learned from my reading, and from experience itself once I applied that reading to my sessions and ‘widened my focus’, is this: therapeutic alliance is central to change, but it doesn’t have to be central to the conversation.

I was ‘majoring’ on our therapeutic relationship, but in doing so, I wasn’t giving it room to breath or grow. By constantly putting the spotlight on it, I was freezing it in time. By neglecting the importance of content and process, I was completely missing the fact that the relationship grows, in the background, using the process and the content as its sustenance. I was not feeding our relationship – I was stifling it, and starving it of oxygen. I was expecting a flower to grow, in an expanse of ice. I wanted, desperately, for my therapist to care about me. But what was I giving her to care about? What was I telling her about myself, or my life? We all know that our best and deepest friendships are based on shared experiences, and a shared journey (emotionally, even if those friends are not physically present). My therapist and I need to go on a journey together, and to get to know each other through the things we encounter. If we only encounter each other, in isolation from the world around us, there is not enough ‘grist for the mill’, and there is no way to deepen the relationship.

I still have the urge to spend most sessions talking about ‘the relationship’, just as I spend so much time thinking about it. But when I do leave room to talk about other things, it’s amazing how often and how naturally ‘the relationship’ comes into it, whether that’s through the interpretation of  a dream, or the way I reacted following a session, or some other situation. But it comes up in a way that is not forced, and which provides continuity and a deeper understanding between us.

So for those who are also struggling with what to expect of the therapeutic relationship and who find themselves constantly engaged in thought or in talk about it, my suggestion would be – take your eyes off it for a little while. It will grow – if you let it. But it will do so in the background. It will germinate, it will ripen on the tree, while you are engaged in turning over and ploughing other fields. And when you turn your attention back to it again, you will have a rich harvest of shared experience, understanding and mutual caring. You relationship will have matured, and it will be beautiful to behold.