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What do 'normal' people do?


Athena

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This is an issue about psychotherapy but I thought I'd post it here because posts in that thread get buried so quickly by one thread that's now 101 pages long - it's kind of hijacking that whole forum. Anyway, here's my issue:

I keep wondering how normal people would act in a therapeutic relationship. For me, I was skeptical at first, especially when he handed me a three page fee sheet, told me it was 4x/week and could take 2 - 6 years. Thought he was crazier than I was for thinking that's appropriate. Seemed a bit self serving to me. I found him downright cold at that point. When I asked how it worked, he told me "Well, we develop a relationship..." After that I can't remember. But what I remember is what I thought about those words - a banker wants to have a "relationship" with you (and your money!), a salesman wants it too, everybody who wants something out of you wants a "relationship". So that's where I started. Then he did the whole empathy, listening, validation thing and I felt like I'd been hypnotized because I fell for it/him. I ended up with an intense fondness and appreciation for how he made me feel, and I suppose people here would call it 'love' and it did feel that way to me but I just wouldn't come out and say that after only 6 weeks in therapy because it just sounds so childish. Plus I know it's not real. Real is two way. This is not.

Then my head started going into thinking mode, rationalizing what was happening. I started reading up on positive transference. It said how patients can have a strong reaction to being heard and validated for the first time in their lives. Nowhere have I seen how normal people react. Do they just stay at the 'OK, so this guy's nice' stage and there's no more intensity in it than seeing their dentist? Or do they get strong feelings too?

Because the thing that bothers me about all this is that it seems like a setup. Do all the validation/empathy/listening stuff, knowing that the patient is going to fall for you, then make them tell you how you feel about them, then make them feel like a child for telling you, or having the feelings. Reject them (of course), saying something cold and clinical like 'Thank you for sharing that', then let them feel like a total idiot. Well, I'm sorry I've been put down enough, I do not need to be made to feel like a child. Then do a great job of pulling out all the details of the feeling, get every last bit out, then fail to do anything with it, just leave me hanging. I ask "so what does all this mean" and I get "I have no idea". NO IDEA????? F**k - why the hell put me through all this then? (all in my head) Then...I just try to come up with something else to talk about after having that bomb dropped on me. Barely able to think straight after that so I come up with something pointless to talk about.

I was wondering why I picked the song "I Don't Believe You" by Pink as one of the songs for the CD I made for him. I finally figured it out today. Two lines stand out: "You're the swingset, I'm the kid that falls" and "Don't just stand there and watch me fall". They so totally, totally reflect my sentiments. Do half the job, then stop and watch me squirm for what - the next 10, 20 years (yah, he lengthened it once he saw how negative I was getting). No skin off his nose if it takes that long. For me - devastation. Just the mere possibility of it haunts me on a daily basis.

So then he wonders where the positive transference went. Well, I think there's some pretty good clues above. There may be something else too...I did feel at one point that he was warm and caring. Like my Mom. Then it flipped back to my original impressions. I honestly have no idea which is true. Then there's a third option, so so so much worse. He is warm and caring...to everybody except me. Just like my Mom. She was outgoing, life of the party, had the gift of the gab, huggy, and welcoming to everybody...else but me. But when she was alone with me, she clammed right up. Seemed like she couldn't stand my presence. Said "Go do something with your father" like I was just unwanted. It's like she didn't know how to talk to me, what to say to me and didn't even want to try. This is somebody who never shuts up normally. Verbal diarrhea, almost. But couldn't say a word to me. OUCH! So I became self conscious around her - my own mother! Like, has that happened to ANYBODY else, EVER? At six freakin' years old...and ever since. What did I do to deserve that? My older brother told me I was a good kid - quiet, obedient, no trouble, did my homework, etc etc. I just don't get it, don't get it at all.

So now I feel like I have to do his job for him. Or find out what I'm doing wrong. He says there's no 'wrong way' to do it. Well, I think we've just discovered it:(! Man, I just feel so so so much worse than when therapy started. But they say with BPD patients, when things go badly, there's a huge risk of either the patient or the therapist giving up. OK, I've got a little more skin left on me, it's not been entirely ripped off yet. I suppose I could go print all this off and see if that gets things moving. But I fear he'll do what the so called 'bad' therapists do and take it personally and say "well, what are we still doing here then, this obviously isn't going to work". Because this is mostly in my head, other than the quotes from him and action or lack thereof that I have described. But I have a crappy memory, maybe I'm picking out all the bad parts because my emotional memory, the flight or fight part - takes up all the available space. None left for any positive but less intense feelings. Maybe I just can't communicate the way I'm supposed to (I warned him at the beginning that if this process can be mucked up, I will find a way to do it! - he didn't believe me, I think I should ask him what he thinks now when he gets back from vacation). He makes me so nervous now, I can barely think. I feel like I just rehash old topics, not resolving anything, knowing it will take me nowhere. And they get to a level just deep enough to make me relive the trauma, but not deep enough to get me through it and out the other side. The discussion just doesn't go where it needs to.

This is just all so horrible. I have no idea what to do about all this. I have massive patience for punishment in long-lasting relationships - for example 1)my family and 2) my ex. But I cannot afford to waste the next 20 years of my life in another soul destroying relationship.

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Therapists are just people too, they don't have all the answers to life.
I think maybe I need to start treating him more like one. Sometimes I think he can take the S**T I throw at him without prefacing it with "Please don't take this personally..." or something like that. 'Cause when i fail to do that, i feel horrible that I hurt his feelings and gave him one more reason to dislike me.

Also I doubt your therapist is singling you out to be the only one' date=' to not be caring and warm to.[/quote'] Oh, this just happens naturally. I'm sure it's not intentional but with my Mom it was plain as day. Surprised they didn't accidentally leave me behind while on holiday LOL.

Once again I reiterate if you don't like the guy find someone else' date=' it is your money that he is being paid.[/quote'] The thought of leaving him terrifies me. Anyway, if therapy supposedly mimics patterns from real life, I suppose that's where we're at, except this time i have an idea of what the pattern is and actually have somebody willing to listen at the other end.

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Yes, the choice is mine. I do want to make it work with him, I just have no idea how to get back on track. And if the expert doesn't know either, then that presents a pretty big roadblock. I have been through quite a few therapists, the longest probably being about 2 months. This one is going on 14 months. I don't think the fit is bad, I just think I have found a way to completely mess up the process.

The last session was better, probably only because I didn't want to have a horrible session right before his 4 week holiday which ends Jan 16. So I basically didn't talk about stuff that bothered me. I had a horrible nightmare about extreme rejection by a man the night before but kept it to myself.

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Dear Athena,

I've just read this today.

Your text sounds quite desperate, but at the same time I see a progress and a meaning of that therapeutic relationship there! It seems to me that your comparisons to the relationship with your mother (which was so very sad... :() make it quite clear that you have to experience all these very unpleasant feelings also in the relationship with the therapist. And I want to tell you why it's so very important not to give it up: because then it would be just another soul-breaking (-as you nicely called it) relationship. But what you need to heal is... the transformation of such a relationship to a good-one, to the one that will make you feel good and successful (-in having a relationship).

I have to say that his sentence "I have no idea" was quite cruel, but... maybe that's just one of the opportunities for you to... learn that... this kind of situations are also a part of a life - that... you have to be able to accept also "an ignorance"/"limits" of somebody who is "supposed to" ... "know the answer"/"be able too understand/explain everything (in a particular context, of course)"... Maybe in your therapist, you could "learn to like even somebody who doesn't fit your expectations", so to say (-I know this cannot be applied generally, in any context - you shouldn't love somebody who it abusing you, for instance, but... I hope it's obvious I don't speak here about such extremes...). But at the same time, it's important to be honest and open and tell him everything - how he makes you feel etc.

I suppose I could go print all this off and see if that gets things moving.

I think this is a good idea. Let him to read all this, also with your hesitations and fears abut his reactions.

And... when he says "I have no idea", then it doesn't mean he would never have an idea :)... I see it just like a sign of the fact that he doesn't know you enough so far.

So now I feel like I have to do his job for him.

As I've already mentioned to you, I had this feeling very often in my own therapy. So I know it's frustrating! But... how do you feel about accepting that... it IS YOUR job to do it and he is there "only" to support you, to give you "impulses" by his reactions and his behavior, to "provoke" you...??? I accepted this attitude and it was very... important to me.

(This reminds me one situation that happened maybe 2 months before the end of my therapy: I asked him: "Please, would you describe to me how I should see you, how my image of you would be "right" - how you'd prefer me to see you?" And he smiled and told me that that's something I need to achieve in my therapy - to find "the right" image of him. So I asked him: "So you won't help me with it? :-(" He smiled and said: "Of course I will help you." Then we hugged and I cried very intensively and loudly for some minutes, then I explained: "I'm crying because I'm still so confused - I don't know who you are to me, I don't know if I'm hugging just my fantasy/my image of you or if I'm hugging YOU!" He didn't answer, just squeezed me a bit. You know: One would expect him to give me some explanations, to tell me "the truth", ... But he wanted me to do it myself, to find my own image of him that would feel right to me and... I see it now as a good way. He didn't wanted to give me "directions" - he said, in other context, that it had to be me who had to found her own decisions, opinions, ... Therapists are surely often tempted to tell people what to think or even what to do, but in the majority of the situations, they can't - may not.)

You said that you didn't want to see the HBO TV series "In treatment" (-look on YouTube for some sceenes...) because it could badly interfere with your therapy. Maybe you could try it now? (It seems to me it helped me a lot.) But... there is a big risk: The TV therapist seems very... "ideal" - and it might even make your expectations from your therapist bigger and your frustration deeper. But... if you're aware of the fact that "it's only in TV and he HAS TO be much more quick in his interpretations etc. because it has to fit the short time of one episode", then... it's possible not to get frustrated :).

Nowhere have I seen how normal people react.

Sorry, this sounds so funny to me... "Normal people"! Who is normal and who's not??? (My T would tell you for sure you're pretty normal ;-)!) But I know what you mean... My opinion is that the only difference between "those" people and "us" is that they don't go into therapy, so they don't experience this kind of stuff, but in general, nobody is resistant toward transference - the only difference is that it can have many forms/schemes. I guess there is NO "normal" response to a therapeutic situation on one side and many "abnormal-ones" on the other side.

It's already quite long, I should stop ;-)...

I wonder if you've got, in the meantime, some other insights about this topic - I'm curious about what some other people might tell you... ;)

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My current definition of "normal" is someone who doesn't need therapy to have a functional life, but if someone who is normal sought therapy to get from OK to good or great (improved performance or something) - I would expect they would go in with their defenses up and not trust someone who is asking inordinate amounts of money from them.

If you feel like you're getting cheated, you are. I think there is a difference between giving up out of frustration, and prudently moving on because you don't want to get re-traumatized. If you need therapy to repair the damage done in therapy, something is wrong.

It's not necessarily your fault just because of your BPD. There are tons of people in the world who live to take advantage of those who are hurting and in less of a position to defend themselves. It's only a numbers game that some of them will be psychotherapists. In fact I cannot think of a better business to be in if I were unethically trying to bleed as much money as possible, except possibly dentistry. :)

Then again, my most recent diagnosis is Anxiety disorder NOS so I could be paranoid. :)

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I see a progress and a meaning of that therapeutic relationship there! It seems to me that your comparisons to the relationship with your mother (which was so very sad... :)) make it quite clear that you have to experience all these very unpleasant feelings also in the relationship with the therapist. And I want to tell you why it's so very important not to give it up: because then[/i'] it would be just another soul-breaking (-as you nicely called it) relationship. But what you need to heal is... the transformation of such a relationship to a good-one, to the one that will make you feel good and successful (-in having a relationship).
Yes - I suspected this and this is why I continue. I do however get confused as to how people maintain positive transferences with their T's even though they had difficult relationships with their parents.

I have to say that his sentence "I have no idea" was quite cruel' date=' but... maybe that's just one of the opportunities for you to... learn that... this kind of situations are also a part of a life - that... you have to be able to accept also "an ignorance"/"limits" of somebody who is "supposed to" ... "know the answer"/"be able too understand/explain everything (in a particular context, of course)"... [/quote'] Actually, I was more accepting of his answer when I asked him the first time, a little over a year ago. I asked him more recently again. Now that he's had a year to get to know me, I expected he would have some idea. I see a lot of interpretations of these things on the web so IDK maybe he's walking on eggshells - doesn't want to make a wrong one and upset me.

You said that you didn't want to see the HBO TV series "In treatment" (-look on YouTube for some sceenes...) because it could badly interfere with your therapy. Maybe you could try it now? (It seems to me it helped me a lot.) But... there is a big risk: The TV therapist seems very... "ideal" - and it might even make your expectations from your therapist bigger and your frustration deeper. But... if you're aware of the fact that "it's only in TV and he HAS TO be much more quick in his interpretations etc. because it has to fit the short time of one episode"' date=' then... it's possible not to get frustrated :o.[/quote'] Yes, i will maybe watch some more episodes. I have bought a couple of books to understand the process more as well, particularly as it relates to my issues. He is not familiar with DBT, THE MOST commonly recommended therapy for borderlines or people with some borderline traits. That concerns me quite a bit.

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If you feel like you're getting cheated' date=' you are. I think there is a difference between giving up out of frustration, and prudently moving on because you don't want to get re-traumatized. If you need therapy to repair the damage done in therapy, something is wrong. [/quote'] You know I kind of agreed with you when I first posted this. But now I think the point with psychoanalysis, which is highly transference based, is IN FACT to experience the same dysfunctional, horrible relationships that I had with others - but with him, so he experiences it first hand. Then he can help me work through it and come out the other side and experience what success feels like. The trick I think is to be with somebody who can tolerate being dragged through hell with you and get you out again. Also, the patient must be able to tolerate it and stick around too.

It's not necessarily your fault just because of your BPD. There are tons of people in the world who live to take advantage of those who are hurting and in less of a position to defend themselves. It's only a numbers game that some of them will be psychotherapists. In fact I cannot think of a better business to be in if I were unethically trying to bleed as much money as possible' date=' except possibly dentistry. :o

Then again, my most recent diagnosis is Anxiety disorder NOS so I could be paranoid. :)[/quote'] Yes, I had this paranoia too. (and yes, your paranoia comes through loud and clear here - only natural when people have hurt you so much, you just learn to expect it) I dealt with this concern some time ago by checking that he had a waiting list. The answer - yes, quite a long one. So, he certainly doesn't need ME for his financial welfare. The next test will be if he is willing to spend some time learning more about my particular condition.

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Hi, Athena, how are you? I haven't heard from you for some time :o...

(I like your answers here, BTW - they sound promissing :o. I just hope... "he really will do his part of the work" and will not disappoint you/us...)

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I just hope... "he really will do[/i'] his part of the work" and will not disappoint you/us...)
He's baaaack. Had my first session yesterday. I told him I bought a book on negative transference and that it just arrived today. Hoping to learn something, but perhaps a side benefit would be to guilt him into applying his knowledge since he will know I know what he's supposed to be doing:rolleyes:. It's called "A Primer of Handling the Negative Therapeutic Reaction by Jeffrey Seinfeld. It was recommended by a lady, a few years further along in her therapy, who said she also got annoyed by the 'lack of action'. She found it very helpful to read up in detail on this stuff. I liked her attitude - she doesn't want just an 'average' T, but an exceptional one. I figure if you keep them on their toes, you will get more out of them. Worth a try anyway. I sure don't want to be at this for 10 or 20 years. Gotta up my odds of faster progress:D. It's not like I'm not a patient person but come ON.
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I do however get confused as to how people maintain positive transferences with their T's even though they had difficult relationships with their parents

As far as I know, the principle is that they see and mainly feel the differences between their expectations - due to the parents - and the T's behaviour.

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Too, it's problematic whether the person transfers the relationship they had with their parents, or the one they wish they'd had. Perhaps both sorts of transference occur, and maybe even by the same patient at different phases of the therapy.

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Too, it's problematic whether the person transfers the relationship they had with their parents, or the one they wish[/u'] they'd had. Perhaps both sorts of transference occur, and maybe even by the same patient at different phases of the therapy.
It is common to idealize the T at first. That happened to me. Then reality set in. So I suppose the 'I want' came first. Then the 'can't have' came next. Then the 'therefore don't deserve' came after that. Not entirely sure what comes next...
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