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Transference questions


appleby
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I am frustrated. I have been in therapy for 4 years(this time around) was in therapy for over 10 years, then took a break for 8. I am trained as a therapist myself and I think I have pretty good awareness of myself and my transference. I have early trauma which is what we have been working on. When I entered into this relationship, I knew what form my transference would take -- dependence on the therapist, the need to have her know and see me, "yucky" feelings of wanting her, needing her, missing her etc. and anxiety when she was away. I knew that this kind of transference was going to happen and that tolerating it is the way for my early wounds to heal and so I have...

What I have done is sort of internalized an inside version of her which i distinguish from who she really is. I talk constantly to that version of her telling her everything that is important to me at the time, from significant to the mundane - things I am working in therapy, how I view the therapeutic relationship, things I am doing in my life at home and work and sometime simple things like how well I am cooking an omelet. This is, I believe the nature of my transference with her. It is really self-absorbed on my part, and "all about me" and the "real" her in the internal world is peripheral - though I very much look forward to my sessions with her when I can really discuss the things that I feel are important and I know which things I have discussed in actuality and which things I have not and want to work on with her.

It feels important to me to know that I can do this internalizing and at the same time know that she is a human being with strengths and weaknesses and hopes and dreams. I don't feel that I need to know what they are, I rarely ask her about her and her thoughts as they pertain to things that don't have to do with me, though I welcome it when she shares about something she's been doing or thinking about (simple things like a book she read, or a park she walked in) I just find that grounding and it puts her as a fellow human being into perspective.

So now to the frustration piece and question. She seems to believe that I am interested in her personal life, and want to know what she is doing, where she is going, and who she is with. She, in the past used to share this kind of information more freely with me on her own accord and I would listen. From this type of sharing on her part, and the nature of my issues, I think, she developed a counter-transference with a belief that I was wanting to know all these things about her. We went through some tough times based on her belief of this and her boundaries are now more stringent (and more healthy - in my opinion). My problem is that she really does continue to believe I have this strong transferential yet inappropriate interest in her personal life and I really think that I don't. I don't think about what she is doing and who it's with during the week etc. I am focused on her, however in other ways -- like consantly "talking" to the internalized her, counting the days until a session when I can really talk with her about things, wanting her to know when I am feeling scared or anxious, I tell the internalized her this all thetime and sometimes I call or e-mail the "real" her for reassurance. What I think is that this is my transference and what I am working through. I am strongly focused on her in this, but it's really in a self absorbed kind of way. What she is doing in reality is not my focus, it's really all about me.

I am frustrated with her interpretations about wanting to know her personal life, that is not me or my transference. My type of transference is "yucky" enough, but I think just part of the process. I really have no awareness of being overly interested in her actual personal life.

Am I off? Is it always true that people who have such a dependency type of transference also must have a pathological interest in the therapist's personal life? Is it impossible to both have that dependency and recognize it foe what it is and at the same time view the actual therapist as a human and not be infatuated with her actual life?

AB

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Appleby,

The fact that she keeps hitting the transference issue repeated and the fact that it makes you uncomfortable may indicate that the two of you are at an impasse. Early in my training I was taught not to go to interpretations too fast because they can build resistance and they can feel hurtful. Perhaps you each need to move on to other material. Also, how many times per week are you seeing her? If it is once per week then she not be hitting transference issues, in my opinion.

Can you explain more about why you have sought therapy again and how often you see this therapist and what types of therapy you yourself do??

Allan:)

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Hi Allan-

What did you mean when asking appleby how often he sees his therapist and saying. "If it is once per week then she not be hitting transference issues, in my opinion."

Do you think that once per week isn't often enough to have transference issues go on? :confused:

Please clarify. Thanks

Catmom

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Catmom,

As usual, you ask excellent questions and I am always happy to respond. :rolleyes:

What I meant was that in psychoanalysis, a patient attend sessions anywhere from three to six times per week. Under those circumstances, transference feelings become very powerful as you can well imagine. Then, that issue must be addressed over and again because it keeps coming up.

Therapy once per week also brings transference issues but there is not the compelling need to address it unless it takes center stage. Here is the thing: When people attend therapy once per week they are usuall focused on what problems they are having in their real lives. It is common for the patient to talk about the prior weeks events. There is not the time to deal with transference. That is why I asked Appleby how often the therapy sessions occurred. But, understand, we always have transference, in all kinds of therapy and in everday life. If Appleby goes to therapy once per week and if his therapist is the one who keeps bringing it up then something is wrong. If the sessions are at least three times per week or more then it is psychoanalysis and then it would come up very often.

Please keep asking questions when you do not understand, including what I have written here.

Allan :)

Edited by ASchwartz
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Allan wrote:

"...sex times per week. Under those circumstances, transference feelings become very powerful as you can well imagine..."

I was in a hurry when I read Allan's response and didn't pick up on his typo. I can certainly well imagine that the transference would be powerful with "sex" involved! Good catch, Suzi Q. :rolleyes:

Catmom

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yep that was pretty funny :rolleyes:

and you guys are too...

So to answer your question -- I am in therapy 2 times a week and it is not psychoanalysis. I have a dissociative disorder due to early trauma (which I don't quite believe happened). I have inside "parts", but in terms of my functioning I am basically co-conscious, and I believe that I have a pretty solid core. I have attachment issues -- issues of trust, which play out in the therapeutic relationship with alternate trusting and not trusting my therapist -- emotional dependency on her and parts need validation from her that I am/they are okay and safe, and that I exist, particularly when we have been addressing the trauma issues. I think in actuality I trust her a lot because in the cases when I'm not trusting her, I'm trusting her to tell her that. These are borderline types of issues -- but I am not clinically borderline.

I did speak with her about this, this week. My question stemmed from an incident that happened last week. She had canceled an appointment and I asked her what she was doing at that time. I don't typically ask her something like that, but I also didn't think it would be a problem. She responded with an "I don't really want to talk about it" and I pushed asking something like would she tell me what it was at another time? and was it a secret? That was also an uncharacteristic response on my part. Usually if people give me cues that they want privacy, I back right off.

So in talking with her about it this week she said what I wrote --that I had been asking because I wanted to get into her life inappropriately. It is true that I should not have pursued an answer when she said that, but she was too quick to jump to my motivation being that I wanted to know to be intrusive into her life. I spent the next few days asking myself if that was what I was doing, if that is one of my issues, and kept coming up with the answer that that is not me. I really don't want to know things that she holds private and I don't think about what she is actually doing most of the time when I am away from her. I do talk to the internalized her about lots and lots of things, but they have to do with my life, not hers. What I think happened was that I really thought it would not be a big deal to ask her, though I was stepping out of my normal not asking questions MO because I was curious, I felt I was taking a "calculated risk" to ask something like that, that it was actually growth on my part, and that anybody might have asked that question. And then when I was rebuffed, I got confused, I wasn't trying to pry, didn't get why it would be a big deal to ask, didn't understand what happened etc. and then pushed again for an answer. That was inappropriate for me to do.

We did talk about it and she realized that that was not my motivation for asking and agreed that I don't usually do that. It's just so frustrating that she jumps to that belief and I understand it's her countertransference -- but I want to be seen by my therapist for who I am and deal with the issues that are mine, and not her projections onto me. I am thinking of asking her if the next time she feels as though I am trying to intrude inappropriately on her life, would she suspend that thought and and just ask what is going on for me, instead of deciding that that is what is going on. I did need to look at my actions in that case, I needed to explore why acted like that, but single actions like that don't mean that that interpretation is accurate.

Appleby

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Appleby, and Catmom and SuzieQ

You wrote:

We did talk about it and she realized that that was not my motivation for asking and agreed that I don't usually do that. It's just so frustrating that she jumps to that belief and I understand it's her countertransference -- but I want to be seen by my therapist for who I am and deal with the issues that are mine, and not her projections onto me. I am thinking of asking her if the next time she feels as though I am trying to intrude inappropriately on her life, would she suspend that thought and and just ask what is going on for me, instead of deciding that that is what is going on. I did need to look at my actions in that case, I needed to explore why acted like that, but single actions like that don't mean that that interpretation is accurate.

I quite agree with you.

SuzieQ and Catmom,

Ha, ha, ha!!! :rolleyes: Yup, you caught me in a "Freudian Slip." Thank you for pointing it out and I have made the correction but, I must tell both of you that I had a really good laugh. You see, Appleby, we all make mistakes....."Even Me!";)

In fact, the patient should never feel "I shouldn't have asked..." I always told patients, if they asked if they could ask, that they have a perfect right to ask all and anything.

In your case, the therapist allowed her countertransference to get in her way, as you know and recognize. Well, none of us are perfect and I can assure you I made plenty of my own mistakes. When patients told me, sometimes by getting angry at me or telling me they felt hurt, I always appreciated it.

So, I agree with you about further discussion of this with her. Her response to your questions should have been something like: "Well, Appleby, what are your thoughts about where I was and why I cancelled? How did you feel about my cancelling......It appears, by your questions, that you have some concerns about my cancelling."

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single actions like that don't mean that that interpretation is accurate.

True! It's important to keep in mind that therapy is a *process* and that in any human process there are missteps even as there is progress. You have to be willing to make mistakes and retreat from experiments that don't work out or you will not make progress. Being willing to grow is equivalent to being willing to make mistakes, is another way to say this. So this particular interchange - though frustrating - has helped you to grow.

It would seem that part of the work being done now by yourself is learning how to differentiate your perception of what is happening from your therapist's perception. A sort of challenging of authority process. Which is a very normal sort of thing - many teenager goes through some version of this process as they differentiate from their parents. And like many such life lessons, we don't always get it done fully the first or second time through it; sometimes we have to repeat the themes again several times before they cease to be important factors in our lives.

Mark

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Well we talked about and she said that she gets that I am not trying to get into her life like that. That it was her countertransference at the time. And I agreed that I had been inappropriate in the pushing, but the reasons she said why were not why and I don't fully know why myself. But I just don't usually do that and I know I felt really confused at the rebuff.

But "whatever" about that incident.. what has been happening for me is that I am getting less trusting of her. She said it was one short time period that she was thinking that. Unfortunately we have history where she has had that sort of countertransference and acted in ways that have hurt me. I think it's possible that she has now recognized those parts in herself, but maye every once in a while they can be triggered. Like I said she did say she understood that that is not me.

I think it may be that I am getting less trusting of her in a time when she may be more trustworthy. And now this whole thing has blown up -- because I keep bringing it up in each session and that is just such a mess. As a dissociative person, different parts start telling her that we don't trust her and i watch as we get into this awful spiraling circle. I don't want to bring it up again, i don't want to say all this stuff, I do want to let it go and move on with the work I really need to do and we do -- we do go forward in session but then we go backward...

And then I just feel horrible, like I was a big mouth and some parts can get into thoughts about not belonging here, deserving to be hurt etc. (we have enough strength to have those thoughts and never actually act on them -- though the internal "beating up" is pretty bad in it's own right.) And sometimes we(I) make decisions that certain parts just have to be quiet and maybe even go away - that only adult rational ones belong in therapy or anywhere and those are the ones messing us up. This may be true in some rspect (that they mess us up), but it's also true that they are trying to protect us from hurt. I think we all recognize that it's not ever been our therapist's intention to hurt us, even though she has - and that a good portion of what's going is transference on our part.

This is getting long and maybe a bit confusing as I get into the dissociative "we" -- inide parts joining together to present us as us when in reality I am one person... And in reality I am generally a pretty solid person but maybe we (my therapist and I) are hitting on more early stuff that needs healing and gets more triggered for me when it comes up.

Anyway -- maybe this is just a "vent" and maybe someone has an idea about how to let this go by now, to stop ruminating on it and just be able to get back to working with her on other things.

I don't know if I've made sense and maybe I sound really crazy or something -- I really am not. But I certainly don't feel so good when getting into that stuff. I'll stop now.

appleby

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This use of "we" is how people with dissociative identity issues (what used to be called multiple personality) talk. The internal experience is one of several different people living within the one body. So it is not terribly confusing at least to me with some experience of this. Most people do not talk this way or experience a multiplicity inside themselves, however, so some people who aren't familiar may be exposed to something new.

It is important that you grasp that all the parts inside are aspects of one person. That is the direction which therapy leads towards, although "complete integration" is not always a useful or practical goal. What is vital, however, is that you (all the stuff that is you) acts in a coordinated and responsible manner, and that the parts of you that are not too rational are checked by the parts of you which are. Every person has their rational and non-rational aspects and in order to not sabotage relationships, its always important for people to use their rationality to do reality checks on what the angry/upset/irrational parts of themselves are about to do or are doing so that you don't end up abusing people's trust. That is the biggest danger socially.

I think one thing that might be happening here is that you are expecting your therapist to be or act more perfect than she is; like maybe some kind of idealization process is occurring where you need her to not make emotional mistakes with regard to you. Agreed, of course that if she is making mostly mistakes that she is not able to act towards you as a competent therapist. Also I think that if she is having substantive counter-transference (or just issues with you) that she ought to be working on that with some kind of therapist/supervisor herself. Or at least ought to be self-aware enough to identify that the problem is happening and do something to stop it. But I think that complete perfection is not realistic, and that a therapist is going to make some mistakes now and then. Therapists are human beings too! So part of what maybe can happen is to think about how to put these counter-transference issues into perspective.

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Hi Mark --

Thanks for your thoughts on this matter. My therapist and I have been through some really tough times due to her counter-transference which really hurt me. She took a long while to get supervision and then things started to go better, however there were was residual upset on my part and it took quite a while for her recognize what all the counter trasference was, even after she started with supervision and some continued mistakes.

I think that at this time she probably really is as clear about her stuff as she has ever been, and yet obviously she can fall back on old counter-transference like she did last week. I think that before the initial big hurt she caused me due to that transference -- I was much more tolerant and accepting of her as a human who made mistakes.

I think I want to go back to that -- I want to go back to giving her the benefit of the doubt intead of such sensitivity to her moments of counter-transference -- I guess that we have just been so scared that she was going to mess up in a major way again.

okay -- so a resolve is to try to suspend the fears and trust as best we can - again, we were hurt by her, we know it wasn't done purposefully, and that at this time she is getting supervision and has cleared up a lot.

appleby

PS as a system, we really do work well together, have a good job, fine family, good life -- I think our "craziness" is mostly evident within the therapy hour or whe we are alone as we confront our history and address the parts that don't view things quite realistically. Usually there is a part watching and who has reality available, even if some part is being totally irrational in thought or discussion with our therapist.

Edited by appleby
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Today I may be quitting therapy -- and then again I may come back here and say I decided not to...

But where I have been in the past couple of weeks is thinking that it's time to stop. There are a few more issues I had wanted to work on, but then again I guess there always are, whether or not someone is in therapy.

What I think has been happening is that because of our history with her counter-tranference, is that I get very triggered when it comes up and go back into this mode of needing her understand me, needing to explain what's happening, needing to re-examine my motivations when I know they are not what her counter-tranference is and it's just rather torturous and I feel crazy while knowing I'm not. {long sentence- sorry)

It's my transference to her counter-transference... I'm tired of going through this with her, I don't think it's productive for either of us. If people think things that are off about me in other situations, I don't fight for them to know like this. I may try to correct them, but I don't get obsessed with trying to have them understand. I can put it back on them... I could put the instances of counter-transference back on her, but I would re-question myself and keep trying to explain what was really true about me and what wasn't. And I guess that I think that it's important for my therapist to understand basically who I am so that she can help me with the things that are my issues.

SO what I'm thinking is that I can't/don't want to continue to do this. I have been with her for 4 years and have worked intensively on many other important issues, I feel as though my therapy was winding down anyway. There are many changes for the good and I appreciate the time and energy she spent with me. BUt now it's time to step away, I can't keep re-circling with this counter-tranference issue. If I need to seek out more therapy, I will. I'm ready to have other major focuses(focii) in my life be central.

SO that's what I am thinking right now, and what I have been thinking. We'll see where I am after my session with her today...

AB

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Leaving a therapist can be a good thing to do when you've done as much work as you can do with that person. You could either just see how you do without a therapist for a while, or you can locate someone offering you something different and see if that works out better. It's hard to know when it is time to leave or when that might be a decision that is counterproductive, but then again, part of what you are trying to do in therapy is to learn enough about yourself to know how to make these judgments well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wrote a post here sometime last week and it got lost in cyberspace and didn't have the energy to re-create it.

I did decide to terminate, but it hasn't gone well.

The sessions since then were pretty awful -

I think - no good for either of us...

and very painful/hurtful --- for both of us

It's hard to describe/write about

too much has happened

I had hoped to put leaving her in a context of a positive decision I was making for my life but it blew up

I really hoped that we could end in a smooth understanding way

and that she could walk the "good-bye" road with me.

that we could still finish up a couple of things and allow for my parts to share their feelings and say goodbye

I guess she was hurt, didn't understand where my decision came from, was angry -- I don't know.

I'm probably not providing enough information here to explain things well --

this is a public forum and guess I don't want to much detail out there.

But, at this point, there is no more work that I can do with her and no more processing with each other that we can do -- we tried it and it was awful. So I go and she goes and we'll each be responsible to do our own work.

So where we are is taking a break for a week and then meeting for a session.

I requested that that session have a focus on the good work that we have done together and then I think we will be done. I am hopeful that given some distance from the awful sessions that we can do that piece together...

AB

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I'm just saying....

It's really tough to choose to end therapy and to have it not go well.

It is a big loss.

The back-up therapist is my therapist's friend.

She's professional -- but I think can't be there fully for me.

She will meet with me and probably be good when we meet, but I feel like I really can't call on her like I could.

She can't really walk the road with me either.

I need to find someone to tell the story to --

Someone who can appreciate that while I made the decision to end this,

it is a big loss.

And that I need support for my decision

an opportunity to share my feelings of loss

the fact that I will miss my therapist and knowing that she cared

the "holding environment"

There isn't really one now

the back-up therapist can't do it

I'm on my own...

(and trying to seek some other support)

AB

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This sort of transition is hard! but that doesn't mean that letting it happen was a bad decision. A lot of times people get stuck in relationships that they are ambivalent about. They kinda know that they'd be better off with someone else (for whatever reason) but they are also comfortable and they don't want the benefits of the change enough to offset that loss of comfort. So they stick around in the old comfortable relationship and things don't change and growth doesn't happen, and it's not good, but it's survival. In contrast to that safety-loving decision described just above, you have made the alternative decision to risk some interrum discomfort and pain for the potential reward of some larger benefit to be had by the change. That may mean that you need to do some therapist shopping, or it may mean that you need to do other things. Not sure. but don't regret your decision on the basis of the fact that you're feel uncomfortable. growing/healing/progress and comfort are sometimes not possible to have at the same time.

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Hi Mark --

Thanks for writing back -- been feeling alone in all this -- it was good to know that someone read this...

It is the right decision, I don't regret it. I'm sorry it couldn't end in a more positive way -- in the way I think termination should go.

But it is how it is, we have that final session scheduled for next week -- I'm going to make it short and sweet -- go in and say the things I want to say about the good work we did -- acknowledging both her and me and then I'm leaving.

And then I will find another therapist to deal with the grief of not ending as I would have wished, the grief of leaving someone who was important to me for those years and and to do the other pieces of work I feel I still need to do.

I know that I am close to finishing the work I need to -- and now there is a set-back -- but I believe that I will forge ahead relatively quickly -- get back on track and hopefully complete the work and terminate properly with the next therapist.

AB

Edited by appleby
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Hi Paula and K,

Thanks for writing. We had our final session last night. The actual session went okay except that at the end we were crying so much and have been crying ever since. We know it's natural -- it's grieving about a person who has been so important in our life for 4 years and with whom we shared a lot and worked through early stuff.

And so we are crying -- something that we don't tend to do and especially with tears ( somehow not okay -- might go with the old message "cry and I'll give you a reason to cry") But the tears are flowing - probably a healthy thing in the long run but feels bad right now. I think I may take the day off from work (shouldn't be a big deal for work since no important things are planned and in the last year I have only taken 1 1/2 sick days).

We're just really really sad, even though it still remains the right thing to do...

sad...

AB

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Hi Kay --

Thanks for writing us. We are feeling better. We woke up at 9:00AM -- 36 hours after the final session with some calm and no tears and the day continued that way. I'm sure that there will be resurgences of grief at times, but I don't think they'll be anything like those first 36 hours.

And so we must move on... I did meet with a potential new therapist last week, and have schedule 2 more appointments with her to "try" her out and I have a name of someone else. So now it's time to figure out what I'm going to do on that front -- the thought even occured to me that I might take a break from therapy altogether. So I just don't know -- time will tell...

AB

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