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therapeutic relationship - transfert issues


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As a client in therapy I'm starting to experience the following thoughts and questions and wonder if they are normal and how others approached the issue:

1. as a depressed person with a neglecting environment in childhood I discovered the benefits that an empathic, accepting and genuine relationship produces in me. I also imagined what it would have been like if I were to live a similar (not identical of course) environment in my family, and the comparison between what could have been and what has been... hurt a lot, (I realised I missed out on a lot of things).

2. notwithstanding my will, the time spent with my therapist in a sort of way replaced and contributed to fill the emptiness I lived in my life (I'm 33). It turned out that in a strange way, without asking permission, in my imaginary, I not only consider my therapist as a professional who offers a service, but in a way I also "adopted" him as my substitute parent, friend, and whatever else. I underline that none of us ever crossed boundaries and don't want to. But the point is this: can a once a week encounter substitute or compensate for all the rest? My answer is no, and I've been invited to find fulfillment or at least some contact in my acquaintances, but the point is that none and nothing I've tried gets even close to the type of fulfillment that I get just by talking for 30 minutes to my therapist.

Is this wrong? Has anyone faced similar issues and if so how did they get over it? I'm afraid that if I dont' face this I will age up to my 80s and still seek confort in a professional relationship and not in an "everyday life" one.

I'm really curious to get anyone's experience on this.

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Hello, gettingthere.

What the therapeutic relationship can do is help you come to understand what you need and want in a relationship. It can help to identify unmet needs. It can help you learn about your behaviors, feelings and responses within relationships. It's microcosmic of your outside of the room relationships in this way.

There is a place and a time, and this would depend on the individual and what they are seeking from therapy as well, where I think it's okay to allow yourself the comfort of this kind of relationship. This is a place of safety, acceptance and understanding where you may freely express your feelings without fear of judgment. The safety of the therapeutic space allows you to then explore your behaviors and methods of coping in every day life within this frame. Every kind of therapy is different, though, so this also would be a factor. The idea being to learn about yourself within the relationship so that you can have healthier and more fulfilling relationships outside of the room. So the goal is to eventually leave therapy and no longer need the therapist to fulfill your needs. It can be a very special and unique relationship, but ideally, you would want to move toward building relationships away from therapy.

There was a time when I depended on my therapist, too, GT, though this was temporary. It was a very comforting and loving place that I still visit in my mind at times when I'm feeling distressed. So in that way it helped me learn to comfort myself.

Have you been trying to reach out and connect with others, GT? The concerns that you've been having would be good to bring up in therapy with your therapist.

Edited by IrmaJean
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Thanks IrmaJean,

When you write:

It can be a very special and unique relationship, but ideally, you would want to move toward building relationships away from therapy.

you touch the core point: this "special" and "unique" relationship, as short as it may be, and artificial as it may seem, has become sufficient for me, I've learned not to need anything more other that this, I've learned to make it last for the whole time untill the next. This is what I think I may be doing wrong.

Thanks again.

GT

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Hello, GT,

I agree with IJ, but I still would like to add my comment.

Is this wrong?

It's certainly not wrong, it's a part of the process. It would be wrong to stay "all your life" in this stage/phase of the therapy, but I think you don't have to worry about it. You are already questioning this stage, this pleasant "state of mind" - and I see it like a first step toward the next stage/phase. You don't have to, "on the way", loose the pleasant feelings that your therapeutic relationship is giving you - I think they can remain even in the next stages. When you say "This is what I think I may be doing wrong," it means that there is already a part of you who would like to change the situation. So now you can work on this change with your therapist. It might feel bad in a way - for instance like "cheating your therapist with somebody else", or you might find there many other types of feelings - but when you'll succeed to have pleasant relationships in your life outside therapy, then this will be your reward compensating the difficulties on the way to it.

Has anyone faced similar issues and if so how did they get over it?

I probably sound too theoretical, I'm sorry. Well, I'm not in the same situation as you, so you might say you don't care about my opinion. But... I still think I can relate to it. As I'm very similarly connected to my therapist (I'm in therapy since Sept. 2009), the big difference is that I also have strong relationships outside therapy (and I had got them before). My therapist though became almost "the centre of my life" (my husband is still the 1st one for me, of course...), I "draw" many (/most of?) positive emotions from him, ... So I think I know how you feel. I also realize that I need to stop this someday, that I need to learn to live without him and draw positive emotions elsewhere (mostly "from myself")... but I think it is slowly happening, I believe it's a slow process... and it's good to think about it, to discuss it (with the T and here), not only to wait passively that "it will happen".

Uh. Such a long post and so little said! :rolleyes: I'm sorry. I hope you can find there something relevant/interesting...

Good luck! :rolleyes:

L.

Edited by LaLa3
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Thanks Lala, your experience surely helps, just by knowing that in similar ways others have faced the same questions.

I like the idea that someday, maybe,like you write:

draw positive emotions elsewhere (mostly "from myself")

it is possible to actually nurture ourselves, in a way, if this is what you intend.

Right now, it seems impossible for me to do so...

I can only "shine from someone else's light":

- when no one's there I just feel the darkness,

- when I force myself to talk to people I feel like a wet match that doesn't fire,

- when I see my therapist its as if he lights a candle that lasts untill the next wind blows it away....

maybe some day, in the future.

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it is possible to actually nurture ourselves

It's definitely possible.

I can only "shine from someone else's light":

- when no one's there I just feel the darkness' date='

- when I force myself to talk to people I feel like a wet match that doesn't fire,

- when I see my therapist its as if he lights a candle that lasts untill the next wind blows it away....

maybe some day, in the future.[/quote']

When you're "shining" what is it that you feel inside yourself that is lighting up? What kind of inner energy makes you shine? What does your therapist provide that lights the candle?

There are means to keep the lights burning brightly and hold those parts of ourselves. Identifying them is the first step. Self-awareness. What aspects of yourself do you like?

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When you're "shining" what is it that you feel inside yourself that is lighting up? What kind of inner energy makes you shine? What does your therapist provide that lights the candle?

I feel alive. The inner energy is enthusiasm, vitality, opposed to my routine mode of: "lets wait and hope for better times", living like a dead person, no friends or family.

My therapist provides nourishment, protection, genuine caring, a type of respectful caring I've been missing a lot in my past. I've also worked a lot in trying to carry these good feelings at home, they last for a couple of days then vanish to leave space for pain and abandonement.

Irrational feelings, I know, but if I were to be honest, this is what I feel.

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Do you make attempts to engage others, GT? If your therapist brings out these feelings of vitality, they are present within you and the potential is already there. It sounds as though your relationship with your therapist allows you the space to connect with and fulfill your emotional longings and needs. Are there other times you also feel this way?

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Hi IrmaJean,

The idea that such vitality is hidden but present is comforting. I've analysed such issue and it's like you describe: with others it is very difficult for me to connect. My understanding is that a therapist is trained to be caring, understanding...ecc and I can't expect to find similar attitudes in people around me. Sometimes I think that real understanding and care can only be "purchased", because it is difficult to find, or maybe I don't see it frequently. I am sure that I'm probably doing something wrong and there are lots of sensible and trustworthy people out there (this forum is an example).

Today I can only state that "yes", till now I haven't found a real connection with others even if I try to engage with them, I force myself to be present, to smile even when I don't feel like it, the usual mask of well being that I sistematically wear, but it is miles away from it being me. I imagine at times if only I were to reveal in part my real self, people would run away being scared from my despair. I am convinced, and hope to be wrong, that people want to be around happy people... and I'm a very unhappy person that has difficulty even in faking a happy one.

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Perhaps in order to successfully connect with others, your must first be aware of yourself. When you feel your gifts from within they are naturally more visible to others. What is it, do you think, that prevents you from bonding outside of the room when you have been able to successfully bond inside the room? Might be something to think about and discuss with your therapist. The therapy relationship can present a safe place to explore and take risks that may not be as limited by our fears because of that safety. I had a strong and caring relationship with my therapist that ultimately ended up being very healing. My healing in this was all about the caring aspect of the relationship and what I discovered within myself. It's true that the give and take is different in a therapeutic relationship than it would be in other relationships, but this is part of what caring in that frame entails. It's a good place to practice relating that hopefully can give you the confidence and skills to have healthier relationships away from therapy.

Maybe next time you try socializing with someone, you might practice simply being present. Allow yourself to "be" in your body and in your self. Try getting in touch with your positive qualities and letting them light you up. This is the way I nurture and take care of myself. This way you are embracing yourself. When you are less dependent on the "success" of the moment, being yourself becomes that much easier. I hope that you will keep trying, GT.

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