Wow. I seriously feel like the floor just fell out from underneath me. Not just for today, or with this therapist, but for therapy in general. Its the type of realization that I’m not sure has the potential to be reparable because my very understanding of the therapeutic process and relationship has shifted.
I wonder if it’s always been this way. Am I just now seeing this? Have I been hoping and reaching for something this entire time that never actually even existed??! Am I really that fucking naïve and stupid?
Probably. Let me try to explain.
I went into session today hoping to expand on yesterday’s session. Since I had written so much on the topic, I figured I could just pull from that material. But I didn’t want to get into vulnerable stuff if my therapist had somehow changed her mind about allowing me to call her to connect between sessions (something I do maybe a couple times a month). So I went about asking about the phone calls in an admittedly less-than-ideal manner. I playfully said,
“So did you have a chance to think about our conversation yesterday? Are you going to take away phone calls or..?”
I get that there were better ways to ask this question, or address the issue, but that’s something I’m actively working on, and still really struggle with. She responded by being a bit snarky and saying that she felt like there was no way for her to really answer that question. Why? I cannot tell you. I know she explained it several times, but it all seems like nonsensical bullshit to me right now.
Once again she brought up how the way I ask something determines the response. At that point I was just so tired of hearing that same old answer. I said,
“Whatever! I get it. But I also feel like we’ve been doing this long enough and you know me well enough to know that I am needing something that I just can’t quite articulate yet.”
She said that she does often have a sense for what I’m trying to achieve or attain, but she can’t be sure. And also that it’s not her job to take away my difficult emotions. I responded,
“Okay, sure. But I don’t see why you have to be so snarky or distant in your response. It’s like I can only get something if I ask for it in the perfect way at the perfect time with a perfect tone.”
“No. I don’t expect perfection from you. But I do feel like it’s my job to call you out on destructive or ineffective patterns.”
“Of course. But it’s like…I get to be a brat! I get to ask things in ways that maybe have an attitude or a certain tone!”
“Sure. But am I supposed to be bulletproof? Or inauthentic?”
“No. But you don’t have to take it so personal! It feels like the way you respond to me in those moments – by being sarcastic or joking or mocking me – that feels like you’re responding from a personal place, rather than as a therapist.”
“Well I wouldn’t say that it’s personal, but I do think it’s an authentic reaction that can tell us something about the way you’re communicating.”
“Maybe. But also…sometimes I think you could just respond with kindness and compassion, even when I am being a brat.”
“I think that I am being kind and compassionate by staying authentic in those moments.”
I threw up my hands.
“Really though? I mean, you act as though it would literally kill you to just be nice to me in those moments. And why? What is so bad about just meeting those interactions with kindness and understanding?”
“It sounds like you’re needing reassurance…”
I scoffed and began to cry and yell,
“Of COURSE I need reassurance! I ALWAYS need reassurance! And why is that so horrible? I feel like it’s absolutely awful that I come in here feeling painfully vulnerable,and yeah- maybe acting like a brat, and I still want you to just tell me ‘It’s okay, I’ll love you anyway.’…or, well not those exact words, but I hope you get the idea.”
“Yes. And I do. But I can’t do that.”
I don’t even know what any of this means, but it feels like everything has just broken apart. I can’t even explain it. It’s like…I guess I’ve felt like something was missing from our work and our relationship; some kind of added level of nurturance and compassion. But I also believed that if I could just figure out how to identify and ask for it, she’d be willing to offer it to me.
But now I see that I will never get it! All this time I’ve been searching, trying to find some way to get her to love me unconditionally and be there for me with compassion and kindness, even when I’m imperfect and bratty and willful, and especially when I’m unwilling or unable to give that to myself.
But now I see that isn’t a realistic expectation at all. And here’s the thing – it’s not even that there are conditions on her affections for me, it’s that THERE ARE NO AFFECTIONS. With her, everything is very clinical and rational and she responds to me the way she does based on what she thinks is “best for me”, which apparently does not include being nurturing and loving.
Fucking fuck. I HATE THIS!!!
I mean, is this just reality? Is this the way therapy is supposed to be and I’ve been so deluded about the ideal or preferred therapeutic relationship, that I couldn’t even see that?! My god I feel so stupid and pathetic and exposed. I’m so angry that I imagined if I could just stay vulnerable and open to her, she’d eventually open to me and give me that reassurance.
This is so confusing. I’m not really even mad at her about this because she has every right to practice therapy this way. What I AM upset about is that I definitely imagined this very differently and now, all at once, it has shifted into something that I think just will not work for me.
Is this the end for us?