HY do most individuals go into
psychotherapy? Well, there can be many specific reasons, but there often
is one basic, underlying reason: something was lacking in their childhood
family life, and this lack continues to cause problems even in the
A Remedy for
Now, one very
common lack in contemporary
families is the
failure to treat children with unconditional nurturing guidance and protection.
So instead of learning true love in their families, childrenthrough
all sorts of family manipulation and game-playing, if not outright
essentially taught to
And the pain of all this
and fear will live
on in the unconscious,
in a sort of timeless emotional imprisonment, even as the child grows through
childhood and adolescence to adulthood.
pain, you will seek
out psychotherapy. Through healthy and
with a psychotherapist, you can learn to think and act in new, emotionally
honest ways, different from the
created in childhood, and current
symptoms can be remedied.
In psychotherapy, the
client and the psychotherapist work together on the task of facilitating the
client’s psychological healing. In
(as compared to
behavioral therapy) the
task of healing can be described as the task of bringing to conscious awareness
the emotional pain hidden in the client’s
unconscious, in the hope that
that awareness will bring about a change in the client’s behavior. Although the client
and the psychotherapist work together on this task, it is important that they not
be concerned with each other in terms of mutual acceptance or gratification and
instead keep their attention focused on the client’s unconscious. The “we” of this
process is the “we” of mutual psychotherapeutic discovery, not a “we” of personal
Nevertheless, in this
profound interaction between the client and the psychotherapist a new problem can
emerge. Its a problem completely different from the problem that brought the
client into psychotherapy in the first place, and it can take a client completely
As you begin
to encounter genuine concern for your well-being, the whole experience of
psychotherapy can feel overwhelming and intoxicating. Once having felt ignored
and misunderstood, and now feeling noticed and understoodand not
rejectedyou can start to feel special.
Moreover, you can begin to believe that the psychotherapist is special as
When this happens,
everything can take on a feeling of erotic love.
You see quote
marks around the word love in the last sentence because erotic feelings
are really feelings of desire, not love. I want to know more about the
psychotherapists personal life. I want to know what he or she likes.
I want to be with him or her outside the psychotherapy sessions. I want to
believe that he or she feels an attraction to me. And so on. Thats
desire. Its desire because it is based in what I want,
not in what you or someone else needs.
Think for a moment
about the whole purpose of family life and wonder what any infant needs.
Well, an infant, born into the world completely helpless, needs protection
and guidance in order to grow and develop its own abilities, so that, in
maturity, he or she can go out into the world to do good for others. That
protection and guidancewhich is an aspect of
loveisnt meant to make you feel happy; its
meant to help you develop your unique talents and grow into a productive
member of the whole human family.
Now, true love
does have a function in psychotherapy. Love can be defined as willing
the good of another, and this is precisely what the psychotherapist
is ethically bound to do for all clients. The psychotherapist wills the
good of all clients by ensuring that all actions within the psychotherapy
serve the clients need to overcome the
prevent the client from living a useful and meaningful life.
as it may be to admit it, erotic love is based on infantile needs
to be received, accepted, and satisfied. When someone feels intensely received,
accepted, and satisfied, then he or she is in love. But sooner
or later that intensity will be broken. The break doesnt even have
to be the result of malicious neglect; it can simply be the result of a need
to attend to other obligations in the world, and, in the person feeling
neglected, intense jealousy can flare
why lovers, friends, and blog readers, with all their personal
needs and desires, cannot function psychotherapeutically. And it explains
philosophicallyabove and beyond any laws or professional ethicswhy
psychotherapists cannot be friends or lovers to their clients.
If they try, it will lead to psychological disaster, for without the third
person of the
unconscious in the
consulting room the psychotherapy will degenerate into emotional
the Erotic Transference
love within the psychotherapytechnically called an erotic
transferenceis not necessarily a bad thing, though. That is, its
not a bad thing if it can be understood as one essential step toward learning
Just as any child
who receives gifts from others must first go through a phase of development
characterized by a hoarding or clinging
mentalityMine! Mine!before learning to share with others,
so you, in feeling the enthralling acceptance of your psychotherapist, will
at first want to hoard that feeling and claim it as your own personal possession.
But that feeling cant stop there, and your psychotherapists job
is to make sure it doesnt stop there. The child part of you really desires
love, not the person who gives the love, and your psychotherapist
has to help you understand that.
psychotherapists are not very competent in dealing with subtle
issues. In fact, many psychotherapists feel uncomfortable with a clients
erotic transference. Why? Because many psychotherapists are unconsciously
caught up in their own erotic transference with the world around them. And
so these incompetent psychotherapists can make a mess of the whole process.
Instead of just admitting, Sure, youre an interesting and attractive
person. But thats not what this work is all about. So lets get
on with the real work, they try to hide behind a forced façade
of neutrality that only leaves the client exasperated and confused. And if
the client tries to speak about his or her feelings, an incompetent
psychotherapist will shy away from really exploring the depth and vast
of those feelings. Or an incompetent psychotherapist will, for his or her
personal satisfaction, fan the flames of the clients desire.
Yet none of this is psychotherapyits just more of the same
manipulation and game playing that has brought the client into treatment
in the first place.
So remember why
someone goes into psychotherapy: to experience a sense of genuine recognition
so as to overcome the lack that disturbs current social functioning. Once
all the manipulation, game-playing, and dishonesty
that characterize your interpersonal relationships are dissolved through
the integrity and honesty of the therapeutic relationship, then you can enter
into an honest
life of true love for others.
The Real Task
Your task in
psychotherapy, then, after you experience that intoxicating feeling of
unconditional recognition, is to recognize in the transference
desire to hoard that feeling. At this point it will be important to talk
openly within the psychotherapy about those desires and explore their deepest
Talk about how good it feels to experience recognition and understanding.
And talk about how painful it felt to have been unrecognized and criticized
as a child.
have a competent psychotherapist, resist the temptation to
terminate the treatment
so as to run from the embarrassment of honest communication. Work through
the awkwardness of it all until your desires for the psychotherapist are
seen for what they are: an intoxicating attempt to hoard feelings of recognition
understood the profound difference between desire and love,
and having worked through the unconscious illusions (i.e., psychological
defenses) behind your intense desire for one person, you can proceed
to offer genuine love to everyone.
When you are
working to overcome the transference, keep in mind this important
You are not in
love with your psychotherapist; you are obsessed with the idea
that another person can give you what has been missing in your life because
of what your parentsespecially your fatherfailed to give you
in your childhood.
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