about my therapist all the time and desperately wish for a closer relationship
with her. I want to be her friend too. Will this desire for a personal friendship
ever go away? I feel so desperate about it sometimes.
The desire for a personal relationship with your
psychotherapist is called a transference reaction to the psychotherapy.
Now, many persons believe that
is some sort of an unrealistic misperception of the psychotherapist by the
client. But the great French psychoanalyst
Jacques Lacan taught, and I agree with
him, that transference is nothing more nor less than real life
occurring in the therapeutic situation.
if you have been mistreated in the past so that youre extremely sensitive
to fears of abandonment, then in all of your relationships you
will encounter events that trigger those fearsand the psychotherapeutic
relationship is no exception. Of course, the events that happen in psychotherapy
arent really attempts by the psychotherapist to abandon you (that is,
if the psychotherapist is a competent psychotherapist), but they will still
have realistic elements that could be felt as abandonment, such as
when the psychotherapist has to reschedule an appointment. When such an
inadvertent occurrence triggers such fears, it then becomes a meaningful
event for you to explore in the psychotherapy for connections to your
also another side to this transference concept as well:
feelings of fondness. In some cases,
such feelings derive from
love; that is, you desire to fill your inner emptiness with romantic
illusions about another person.
But in other
cases, a different dynamic than common love can be at work. If
you have somehow had your self-image altered by some traumatic event of the
past, such as childhood sexual molestation, then you will tend to think of
yourself as unworthy of any feelings of purity. Nevertheless, when you encounter
a person who does not mistreat you, you will feel genuine fondness. And it
makes no difference if this person is a friend or a psychotherapist. Its
all real life. These feelings might be unsettling to you, because they contradict
your perception of yourself as a bad person, but they are nonetheless
an aspect of your true goodness.
Capacity for Relationship
Whether you are
struggling with fears of abandonment or feelings of fondness, your task in
psychotherapy is not to become an actual friend of your psychotherapist
but simply to understand your inner capacity to relate to another person
out of a mutual concern for each others good.
for relationship is something that everyone should acquire in childhood
within the family, but many families are so dysfunctionalthat is, so
filled with manipulation, game-playing, and emotional dishonestythat
many children never learn how to function in a genuine relationship.
whose parents have essentially cheated them of a healthy emotional development,
will grow up faced with two choices: live a miserable life of botched attempts
at relationships, or enter psychotherapy to learn how to do what you didnt
learn from your parents.
Psychotherapist as a Teacher
by talking openly and
honestly to your
psychotherapist, within the psychotherapy itself, about your feelings for
him or her that you demonstrate respect for him or her as a teacher,
thereby experiencing a genuine relationship.
only by accepting your psychotherapist as someone you are paying to perform
the job of an instructor that you can learn what you need to learn.
PRINCIPLE FACT OF
The psychotherapists job is not to be a friend or a pseudo-parent who
becomes personally entangled in the life of the client; instead, the
psychotherapists job is to be a paid instructor who can teach the client
what was not learned in childhood.
though, that psychotherapy is not just an intellectual learning process;
even though cognitive and behavioral techniques have their place,
psychotherapeutic healing must reach deep into your heart where you can encounter
an emotional engagement with life that you missed in childhood.
the Emotional Healing
Because of the
emotional engagement that constitutes the psychotherapeutic work, genuine
psychotherapy requires that, in order to avoid the trap of the
flip-flop, a third personthe
always be present in the consulting room between the client and the
psychotherapist. Through their mutual willingness to look at all events
within the psychotherapyand discuss them openlyas manifestations
of the unconscious, both the client and the psychotherapist can focus
on the task of emotional healing rather than get caught up in all the perversions
of love and hate.
to the unconscious explains why a psychotherapist and a client cannot have
a relationship outside the psychotherapy office: if they did, the unconscious
would be left behind, the client would be overwhelmed with emotional
vulnerability, and the love-hate flip-flop would push everything over the
edge into destruction.
So, if you learn
this lesson properly, within the psychotherapy, then you can go out and begin
to make some real friends.
But if you cling
to the wish to be a friend with your psychotherapist, you are clinging to
nothing more than an illusion behind which you hide your fears of abandonment
very fears that prevent you from being a friend with anyone. And if thats
the case, then you arent doing genuine psychotherapyinstead,
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .