A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: When your psychotherapy brings out feelings of infantile vulnerability.                    


I am SO mad right now at my therapist. . . . I don’t FEEL supported. I feel alone and vulnerable. . . . How can a person be expected to share . . . when it seems as if all . . . has been trivialized? Maybe not so much trivialized as ignored or not responded to at all. . . . I really do feel like an infant. . . . When I would need a hug, I bet I wouldn’t get that. If I needed a friend, I wouldn’t get that. If I needed someone to actually care for me, I wouldn’t get that either. . . . I want my psychotherapist to tell me what things mean because it is so hard for me to see them.


So why does the psychotherapist not give hugs, not be a friend, not reveal personal feelings, not give explicit direction? Well, it’s not to be mean; instead, it’s to bring out deep unconscious meaning. In your case, it’s to help you realize that you’re desperate to get a hug, desperate for a friend, desperate to know personal feelings, and desperate for explicit direction.

And why would you be so desperate? Well, most likely, if you had grown up with healthy, ordinary family experiences you would have experienced all of these things—hugs, friendship, personal feelings, guidance and direction—in your own family.

So I can surmise that your desperation reveals that you didn’t get these things in your family. When you say, “I really do feel like an infant,” it means that your mother and father failed you even when you were an infant. When you say, “I don’t FEEL supported. I feel alone and vulnerable,” it means that your father was somehow lacking, perhaps as an alcoholic so lost in his alcohol that he couldn’t support you, or perhaps so preoccupied with his work that he didn’t take time to understand you. When you say, “How can a person be expected to share . . . when it seems as if all . . . has been trivialized? Maybe not so much trivialized as ignored or not responded to at all, ” it means that you can’t be expected to have learned how to share anything with anyone when your own family ignored you because everyone was too preoccupied with hiding their own emotional pain and psychological failures to respond to you.

Hence you say, “I want my psychotherapist to tell me what things mean because it is so hard for me to see them.” Well, that’s what you wanted from your father, for example, isn’t it? There’s a lot of pain and tears in that sentence. But the fact is, a psychotherapist can’t just “tell” you anything unless you first express yourself. Psychotherapy is not simply an intellectual process. It’s necessary for you to feel the pain. It’s necessary for you to feel that pain deep and raw right in your heart. Then it’s necessary for you to express that pain right in the psychotherapy itself. You couldn’t feel the pain in your family because no one would listen to you and help you deal with it, and so, not knowing what to do with the pain, you didn’t feel safe to express it. So, if it’s going to be real and emotional, it’s now necessary for you to feel the pain with your psychotherapist. That’s why psychotherapy involves more than just talking about the details and facts; you must experience the facts. You must enter into the process. You can hide details, but you can’t hide process. Like it or not, the process of the unconscious leaks out through all your behavior. It will seem that your psychotherapist is being mean to you—that is, doing to you what your father or mother did to you all your life—when really your psychotherapist is bringing out the truth about your family.

Furthermore, when you recognize that truth about your family, and feel it in your heart—not to blame anyone, but to be emotionally honest so that you can eventually forgive everyone—then you will stop blaming yourself in an unconscious attempt to earn your family’s acceptance.

In the mean time, go ahead and let your anger out at your psychotherapist, because then you will find that you want to blame your psychchotherapist as part of the false belief that, in order to alleviate your emtional hurt, you must change the behavior of those who hurt you. But blaming others only poisons your own heart. So, instead of falling into blame because of what you’re feeling, seek to understand the meaning of your feelings. Speak about them in the psychotherapy itself so your psychotherapist can help you recognize and understand the unconscious origns of the deep emotional pain behind your anger. Then, when your anger has been resolved, you will able to live honestly, without blaming anyone.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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San Francisco


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