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Page Contents: Feeling rejected by psychotherapist and enraged.                    


(a.) I have been in therapy for a few months. I was sexually abused by my brother and grandfather. I also have abandonment issues concerning my mother. My problem is, I have developed this tremendous feeling of caring for my therapist, and I don’t know whether to tell him of this. Also, I recently have begun feeling rejected by him, and I don’t understand these feelings. The last session, it was all I could do to sit there. Are these feelings normal?
(b.) I have been in therapy for about three years, and have a good relationship with my therapist, however I left her today feeling murderous feelings towards her, this rage towards her is building up, and I am very scared at these feelings, as they are too violent for me to cope with. . . . I am worried I will explode at her. . . . Please assure me this is normal, and have you any suggestions how . . . I can protect me and her from these feelings.

Both of these questions touch on similar issues.

First of all I will assume that your psychotherapists have not done something grossly incompetent or illegal that would warrant such feelings on your part. And I will assume that the writer of the second question hasn’t actually murdered someone before.

In regard to feelings of caring for a psychotherapist, see the other questions about transference issues, especially the erotic transference.

Now, the flip side of caring and love is hate, and that brings us to the rage because of feeling rejected. Most likely, the psychotherapist has simply done something during the ordinary course of psychotherapy that has touched on some emotional wound from your past, thus stimulating a whole reservoir of your unconscious anger. Yes, you feel rejected by your psychotherapist for some actual event, but those intense feelings of yours really point right through the psychotherapist and back to unspoken anger from your own childhood.

Such a thing is common in psychotherapy, but the intensity of such anger varies from person to person. Usually, persons from dysfunctional families—families characterized by alcoholism, violence, marital infidelity, or physical or sexual abuse—have deep wounds and can have very strong and frightening experiences of anger within psychotherapy.

In this respect, it is important to understand that a child in such a dysfunctional family learns to survive by suppressing and hiding any intense feelings. That kind of emotional suppression is what fills that reservoir of unconscious anger in the first place. But the only way to find healing for all the emotional wounds of childhood is, as an adult, to give voice to all the emotions that were suppressed as a child. By speaking about them you essentially put them into language and give them names; it’s a bit like the fairy tale in which by naming Rumpelstilzchen the queen set herself free of his power over her.

Thus your task in psychotherapy is not to get angry with your psychotherapist but to talk about the fact that you feel hurt, no matter how frightening your feelings may seem. By learning how to speak about feelings of hurt and vulnerability in psychotherapy you essentially learn to do what you didn’t learn as a child: to be emotionally honest.

Furthermore, having learned to face your anger, you can then face the true pain of your wounds that underlies the anger—and if you do that successfully, you will be able, eventually, to forgive those who hurt you. Then you will be healed.

So don’t hide anything from the psychotherapist. Speak it.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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