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Page Contents: When your psychotherapist fails to understand an erotic transference, the treatment becomes a fruitless game, and you get tired of it and terminate treatment.                    


I’ve been embroiled for the past six years in an epic transference/counter transference relationship with my female therapist (I’m female, too). I’ve been “in love” with her, attracted to her, loved her more benevolently, hated her, tried suicide after one of her rejections, looked up to her, and everything in between. However, over the past year or so, I started becoming more detached from our interactions. . . . I developed a capacity to step back and watch myself and her interacting, and I began to feel that it was like a game—in other words, we both had specific roles and specific moves we could make, and that we were both trapped in these roles. I began to feel like we had been replaying the same conversations/roles over and over again. It was like chess, in which the first person’s gambit significantly constricts the response of the next player. That sounds like a very detached analogy, but in fact I was feeling all the same chaotic emotions—there was just a part of me that had risen above it and felt incredibly tired and trapped by it. Every time we started talking about “us” ( the main topic of our sessions), I could see the whole predictable moves and where it would end up and, honestly, I was bored and despairing, tired of it.

I kept bringing this up to her, but she couldn’t see it—she’d go right back to pushing old buttons, buttons that didn’t work anymore, I guess. So I felt like I had no options—it was like whatever I said, I’d be participating in this weird passive aggressive game we’d built up over the years—and so I just stopped talking altogether, gradually. I kept going out of loyalty and a desire to disrupt my emotional equilibrium as little as possible, but I wanted a freer, clearer, simpler conversation, but I could never achieve it with her, no matter how I tried, no matter how many meta-analyses I would do for her of how we always had the same fruitless conversation.This clamming up must have really frustrated her, because at our last session, she started acting, well, extremely childish. She acted bored, sighing, looking out the window, juggling her foot. Part of me was upset and rejected, but part of me said I’m not leaving a session I paid for because she decided to act unprofessionally. I left early eventually, but I was pretty disgusted with this behavior. I guess more than I’d realized at the time, because I told her I’d take a break and go back in a couple of weeks, but it’s been a few months and I never went back. Sometimes I feel sad about it, but overall I got to a point where I said, “This is just so...*stupid*”

My question is this. Everyone recommends doing termination properly—going back, saying goodbye, getting some kind of closure. But boy, I don’t want to. I’ve been having a great time taking a vacation from that relationship that always made me feel like nothing. I started wondering if I did the whole thing out of some existential guilt, that I need to work on myself to make myself marginally acceptable. That I had to work and work to be lovable. I guess that changed. Now, having left, I’m happy (previous breaks, attempts to leave were torture) and I know going through that process with her will make me more unhappy, maybe for a long period of time. On the other hand it was six years of incredible intensity, and its strange to simply walk out. So should I go back and do it anyway? I’m also wondering if I should find another therapist to work out the issues that were probably incompletely resolved. Or rather, intellectually they seem incompletely resolved; emotionally I feel they’re gone, that that woman who walked in six years ago oozing with transference was a completely different person. But that’s the thing about the psyche. Nasty unconscious stuff can pop up even when you think you dealt with it. . . .

I like the way you conceptualized the game going on between you and your “therapist,” because it helps to explain how she got as caught up in her own unconscious issues as you did. When you witnessed her acting childish, you were catching a glimpse of her own hidden conflicts about feeling frustrated—conflicts that have much to do with frustration with her own father. Maybe, all to often, her father treated her as if she were “stupid.” For that matter, maybe your father did the same to you, and maybe that is why you became entangled in such an intense transference.

In any event, congratulations for realizing how the distorted relationship with your psychotherapist was “just so . . . *stupid*.”

So, to your specific question, should you go back and terminate properly?

The answer is “No.”

Many clients get confused about this, but a proper termination depends on both the client and the psychotherapist. If the client can speak honestly, and if the psychotherapist can listen objectively, then psychotherapy can be terminated with a mutual assessment of the treatment progress, and the final parting can be done in an atmosphere of good will. If, however, despite the client’s attempts to address the real issues, the psychotherapist keeps missing the point, and the process degenerates into a “fruitless conversation,” then the client has no other option than just leaving and not looking back. It would be masochistic to return to a fruitless passive-aggressive game.

As for whether you should find another psychotherapist, the best thing would be to consider why you started psychotherapy in the first place. You must have had a good reason at the beginning—but then you got diverted into the transference. Given that you have essentially resolved the transference by recognizing the game behind it, ask yourself if the original issues still need attention. If so, then find another psychotherapist to continue the work. If you’re not sure if those original issues still need attention, however, then relax, take a break, and wait for the truth to “pop up” in due time. The unconscious isn’t out to get you—it’s simply truth itself, so you can trust that if you need more psychotherapy, your unconscious will let you know.


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