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Page Contents: How masochistic fantasies unconsciously try to control the psychotherapy.                    


My therapist [has been planning on moving out of town]. . . . I’ve been in therapy for at least 4 years and made a lot of progress. . . . But [recently] she told me that the contract on her house has not yet been signed and the deal could fall through and that she may be around another 6 months. I was bummed out, though I didn’t tell her that. My mind is geared to leaving. . . . I’m confused. . . . I hate to say it, but I think I’m being strung along. . . . And now I’m even feeling like she’s the one who doesn’t want to let go and I’m taking care of her feelings by staying. . . . My anger is starting to express itself in masochistic sexual fantasies with my therapist. I’ve never had any sexual fantasies (good or bad) with my therapist in all the years I’ve known her, which is odd for me, but I thought it was a sign of healing. (I’ve always had masochistic sexual fantasies) and I was also sexually abused as a child, adult and even now at work for years. . . . I’ve tried to have sexual fantasies about her in the past, but I just couldn’t . . . so I thought it was because I trust her. . . . Or maybe she keeps her distance so well, I never bonded. . . . The fantasies are, I want to leave and she won’t let me. It’s scary. I don’t like it. And I guess this is how I am expressing my anger. Right? Sometimes in place of her I use a different person, someone I don’t know, just so it won’t be her. . . . but it is her deep down . . . I realize this. . . . I’m too embarrassed to tell her about this. . . . Do therapists hear this kind of thing a lot? I mean I know sexual fantasies are “normal” at some point. Why did I not have them for years (I think three years). What does that indicate? And now I’m having them like crazy. I feel scared inside. . . . I’m very upset about this. I thought she was different. I don’t want anyone to have power over me, and yet it is starting to happen in fantasies. I’m scared. What should I do? I don’t want to have these fantasies. I feel scared deep inside. I feel embarrassed even telling you, and I don’t know you.

I suppose the answer to most of your problem can be found in your saying that “I don’t want anyone to have power over me.” Well, OK, it may not be that clear immediately, so let’s look at it.

Masochistic fantasies have two wishes within them: a wish to be dominated, and a wish to be punished. Now, in order to untangle this a bit, we first have to examine the wish to be dominated. Most likely, in childhood you had experiences in which you were overwhelmed, or “smothered,” so to speak, by someone you needed and whose love you wanted. So you wanted the love, but hated the smothering. But that “hate” was just too “ugly” a feeling to tolerate, so you had to push it out of awareness. And, at the same time, you resigned yourself, unwillingly of course, to the fact that “love” had to be intimately associated with domination.

Your fantasies, then, recreate all this emotional turmoil. There’s the desire for domination, which, according to your personal experience, “means” love, and there’s the punishment. Punishment for what? Well, punishment for feeling angry at being dominated. The anger can’t be admitted consciously because, if you did that, it would jeopardize the love you desire. So it becomes a closed circle of punishment for frustrated love. And, it remains closed until you get the courage to look at the psychological meaning of it all, rather than just accept it at face-value as a mere sexual desire.

So, in plain English, you resent being dominated, and yet you accept it—indeed even invite it—because you’re too scared to acknowledge—and then express—your anger at being dominated.

Up until now, in your psychotherapy, you have managed to keep parts of yourself secret, and that gave the illusion that things were going well. All the love, none of the anger, and hence no fantasies. But when your psychotherapist decides to move, everything falls apart. It’s a decision that dominates the psychotherapy. And, like most things psychological, it triggers its mirror image. “Huh? Mirror image?” you ask. Well, she wants to leave and you won’t let her, right? That is, you won’t let her in so far as you feel the need to take care of her feelings. In your fantasy, you want to leave and she won’t let you. Why? Because in your childhood, when you were “smothered” with fraudulent caring, emotionally you wanted to leave but she or he wouldn’t let you. So it’s the same theme of domination, whether original or reflected.

So what can you do? You need to speak your hurt and frustration or it will remain a closed circle.

Unfortunately, you can’t keep anything secret, not your fantasies, and not even your particular sexual desires. It may not be politically correct, but every aspect of your life has to be examined as being a possible defense against your anger at the original smothering. And to get to that anger—so that it can be expressed openly and healed—you have to get past your anger at your psychotherapist for doing to you what you have always wanted to do to the one who smothered you originally.

It’s a weird thing, psychology, what with its twists and turns and distorted reflections of reality. And what’s happening now probably isn’t at all what you expected your psychotherapy to be. And it’s even likely that your psychotherapist doesn’t even understand what is happening. But if you seize the opportunity to encounter it all, without qualification, then you have a chance to gain life by losing your fears of openly defending yourself against domination.

Be advised, however, your psychotherapist may not be able to deal with these things. Only the really expert psychotherapists have overcome almost all their fears and blind spots. Just understand that your speaking about all this is critical for YOU; if your psychotherapist can work with all this therapeutically, then your psychotherapy will have advanced by a huge leap. If she can’t deal with it, then let her move away peacefully—and then find someone who can do real psychotherapy. And be grateful that her moving has made it possible for you to “move” as well.

There’s one other warning I need to give as well. There is probably at least one person in your life right now who derives great pleasure from dominating you. And if you show any signs that you are “losing your fears of openly defending yourself against domination” that person will be very threatened indeed—and may resort to sabotaging your psychotherapy as a form of self-defense. So be prepared.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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