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Page Contents: When you are smarter than your psychotherapist.                    


I am a highly functioning depressed borderline. . . . I’ve been to over 20 therapists in 20+ years. . . . I feel confident that I’m just smarter than a lot of therapists I meet (I often know more than the therapist about issues and techniques germane to my situation; I am often more seasoned than the therapist; when I do get defensive I can kill the effectiveness of the therapeutic session because the therapist isn’t strong enough to bring us back to what I’m avoiding). . . . When I felt feelings for my current therapist, I told her. . . . I felt we should really examine it, this transference thing that feels so much like unrequited love. . . . I don’t think she’s capable of understanding, or maybe just not of dealing with what I’m going through. . . . Transference exists, it is part of the process and is rightly acknowledged. But what happens in a therapeutic crush (such as mine) is more than that. For one, it is a rock solid observation that this this therapist has presented all of the behaviors, talents and intellect that, in a friendship, would give me the righteous and healthy connection I crave when those with whom I do connect leave me grateful but bored and empty. And two, this transference is a wish for a metaphysical impossibility, the urge to merge, the urge to disappear into someone who could be me for me, to relieve me of the burden while I delighted in an ultimate closeness at a molecular level. . . . Given that I have such a hard time finding therapists, I am truly loathe to abandon this one. . . . In the past few months I have started to use the word “trust” with her. That took two years. . . . When I read your notes to writers about their transference, your depth of knowledge and instruction that transference should be examined over and over left me sure that I would not be able to work through my transference with this therapist because she just can’t handle it. . . . I also must say that I really appreciate having you to write all of this to. I don’t know of any other outlet, and writing this letter feels quite satisfying, both for getting it out and for knowing that I will be heard by someone who really understands the transference issues.

First of all, you give a very accurate description (in the text of your question that I have italicized) of the illusions of common love. These illusions not only cause many interpersonal problems, but they often lie at the core of many mental health problems as well.

Moreover, as I say in a discussion about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), a central dynamic of BPD is rage—rage about not getting from others the illusions of common love.

So, since you value my opinions so highly, I will get right to the point here and tell you the truth: although you are a very smart person, your intellect has fooled even you and has become a weapon of rage. Essentially, early in life your intellect developed ingenious psychological defenses to protect you from emotional pain, but as you got older, those very defenses, created to protect you, began causing interpersonal conflicts that have been holding you back from using the full potential of your intellect. Now you’re in the sad predicament of offending others even as you try to protect yourself.

In fact, paying me a compliment is an underhanded way of throwing an insult to your current psychotherapist.

What, then should you do? Well, you need to learn humility. It will be important to shatter the illusions of common love and discover real love because real love is the ability to seek the good of another without regard for your personal satisfaction or gain. Moreover, this real love does not depend on being smart; it’s simply a humble, honest human interaction with psychologically healthy boundaries.

So stop using your intellect to fight the world because of what you’re not getting from the world, and, instead of rage, give to the world what you have never received: real love. Furthermore, because it won’t be easy to find a psychotherapist smarter than you are, go back to your current psychotherapist and teach her real love by your willingness to allow her to teach you humble, illusion-free trust and honesty.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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