A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: Using the time left in psychotherapy after seeing your mistake of not talking.                    


Iíve dipped in and out for interest and occasional help with my own psychotherapy progress. Iím normally a lurker - rather than a participant - but something monumental has come up which I feel ill-equipped to deal with and so I have a question of my own: How can I best use the time I have left in psychotherapy?

I was referred to a psychotherapy programme 5 years ago. After an initial year in group therapy, I was then transferred to a consultant for individual sessions which have been ongoing for 4 years. Today, I found out that he is leaving and we only have 10 sessions left. I have issues with endings and abandonment so I feel that most of our remaining time will be taken up with discussing these.

Iíve only recently been able to communicate throughout the 50 minute sessions - the first few years I was monosyllabic. It has taken a lot of work to get to this point, and I was hoping to still have the opportunity to discuss a number of things, many of them big ticket items such as erotic and non-erotic transference, failure of relationships, body image, and intimacy. Some of the things are specific to our relationship and I would regret not covering them with my current therapist. Iím also really specifically worried that Iíll lapse back into my old way of coping (withdrawal, mutism) for the final sessions, and wonít be able to say goodbye properly to someone I respect, who is my primary attachment figure, who has helped me immensely, and who I will likely never see again. This would partly be to protect myself, and partly to try and make him understand the hurt I feel by visiting it back to him. Not pretty - or helpful - but I can feel it brewing. Iím also angry at both of us for avoiding some topics over the years, and for allowing too much room for him in the therapy room (it was helpful at first, but became intrusive).

A side issue: he has also indicated that he will not pass me to another psychotherapist within the programme. He thinks I need to take a time out so that this is a proper ending and that I can experience life away from psychotherapy for a bit. I agree with the first point, disagree with the second and am concerned because a) I struggle week-to-week with thoughts (including suicide ideation), emotions, self-esteem, relationships, and identity and b) the criteria for referral have changed since I joined, and it may not be possible to be re-referred. I cannot afford psychotherapy privately.

During our conversations I rose-tinted a lot of things about my life because of immense shame, and because I wanted him to like me, and I wonder whether he just doesnít understand how much I rely on him/the service. Generally, I believe Iím definitely improving but that I still have many issues to work on for a productive life; over the period Iíve seen him Iíve lost - not gained - friends and struggle with who I am and where Iím going in life. I lack the support of a network outside psychotherapy and have been using therapy as a crutch, but maybe Iíve seen this too late to work on things that could help me going forward alone.

Sorry for the essay. I decided this evening - after a lot of crying - that I want to end the therapy as well as I can and am trying to think of things that will help. I also just wanted to share this with someone who might understand how wonderfully confusing and painful it all is. It feels worse than a death; that he will exist somewhere, and I just canít see him.

You donít realize it yet, but you are at the cusp of an opportunity to be starting, not ending. Whether you make use of that opportunity depends on how you understand and apply what I tell you.

Although itís difficult to hear, what you did in psychotherapy is a metaphor for what you have been doing all your life: sabotaging yourself. Had you been using psychotherapy gracefully, you would have learned that sabotage is related to anger at your parents. Because you werenít attached to them in any healthy manner during your childhood, as an adult you have lacked attachment to anything.

Consider here that in order to learn confidence about life, children need to feel ďspecialĒ in the eyes of their parents. Children need the nurturing love of a mother and the protective, guiding love of a father. Children who grow up in dysfunctional families know the devastating emotional pain of wanting their parentsí love while finding it always withheld from them. They will try over and over to make their parents see them as specialóand because of their parentsí fear of love, they will fail, over and over, to draw any parental love into their aching hearts.

Consequently, having tried and failed to make their parents look upon them as special, they make one last dramatic effort: clinging to their resentments, they throw themselves so deeply into dysfunction as to make themselves believe that they are special in their dysfunction.

This explains why some personsí lives are always in a confused state of panic, chaos, or melodrama. As painful as the dysfunction may be on the surface, and as much as they consciously complain about it, or even seek psychotherapy for it, they nevertheless cling to an unconscious enjoyment of the chaos and confusion because it gives them a special identity.

Thatís why self-punishment is such a mistake: it puts up a profound impediment to all that you could achieve in life. Itís as if you bury all of your talents. Although deep in your heart you blame your parents for ruining your life, your life hasnít really been ruined by what others have done to you (or failed to do for you). Yet if you cling to your resentments and consequently sabotage yourself to prove to others how much they have hurt you, then it will appear to you that others have ruined your life when really you have been bringing ruin onto yourself. Moreover, itís even more ironic that if you presume to punish yourself for your previous mistakes of self-punishment (such as reverting to near silence in the last 10 sessions of the psychotherapy), you will stay locked in self-punishmentóand you will never learn anything, and your talents will remain buried.

As a result of your unconscious confusion, your attachment to your psychotherapist is a defense to hide and avoid your lack of attachment to the psychotherapy itself. Thatís a shock, isnít it? Your transference to your psychotherapist is not a matter of love, itís a matter of fear.

Therefore, in the last 10 sessions, be honest, confess the motives behind your behavior in psychotherapy, and then see what your psychotherapist does. Furthermore, once he sees you clearly he may rethink his decision about not referring you to someone else to continue the work.



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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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