I Hate Psychotherapy and I Hate Transference – C: Week 15
This morning’s psychotherapy session absolutely fucking sucked and I hated it. What is the point of it? What is its mandate? If it is only going to upset me further, why do I bother? Why does C bother? Aside from a salary, what satisfaction can he possibly get from his job?
The one thing I’ll say in defence of today’s session was that at least there was absolutely no cunty DBT involved. In fact, I was going to have out my issues with that with C, but we got so involved in other stuff that I neither got a chance to do that, nor to ask him what’s going to happen when he so selfishly takes leave in July.
I went in, greeted him and then just sat there like a complete gimp. He just looked at me, waiting for me to commence. I just looked back at him. It was like a battle of fucking wills. Eventually I cracked and said I never knew where to start. He said that he got the impression I was quite anxious.
This was fair and accurate, as I had been catastrophising all week about how to present my anger and frustration about DBT to him without causing offence and curbing his enthusiasm regarding same. It’s kind of ironic, therefore, that this anxiety will have to wait for at least another week as that issue was not discussed at all.
I started by telling C what had happened to CVM last Thursday night and about how worried I’d been, about how I’d worked myself into a frenzy of panic thinking that she would die, and how awful I felt that I had not responded to text messages that she’d sent before she lost consciousness. I told him how worried I’d been that she would die thinking I didn’t care about her.
Then I launched into a tirade of self-abuse about how only a narcissistic fuck like me could turn someone else’s illness into a reflection of themselves. I rambled on and on and on about what a self-obsessed tosser I am, how my problems are self-indulgent, how my madness is simply elaborate narcissism. The hilarious irony of this is that the rant in itself was utterly self-indulgent.
C talked briefly about narcissism but was concerned that his use of the term would reinforce my pejorative use of it. I stated that I was well aware that the word ‘narcissism’ had diagnostic elements as well as pejorative connotations and that he was unlikely to reinforce my self-disgust as it was already as reinforced as reinforced concrete.
This is going to be disjointed, I fear. I don’t remember what he said next or how the discussion returned to CVM, but in any case, it did. He asked me how I knew her, as she is not one of the friends to whom I have hitherto referred whilst in therapy. This is because I ‘met’ her, relatively recently, on the internet.
C said that I seem to live a lot of my life online and that I seem to form relationships there. I agreed. In fact, to exemplify my agreement, I rather pretentiously quoted a paraphrased version of this most fabulous of quotes from H P Lovecraft:
Anything savouring of quiet and tameness is maddeningly abhorrent to me — not in actual life, for that I wish as placid as possible; but in thought, which is my more vivid life.
I said to C, “well, the internet is my more vivid life.” Had Lovecraft been alive today, perhaps it would have been his too.
C continued to probe me on the friendships I develop online. He wondered if, as they are not people I’ve met in ‘real life’, if I even saw them as real people. Of course I do. The beauty of the internet, and I told him this, is that here I can find people who truly can empathise with what I go through. A, D, B, W, Mum etc can all sympathise but apart from AC I don’t know any other real crackpots, or at least not any with whom I’d be willing to discuss mental matters. I have met people online that do truly understand and with whom I can openly discuss everything with almost complete impunity. There is an element of anonymity, certainly, but that does not mean that I don’t see these good folks as real people.
“Fair enough,” C said, “but I’m wondering if your tendencies to personify inanimate objects and be more willing to form internet friendships rather than real life ones is linked.” He suggested that part of me sees both my internet friends and random objects such as my car as ‘safe’ assignees for my ‘affections’ as I do not want to exhibit tactility, sweetness etc etc to those I know in ‘real life (he said I was “terrified” of this; I agreed but also said the idea of being like that “disgusted” me). Furthermore, objects and online friends are less likely to let me down; an object can’t, emotionally anyway, let one down, and people you don’t know in person are less likely to fuck you over than those you do.
My instinctive reaction to the idea that this was a form of frightened or protective projection was that it was utter bollocks, but I sat and thought about it for a few minutes anyway. He asked what was going through my head, and I explained that I was trying to work out why I personify objects, why I put such importance in online relationships. I told him that I saw academic value in his theory, but that my visceral reaction was not one of agreement. I concluded that I simply didn’t know.
“That’s OK,” said C, “I don’t know either. I’m just theorising.”
I went on to discuss with him the blog posts in which I was debating the nature of sanity and whether I wanted to be part of its ranks (see here and here). He was interested to hear that I really struggled with this.
The two of us agreed that obviously being mental is my comfort zone in some ways, and in fairness to him he did seem to understand my conflicts over this issue, in a way that most non-mentals don’t seem to. Perhaps C has issues too? Therapists are allowed to have their own mental health difficulties, aren’t they? The lovely From the Same Sky is demonstrable proof of that.
But as usual maybe I am reading too much into this. As a clinical psychologist, I would assume that the man is trained to understand mental fuck-ups and all their odd foibles.
Oh for cunt’s sake. Why don’t I remember how this all went? I think it’s because I am so consumed by what happened later in the session, the part that upset me, so I can’t remember what happened before. But I want to. I know my psychotherapy doesn’t matter to anyone else but it matters to me. I want to remember it, every eye movement, every shake of the head, every sound and every thought and feeling. I need to make sense of it for my own reasons. I don’t know why.
What was I saying? I think I was talking about being in my comfort zone of mentalism. Another comfort zone is my constant intellectualising of matters. It allows me to avoid dealing with emotional bullshit. If I speak about an issue in abstract, vaguely academic and analytical terms, then I am less likely to collapse in a gibbering mess.
At one point today, C emphatically refused to answer a question I put to him. In the past, he’s given annoyingly politician-esque evasive answers to questions to which he hasn’t wanted to respond, but today he point-blank refused to answer whatever it was at all, as he felt I was trying to take us off course and into scholarly territory. This avoids the issues he’s trying to uncover, or so I imagine the case is. Later on, when I started analysing something I’d said, he interrupted me and told me I was making an intellectual matter of it again. Again, it’s the first time he’s done that. He’ll often ponder what I’ve said and subsequently tell me I’m trying to turn it into a logical, intelligent analysis for reasons of avoidance, but he’s never actually stopped me mid-sentence before.
My mind wants to make something of this. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Am I just making dilemmas out of nothing?
I get the sense, rightly or wrongly, that C is beginning to realise only now the depths and deep-seatedness of my issues. That isn’t his fault, because I am wont to discuss everything in unemotional, abstract terms and pretend that it doesn’t effect me. Well, obviously, C is not stupid and would realise that I wouldn’t be in psychotherapy at all if it didn’t effect me, but you know what I mean. I have become adept at masking my true “self” and even to C, the person in front of whom I should least wear a mask, it has been worn over and over again. I take it off only occasionally and usually then only when under pressure. He knows that I wear it, but he has to work hard to see under it. The fact that he achieves it at all is testament to his abilities.
Perhaps I too am only realising the depths of my madness. I’ve stated before that psychotherapy has been a rather negative journey of self-discovery for me (excuse the grotesque cliche) and I’m still feeling that. I do not think about how malevolent and vile I am most of the time, or perhaps more accurately I didn’t, but every time I am with him my self-disgust and hatred is so palpable and strong that I could almost reach out and touch it and bounce it around the room.
I remember repeatedly using the word ‘fail’ in relation to myself. That’s a habit I’ve picked up from Twitter I’ll admit (where the hashtag #fail is used to convey annoyance at any minor misdemeanor), but in one tiny word it quite perfectly sums up how I feel about my life. The self-invective went something like this:
“Sleep? Fail. Sanity? Fail. Work? Fail. Academia? Fail. Socialisation? Fail. Life? Fail”. I counted the number of ‘fails’ out on my fingers, but evidently I am only paraphrasing it all here as I ran out of fingers whilst relaying the multitude of ‘fails’ to C.
I was waiting for some lovey-dovey-inner-rainbow nonsense like, “but think of what you have achieved in your life,” but to be fair he didn’t even try that one. Instead, he asked me why I thought I had failed.
I replied, “because I am a nutjob.”
He said, “I’m not sure I know what you mean in your use of that term.”
Uh-oh. My reply to this was rather thoughtless – literally. I said it before I thought about it; it was an impulsive comment that ‘just came out’. I said, “well, neither am I, because no one will fucking tell me anything.”
At the time, even viewing his reaction, I didn’t think much of it. If anything, I almost found my cynicism mildly amusing. C laughed, but it was a nervous laugh I think. He sort of bowed his head and covered part of his face with his hand. Was he embarrassed? I had quite openly asked him in the past what, in his clinical opinion, he thought was wrong with me, and he refused to give me a straight answer.
Yet it wasn’t really meant as a jibe at him – not on a personal level, anyway. It was more a mild criticism of the way the NHS has treated me for over a decade. I hate it and resent it. If it has failed me so miserably, how many other people has it failed? How many people have ended up topping themselves because the NHS has failed them? However, of course I rely on it too. Another dichotomic dilemma.
As ever I am digressing. My mind goes off on tangents and I look back after a few minutes and find that I have typed them all, largely without thinking.
I’m evidently not going to remember all that happened this morning so I’ll just get to the point that I’m leading up to anyway. In our discussion of my life on the internet, C asked me if I wrote on this blog about my sessions with him. I responded in the affirmative.
Maybe I was being paranoid (no change there then), but I wondered had his facial expression changed in some sort of negative way. After a minute or two of silence, he asked, “how do you think I might feel about that?”
My heart stopped beating. I was suddenly conscious that I had quite possibly done something that had such great capacity to offend and betray trust, as to all intents and purposes what goes on in his office between he and I should really stay in his office between he and I.
Rather than betray my concerns, I batted the question back to him. “How do you feel about it?” I queried.
Once again he refused to answer. He merely asked me to articulate how he might feel.
I began to panic, and felt a lump of sorrow swelling in my throat, as the fact that he was even asking this was, to me, compelling evidence for the fact that he was angry with me for writing reams of bullshit about him without even having bothered to consult him. How much do I hate myself? How much did I hate myself in that moment? There are not enough perjorative terms in the English language to describe how appalled I was at my own behaviour.
I didn’t want to exhibit this in front of him, though to be frank it would have been obvious to a dead fly sliced in half by a sadistic child, crunched and suffocated in a bin lorry, ingested by someone and then shat out into the murky sewers that I was in a wee bit of a panic and was significantly distressed.
I said, choosing my words carefully, that I may have betrayed his trust and/or invaded his privacy by broadcasting our weekly conversations to the world on the internet.
C then asked how I would feel if he had gone and discussed our sessions with his colleagues or someone. I took this as further evidence that he was angry with me and became more upset, but before I could answer he tried to do so for me.
He said, “perhaps you would feel that I’d betrayed your trust, but perhaps you would feel pleased, in a sense, because you would feel that I care about you enough to want to go and discuss you with others.”
I denied this, truthfully. I said that I would take it as a betrayal of trust. I said, “because I’ve betrayed your trust, now you think I’m a cunt and you’re going to abandon me. I’m sorry.”
Clearly this was exactly what C had been waiting for, and he said so. Not so much the specific comment that I was a cunt, obviously, but the more general negative opinion that I was now holding of myself, and, even more than that, what I felt the dynamic between he and I was and is.
I see what he was doing in asking these questions and making me feel uncomfortable. This was about him investigating the transference I experience towards him – what is its nature, how strong is it, in what ways does it manifest blah blah blah. This is the quintessence of psychodynamic psychotherapy, as I understand it anyway. But even with this rational awareness, I was completely fixated with the idea that he was incensed with me and I told him so, apologising over and over again. I told him I would stop writing about our sessions on this blog.
C said he was not angry and that he felt keeping a journal was in fact a potentially very useful outlet for me. He said he did not think I was a cunt. That provided some light relief – I’ve never heard him use that (supposedly) most dirty of words before, and I struggled not to laugh at his doing so despite my overwhelming distress.
I was still obsessed with the fact that I’d potentially hurt or betrayed him though, and said, “it’s all anonymous, you know, you can’t be identified. It’s mostly abstract anyway [it’s not really, though, is it?] and you are discussed in positive terms, unlike my family about whom I go off on the most vicious of rants…”
I stopped myself at this point and looked at him. “I’m trying to justify myself, aren’t I?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, and I think he was mildly amused by it.
“OK,” I said, “I’ll stop writing it.”
C said, “in academic psychology, if one is writing a case study of a patient [so it’s ‘patient’, not ‘service user’ – thank fuck for that], one has to ask the patient’s permission to use the material and it all has to be anonymised. If I wrote a paper on you, I’d need your permission and would not be able to use your real name.” (Oh really, C? I had no idea, thanks for enlightening me).
“You see,” I laughed, “I’d get off on that kind of public discussion about my issues. Just not you talking to your colleagues! But I should have asked your permission to write the stuff. I’m sorry.” I continued to fight against tears, which would not, I am convinced, have been a couple of sobs, but an entire 28 year long weeping session. C commented on the fact I was evidently dealing with a lot in my head at the time. Well, you put it there, mate. But of course it’s my fault not his because I shouldn’t write this.
At any rate, he said that although there had to be some boundaries as regards what I could and couldn’t discuss, that as long as I kept reference to him on this blog anonymous it was fine. “No,” I argued, “you can say that, but you don’t think it, do you?”
“I do,” he persisted. “Anonymity is fine, you probably even find it helpful. Your reaction to this is that you think my reaction is punitive. You’re castigating yourself.”
He paused, and then continued in defence of me. I really don’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of, “you’re a product of some awful experiences. You can’t be blamed for any of that. You shouldn’t feel guilty about reacting to it….” blah de blah blah blah de blah yada yada.
I laughed bitterly. “Yes, I should,” I seethed (self-)contemptuously. “I’m not the first abandoned child. I’m not the first victim of sexual abuse. I wasn’t the first person to be bullied at school. I wasn’t, and won’t be, the last. No, the problems are not the problems. I am the problem. My reactions to the supposed problems are self-indulgent wank and I self-perpetuate everything. Put simply, it’s my fault.”
Of course by this time the 50 minutes had elapsed. C concluded by saying, “look, we have a lot to deal with here, but it’ll have to be next week.”
Perhaps if I wasn’t such a useless cunt I could have allowed him to deal with it today. As I left his office, he told me to take care, but I did the opposite of course. I left the hospital in severe distress and experiencing some of the worst suicide and self-harm ideation I’ve had in years. C was certainly aware that I was distressed, but I hid the extent of it very well, and he would have had no reason to have believed my self-harm thoughts were stronger than normal.
I drove home recklessly, taking longer than I needed for the journey, fantasising yet again about driving into a wall or another car or a roundabout or anything that could have caused me to die. Of course I didn’t, but only because of concern for my car. I still value it more than my life.
My levels of my transference are severe. I am obsessed with C. I hate it. I really hate it. I don’t want to live my life worrying about whether I have upset a man I don’t even know. Yet such is the nature of this form of therapy. Transference is almost a requirement; it allows the therapist to see what is deficient in one’s life. A rudimentary analysis of my transference towards him suggests to me that I am clearly much more emotionally attached to people than I’d like to admit. I seek – nay, I need – validation from others simply to exist. I hate most people, yet worry and upset myself when I think I’ve offended them. Most of all I’m terrified of being abandoned.
The more I think about it, intellectually rather than in a visceral sort of way, the more I am convinced this is about V. The thing is, I don’t really feel that. I just feel reliant on C and want him to be my friend, in some shape or form anyway. But rationally speaking I can accept that it sounds like I am worried about offending and/or disobeying a parent, like I am seeking the validation a child needs from their parents. How pathetic.
I feel bad even writing this entry given our discussion today, but he did give me permission as long as I keep it anonymous. I feel a bit better now, although writing about the potential for C being upset made me tearful again. Whatever the case, therapy sucks. But life sucks even more without therapy, so I guess therapy still wins.
Reading over this again it sounds like a ridiculous over-reaction to a throw-away remark, but what would I be without histrionics, eh?
So I have to go and wade through yet another pile of psychological-exploration shit tomorrow with Dr C – hur-fucking-rah. Perhaps it’s a good thing I don’t like her, as I am not as likely to develop a reliant transferential (if that’s even a word) relationship with her as I have done with C. Nevertheless I still fear her abandoning me, so I guess it’s not out of the question.
Bah. Ain’t life great?!
This entry was posted on Thursday, 18 June, 2009 at 4:07 pm and is filed under C, Moods, Psychotherapy with tags anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, bpd, clinical depression, cutting, depression, insanity, insomnia, madness, major depressive disorder, mania, manic depression, mental health, mentalhealth, panic, panic attack, psychiatry, psychodynamic psychotherapy, psychology, Psychotherapy, sadness, self harm, social anxiety, suicidal thoughts, suicide, suicide ideation, therapeutic relationship, therapy, transference. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.