Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 915522

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Wanting

Posted by onceupon on September 2, 2009, at 23:07:38

I've been seeing my current therapist for 2+ years. And throughout that time, I've struggled with wanting more from our relationship than I know it can possibly offer. I see her as a mother figure. Ever since I can remember (going back to adolescence), I've sought out surrogate mothers of sorts - in teachers, friends' parents, and therapists. In that same time, my relationship with my actual mother has cycled from hostile and conflicted (as a teenage girl) to cool and distant (as a young adult) to cordial and polite, but not at all "deep" (most recently).

It seems that I struggle *constantly* with wishing/longing/fantasizing about my therapist "mothering" or nurturing me - holding me, stroking my hair, soothing, reassuring, etc. And we've talked about it, a lot. Her general stance (I think) is that those kinds of feelings can be a natural part of therapy. She has tried valiantly to help me develop self-compassion. My stance on the whole thing is Shame with a capital S. At times I very nearly berate myself about it: Why do I want such a foolish thing? Why from someone who can't provide it? Why can't I get past this? I wish I didn't have these feelings. I WISH I DIDN'T WANT SO DAMNED MUCH!

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with all of this, but it's been slowly building pressure in my head over the past few weeks. I've been stressed with a new job and new childcare situation, which I imagine are contributing to these feelings getting bigger.

I know she's my therapist. Nothing more, nothing less. But accepting that hurts like crazy sometimes.

 

Re: Wanting

Posted by Daisym on September 3, 2009, at 1:17:18

In reply to Wanting, posted by onceupon on September 2, 2009, at 23:07:38

Of course you want her to nurture you. Isn't that what she does, emotionally, during sessions? And the natural extension of that is to want physical comfort too. And to want it in your life as a constant thing that you can have when you need it. So it hurts, hurts, hurts, to know it is so limited, even if she genuinely cares about you.

You are feeling human. That is nothing to be ashamed about. And I think children who get nurtured integrate a knowing into their soul that they DESERVE this kind of caring and comfort. So they can take it in from partners and friends and their family - it isn't threatening at all. Those of us who didn't get it, feel like we shouldn't want it - that it is too late, or we are too weak, or some other self-talk that says "stand on your own, you are grown up now." We have very loud prohibitions against have needs and wanting those needs met by anyone other than ourselves.

I think therapy give us a taste of feeling safe and cared for. And like a junkie, we want more and more of that. Because it is a good thing. Winnicott talked about optimal frustration for clients. He believed that clients will go look for what they are wanting from their therapist out in the real world if the therapist can keep it safe enough without gratifying the client completely.

I wish I knew the magic answer to the struggle. It is the hardest thing for me too. I let myself have my therapist's caring - I feel it and I'm great with it. And then I freak out and feel like I shouldn't want it, that it isn't real and I'm an idiot for thinking he cares or that I want him to.

I do know that holding yourself back will only make it worse. So allow the attachment and give yourself permission to just need and want it for right now. It will probably ease off again soon.

 

Re: Wanting

Posted by workinprogress on September 3, 2009, at 1:44:24

In reply to Re: Wanting, posted by Daisym on September 3, 2009, at 1:17:18

Onceupon-

I think Daisy's advice is really really important. Try not to push it back (as hard as that is) as it a) only makes it worse and b) doesn't make it go away. And keep trying to give yourself compassion. Who doesn't have needs? Who wouldn't want more caring, noticing, and compassion? And/or whatever else you feel from your therapist. And what's wrong really with wanting those things? Wanting more of those things?

My therapist once said, "in a perfect world, I'd take you home with me. But I can't do that, so we do the best we can here". Keep talking to her about it (I know it feels like you talk about it all the time- but share your feelings, it helps). I really think opening up and letting yourself connect and attach, painful as it is, is the key to really growing, healing, and in the end, internalizing your therapist and becoming independent. Seems counterintuitive, but I've come to believe that the more attached I am, the closer I become to independence- because the more attached and connected I am, the more secure I feel about the relationship and therefore me.

Lastly, here's my latest epiphany. After two years of a LOT of pain, wanting, and yearning I've come to the following conclusion: the yearning isn't so painful without the berating and beating myself up. Most of the pain came from judging myself and my feelings of yearning and wanting. I'm not sure that I yearn much less right now, but it isn't such a hard feeling now that I just let it be. It's when I pulverize myself for yearning that it really hurts. I've finally realized that most of the pain from yearning was self-inflicted and not so much a result of the yearning itself. So, do your best to be kind to yourself and try to be ok with your feelings.

That said- the other day I also said "I wish I had known that a long time ago, so I could stop beating myself up" and my T said- you probably weren't ready to learn it. We learn things when we're ready... so, just try to be ok with yourself where you are, the best you can.

Hang in there. It's hard work, but worth it....

WIP

 

Re: Wanting onceupon

Posted by Dinah on September 3, 2009, at 8:38:22

In reply to Wanting, posted by onceupon on September 2, 2009, at 23:07:38

"Lastly, here's my latest epiphany. After two years of a LOT of pain, wanting, and yearning I've come to the following conclusion: the yearning isn't so painful without the berating and beating myself up. Most of the pain came from judging myself and my feelings of yearning and wanting. I'm not sure that I yearn much less right now, but it isn't such a hard feeling now that I just let it be. It's when I pulverize myself for yearning that it really hurts. I've finally realized that most of the pain from yearning was self-inflicted and not so much a result of the yearning itself. So, do your best to be kind to yourself and try to be ok with your feelings."

I love what wip said here. It is more or less what I've found, though I never have thought it through as well.

After years of shame, and more years of telling my therapist how I feel, but with embarrassment and fear, I'm now to the point where we talk of it easily.

I'll tell him of my between session fantasies, which are very telling of where therapy is at the moment.

Sometimes I want to curl up on his lap like a kitten, other times I want to burrow all the way inside back to his womb. That one disconcerts him a bit, as does my mention of his milky breasts. For a while not too long ago, I instead had the image of wanting to tell him to look at me! Pay attention to me!

My usual between session image now, which actually shows a bit of growing up from the lap images or the womb images, is of myself at his feet with my head against his knee. Once, I told my therapist I wished I could do this. He knows I have very good boundaries so he said that if I wanted to do that, I could. Which led me to decide that the fantasy was too important to me to ruin it with the logistics of actually doing it. Because obviously I'm a lot bigger than I am in the fantasy, and my head would not comfortably rest against his knee. I'd have to twist to make myself smaller. Now he's accepted it, I can express the wish whenever I like, and the pain of all these longings has all but gone away. Now they are a comfort, not a source of pain.

 

Re: Wanting Dinah

Posted by workinprogress on September 3, 2009, at 10:07:35

In reply to Re: Wanting onceupon, posted by Dinah on September 3, 2009, at 8:38:22

That's a great image Dinah. And wow, I don't know if I could talk to my therapist about "milky breasts"- and she's a woman! Good for you, because I know it helps.

I too have the lap image. And notice it to be a "I need to be noticed, comforted place"- which is sometimes hard to know how to ask for directly. After one particularly hard session last month I said "this is one of those lap times" and T said "oh... well, I'll come over there (she is pretty loose, but safe about boundaries)" and she sat next to me on the couch, I put my arms around her and my head on her chest and she put her arms around me and stroked my shoulder and we just sat there a bit. Not quite the lap, but a pretty decent substitute.

And the womb... yes, lately my as I'm falling asleep image is often of curling up in her downy lined pouch- I guess like a kangaroo. ;)

WIP

 

Re: Wanting workinprogress

Posted by Dinah on September 3, 2009, at 12:41:07

In reply to Re: Wanting Dinah, posted by workinprogress on September 3, 2009, at 10:07:35

:-)

My therapist wouldn't do that. At least in part because he's a man, I guess.

On one occasion I was in strong hysterics, and he sat next to me and put his arm around me. But that was a truly extraordinary situation that hopefully will never be repeated. Ordinarily he'll give me a hug at the end of the session on those infrequent days I ask for one. Or hold out his hand to me to show me he's there. Nothing more than that.

 

Re: Wanting

Posted by onceupon on September 3, 2009, at 23:31:16

In reply to Re: Wanting, posted by Daisym on September 3, 2009, at 1:17:18

Oh, reading this made me tear up. Thanks for your thoughts, Daisy.

What you said that especially resonated with me was about feeling deserving of caring and comfort. "Deserve" has been a trigger word for me for as long as I can remember. I don't recall why exactly, but I feel undeserving in my bones. And I tell myself to grow up on about an every other day basis.

In thinking about it, I realize that I would like my therapist to "hold me with words" more frequently. I know, to varying degrees, that she cares, but feeling it is often a different matter. She seems to tend toward the intellectual more than I might like. I feel like I'm constantly seeking reassurance that what I say, especially about our relationship is OK, that it's not too much, etc.

And that brings me to optimal frustration - a concept I understand in theory, but not so much in practice! My therapist rarely offers direct reassurance. I think I get the reasoning behind that, but I'm often left with the feeling that there are so many unanswered questions between us.

At any rate, I'm so glad to hear that you're able to allow yourself to have your therapist's caring - it makes me feel hopeful. Practicing allowing myself the same seems like a good thing to try.

Thanks again for your words, Daisy. They mean a lot, if only to know that I'm not so alone in the struggle.

 

Re: Wanting

Posted by onceupon on September 3, 2009, at 23:40:52

In reply to Re: Wanting, posted by workinprogress on September 3, 2009, at 1:44:24

WIP - thanks for your wisdom and empathy. I appreciate hearing from someone who seems to be speaking from the other side, so to speak.

You're right - it is totally counterintuitive that leaning into the yearning might make it less. Or at least diminish the aching quality that seems to come with it.

I loved your latest epiphany too. I think part of the struggle for me, in addition to the self-berating, is the fear that this yearning will *never* shift, and that I'll be stuck in this painful middle place forever. I sometimes wonder why I do this to myself - why I sign up for such torment. Some days I wish I had never started the process, because it can be so damned painful. But your words, like Daisy's, give me hope that I'm not fated for purgatory for the rest of my existence!

I'm wondering if you can share what helped you to lessen your self-judgment. I'd like to think that I'm pretty good about catching myself when I'm judging others. But when it comes to me, I notice the judging, but often feel like I just sink into, and before I know what's happened, I'm caught up in a defeating pattern of self-loathing and self-recrimination.

Thanks so much for the understanding and encouragement. It means a lot.

 

Re: Wanting

Posted by onceupon on September 3, 2009, at 23:53:34

In reply to Re: Wanting onceupon, posted by Dinah on September 3, 2009, at 8:38:22

Oh, Dinah, your description of between session fantasies really struck a chord with me. What powerful imagery! The one about wanting him tell him to pay attention to you is interesting too. Between sessions, often late at night or early in the morning, I find myself chanting to myself in a not entirely conscious way - "Will you be here? Will you be here?" Which is obviously telling about my fear of abandonment (why do I hate that phrase so much?). Sometimes it's just, "Please. Please. Please." in this plaintive voice in my head. As much as I might try to push the thoughts away, I also cling to them, I think because they offer some strange semblance of connection.

I really like your image of resting your head against his knee. And I'm fascinated that he actually offered to let it happen! That you declined his offer looks like amazing self-restraint to me :) But I get wanting to hold onto the fantasy. I'm at a place where I feel like I *should* give up the fantasy, though I'm loathe to do so, because I'm just tormenting myself with it. I like that you feel able to express your wish whenever you want. In some ways, I hold that kind of free, untormented communication about the whole thing as a sort of goal I'm working toward. Somewhere along the way I got the idea in my head that if I could talk about whatever came to mind without the knee-jerk censoring and sky-high anxiety, that I'd feel a lot better. Perhaps obviously. Can't remember which school of thought talked about one being "cured" when able to free associate, but that seems close to my thoughts about it. But there are times when I do wonder whether the cure is worse than the disease!

One last thought: I remember reading once in a book about psychodynamic psychotherapy one therapist's approach to gratifying clients' fantasies in fantasy. In other words, she described talking through with her clients, using a lot of imagery, what it might be like if she were to hold them, or take them home, or whatever. That appealed to me in a lot of ways, but I don't know that my therapist would ever go there.


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