My Needs Are Not Important – Transference or Reality?

After reading a vulnerable post on my friend’s blog the other night, I decided that I wanted to share it with my therapist. It was all about intimacy and love in therapy, and the expression of that. 

I texted my therapist saying, “Hi I came across a blog post online that I’d like to talk about. I was wondering if you have time to read it before Tues (it’d take 10mins or so, it’s long). I don’t want to ask too much of you, I just want to work out the best way to talk about it together. Please can you let me know what would work best for you/ if you have any suggestions, so that I can plan for our session. Thank you!”

She replied a short while later, “Tue is your EMDR session, anything else will be read in session if you feel it is part of therapy, I don’t need to know what is written by someone else, it’s for you to discuss whatever you feel is relevant.”

I started spiraling immediately. Emotion mind took over and I couldn’t clamber out. The awareness of my reaction did nothing to stop me from sinking. I tried to rationalise using all the cognitive skills, but I can’t deny the visceral reaction it brought up in me. 

Regardless of reality, my interpretation of her message upset me massively. Even if she didn’t realise, I was asking for something that put me in a position of vulnerability (especially considering the content of the blog post I wanted to share with her!), and so her text felt like a huge rejection. I felt like my needs were ridiculous and unimportant (hurt, anger), and that I had no right to ask (shame, guilt) and spiraled into emotion mind.

This is what the interaction felt like to me:

Me: Hi, I have a need so I’m putting it out there even though I feel guilty and undeserving. I have something to discuss that feels vulnerable but I would like to be effective so I’m going to take the plunge and put myself out there! I think it would be valuable work for us and I love and trust you enough to ask how you can best meet this need of mine. 

Her: Hah, what a ridiculous need! What you think is valuable work doesn’t sound very valuable to me. Let’s shape your request around my needs instead. After all you don’t really deserve to have your voice heard and that shame you felt for asking was definitely justified. You are not important to me and I do not love you enough to give you what you are asking for, but nice try. 

I noticed jumping to thoughts like “fine I just won’t even bother telling her then” and “I’m never going to ask for anything ever again”. I know I was reading into the neutrality as her being angry or fed up with me but the traumatised parts of me couldn’t take in any other information. I really wanted reassurance from her and found it hard not to spiral. My mental state went down very fast and I found it very hard to get out. I know it’s probably related to Mum stuff but the traumatised parts of me can’t disentangle it all so it feels very much related to my therapist. 

I went from anger and shame to overwhelming sadness quicker than usual. I’m currently in bed cuddling my teddy bear with a stinking headache from having cried so hard and in severe attachment pain. I’m trying to self-soothe because as much as I’d like her to make this pain go away, that’s not going to happen.

Instead of processing around my friend’s blog post tomorrow in session, it looks like we will have to process this entire interaction (and everything it brought up for me) instead. 

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19 thoughts on “My Needs Are Not Important – Transference or Reality?

  1. Awww honey so sorry this happened but! It didnt sound very neutral actually. For example it didnt have to be your emdr if you felt this was more important it could easily be moved to another session etc. Does she make you feel like this often? Xx well done on the self soothing and definetly look at things that will make you feel better and I agree it has to be talked about in therapy! X

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    • Yeah and she forgot that I’m not even having EMDR this week as she’s away for my usual 2nd session!!! It has definitely happened before between us yes but not recently so I thought we were doing well because we had gone ages without a rupture. She’s just really blunt over text :/ which obviously I find so hard! Thanks for being so lovely about it x

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      • It maybe that is her tone but it does seem like an issue of your fit with her maybe, depending on how she is in sessions too. I think you’re right in that if she knows it could potentially hurt you that she could tone it differently. I know my therapist last year was very warm via phone text email and in session so it’s not something you just have to ‘put up’ with so to speak, just my opinion 🙂

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      • No she’s the only therapist who’s ever stuck with me this long (2 years so far) and actually helps me. She varies because she’s human and I find the inconsistency hard but generally she’s very gentle especially in person. She tells me she can’t protect me from people’s texts or emails if they’re blunt and that it’s good practice for me to try challenge interpretations as I always read into her messages too much but it’s usually wrong. She said she can’t change the tone of her texts just to placate me as that would be setting me up to fail in the real world. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like fuck though. 😦 but then other times she’s so gentle and loving on text so it’s really confusing. I hate it but I can’t lose her.

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  2. My therapist is similar in that she doesn’t really care about what I bring in to read as much as what resonated for me within it. It took me a long time to understand that it wasnt a rejection of me, on the contrary, it was her way of staying focused on me and my experiences. It seems like something similar is happening here with your therapist. It may be good to share your thoughts and reactions to her text and get some clarity on her thoughts. x

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    • Thank you Andi. Yes I’m definitely going to. I just don’t get why, despite knowing me as well as she does, she still sends messages which could so easily be taken as rejections. It’s like she’s doing it on purpose! Also it’s annoying because once she was telling me a story about another client who brought in a blog post to read, so I’m confused as to why that patient is allowed to but I’m not!!!

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  3. Wow, hon, I’m sorry. She definitely seems to be missing the point about the fact that there’s CONTENT that you wanted to address, whether or not it was your own words. And that is hurtful.
    Maybe you can take specific sentences, or paraphrase ideas, and bring those in to her instead of the whole post?
    In any case I would have taken the email exactly as you did. It hurts and I’m sorry. And I agree, yes, now this will be another thing to work through – but the post will always be there and you can come back to it later 😉
    Just out of curiosity, is this my post you’re talking about?

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  4. I think she could have stated it better. And I’m sorry but relationship with a therapist is different from the rest of the world. A therapist (I feel) should be a safe person to talk to with limits of course. But I’ve told my therapist things that I have told no one else, not even my husband. Granted, I’ve been seeing him for four years now and it wasn’t always that way but I do feel safe with him. And he’s pretty tough on me at times which has helped. I finally have my driver’s license and he’s a big factor in that, always pushing at me to get it. I was 36 when I finally took the driver’s test.

    I probably would have felt the same way, invalidated and hurt.

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