A little background -- Bill is my husband. My therapist used to be his therapist. And even though I have never sworn in a blog post before I swear once in this one. I tried to find another word to use, but nothing else conveyed the same emotion. I did try.
Telling the truth to power is difficult. Telling the truth to anyone can be hard. Especially if you grew up in a situation where the truth was only appreciated if it was what they wanted to hear. Otherwise, you'd be punished.
Well, that's the situation I grew up in and today I had to tell my therapist something he might not want to hear. I had to give him feedback. There was something he was doing that was counter-productive to my healing.
I was anxious. But I knew that it was important. He had done it multiple times and it was a big problem for me.
So today I got to therapy, all geared up and ready to go. I can do this. I can do this. Don't let him start talking about something else. Dive right it. Just get it done so we can move on. I can do this.
Well, he started talking in the hall on the way to his office and by the time we were in the door he already had a review going of my progress. I went along, wondering how long I could put it off and knowing that it had to be today.
We spent half an hour reviewing. Talking about how I'm doing on my regimen and if I feel better and why all of this matters. It was time well spent. I covered things I wanted to cover. But it wasn't what I was dying to say.
As we wrapped up the review he asked what direction I wanted to go today. He mentioned a few of the things we'd been working on in the past that don't feel finished.
I stopped him. I told him we could get to that in a minute. First I needed to address something with him. I needed to give him some feedback about something that isn't working in our relationship. Then I asked if he was ready. He asked if he needed a seatbelt. I told him no.
I took a deep breath and began. It went something like this:
"There are going to be times when I need to talk about Bill, to process things. There are still lots of times he's an ass. I need to be able to talk about that in order to heal. Whenever I start to talk about Bill you re-frame what I'm saying so fast that I can't say what I need to say. Or you say, 'But this is better, right?' You seem to be defensive when I talk about him. I don't know if it's because you like him and feel like you need to defend him. Or if it's because when I tell you he's not doing well you feel like it's an attack on your work because I'm saying he's not cured. Or if it's because you're both men and you feel like when I say negative things about him it's an attack on men in general. Whatever it is, it feels like you're defensive. I shut down and am unable to say the things I need to say."
He said, "Okay." He pondered for a minute. Then he asked me if I knew what counter-transference is. I said I did. (If you don't, you'll have to look it up - sorry.) He said counter-transference is not uncommon with therapists and they don't know when they are doing it unless someone points it out to them. He said that he still didn't recognize it in himself, but that if I'm saying it's happening he needs to believe me. He's been a therapist long enough to know he doesn't know everything. Twenty years ago, when he was just starting, he probably would have balked at what I said because he thought he knew it all. But now when someone says something like that he takes it as truth and tries to fix it.
He told me strategies he would use to try to be aware and stop doing it in the future. I told him that if it happens again I will tell him to shut up and listen to me. Or throw the pillow at him.
I told him I'd been nervous about confronting him with it. He told me it was a good sign of progress that I was willing to stand up for what I needed, especially to a man. He then told me he knew I would never say anything to hurt him, only to help him or help us do better. He was right.
This is more evidence that my therapist is a good fit for me. I trust him. He's a good man. I was pretty sure he'd want to know if something he was doing was hurting me. I was right.
It was a good session.
I wrote about the rest of my session on my other blog -- It Matters When He's Mean.