Perspectives from the Mentalist's Partner (4): The Hidden Reaches of Therapy

Q:

I’m obsessed with a man that isn’t you. Discuss.

A:

Short, sweet and to the point, I see, and a most frank admission. Not that you’d choose to disguise it, of course, given this blog’s ample testimony to your obsession.

It’s a strange one, I must admit, and I might have cause to be jealous but for the fact that you have made it clear that there is nothing of a romantic or sexual nature in the obsession. I understand that some therapeutic relationships tend in this direction, but luckily for me, yours does not, and I am satisfied that that is a true account of how you feel. I must admit that this does not prevent the odd stab of perplexity (read: minor jealousy) from time to time. Here you are, sharing your deepest, darkest secrets, or a good number of them anyway, with someone who is in many ways a stranger. I learn of these secrets on occasion not from you beforehand, but afterwards through the medium of your blog or during one of our regular Thursday night trips to our local coffee shop. I’ll have a cappuccino please, a scone – oh, and some dark revelation about sexual abuse. Do I want jam with that? Of course I do. Silly question.

Why my mystification/baby green-eyed monster? C, in essence, remains a stranger to you. The therapeutic relationship seems to me, from my knowledge of your case at least, to be fundamentally asymmetric. You talk. C listens. C utters the occasional ‘wise’ or ‘understanding’ comment. You play with your hair or your phone or look out the window. C sits in silence. You spout something angry. C says “so how do you feel about that?” You laugh, bitterly, because you knew that was what he was going to ask. You talk. He listens. “Have you thought about it like this?” You probably have. On rare occasions, you haven’t, and he thereby brings something new to the table. On most occasions, though, your therapy seems to have become a circular dance of frustration. There were occasional good weeks throughout the process, but most that I have observed have either been about as effective as a chocolate fireplace, or else actively damaging to your mood for the following days/weeks.

Why then, I ask myself, are you obsessed with a man who gives so little and asks so much of you? Clearly, the relationship is designed to allow you to talk about certain issues, to get them out of your system, to engage with an expert who may be able to help you deal with the issues. That’s the theory, and doubtless sometimes it works. You undoubtedly ‘click’ with C on a personal level, and yet the number of times you’ve come away from therapy angry, hurt or bemused makes me at times incredulous at your apparent liking of him, your relentless desire to know what CDs he listens to, what he does on his ‘off’ days, what his e-mail address might be, and so on […um…for those not in the know, you might need the password to this. It’s the usual password if you already have it.  If you are C, then you can’t have it: please fuck off].

What you have is by no stretch of the imagination a friendship, though of course you admit as much. Perhaps had you met under different circumstances, it might have been so, but the imbalanced power relationships and the need for C to maintain his professional role mean that it is impossible for this to be anything more, in my view, than a doctor-patient engagement which, regrettably, is failing because an arbitrary time limit has been placed upon it. That being so, I fear that your obsession sets you up for crushing disappointment when the whole thing, in a few mere weeks from now [two from today], comes to its premature end.

In that sense, I resent C because he will very shortly reward your clear attachment to him with what you will perceive as abandonment. But then this all comes back to attachment. They say attachment to your therapist is necessary to get you to open up, but clearly this is a two-edged sword. If issues are not properly addressed during your therapy and the relationship is severed in an unsatisfactory manner, then the amputated pseudo-‘friendship’ leaves a gangrenous wound that will fester. Thanks, NHS.

This process, in fact, seems to have actually required you to obsess, and I resent that tremendously, because the result is clearly going to be highly negative. Is that C’s fault? Probably not, but he could have handled things better, made it clear that the end of therapy was not ultimately his call. Do I blame him? Somewhat. However, the system is what is at fault in the end. I ceaselessly harp on the idea that the NHS would never do this to someone suffering from a physical illness. Yet that is precisely what the NHS is choosing to do to you. Because it can. And it has more important things to spend money on. Like managers. Grr.

Jealousy, then, isn’t my main reason for disliking the obsession. I’m not jealous, mostly. What I dislike is the damage that is being done to you. For transference to work (and I’m still not clear on the theory of how), attachment is necessary. In attaching yourself to C, you have grown to care about him, but unfortunately that care is misplaced in a relationship that can be ended at any time because someone wants a nice shiny annual report showing how efficient their psychotherapy service happens to be. It makes me angry, but that’s not a whole helluva lot that can be done.

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9 thoughts on “Perspectives from the Mentalist's Partner (4): The Hidden Reaches of Therapy

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  5. It pisses me off, too. What is being done to you is out right repulsing. It is injustice of the worst kind. Even thinking about it makes bile raise in my throat. Pandora, if I could I would fly out to where you are and have my own word with NHS. Refuse to leave that room until something changes or security drags me out screaming. This is not fair. This is not right. You, of all people, do not deserve this. Your mind, your family, and the pedophile who unfortunately is genetically linked to you have hurt and scarred you enough. The fact a government organization can even be allowed to do this makes me want to just vomit (preferably, all over the person in charge’s nice new suit). I may not know you that well; but know that I have followed your blog for awhile, and as creepy as it may be, I care about what happens to you. The fact that this is and nothing, nobody, can stop this ignites an anger and passion in me that words are inadequate to describe. In short: fuck the greedy, narcissistic, selfish, ignorant (etc) “management” at the NHS.

    Yet, beyond the anger, I can only imagine the pain you are going through, and the black hole of grief that it is about to open up. Over here in America, I have found my “C”, who I love so immensely that most don’t understand. At one point, I did the terribly unhealthy and rather creepy thing and tried looking for his kid’s Facebooks (because I know he would not have one) desperately trying to find out where he lives and what his kids are like. Am I anything like them? In my head, I had the desperate wish that I might meet one – as his daughter is only a year older – and form a connection to his life. His vacations were terrible. I wanted to be there with him. It may have a fancy name; but it is still a form of love. A yearning to be nurtured and cared about by that person. To be held, soothed, and rocked – just like a father would a child. During every crises and breakdown, you want him there. When he called me while I was in the hospital, I soared; when he talked to me past 11 o clock as I sat in the ER waiting for a bed, I could cry. The idea of losing, especially so abruptly, is like being stabbed over and over; but not caring about the pain because all you want is to see him again, be in that office again, hear his voice.

    I don’t what I can say to help you, if anything at all. I’m sorry if I just upset you more with my rambling. Know that I am here, I care, and I am not going away (as a fellow Borderline, I know how hard that can be to believe. You don’t have to believe me. It’ll be true either way). The world around you could go away, and we will still be here. I care immensely about you, and hope that we might get to talk – even if over the net ( I hate phones. Cause me to panic). Internet hugs may not be much; but I am sending an endless supply your way ( *Hug* xInfinity). Remember, I – we – are here for you.

    We are not going away.

    With Love;
    Erika

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  7. I’m only guessing things are a bag of shite… since I got back from the land of water my head has not spinning and I am back out tomorrow, I am getting pissed… Lola I see is looking out for you… I’m as high as a kite and just getting pissed on vodka tonight so much they may not let me on the flight tomorrow…

    Please don’t do anything silly and hang on in there.

    You are loved in this world.

    Alison
    x

  8. I remember the “C” in my life who only stayed for a few months. I also thought of him, when I was doing my worst, wishing he’d pass by and really see all that was wrong and help me, because he was one of the most qualified people who could. I began to get scared because he started meaning more to me that he probably should, and I was his patient for such a short time that although i guess he remembers me, I have been just one of hundreds.

    I never got the chance to see if I’d get obsessed with this man, I didn’t get to see much of what could have happened, good or bad.

    My point I guess is that I don’t think this kind of attachment can be avoided in these kind of relationships. I know that if it was my partner getting attached I’d feel jealous too though.

    It’s very late over there and I hope you are getting some sleep.

    Take care Pandora,

    Nessa

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