Have I told you lately that I love you?
Did you know that it is common for a client to fall in love with his therapist? Well, it is. Don’t worry, I’m not going to cite statistical averages, or use colorful metaphors about snowflakes, etc. But, I am going to tell you the truth, as I see it. We fall in love with our therapists because they offer us the one thing we’ve always wanted, unconditional positive regard. They fulfill that yawning, gaping, unrelenting need to feel loved, admired, respected.
Where does this need come from? Well, if you’re in therapy (or considering it), it most likely comes from a lack of love or nurturance that began in early childhood. Remember all those times when all you needed was for someone to tell you that you’re wonderful and that everything was going to be okay? You know, when you skinned your knee, or your kite string broke, or you got a B on a test that you studied for all night. Instead, you were probably told that you were stupid, clumsy, and never did anything right. Sound familiar? Well, guess what? Your therapist will never let you down by telling you such terrible lies… which is exactly what makes her so irresistible.
Your therapist is there to remind you of all the things that are great about you and to carefully challenge you to work on the few things that are not so great. All the while, she is modeling for you how you should expect to be treated by others. This is precisely where it becomes tricky. You see, it becomes abundantly clear after awhile that nobody treats you as good as your therapist does. Why? The cynical answer is that it’s because they only see you for one hour a week, in most cases. The truth is that your therapist understands that you have old and painful wounds to heal. She has the training necessary to walk you through the mine field of your past and into the peaceful valley of your future. How could you not love someone who is willing and able to take on such a difficult task with you?
It starts small. You wonder what your therapist is doing at a certain hour on some random day. Then you find yourself wishing that your therapist were with you during a particularly spectacular sunset. Next you’re wishing she could come with you to see this certain movie that really explains how you feel about things. Finally, you start imagining being with her while you’re on vacation with your family. Now you’ve gone too far, and you feel pretty uncomfortable, but somehow excited at the same time. Could she be feeling the same way? No. She can’t. Should she? Definitely not.
Should you tell your therapist about this feeling? Absolutely. Why, you ask, should I ruin everything? Well, that’s the best part. The reason why is because this is where all the work is done. You are at the heart of therapy. After all, this relationship that you are toying with in your mind isn’t real. However, the feelings are. The very best way to explore and resolve the feelings related to your painful childhood can be to explore your feelings about your therapist with your therapist. This is the point where a lot of people quit therapy. Don’t do it. Where else are you ever going to get the opportunity to delve so deep into the origins of your pain? Okay, so you may be thinking, “I DON’T WANT TO DELVE! WHY DO I HAVE TO DELVE?” Answer: To get to the other side. Is it worth it? Without a doubt. Is it painful? Excruciating. Do it anyway. If you’ve come this far, it would be a shame to go back. You’ll miss the view, and it…is…spectacular.
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To read more about Kim Murphy’s work at Life Skills Resource Group
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Kim Murphy, MS, Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
Why do we as human beings lie to ourselves? Fear. We fear the truth and its consequences, so we deny our feelings. This kind of behavior can sometimes have its origins in childhood experiences. If we were not given a healthy feeling of self worth and a sense of belonging; if we didn’t have a safe place to process and consider our feelings, we learned to deny the truth about what was happening around us and our feelings about it. Eventually we became able to close ourselves off from our feelings altogether. Denial is a powerful, powerful thing. As a child, you may have learned to deny your feelings as a way to insulate yourself from the painful circumstances that surrounded you. This kind of self defense may have served as a way to protect you when others didn’t. Now that you’re an adult, you may not even be aware that you’re lying to yourself when things go wrong.
You could be telling yourself a lie that prevents you from accessing the greatest joy of your life in an attempt to avoid pain or disappointment: “I’ll never be able to do it right. I just shouldn’t have kids. Look at how my parents screwed me up.” Or, you may be feeling the pain of an unacceptable situation, without having any understanding of fact that you could be the one to extricate yourself from it: “I just wish she would stop cheating on me. I know what she’s been up to. Everything would be okay, if she’d just stop seeing other people behind my back.” By learning to be more honest with ourselves, we could avoid a lot of pain and suffering.
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Everyone is struggling. Love and relationship, life and its purpose, depression and a need for direction; the list could continue indefinitely, populated by concerns inherent to existence as a human being. There is not a mature face on Earth that doesn’t know the conflict of dissatisfaction in solitude, disguised with a smile for the sake of sociability or ease. Still, these issues have ways of making us feel alienated from the world, isolated by the secrets we keep locked behind our eyes. It is our response to these feelings though, our methods of coping with uncertainty and fleeting happiness, which really set us apart from one another. Some people seek shelter in religion, some in art and music, some in wealth, some in possessions. But no man can truly say who is rich and who is poor. These things we do to make ourselves feel significant and worthwhile are often only thinly veiled distractions from the constant struggle with our selves that manifests in times of loneliness, despair, or doubt. Sometimes, it seems that truly finding lasting calm is a peace reserved only for the enlightened or the feeble-minded
In my eyes, we often forsake our own selves by retreating to solitude when feeling overwhelmed by life’s tribulations. In succumbing to feelings of desolation, we choose to ignore the basic truth that lies behind our troubles: that you are never alone in your bewilderment. The relatedness among people is not in any shared characteristic like altruism or intolerance, nor in a common mindset of righteousness or selfishness. The relatedness among humans is in our ability to think, and inherent to human thought are these incessant questions that we all must struggle with: Does life have meaning? What is love? How does one find contentment? It is in the reality that we all have problems and questions that we are related. All people have to find the personal wisdom to decipher their own lives, but the social nature of life and its concerns cannot be ignored; to do so would be to confine your self to madness. Connect, and there will always be comfort to be found. If life’s struggles have become overwhelming for you or someone you know, there is no better time than today to take the first step towards peace of mind. Call today for a FREE phone consultation with one of the experienced counselors at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando. Garrett
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