As I discussed in an earlier post on psychological defensiveness, we humans try to protect ourselves from emotional facts too painful to bear – that is, we “lie” to ourselves about them. That’s our nature and everybody does it. The job of a good therapist is to make you aware of those things you don’t know about yourself (and probably never wanted to know).
As I listen to my clients talking, they inevitably reveal things about themselves without knowing it, and I try to tell them what I’ve heard. I rarely get through on the first try (you know, that “resistance” thing). I keep listening. If I hear more evidence, I’ll try again to show it to my clients. If I was right and my view becomes more persuasive, they usually become uncomfortable. Maybe they’ll get angry. Sometimes they hate me for telling them what they don’t want to hear.
With all of my patients, at one time or another, they’ve hated me … even when they agreed with what I’d just told them. In my view, this is an expected part of the relationship, just the way it’s normal for children to hate their parents from time to time. With severely disturbed clients in long-term treatment, one of the main jobs of a therapist is to allow room for their hatred. With borderline personality disorder, hatred is often the central focus of early work. My clients who’ve spent months or years hating me and come through on the other side always feel profoundly grateful that I could bear with them and not retaliate.
Even in much less severe cases, hatred often comes up. If clients feel comfortable in treatment and love their therapists because they’re so kind and sympathetic (see my post on the difference between empathy vs sympathy), the therapy is of little value in my opinion. With the best intentions, that sort of therapist ends up supporting the lies clients tell themselves. Though the therapy may be of immediate solace, it has no lasting effect. It’s the job of a good therapist to confront those unconscious lies we all tell ourselves, and thereby make his or her clients “uncomfortable”. Resentment or hatred is often the immediate reward for a job well done, but on another level, clients are grateful to us for telling the truth.
Finding Your Own Way:
These posts offer tools you can use to dig deeper, maybe to discover some of those lies you don’t realize you’ve been telling yourself. In that sense, they’re meant to function like comments I make to my clients. It wouldn’t surprise me if you disliked some of what I say, or turned away from it.
Think about your reactions to the various posts. Do you find any of them irritating or offensive? Have you dismissed any out of hand (“That doesn’t apply to me”), or found yourself thinking more than once about how off the mark I was? If so, go back to that post and spend more time with it. See if you can figure out what makes you so uncomfortable about it.
You should feel uncomfortable. My subject matter is about difficult and painful subjects – anger, hopelessness, shame, hatred; If you really digest these posts, they should disturb your equilibrium, bringing a bit of the unknown (and unwanted) parts of yourself into the light.
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