Therapy Friday

Well, that is quite the discussion on transference that happened on my previous post. I’m so pleased my small, but dedicated and insightful, band of readers has so much opinion and insight on this murky topic. This is obviously a complex issue with lots of philosophy and history behind it. Just wanted to add that I obviously did not come up with the idea, and there is lots of reading by very great writers, therapists, and philosophers to be done by anyone who is deeply interested.

Driving to my session Friday, I am feeling sad about the previous night’s group, though not depressed. I’m not scared of my session this time.

I walk into Ron’s office, and he tells me I overpaid him last time by 10 bucks. I laugh and say he should buy himself a beer on me, I’m sure he needs one after a session with me. He smiles at that.

E. I didn’t bring a topic, not sure what to talk about today.

R. What about the emails we’ve exchanged?

E. Oh yeah.

And I am completely blanking out. The session ended in an upsetting way, so I can’t seem to remember the rest of it.

Ron had responded to an email of mine by saying I should allow myself to have ‘effects’, and it hey were not what I wanted, we could work to modify them. It turns out he means don’t backtrack on what I say in group. For instance, the previous evening I made a comment to Z, but then when it seemed to upset her, I took it back to some extent. It’s true, I don’t like to hurt people.

E. But I do say what I think, even if it’s negative, especially compared to the rest of the group.

R.  Don’t compare to the rest of the group. You are allowed to affect people and stay with your own truth.

And this is a valid point, and I take it on board. I do have a tendency to backtrack when the person gets upset. I forget about the ‘modifying the effects to what I deeply want them to be’ part of his comment. I still don’t know what he meant by that.

Then I complain about some interactions in the group, for instance that I feel that Z totally backs down from her point and makes it all her fault, when it’s not.

R. Didn’t you think she showed insight?

E. I don’t think Z needs more insight, I think she needs to learn to stand up for herself. In my opinion.

E. It’s really obvious that everyone in the group is focused on A, and worrying about whether A likes them or not. Why do you think that is?

R. Why do you think that is? What drew you to A when you felt like that?

E. Well….I liked that he kept saying he liked me. No one else seemed to, so it meant a lot to me. But, in the group, even E, whom A has said the worst things to, still wants him to like her. She never gets mad at him the way I would. I don’t know. He’s a young male, in his thirties, fairly good looking. But so is Y. I don’t know what it is.


E. So why do you think the group is focused on A?

R. Well, I think most people said last night how lonely they felt in the group. I think A gives a lot of feedback. He talks a lot, and it’s that simple. He’s like a lifeline for people.

E. But I talk a lot also, and so does E. I actually didn’t feel that he gave me a lot of feedback last year in the group.

E. I think A pretends to be caring and Mr Sensitive. He’s copying you. But I think if you were in a group, you’d be a real person, not a therapist. He’s trying to be a therapist, and it bugs the hell out of me. I don’t think it’s honest.

R. You think A isn’t honest?

E. I think he believes he is, so on one level he is, but on another level, he’s fooling himself.

R. Well, you get to say that in the group. Over and over, if you wish.

E. Yeah, I guess I could say it. I just….I don’t want to waste my time here discussing the group. Like I said in my email.

R. Can I just say one more thing?

I don’t say anything, so Ron continues. I feel irritated with him, anger boiling away under the surface, for an unknown reason.

R. The group can help you with your PTSD (I’d emailed him that it stopped me from working on it). It can let you bring those experiences into the group. It can help with the parts also in the same way. Right now they’re shame based – you’re ashamed of them.

E. Oh.

I consider this. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. I continue to feel angry. We sit.

E. I feel angry with you.

R. How come.

E. You don’t seem to get what it’s like for me. I don’t work the way the rest of the group does. It’s totally different for me. I am in parts.

R. Then tell me the parts, one at a time.

I don’t say anything.

R. How can I understand how it is for you when you don’t tell me. I need you to tell me so I can understand.

E. You are a therapist and you are supposed to understand things like this. I can’t explain it.

Now Ron begins telling me some theory about therapy. I understood it at the time, but can’t recall now what it was.

E. I’m still angry.

R. Why do you feel like that?

E. Do you ask all your clients why? We don’t know why. That’s why we come to see you, because we don’t know.

Ron says some other theoretical type thing.

I am furious.

E. I wish….I wish you’d just die!

I’m seeing red. I hate him with every ounce of my being. I do wish he’d drop dead right there.

I get up to leave.

E I just want to go home.

R. Stay here. Stay here and feel it.

So I sit on the couch and fume.

R. How do the rest of the parts feel about this? What does the kid feel?

So the kid comes out.

E (kid) I don’t know why you don’t talk to me. I’m here and I’m nice.

I’m crying.

R. Sometimes I have to talk to your mom about things.

E. You ALWAYS talk to her. Not me. You don’t talk to me. I don’t know about complicated stuff but I’m still nice.

Still crying childishly.

R. (in a ‘special’ voice I suppose he uses for kids) That’s why you need your mom.


E. (switched out of the kid again) Just fuck off.

Ron sits back and looks at me. We sit. I feel a kind of blank rage with no real content. There are maybe two minutes left.

After a minute, Ron asks if there’s anything I want to say before the end of the session. I shake my head no, and leave a minute or so early.

E. Thanks

R. Take care.

So, that’s why I wanted to explain transference to you before I blogged this session.

I’m still trying to make sense of my rage. How could I have talked like that to Ron, whom I care about and whom I am attached to? I don’t get it. I am shocked at myself.

  1. Mike Haitch said:

    From what I’ve read about theraputic transference it seems that a normal part of its removal is anger expressed towards the target. Love becomes hate becomes indifference or a balanced view. It’s easier to detach from someone by becoming angry at them first.

    My ex wanted and got a divorce. A few years later despite me discouraging it she tried to re-establish contact and play “Can we be friends”. I didn’t see how this could be a good thing for either of us – we were married for a loooong time. By deliberately pretending to be a bastard I helped her to let go. Being seen as ‘the bad guy’ was what I thought it would take to help her move on and let go of any guilt she had. It was the last loving act I ever did for her.

    • Ellen said:

      Not sure the transference needs ‘removal’ Mike. It’s not romantic love or anything.

      I stayed friends with my ex. We had a child, so it was a necessity really. But other relationships I’ve had, I have not remained friends despite the other person’s wishes. I didn’t want to make the transition to friends, and also did not wish to forgive whatever they had done.

      Not totally sure why not being friends with an ex makes you the bad guy. But I can see it could be for the best for both people.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. aallegoric said:

    I think you already addressed in other posts and you did tell him – he keeps refusing to talk to your parts and that’s obviously deeply unsettling for them – and you.I’d be just as furious as you are if he kept going like this. I mean.. don’t get this wrong but he even didn’t affirm that you / r part is nice and this part doesn’t understand his behaviour – and how would it? Just beats me. I’m sorry if this isn’t insightful … just my two cents xx

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, he could have been better with the kid. Sometimes he is good with child parts, sometimes really bad. I think the pressures of the group actually kind of throw him off balance. It throws both of us off-balance, and it’s hard to get it back, especially right the next day.

      I can’t decide whether my rage is based on his actual behaviour. I was angry with him before the kid came out after all. He’s not being perfect, that’s for sure.

      Thank you for seeing the kid’s point of view! Very kind of you.

  3. Bourbon said:

    Perhaps you talk to him like that because you can. Sometimes I THINK angry things like that about Cat but I don’t trust her enough to actually say them yet. You have that trust I think. You can share this impulsive anger and still trust he will be there. You’d have to do the walking away. Whatever you are working through by processing this anger is going to be beneficial in the end I’m sure. Ps how did R calling you ‘mum’ come about? This younger part sees you as her mum? Xx

    • Ellen said:

      Thank you Bourbon. I found your comment comforting as I was feeling so guilty about how I behaved. I found once I trusted Ron with the parts, it was easier to trust him with other things, though I kind of flip in and out of trust with him. I do trust him enough not to take things too personally. Interesting you sometimes feel angry things about Cat, because I have only heard you say positive things about her. The last f off comment was not voluntary on my part – it just happened.

      Yes, the kid sees me as her mom. The other child parts don’t, but the kid is the most complete person – at least she is the most chatty. Odd perhaps.


  4. catherineintoronto said:

    hah! awesome! there are times i wish i would have told sharon to fuck off… but instead i went away and self-harmed. i think it would have been better to just say it. and then process it afterwards. it will be interesting to see where this goes next week. i agree with him about group… keep saying what you want… let them deal with it in their own way…

    • Ellen said:

      Gosh, thank you catherine. I was feeling absolutely horrible for saying it. But yes, it would be a million times better than self-harm. The guilt afterwards is pretty bad though. I kind of agree about the group also. I am going to speak about some things next week. Silent listening isn’t working out for me.

      take care

  5. Ruth said:

    Hugs. My counselor encouraged me to consider 3 possibilities when I was angry. Anger is usually triggered by fear, hurt or frustration. May I suggest you explore each one to see which might be fueling the anger. I am impressed. I never quite had the courage to tell my counselor “Fuck off” all though there were plenty of times I thought it. If group is getting you to actually think about some of these things it might be that group is helping to open the door to other things. Kind of like going through a back door when a direct route stays closed. Keep doing what you are doing. It is probably going better than you think. Take care, Ruth

    • Ellen said:

      OK, I’ll consider the three possibilities. It might be all three. The comment in question really jumped out of my mouth by itself to tell the truth – I didn’t sit and think about it first and then decide to say it.

      Group is stressful but like you say, it may be helping me. It is raising issues about authenticity for sure. And other things. Yes, that’s true.

      Thanks for encouraging me Ruth.


  6. Neloran said:

    I might be in the minority here, but I’m not so sure that was transference. It sounds more like a part who holds some pretty intense anger was triggered forward. Or, perhaps, a part who is protecting your others uses anger to push people away who get too close.

    • Ellen said:

      That’s really astute of you Nel. People with more ‘parts experience’ than me, like you, really make me think about things.

      Ron thinks it was a part. I am not sure. Usually I know when a part takes over, and this time I didn’t so much. But the way it happened, completely involuntarily, does make me suspicious. One second I’m the kid, pathetically sobbing, the next second I’m telling my T to f off. Not my usual style.

      Yes, this then would not be transference.


  7. laura said:

    “I’m still trying to make sense of my rage. How could I have talked like that to Ron, whom I care about and whom I am attached to? I don’t get it. I am shocked at myself.”

    maybe, because you are in parts? Even us singletons have conflicting feelings.
    Also, when you get angry in session, and Ron responds with theorizing, it always makes you angrier. So, why impose theory (about transference) on yourself? Just let ‘er rip for the moment. Look at what it is, describe it, try to see what it’s connected to, without trying to categorize it.

    • Ellen said:

      I don’t understand what it’s connected to. And theory is not helping, beyond saying, it’s not a reason to quit.

      Nice to ‘see’ you again Laura.

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