Confused about a confrontation in therapy
January 5, 2012 9:54 AM Subscribe
In my last session, my therapist kind of forced a confrontation with me and I feel weird about it. How do I handle this?
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (33 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
TL;DR: I feel like my therapist misread my body language in a way that made about ten minutes of our session about him and not about me. How should I handle this next week?
Long version: I've been seeing a therapist for about five months now: first for acute depression and panic (which has subsided) and now we're working on ways for me to live in a more self-aware, positive way with my own natural emotional responses to life. It's been generally good, although this is my first time in therapy so my ability to assess it is limited.
Yesterday, we were talking about my tendency to defeat myself by adopting a hopeless posture toward life in general. (e.g., thoughs like "yes, I have a job now, but I owe so much in student loans that I'm going to be paying them for the rest of my life so it doesn't matter"). My therapist is big on this idea that we absorb "energetic patterns of behavior" from those around us, especially as children, and that one of the patterns I've absorbed gets a lot of pleasure in cutting me off at the knees whenever it seems like I'm starting to stand up.
So at some point I said something like, "what I'd like out of this is some kind of method or understanding or process where I can stop defeating myself when I feel that part of me taking hold."
I kind of smiled as I said it, which I intended to mean "I understand that this is kind of a tall and specific order and that therapy doesn't work like a fast food drive-thru."
(Side note: my therapist also seems to believe that inadvertent smiling can come from a place of patronizing and self-victimizing -- he often reads smiles as meaning something like "here, let me help you: you'll never succeed at anything and that's just the way it is. Sorry.")
So: when I said what I'd like, he kind of turned it around onto himself. He said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "then stop defeating yourself. I don't have the answers for you. Do you see how you just put me into a bind? Only you have the power to defeat yourself or stop defeating yourself, so if I give you something to do and it doesn't work (and you're in control of it not working), then your need to defeat yourself extends to me."
He continued, "It's like you came in here tired and defeated, but you had a searchlight out for positive energy and self-confidence. So you latched on to me -- here's a successful therapist: let's see if I can defeat him, too -- and tried to put me into a bind where you can control whether I succeed or fail."
This felt kind of confrontational and uncomfortable but I was trying to process what he was saying. We continued to talk about self-defeat and he pointed out that when I was "trying to defeat him" my physical posture changed and I became more awake and upright and that this is because a part of me enjoys the power of trying to defeat people and that's why I keep undermining myself.
I feel like his hypothesis might be true, but I also feel like this was a kind of weird and possibly shitty was to bring this to my attention. I also feel like he made the confrontation about himself, which seems odd to me. I'm not sold on his theory about smiling and I've found myself thinking "don't smile" when I'm in sessions -- which I worry is me trying to game the
therapist-patient relationship. I also suspect that my posture changed because I was sensing potential danger (in the form of this confrontation) from him, rather than because I wanted to undermine his self-confidence.
Is this sort of thing par for the course in therapy? Should I expect these sorts of confrontations? How do I know whether I'm uncomfortable because I'm being challenged in the right ways, and when I'm uncomfortable because it's not a good fit? Should I bring it up with him next session?