Awful Session (Session Update)

Today's session was just horrible. The worst. I will talk about that later but I first have a question about something I was trying to explore with my T but it never quite happened.

Does your T have personal pictures in his office? My T has only one picture of his daughter taken in high school days (she is now 21). That's it. So I asked him why doesn't he have more personal pictures around the office? He told me that it would contaminate the therapy.

My question is... What does this mean? What was he saying?

I'll be back but would really appreciate your thoughts on this.

TN
Original Post
My interpretation on this and it is solely my own. Is that perhaps our Ts (none of mine have ever had personal photos except for my first T who had a small pic of his wife on his desk) is that the patient may feel "intruded" upon in therapy. Therapy is our time with our Ts. Our time to feel special and the center of attention with our Ts. It is a mutual space to be shared just between the client and the T. To me it is a sign of respect that my T doesn't have family photos. I think it might cause distress for some clients, and I would be one of them.
Thanks for the responses all.

No, the picture of his daughter does not bother me at all for some reason. She has a sweet smile and I feel that I like her.

I asked him because I was wondering why he keeps his office free of personal life stuff yet he brings his wife into the office and I have to deal with his personal life live and in real time. Does he not think that my dealing with that does not contaminate my therapy?? That seeing them cozily chatting and worrying about running into them or her in real life does not cause a distraction, or prevent me from accessing feelings, have me avoiding topics and preventing me from creating an attachment to him? I can't seem to find that "play space" where I can work on things through the transference I have with him because that space is filled with his real life live and in person.

I would rather have the pictures in the office. That would feel less threatening.

We never finished our conversation today. We were deeply and seriously discussing attachment and my struggle with tolerating some feelings around that and there was about 5 minutes left to session when suddenly there was a loud banging on his office door. I got so scared I thought I was going to be sick right there. I froze. Then I started to cry from fright. He got up and peeked out the door and said to someone... please sit down and wait. Then he said to me we have to end now. I was in a terrible place between our previous unfinished conversation and the abrupt ending with the banging on the door. I was terrified his wife was going to walk in. I knew she was there today.

He did come back and tell me that the woman had a medical issue that caused her to become confused about the date and time of her appointments. I didn't really give a crap at that moment. I was so rattled and felt like I was being thrown out. When I could pull myself together I got up to leave. I put out my hand to shake T's hand and he said no, not until you are present enough to remember. I said I can't be present right now. And then I held out my hand until he shook it and then he said he wanted me to be present but I couldn't do that. So I just ran out of his office.

When I got back to work I checked in and then had to leave my desk for a long while because I was too bruised to be in public. I had a long talk with a very dear friend who helped me to calm down but the rest of the day was rough. This is not the way a session should ever end.

Thanks
TN
Hi TN -

This does sound yuck! So unexpected and disruptive. I wonder if you are up to exploring the thoughts and feelings you had when you heard the knock on the door. You were terrified, and you thought it was his wife.... At that moment you were in a very unguarded place, so your thoughts and feelings could give you helpful information about the deeper significance of this situation and what it's triggering for you. Did it feel like you would be in trouble? That she would be angry? Did it feel like you were going to be physically harmed, or shamed/exposed, or something else?
Hi TN,

I'm so sorry you had such an awful session today.

When I first read your question, I thought your T would mean that he didn't want personal items to interfere with client sessions.

It does seem very confusing seeing that his wife works in the same building, which would contaminate things in a deeper way since you can physically see her.

I hope you can discuss in depth and resolve this in your next session. I hope your next session isn't too far away. Take care until then...

PassionFruit
Oh man ((TN)). That sounds like it was a really disturbing way to end a session. I would not like that either. I'm sorry it's so hard right now. I agree that I think you'll have to have more conversation around your T's comment to better understand just what he meant. I know my T doesn't have any pictures in her office. She has mentioned her kids here and there, never her husband even though I know she's married (I've seen him in the driveway coming or going). I think every T has their own opinion and way about bringing (or not) some of their personal life into the therapy. It does sound very confusing though to have a real live piece of his life so in your face. That would be incredibly difficult, given what you've been through. Small steps forward, that's all you can do. Keep going and keep trudging through the yuck.
's TN

That really was an awful way to end a session. I've had the knock at the door and the insistent phone ringing during my sessions before. T has always been good about immediately focusing back on my and making sure my needs are met. It seems your T attempted to do that but that your reaction may have prevented that care from "landing"? Think back and know that he did care.

I would definatly agree with Jones that your reaction bears some inquiry. What were you feeling then and why.

Jillann
Thank you all and I hope to answer individually when I have more time. What I was feeling (as I can remember) when I heard the knock was that I had to run away or escape and there was no place to go. I felt terror and panic. I felt trapped and I knew there was real danger on the other side of the door. His reception room always represents danger to me because it's not a protective space due to his wife being able to come and go and I have no idea when I will be face to face with her.

I am struggling with the contradiction of T telling me there are no pictures so as to not contaminate my therapy yet his real life wife is working there and walking around and chatting with him outside in plain view. Why can't he just understand that this also contaminates my therapy? I just want him to say that he understands this.

TN
Absolutely, Jones. I have even told him that his wife triggers emotional flashbacks. I know it's all tangled up with oldT's wife and his violating my privacy with her. It's also my mom who was abusive and my Dad not protecting me from her. And then it's also part of my own self-hatred issues. I have tried to talk to my T about some of this but we have not made much progress. It's just so hard for me to talk about this because I feel that I don't have a right to discuss his personal life. If it was another female T or his receptionist then it would feel more permissable to discuss it.

TN
That makes sense - and I know you have mentioned those connections before.

I can understand your trepidation about discussing his wife, but the truth is you are discussing your personal life, not his. The flashbacks are about you and your history, not him or the wife. That's the nature of a flashback, it happens in you, and it takes its significance from your history. He probably knows that. You have every right to all of those feelings, they are yours, part of your journey and part of the inheritance that makes you richly you.
(((TN))) I'm sorry you had a rough session. I've had janitors try to barge in on my evening sessions and put me straight into a flashback as a result. I agree that it seems a bit of a contradiction to avoid having photos, but openly engage with his wife near the office. I guess, maybe it's because it wasn't the plan for anyone to know she was his wife? Still, I can understand why this is a dilemma for you, how painful and scary it could be. My T does have one photo in the office I go to on Fridays, and a frame with a few overlapping photos in the Monday office. One of the photos has a much younger him in it, so I assume it's him and his wife or him and his family, but I really haven't been close enough to tell, and it's really small. The other is a full face shot of someone. But, because both his offices are shared with other Ts on different days, I really have no idea if all of the photos are even of him/his family. Sending lots of hugs your way.
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I guess, maybe it's because it wasn't the plan for anyone to know she was his wife?



That is exactly right, Yaku. It may have been much better for him to just tell me instead of having me find out for myself and then try to contain my own reactions for a long time before I could even mention this to him. It almost seems worse that they were trying to hide it.

TN
((((TN))))

Hope you are feeling a little better today. My old therapist didn't have any photos around his office. I never asked why but I assumed it was because of his privacy concerns although, towards the end of my therapy, he did say something along the lines of that's why he didn't have any pics of his family displayed. He didn't mention anything about blank slate or contamination although that could have been a consideration at one time.

I totally agree with you that having his wife nearby contaminates the therapy as much if not more than if he had photos. I agree with Yaku that it was probably their plan that no one would find out she was his wife. However, I think he would be safe in assuming, in this digital age, that at the very least some people would find out. It would be naive of him to think otherwise.

It also seems to me that the thinking re: non-disclosure/contamination/blank slate is evolving. He was trained about the time my old therapist was trained, I think, from what you have written. I read a NY Times article and the therapist wrote that people aren't putting up with non-disclosure any more. The internet changes all that anyway. It's harder to control the contamination of the therapy now than it was in the past - if it ever was possible at all. Maybe he is like my therapist and doesn't like to disclose much and that is the real reason. The contamination explanation just gives him a more textbook type of answer to fall back on.

That being said, maybe it never occurred to him that sharing the suite with his wife could have be a "contamination" issue as well. I do get the senes that you are very analytical and looking at everything with fresh eyes while he came up with his therapy frame ages ago and doesn't give it another thought until someone brings something up. You have a good head on your shoulders and, even if he disagreed yesterday with you, you are not wrong. He might have been taken off-guard and felt defensive.

Do you have any idea why his wife shares the suite? Do they save money that way or is the rent the same regardless? I am not a therapist but it does seem odd to me that they would share a suite and I am not sure how happy I would be if that was the setup where I went. My guess is that he is trying to help her get on her feet professionally but that would only make sense if they save rent money? Or to spend more time together?

Would you prefer that he display photo's? Or do you not really care about the photos one way or another and the real issue is why no photos but wifey is sharing suite?

What if the answer really is because he doesn't want to share family photos with his clients AND he wants to see his wife as much as he can but either can't or doesn't want to admit it to himself or to you or both? I watch my kids try to find the inconsistencies in each others explanations such as, "why don't you want to do that?" They try so hard to poke holes in each other's justifications when the "true" answer sometimes is, "I just don't want to."

I feel like I fell into a similar trap with my old therapist - always looking for the inconsistencies in why he did what he did and always finding them. With my therapist, it was the fact that I didn't think he would go for whatever training he needed in order to competently treat me although I never asked him to. I always suspected he would just say, "Liese, I can't do it. I don't have the time, the money or the interest so, basically, accept me the way I am or find a new therapist."

That gnawed at me. And gnawed at me. It didn't matter what he did for me, how many emails he answered, how quickly he got back to me, etc. etc., that thought in my head took away from every kind act he did for me, so much so that really nothing he could do for me would ever have been enough except if he had gone for the training to help me. That would have proven to me he cared about me. Perhaps, that's what is eating at you? That if he really cared about you, he would ask her to find other office space? But in the back of your mind, you might feel that if you ever made that demand of him, either she goes or I go, you are afraid that he would say, "sorry, she is staying"? And so it defeats all the hard work the two of you do towards trust building? Just thought I would throw it out there.


quote:
I am struggling with the contradiction of T telling me there are no pictures so as to not contaminate my therapy yet his real life wife is working there and walking around and chatting with him outside in plain view. Why can't he just understand that this also contaminates my therapy? I just want him to say that he understands this.

TN


Hi TN,

I think this is a contradiction, and I can understand why you would be struggling with it. Having his wife sharing the same office is SO much more likely to cause reactions from clients than a single picture. I wouldn't understand how my T could reconcile this either. It seems like a huge mixed message to me. Just wanted to validate that I think you should trust your instincts. Just sayin'.
(((((TN))))

I'm wondering if your therapist said anything helpful re: the wife situation and/or the lack of photos? Did he see the similarities between the two situations or did he deny them completely? What was more upsetting, the way he reacted or the knock on the door?

My current therapist told me that if I bring up a conflict between us 3 or more times, it means that she is not getting something and she will seek supervision to figure out what it is. It doesn't sound like your therapist is able to help you resolve this issue. Does he seek supervision when he needs it? Or does he just let things fester (like my old therapist did) until you bring it up again and then he reacts the same way he did the first time you brought it up?
My t and her husband share a suite. They also do some public stuff together. I also have therapist friends, a couple, who share a suite. I don't know that it's that unusual. This doesn't invalidate any of your feelings about it, TN, I just wanted to say so for context. There are lots of practical reasons why it might be convenient - for my friends it's just easy because they share priorities about location, price, scheduling, marketing, they can support each other's practices and easily negotiate decisions that come up.

I can see how the picture thing might feel inconsistent and obviously the only satisfying answer can come from him about this. But I wonder if it's about where he sees the boundaries of the therapeutic space. Some might think that inside the room and the hour is the client's, outside it is not. If so, this needn't mean he's reluctant to deal with material that comes up outside - but maybe it's therapeutic fodder, rather than a circumstance he'd change/control, like photos in the room.
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At some point we know we will hit the limit of what they are willing to offer and that is confronting and frightening...threatening.


Yes, Monte, that was it for me. I knew I was at his limit. His practice is just too big and his life too busy. I made me feel very devalued. I "knew" it was something he would not do for me. What I was esentially telling myself and what he couldn't or wouldn't see was, "I like you so much that I'm willing to stay even though I'm getting substandard care and I know I'm getting substandard care and even though I know you would not do the same for me - in terms of learning what you need to know. I'm willing to do all the work here. And I feel really bad about myself for doing that."

It was all a reenactment and it sounds like that's what is going on with TN (sorry to talk about you TN in the third person). It's like we find their most vulnerable spot and push on it and they lose their balance with us. For instance, TN, what if Monte said was true, that he really didn't want her there but she threw a fit? If you knew that, it might make you feel better but I doubt he would ever tell you that because of how vulnerable it is. It's even possible that, assuming it's true for the purpose of the argument, he feels weak himself because he gave into his wife at the expense of his clients but it's just not something he is willing to acknowledge fully yet. It's some kind of enactment for him. Maybe he was unable to say to someone as a child out of fear of losing their love when what it meant was that someone else, someone just as important, got their needs trampled on.

In the end, though, the reeactment for us is that we lose. We always come in second. There doesn't seem to be anyone who will put us first.

And life is just as sad as it always was … I suppose until we find a way to put ourselves first. Maybe we give up that need or maybe we find someone who will put us first or maybe we already have that and just don't recognize it or can't feel it.
Hi TN,

I'm sorry you had such a difficult ending to your session. I had that happen to me once with my P, with someone knocking on the door and then he had to quickly rap up the session. It made me feel as if whatever I was talking about, or my time with him, was insignificant compared to the requests of the person at the door, even though he was apologetic about the interruption.

My P has several family pictures on his desk and I'm assuming they are his children and grandchildren. I don't really find them a distraction to the therapy because the same pictures have been sitting on his desk for years. To me, it makes him more human and less sterile, because it shows me that he is comfortable sharing personal aspects of his life with patients. It could possibly be a different scenario if he had a family member practicing in his office, and I was aware of their interaction.

Hopefully when you return, your T can help you overcome the anxiety created by that interruption.
Wow there are so many good points and observations made here. Thank you all so much for allowing this discussion to evolve and give me so much to consider.

Thanks you Liese, Jones, Monte, PF, Summer, DBS, Yaku, GG, Erica and Jillann. Muah to all of you.

The only validation I got once a few weeks ago was when T said that if he knew how much this would have affected me he would have told me she was coming. I think I was so shocked to hear this that I could not even respond and just let the remark pass.

I have wondered if she was the pushy one until I remember that NO ONE pushes my T around. He is just not that type of person. He is the man of the family and makes the decisions type of person. Yet, I do think at times that he is trying to steer her into doing something productive and earning some kind of living. She had a degree in another field but has never worked at all in the past 25 years. She spent her time jumping horses and spending her time in "society". My T is not wealthy. That is not his lifestyle. I think he also refers clients to her if they have an ED or need nutritional guidance.

I would love for her to be "gone" but I know that will never happen and it would be useless to think it was possible. I think some of what Liese touched on is relevant. I know that if the choice came down to her or me... I would be the one that would "lose". So I tread carefully because it's my T's boundary to hold and I have little to say about it. But it does touch on the child who carries the pain of never being the chosen one. Always being the one ignored or abandoned.

I keep questioning myself about my feelings for my T but I cannot find any evidence of an erotic transference. I just don't have those kinds of feelings towards him. I am attached to him and even love him but it's more like a parental love from a child. The same child who wants to be special and important to someone. But that ship has sailed when I was a toddler. My T says I'm important to him but I cannot feel it and think, "yeah, I'm important for 90 minutes a week" and am WAY down on your list of the real life important people. Then it all begins to feel hopeless and I give up trying to connect with him because it only brings me more pain if I do.

Jones, if I could just convince myself that I have a right to talk about my own personal feeling in relation to his wife being a trigger to emotional flashbacks I would. I would love to get past this because it's frankly destroying my therapy.

yaku...thanks for sharing your experience and for the hugs.

Liese you make a good point about the internet changing the possibility of a true blank slate kind of T. There is just so much info out there. Also, it's been said that PTSD patients do much better with transparency in the relationship. Makes it easier to trust.

I don't think that my T gave it enough thought when she moved in. It surprising to me that a T that is so aware of patient reactions was so obtuse on this issue. I used to be so relieved to arrive to see him. I would sit in reception and look around and read a magazine and take in the new surroundings after being with oldT. I would get there early just to allow being there to lower my stress and anxiety. Then one day I arrive and the furniture was different, the walls were painted a new color and there were new pictures on the wall. It had a distinctly feminine aura to it. I felt a bit uncomfortable with the changes and my radar was in high alert.

Then one day I walked in quite distressed because I was dealing with the grief of not being able to continue with my education for my master's degree and needed so badly to talk to him. Well for some reason I looked at the door next to his office and there was a HUGE new brass nameplate on the door with her name and then M.S. I was quite shaken and couldn't talk to T. I just shut down. I have never been able to talk to him about this since. That was over 2 years ago. I took her brochure and saw that she graduated just a few months before I got my B.S.

The office she uses is also used by a school psychologist who only works evenings. That person pays the rent. I highly doubt the wife pays any rent at all to the practice. At first to allay my fears he told me she didn't work on Mondays and that she saw patients on the hour which meant I wouldn't see her. That tamped down my anxiety for awhile until I began to see her on Monday all the time and then began to see them chatting outside.

You are right Monte. I just want some validation without him making all kinds of excuses for her presence there or telling me that the problem is not his wife. she is not a danger to me and she is very nice. That only makes me more angry and makes me feel like I have no right to feel this way. And then I get angry at T and can't do therapy. I need to figure out a way to get my therapy back on track.

Hi Jones... I do realize that many professionals have spouses in the office. Old T has his wife there and it was disastrous for me. So I specifically searched for a T with no spouse in the office and I thought I was safe with this T. I knew the other Ts in his suite and none were his wife. So I feel like I got blindsided. Your other point about the therapy space is well taken. I know my T feels that his office is the protected space for me but all the other places (reception, stairs, outside the building) are not protected and I'm on my own in those places.

Summer... yes, I felt so insignificant when he so abruptly ended my session to tend to the other client outside his door. I immediately ceased to exist for him and the change was too startling for me to manage so quickly. I'm sorry you experienced this as well.

I'm sorry if I forgot anyone. I truly want to thank you all. I hope I can find the strength and courage to face all of this head on and resolve it. So much is riding on it.


TN
((((TN)))))

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My T says I'm important to him but I cannot feel it and think, "yeah, I'm important for 90 minutes a week" and am WAY down on your list of the real life important people. Then it all begins to feel hopeless and I give up trying to connect with him because it only brings me more pain if I do.


Lots of hugs here.

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But it does touch on the child who carries the pain of never being the chosen one. Always being the one ignored or abandoned.


And here. Personally, I don't think there has to be erotic transference involved. Like you said, it's the child who is carrying the pain. Never being protected or stood up for is so damaging and painful.

A quick hijack - (((JONES))) I meant to say it "could" be an enactment and caught it after I posted it. I was too tired to edit it and hoped no one caught that. Wink But the fact that he just can't seem to connect to TN here and help her resolve it leads me to believe that he is not digging deep enough. It's hard to say knowing so little about the two of them but from what TN said, it's almost as if there is a bit of a parent/child relationship going on there. TN, she is quite a bit younger than he is, isn't she? And he's trying to provide guidance and direction? I don't know how it all fits together but there is a puzzle there.

(((TN)))

Have they still been hanging around the parking lot chatting after your sessions?
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The only validation I got once a few weeks ago was when T said that if he knew how much this would have affected me he would have told me she was coming. I think I was so shocked to hear this that I could not even respond and just let the remark pass.


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Jones, if I could just convince myself that I have a right to talk about my own personal feeling in relation to his wife being a trigger to emotional flashbacks I would. I would love to get past this because it's frankly destroying my therapy.


TN, I think it *will* take time and repeated attempts with him to approach, trust, approach, trust, approach on this issue. That makes sense, and should be expected, because the situation is pressing on a powerful trauma site. But you have some great starting points, one being the very solid relationship you've built so far through multiple breaches and repairs. And another is this amazing, astonishing quote above - his word that if he had known how to look after you better in this situation, he would have. Take your courage in hand and keep going. He is worth it, you are worth it, and your relationship is worth it.

Liese (and TN), I think this question about what might be going on for him in this, and speculation on that, is worth being wary of (though it's totally natural to do that). It seems to me that there are three sites breakdown/reenactment can happen. In the T, in the client, and in the relationship. We know that this is a traumatic area for TN, it's definitely happening in her. We know it's in the relationship, too - no question there are two parts to it and they are both having an effect on the dynamic. (In fact, my T says it is always in the relationship, and whenever I feel something 'off', it's always somehow happening in both of us). *But* what exactly is happening in T is the thing we have the least information about, at least until a full conversation happens.

The reason I'd recommend caution in the speculation about this is that it's a prime place for our unconscious fantasies/projections to take hold. It can feel kind of addictively soothing to do this kind of speculation, because it draws our attention away from the isolation of our own pain and its history and responsibilities (e.g. if I imagine someone hurts me because of their own trauma, that can distract me from the painful responsibility to say specifically what is hurting me and why in a relationship).

These speculations can also be a place where we really re-injure ourselves (as in the 'she's better than me/worse than me/therefore she hates me/that's why I feel pain' kind of thinking).

I hope this makes sense, and I hope it's not too much of a hijack. TN, I just want to say again the pain is real and deserves great tenderness. I trust you will get to a place where you can fully share it with your T.
(((JONES))))

I agree with you re: everything you said. I used to engage in that kind of thinking much more often and found what actually happened was that I was doing a lot more speculating than reality testing. Even if I was right some of the time, kepping my feelings and fears and thoughts to myself did NOT help the relationship nor help us to communicate and have a "meeting of the minds".

It's very difficult for anyone in TN's position where the T's personal life is entangled a bit with his professional life. That makes feelings more difficult to broach and work through with the T because they are more likely to get defensive. We also know bringing up that it's a personal subject might be a boundary violation of sorts. It sucks to be in that position. You want help from the very person who may or may not be able to help you.
(((Liese)))

Totally agree with you about the difficulty and fears involved in talking about this. There's good evidence, though, that TN's T *can* talk about this without getting defensive (see quote above) - though perhaps he hasn't always. Which doesn't necessarily take the fear away.
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We also know bringing up that it's a personal subject might be a boundary violation of sorts. It sucks to be in that position.

I think this is another of the reasons it's so important to be clear about what is speculation and fantasy, and what is our own verifiable experience. Because if we try to understand and correct the problem in the T's world, instead of our own, that could quite possibly lead to overstepping boundaries. An over-the-top example (which I know, TN, that you're not going to do) would be telling T that there is something unhealthy in his relationship and that he therefore needs to ask his wife to move out of the office.

By staying close to our own feelings and experience, and doing a lot of internal fact-checking there, and fact-checking of the shared material in the relationship, we can be on much safer ground and be sure of respecting all boundaries.
quote:
Originally posted by Jones:

TN, I think it *will* take time and repeated attempts with him to approach, trust, approach, trust, approach on this issue. That makes sense, and should be expected, because the situation is pressing on a powerful trauma site. But you have some great starting points, one being the very solid relationship you've built so far through multiple breaches and repairs. And another is this amazing, astonishing quote above - his word that if he had known how to look after you better in this situation, he would have. Take your courage in hand and keep going. He is worth it, you are worth it, and your relationship is worth it.


The reason I'd recommend caution in the speculation about this is that it's a prime place for our unconscious fantasies/projections to take hold. It can feel kind of addictively soothing to do this kind of speculation, because it draws our attention away from the isolation of our own pain and its history and responsibilities (e.g. if I imagine someone hurts me because of their own trauma, that can distract me from the painful responsibility to say specifically what is hurting me and why in a relationship).

These speculations can also be a place where we really re-injure ourselves (as in the 'she's better than me/worse than me/therefore she hates me/that's why I feel pain' kind of thinking).

I hope this makes sense, and I hope it's not too much of a hijack. TN, I just want to say again the pain is real and deserves great tenderness. I trust you will get to a place where you can fully share it with your T.




The most important thing is facing and having the ability to express how painful this is for you TN. Your feelings are real and deserve to be seen and heard. Your T should hear you, similar to when you are a child and a "good enough" parent hears you and validates your feelings. I hope you can find the resources to express this to him again and again until you reach resolution.
(((JONES)))

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By staying close to our own feelings and experience, and doing a lot of internal fact-checking there, and fact-checking of the shared material in the relationship, we can be on much safer ground and be sure of respecting all boundaries.




This is what I am finding in my own life that has been most helpful after many many years of spending way too much time in other people's heads.
TN, you commented that this situation with your T is destroying your therapy, but I . disagree. I think it's actually an integral part of your therapy - something critical you were meant to work through. I have realized that about the erotic transference in my own therapy. Sometimes it has felt like a huge obstacle to the work, but then I remember that I'd probably have the same issue no matter whom I chose to work with.

It's easy to think that if his wife wasn't there, everything would be fine for you. But I think at some point, something else would come up to make you feel threatened and unimportant. The real issue, as you stated before, is that you don't have #1 priority status with anyone, and that childhood loss is hard to accept.

I know I feel like an idiot every time I have to bring up ET to my T. But it's the only way through. I think the same is true in your situation. Bring up the wife issue as many times as you need to. And own the fact that these are your feelings and that you need to work through them. If you make it about yourself rather than your T or his wife, you'll reduce the tension with your T.

FWIW, my couples T and his wife not only share an office but also a phone number. When I leave voicemail for him, she will hear it first depending on which one is in the office at that time. Apparently he doesn't feel that it's a problem, and I find it doesn't bother me that much since he's not my individual T.

Anyway, forgive me but I think you've said many times that you're afraid of his wife but you've never said you hate her. I guess that's hard for me to understand, because I imagine if I were in your position, part of me would absolutely despise her and want to take her out. After all, she is occupying a privileged place with your T that you will never be able to attain. Also, since you imagine she's better-educated and better-looking than you (whether or not that's true) then maybe she also has some status in your eyes that you wish you had and it could make you want to knock her down a rung. My T has a son my age and that doesn't bother me, but if she had a daughter, I know part of me would have a vendetta against her, only because I would never be as important to my T as her.

This might sound stupid, but do you ever think it might be easier for you if you let yourself hate her instead of being afraid of her? Instead of fantasizing what she would do to you, why not fantasize HER getting hit by a bus? Or whatever fate seems appropriate to you.

Sorry if it's not helpful. It's just what comes to mind for me.
I haven't read past he first few replies (too scary to do so sorry) but I didn't want to read and run ....

Frowner I'm so sorry TN that sounds awful and I think y coped with it amazingly well (I really don't think I'd cope AT ALL with either the photo thing or the interruption).

I don't think my T has any pics in her office.... I can't say for sure because my eye contact is THAT bad I haven't even looked up / around the room. I can't even tell you if she has a desk in there or what colour the walls are or even the carpet... But given she shares the office (she works one day a week there) I doubt she would have pics up.

Personally, I couldn't cope with seeing pics - my T is totally 'blank slate' in that she doesn't talk about anything personal - I know her name, qualifications, what car she drives and where she works - that is it. (No seriously - that is all I do know!!!!).

When my T is back I plan it address some of my HUGE MASSIVE fears about finding out if she has a family / partner etc (ie by accident if I see her out in the malls one day etc)... I really couldn't have coped with pics in her office.
Okey I did just see heat About and BLT wrote -

Very much so!!! I also think it IS a huge part of the actual therapy - why? Because if you can work out exactly what it is and why you feel so threatened by the situation it will very much help you work through it and resolve it
(If I remember right, was it a really awful experience with a previous T that brings this station to a major trigger for you? If so - you may not be able to work through tha original issue with the other T, but THIS situation kinda gives you a 'second chance' to, if that makes sense?)

And agree with BLT - I'd want to 'take her out' too for the vrpery reason she does occupy your T in a way you can never get too (insert breaking heart snapping into a million pieces)



anyway - you inspire me TN how you handle thse issues. You really do. (I'm not implying it's not awful and horrendous or downplaying how awful and hard it is - it's just when I try to out myself I not your shoes - I can't even begin to imagine how badly I'd cope - ie really truly not at all)
Hi TN,

Oh I am so sorry - that sounds like a really difficult session. To go back to your session being interrupted, I am wondering why, with 5 mins to go you had to suddenly stop and leave. If it was still YOUR time that YOU were paying for then he should have ignored any pressure from his next client, as you should have bee his sole focus for the time of your session. W have been interrupted a few times in session, once a man actually walked in thinking the room was empty, but my T was mortified and apologised profusely to me. I am sad that he shuffled you out as quickly as possible, or that he made you feel you should leave quickly, that is not helpful or respectful to you. Perhaps ask him what he is going to do to make sure that doesn't happen again to you.

Hmmm I don't think I would mind at all if my T had photos of her family up, in fact I think I might like it as it is confirmation that she is happy and secure in her relationships and well cared for. Similarly I don't think I would mind if her H was in the same building; as long as I knew that I could rely on her being there for me in my sessions that would be ok. But I understand that for you it is still a big problem and I hope that you and it might get to the stage where it can be acknowledged by him how upsetting it is for you. I think there needs to be work with him as to why it is so distressing, rather than his almost 'it's not to be discussed' attitude that just seems to fuel the difficulty.

I hope you can go to your next session stronger, knowing what you want to say to him and remind him that it is his responsibility to make sure you are ok enough always to safely leave the session.



fishy
Finally a moment to pull my thoughts together. Thank you Liese, BLT, Starfishy, Eliza and Affinity for all the thought provoking comments and suggestions.

I did see my T today but first I just want to mention that some of you may see T's with home offices or with spouses in the office. In my case I was badly hurt by an oldT's spouse and his violating my privacy by having his wife fill out my treatment plans, which she could never have done without knowing the intimate details of what I shared with my oldT. She was also rude and condescending to me on more than once occasion. I also specifically chose a T without a spouse who was a T or with a spouse in the office. Then one day wife shows up in the office next to my T. With my history of violations and abuse by women in authority I was VERY triggered by her presence there without any warning. Some of you may not have these issues or experiences and so a spouse around the office would not be a trigger. For me it triggers traumatic responses.

Okay so my session today. I went in determined to be much more open and honest with T. When I got there he was waiting. I was a few minutes later than usual and he seemed a bit concerned about that. I was just have a very hectic day at work. Before he could begin I told him that I needed his help to get my therapy back on track and to help me save it because it was going nowhere fast. He nodded and agreed to that. He asked me if I knew why we were stalled. I told him that I haven't been telling him what was troubling me and that although I was really scared I needed to tell him that I have been very angry with him. He didn't look surprised.

He asked me if I any ideas as to why I had this anger and I took a deep breath and told him I was angry because he knew my background and how wounded I was by oldT's wife and how blindsided I was by his having his wife move in and how I feel that it has contaminated my therapy with him. I told him that it would have been better if had given me some warning and not allowed me to discover this on my own.

Then I launched into saying that he doesn't have pictures in his office so therapy is not contaminated but mine already is. I get to see the live moving pictures not photos. he just said "I know". I then asked him if he would have a tank of snakes at his office door, knowing a client was terrified of snakes and then just tell the client... "oh they won't hurt you, they are harmless and they are nice." Well, he is requiring me to walk past that tank each time I go to his office. And he just tells me the snakes are "nice" and we never process the feelings.

He listened to me and was very non-defensive. He asked me if I knew why I was so scared and what the triggers were. I told him he already knew some of them.

In between talking I kept stopping and telling him I needed to stop talking and to take "a break". He asked me why and I told him that I needed to calm down and get my thoughts in order. I did this twice. I got myself so overwrought I felt like my brain was freezing up.

He then told me that if I was afraid of comparisons with the person in the other office that was not happening. He said there was no reason because it's two different situations and he was sad that I couldn't accept how important I was to him and how much he cared about me and respected me. He said that while the circumstances may not change, my reaction to those circumstances would change and what would help that is our attachment to each other. He said I keep rejecting it and pushing him away when if I kept him with me then I would not have those reactions and fears. I just shook my head NO. I told him I cannot imagine that and he may as well be speaking Chinese. He smiled at me.

Some of this got fuzzy because I was so activated and I couldn't take it all in and I was talking so fast.

I told him that he may not think I know a lot of stuff about him but I notice everything and that all of this put together tells me about him and what he values. So he said what does he value? I said (and this was so HARD), who you chose as a partner tells me what you value and none of that is anything like me and in fact is all the opposite of me. So how can I take in all the good you tell me about me when I look at that thin wall that separates me from your real life and I know what you value is not who I am!

Then I sort of when on a spiel about how much of a nothing I am and how I have never had any advantages or support and that he lives in a different world than I do and came from a different background and I've had to fight for everything and that I don't get sprinkled with fairy dust like the people he associates with. And yes, I knew I was projecting but I was angry and I didn't care.

He said to me that he has great respect for me and what I have accomplished despite the obstacles I had to face and where I come from makes me that much more impressive for what I have accomplished. And how he has wealthy clients who are way LESS impressive than I am. Then he said that I have such a good, caring heart. And that pretty much undid me. I told him I don't even have a heart. He said he knows that is not true.

He told me that he wants to me try to let him in. To take in what he is offering me. I told him I don't know what that is and I can't. He said I would have to risk it but that it would be so rewarding and feel so good if I could take in the care, respect and unconditional love that he has for me. If I could just see me the way he sees me. And he said "wouldn't it be nice to just say that you can't wait to see me next time when you leave, because that is often how I feel about you when you leave here." Wow.

When the conversation moved to my belief that he could not understand my feelings because he came from a different world he told me that he wants to take me into his world. He said I've been surrounded by damaged and unhealthy people for so long that I don't understand people like HIM. And we talked about oldT and how he was so unhealthy and how I didn't realize it at the time. And he told me that I don't know the obstacles he has had to deal with in his life. So I said, that is the problem. I don't know so I can't believe you could understand me and where I come from and even if you had hurdles you have been able to conquer them and have a career and you have worked hard to move yourself into a good place where you have control over your life and your work and you can pick and choose who you work with. I have worked longer than you and I am going backwards and you don't seem to understand how that is killing me. He said that he is awed by how hard I work and how I can go there and work under such conditions as I do.

Towards the end I told him that I know where a lot of this angst is coming from. Some from oldT, some from my parents, but in the end there was something that I missed out on as a child and that was to be the special one, the center of the universe to my attachment figures and I missed that and I can't go back and get it. I will never have that experience. And he looked at me and said "how do you know?" I said that I know I can't have that now. I'm not two any longer and that has passed me by. He asked me how do I know what I can have? That stopped me to think about it.

Towards the end of the session he said he wanted to ask me some questions that I will not like. Oh boy. So he asked me what I thought he felt about me. I hedged and waffled and would not really tell him. I threw out some thoughts and he laughed at them. He smiled and then asked what I feel for him. I said let me think a minute. Then he told me "don't think... just FEEL". I told him he's nice and very intelligent. He got a kick out of that. He said that he knows how I feel. That he feels the warmth and affection I have for him and it's not a secret. He knows.

It was the end of the session and he told me that I did more work today than I have in a long time and he was very proud and pleased and that he wanted to see continuity with this and not that we stop and get distracted by other stuff.

He told me to have a good few days and that he would look forward to seeing me on Thursday. We shook hands and he patted my arm. I smiled at him and told him that I can't wait to see him on Thursday. He chuckled and said "very good".

then I left. I'm feeling pretty good about the work we did today and I'm trying to entertain the idea that he really does have unconditional love for me and that I am important to him. He said that our relationship has been very "hard won" and we worked hard and we made it happen. He said it does not always happen like that and when it does, it's wonderful.

Right now I think he's pretty wonderful. I hope it lasts.

TN
HI TN,

Thank you for sharing what happened in your session today. I could empathize with the hard work and courage it took to share exactly your thoughts and feelings with your T. I thought his comment to you about can't waiting to see you until next time is so endearing. I do hope that he can understand more fully how you're feeling about his wife and that the situation will work itself out.

Hope you can contain his unconditional love and care at least until Thursday.

PassionFruit
Congratulations, TN, on the wonderful hard work you did. I'm so glad it went this well.

I'm sorry to have brought up different therapist-couple situations. I know you know this happens, and that your particular situation and feelings are specific to you, and are absolutely valid in their own right. I mentioned it because the conversation seemed to be going to a place of dwelling on why T might have made that decision, or what it might mean about him - so the context seemed relevant there.

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