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Wording is everything.
I just got off the phone with my T who was returning my call. Of course, why else would she call right? Anyway, I answer. She says “Hi, this is ______. How are you doing?” I thought she said “WHAT are you doing?”

To which I asked, “WHAT am I doing?”

Then she said “No, I don’t care WHAT you are doing, I asked HOW you are doing.” (I must admit there may have been a tone of her sometimes barely detectable sense of sarcastic humor with that remark.)

So I went into the reason as to why I had called her all the while those words “I don’t care…” rang coldly in my ears like clashing symbols and reverberated down into my chest. By the end of our 2 minute conversation I could sense that she was rushed, but I could not ignore what I was feeling.

So here I go into a slight spiral of emotions. I took the time to reach out to her and call her for some insight. Believing that it is ok to do that and pushing aside my old fear that ‘I would be a nuisance if I call her, especially if it is not an earth shattering event.’ Then I am immediately met by those words and a sense of her being rushed into returning my (pesky) phone call. I feel the hurt start to agitate deep inside of me. I know I need to express this to her. Hoping she would rescue me from my impending doom of my darkest emotions I bravely tell her how her initial words “I don’t care” affected me.

She went into defensive mode. At least that is how I would describe it, although I am beginning to realize that she would deny that. She insisted that she “did not intend for those words to be cold, but the fact is (she) doesn’t care what I am doing. She would never ask what I am doing. She is only returning my call to see HOW I am doing.”

I bravely press on, “Yea, but the words you chose are cold and I need to inform you of that.”

“I didn’t say it coldly. I just said “I don’t care WHAT you are doing.”

“But those words hurt.” I admitted again as my voice began to shake.

“I don’t know what to say about that. I’ll never say them again.”

I see this conversation is getting nowhere. I now feel worse than I did when I called and she is not bending. She is obviously rushed because, as she admitted, she had a client waiting for her. I said “Ok. I can sense that you are rushed and I respect that you have another client waiting for you and that this is not a good time to carry this on. So I will let you go.”

“Ok,” she said. “We can talk about this later.”

Can anyone guess how I am feeling now?? It’s not even 10:00 in the morning here and I may as well throw today out the window!!! Oh and let me guess, I won’t here from her later today unless I am at my chiropractic/massage appt. and won’t be around to get her call. Most likely she will wait until our appt tomorrow while I suffer in the thoughtlessness of her words. I don’t even know what later means to her.

You see why I am afraid to reach out? Last week we talked about a similar reaction to her not calling me back because she thought the intensity of the moment had past and she assumed that I was ok by the time she got my message. Her response to my feelings were that ‘I am expecting to be disappointed and therefore nobody can do anything right.’ I still don’t agree with that by the way. I get some mixed reaction from her. Sometimes I feel her warmth and understanding; sometimes I feel that she is cold and detached from me. She wants me to believe that it is me projecting this. Am I holding back? Am I projecting this? I feel that she is unreasonable sometimes. Why would she do this to me?

Shrinklady-is this some twisted school of thought she is using to try to toughen me up and expose my feelings??
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Ok, after a few hours of stewing and re-directing my energy to shoveling dirt around my flower garden, I re-read my post re-examining each line, each thought, and each expression that my T made. Taking into consideration what I know about her.

I still believe she should have apologized. Consequently, maybe if she had I would not have experienced the depth of my feelings. And I am not prepared to experience them alone. But I do see some… (It’s ok, say it…) l-l-logic?? (Still hard for me to reason here, but I owe that to myself.) She clearly stated that she did not mean those words that way. So she made her stand on her intentions, but still allowed me to experience what was behind my current feelings and not allowing the real issues to be subverted through an apology. (a deserved apology at that.)

I DO want her to care about me in every way. Whether she does or doesn’t I want to imagine and believe that she does. Her saying “I don’t care…” made me feel that she doesn’t really care at all and then I want to shrink into obscurity and cry myself to sleep. But that is not what she was implying. (I say reluctantly) That is where I went with it.

I want to tell her PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, don’t hate me for what comes up. Don’t get frustrated with me for where this goes time and time again. Remember where this comes from. Promise me that you won’t reject me.

Sorry, I know this is not supposed to be a blog, but I could not help but to relate where I am now. I wonder how my session will go tomorrow.

Still would love more input from anyone out there.


Could it be that the woman is really that brilliant?? Or am I just assuming she knew what she was doing? Confused
Just Me,
I don't think your T handled that too well. If she was in that much of a rush she could have called you back and arranged another time to talk. But getting snippy and then refusing to reassure you when that made you even more uncomfortable in what was already a difficult situation for you just cries out there was a lack of attunement.

As far as sometimes feeling warmth and understanding and sometimes cold and detached, I've definitely been through that with my T and most of the time I was projecting. But his response when I asked him if he was angry, tired of me, fed up etc. was to very warmly reassure me that he wasn't feeling that way. Not to make me feel like I being horrible to have those feelings. We have talked alot about how really strong emotions can feel like they must reflect reality but they don't always do so. That part of what happens developmentally with a secure attachment is that you learn to distinguish between reality and your feelings and ascertain how well your feelings line up with what's real. So I asked him how you figure out what's real when you lack the discernment and he told me you have to ask. He may have regretted saying that as I asked alot. Big Grin He would sometimes ask me why I felt that way and there has been a time or two that he has said he thought I was projecting but never in a "this is all your fault" kind of way. He has a really good handle on why I get so insecure and expect such bad reactions on his part. But I will add that he is the most non-defensive person I have ever met, including any counselors. He has also told me that he would not have handled some of these situations as well earlier in his career. Your T may be struggling to not be defensive and that's what's causing some of the uneveness.

As for what you asked Shrinklady, I remember saying to my T once after he canceled an appointment that part of me wondered if he did it just to see how I reacted (I was pretty pissed at the time)? His answer was strong, clear and emphatic. He said there had not been, nor would there ever be, a strategic canceling of an appointment. That therapy is a reflection of real life and if you wait long enough, every situation comes up on its own, there's no need to create them. So I don't think she's playing games. She just may not have a good enough understanding of how you're feeling.

Bottom line (at last, she sighs! Smiler ) I don't think you're overreacting and you need to talk to her about this and about your perception that she's getting defensive. And I'm really sorry because I know how much having this happen is reinforcing your deep seated belief that reaching out is a dangerous (and if you're like me stupid) thing to do. You did the right thing to call your T. Repeat three times: YOU DID THE RIGHT THING!! This has got to make for a sucky day. Wish there was more I could do to help.

Hi Just Me, it sounds like your therapist was rushed (I'd trust your intuition on that) and she made a bad choice of words. Of course, it's hard to tell without knowing the tone of voice. The same words with a different tone of voice can have a completely different meaning. It also sounds like it might be best to address this in a regualr session as it may take some time to resolve. It sure sounds like you deserve an apology and I hope you get one.

BTW, I can't imagine any therapist would intentionally create distress by using a trumped up situation like a cancelation in order to help a client grow. There's usually more than enough material to work with and the normal day to day activities that arise.

This is why it's so important for a therapist to know their own stuff. If your therapist can't recognize their own countertransference, how can you trust that she won't throw back on you that it's your projection, when in fact, it's coming from her...hopefully that made sense.

I hope you're feeling better soon,
Hi AG and Shrinklady,
Thanks for responding to my plea.

I don’t think for one minute that she strategically set this up, but it happened. She did clarify that it was not her intention for me to feel that way, and she did not use a tone to indicate that either. She just said it and I ran with it. Going back to what I know to be true is, she is right. I want to believe that she would never do that to be hurtful. She has told me that she does not “test” me or create agendas for therapy. I do believe her. My fear is that she is frustrated with me. Otherwise wouldn’t she have taken just a quick moment to say in a warm soothing tone, “No, I didn’t mean it that way.” It would have made such a difference.

Yes, I am still hurt and I will discuss this with her tomorrow. This can’t keep happening. Funny how you mentioned something similar, but while I was waiting for my chiro appt. I jotted this down; “I am confused as to when I can trust my feelings and when I cannot. When am I projecting and when am I reading others correctly? How can I know the difference?” (As AG mentioned above, you ask, right?) So I asked or mentioned how her statement made me feel. Where did that get me? She never used a snippy tone, but was very matter of fact. I needed warmth and reassurance and I don’t believe it would have taken that much more of her time to do so.

What I meant about her "brilliance" is that when she recognized what did come up, she did not try to sooth it away, but allowed me to experience the pain from where it originally comes from. I know she wants for me to know that "we always have opportunity to work things out and we will."

I want to indulge in something for a minute Shrinklady. You referred to counter transference. My T has mentioned before that when her children were nearing the time to move away to college that the way they dealt with their grief of leaving home was to be critical of everything she did. She said, “It is easier to leave angry rather than face the grief.” Another time she made an off the cuff remark in reflection to her relationship w/ her children “I never do anything right.” Both times they fit the surroundings of what I was experiencing in my relationship with her and I wondered then if she was allowing her issues to come into play. I know it is hard not to get emotionally involved w/ a client that might strike a chord w/ you. Do you think this is what she has done?
Hi Just Me, oh, I didn't mean to suggest your therapist was creating things for a reason...I was responding to something that was said earlier in the post about a cancelation...speaking more about therapists in general.

The comments you referenced sounded more like disclosures than countertransference although as I don't have the full description of it, it's always hard to say.

Disclosures can be very beneficial. In appropriate amounts it can help clients feel they are not alone with a problem. It's normalizing. Inappropriate disclosures occur when a therapist vents about their own problem in a way that the client feels the weight of it and it interferes with their own work.

Countertransference can interfere with therapy when a therapist is unaware of their own issues and how they are distorting how he or she is experiencing the client. For example, if a therapist was unaware of their own impatience and a client picked up on it, the therapist might misinterpret the client's reaction as missplaced.

It's not unusual for a therapist to have countertransference. It's his or her awareness about it that's key.

It's a huge subject so I'm only covering a small part of it. Hope it clarifies some of it.


Thanks for that clarification on disclosure and counter transference. Sometimes that can be a little confusing. Knowing my T and the circumstances and feelings involved I am more inclined to believe that it was proper disclosure on her part. She always has a way of relating to me that way. And it works.

Thank you too for responding yesterday. I am sure that it was obvious how worked up and in pain I was. It helped so much to be able to talk to every one about this and not be left to deal with my fears all alone. (That is a huge trauma for me). I will be seeing my T in just a few hours and I will drop a line on how it goes. I hope that she meets this with warmth and understanding. I really need that from her right now. I hope a little bird lets her know that before I arrive.

A lot of things surfaced as a result of this event. The good part is that it helps to reach the depth of these issues and traumas as we work this out, which is what she always promises we will do.

And despite the huge stressor this created for me, I did not take a drink. Before I would have started drinking before noon and not given my feelings opportunity to be heard and sufficiently worked out. Instead I would have drowned my sorrows in alcohol.

So while I would choose not to have another day like yesterday, I will at least try to make the best of it from here on in.

Thank you again for all your thoughts. It was a great help.
Hi everybody!

I was able to work things out with my T this morning (surprise!).
She was much more receptive and attuned to me today. Obviously because it was my session and she COULD be. She explained that she could not be completely attuned to me yesterday due to her circumstances. But she also admitted that she could have been warmer in her approach. Then she said “I really WANT you to know from previous experience with me, that I am usually a very warm person. I want you to really know that and take that with you so that you can draw on that. Because my fallibility will dictate that I will screw up again. I don’t want to, but I will.”

She also looked deeply into my eyes and said “There is NOTHING you can ever do to make me stop seeing you. You can fire me, but I will never terminate our relationship because I don’t feel I can handle you anymore. That will NEVER happen.”

So the whole “I don’t care what you are doing” was her sense of humor (remember I love that about her) brought on by my humorous question “WHAT am I doing?” She laughed and said those ill conceived words that brought my world to a stand still-temporarily. Me, hyper-vigilant? Never!

Thanks again everyone for you support. It saved me from going completely daffy!
Big Grin
Yea, me too. It had a profound affect on me. I just hope I CAN hold onto it this time. It is so complex. I told my T that it feels like there is so much tucked away in every crevasse of my brain ready to pop up at any given and often unexpected moment. I don’t mean to go where I do, I just do. Seriously, I don’t think her words and stare could have made it any clearer what she was trying to convey to me.

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