quote:was it hard to accept that you were dependent on T once you discovered you were? did you fight the dependency? deny it?
Yes, yes and yes.
It was very hard for me to accept it but got easier as I saw T wouldn't take advantage of or abuse my dependency.
and what Liese said.
At times it has been unbearable. I have gone thru periods of totally fighting - it always felt like I was in quicksand and it was inevitable that I would become dependent and to just give in and let it happen...
Being dependent on another person has been a bad, bad concept all my life and to be dependent on a person that you share so much personal stuff with and with whom you are the most vulnerable - OMG, was just the worse thing. it took a very long time - and it still is something I fight.
I wouldn't tell T how MUCH I would think of her - to me that feels bad and stalkerish - but I tell her bits of it. She welcomes it and says that I need to go through this process and be dependent on her to trust her and trust the process and then I can heal.
It feels like such a bad and cruel process when you are the person going through it as an adult. It is also so incredibly difficult to explain to people.
I enjoy talking about it here and with T as it helps me process and feel ok about it.
Emotional Dependency in Psychotherapy
Posted on March 1, 2012 by Joseph Burgo
The concepts of neediness and emotional dependency have negative connotations in our culture; when it comes to psychotherapy, many people (especially those who’ve never had any kind of treatment) take a very dim view of clients who come to depend “too much” upon their therapist. You may hear the very cynical opinion expressed that psychotherapists deliberately instill a kind of emotional dependency in their clients in order to exploit them. It seems that a great many people think that emotional dependency in psychotherapy is bad.
In truth, for psychotherapy to be effective, a degree of emotional dependency is inevitable. Clients with extreme amounts of pain and confusion, who have a history of unstable or chaotic relationships, may become highly dependent for long periods of time. If your life isn’t working, if you come from a deeply troubled background and never developed the kind of emotional capacity and self-awareness you need to get through life, you have to turn to and depend upon someone else to help you develop it. Effective work can’t happen and you can’t get what you need if you don’t.
This is not to say that most clients who come for therapy are eager or especially willing to become emotionally dependent. In fact, resistance to dependency is often one of the first issues that comes up in therapy: despite the large amount of pain they may be feeling, and a kind of desperate hopelessness that finally compels them to seek professional help, many clients don’t want to become dependent upon their therapist. They may hate feeling needy, often because childhood taught them that to be in such a vulnerable, needy state means you’ll get hurt.
For people who come from impoverished backgrounds, need equals frustration and disappointment. Need stirs up anxieties about being abandoned. Need makes you feel small and helpless, at the mercy of those who have what you need. Such people, as clients, may have little or no faith in the possibility that someone might actually be concerned about them, and want to give what is needed. The fact that they must pay for what they need makes the subject more complicated; they may believe that payment means there is no genuine concern involved on the part of the therapist.
These issues often become the focus of treatment early on, the first manifestation of the transference. While many people think of the transference in classically Freudian terms, as a kind of distortion of reality — You’re reacting to me as if I were your father — the transference actually serves as a microcosm of q person’s emotional issues, a first-hand experience of the psychological issues that confront our clients. So if someone hates neediness and emotional dependency, if that person can’t develop stable relationships of any depth or duration, she’ll have the same trouble in her relationship with me. He’ll find ways to keep me at a distance; he may continually have one foot in and one foot out of treatment. My first job is often to help these clients see the continuity in their different relationships — within and outside of psychotherapy — where the common theme is a great difficulty in tolerating their own needs.
In my recent work with one client, these issues dominated the treatment. From the beginning, she expressed a fear of becoming dependent upon me. In different ways, both of her parents had abandoned her, literally and emotionally; with reason, she had scant faith in the goodness or dependability of other people. She struggled with often uncontrollable urges to binge eat, turning to food instead of people as a source of comfort whenever painful emotions began to surface. She had a difficult time committing to our work together, stopping and and starting therapy several times. She often cancelled sessions on short notice, then worried that I would give away her hour to someone else.
Instead of sticking to interpretation — that is, doing my job and simply helping her to see and bear with her fears about emotional dependency — I made the mistake of offering to hold her time open, regardless of whether she used it. I thought this might reassure her, and make her feel that I was safe … different from the other unreliable people in her life. Instead, she used this new policy to regulate her feelings of dependency. She repeatedly cancelled our sessions; recently, when I offered to reschedule, she explained that she didn’t want a make-up because she preferred not to feel too dependent. Cancelling the session made her feel as if she didn’t need me. At that point, I realized that I’d unwittingly offered her the means to avoid the kind of dependency she needed to experience in order to get better — that is, to relinquish her eating disorder and find better ways to cope with feeling in the context of a human relationship.
When I told her of my mistake and changed my policy, telling her that I would no longer hold a regular hour open for her but would still see her whenever she felt the need to schedule a session, she became angry and quit. I can easily understand why. While it was my mistake in the first place (offering to change my usual policy), rescinding that offer no doubt felt like abandonment all over again. You’d think that after 30 years of practice, I’d be able to avoid such mistakes, but there it is.
This has been a lesson in humility: It’s a kind of hubris, to believe you can somehow compensate for a lifetime of abandonment and indifference by adjusting your cancellation policy. Next time I encounter such an issue, I’ll do what I should have done and give the client what he or she actually needs: someone consistent and reliable, who knows how to set reasonable limits and stick to them.
I am not saying one should not depend upon a therapist if one finds it useful. I cannot find a reason it would be useful for me.
quote:was it hard to accept that you were dependent on T once you discovered you were? did you fight the dependency? deny it? etc. any thoughts are appreciated.
Yes, I hated this aspect of therapy and fought it in various ways. In the end, I think I understand it a little differently than I did when I started.
There are two parts of dependency in therapy, as far as I'm concerned: the FEELINGS of dependency, and ACTUAL dependency. The FEELINGS of dependency are usually leftover from experiences when we were young, and could be understood as a kind of transference. Through allowing ourselves to feel them, we can start to understand and work through them.
ACTUAL dependency means that you're unable to live your life without close support from a T or other person, without resorting to negative coping mechanisms. In the case of ACTUAL dependency in therapy, you will need to develop better self-regulation, emotional tolerance, or coping skills before you can move away from it.
quote:the dependency i'm referring to is the obsessive thoughts i have about him and therapy, which i have mentioned to T. for those of you that consider yourselves dependent on your T, how does that manifest?
I am dependent on my T, I dislike the idea of it, but I am. Dependency for me has meant... I use my T as an anchor. When I'm upset, it calms me to be in contact with my T (most times). During anxiety attacks, crisis, or times I'm worried about T relationally it makes it easier to get through bringing her 'presence' to mind. So, to me that is dependency and my T and I have sort of discussed that... that I may need her more. It's easy to reject and run away from because it is such a vulnerable position, and does make me feel inadequate about my self resources. My T did say either last session or the one before that I do utilize her as a 'tool' in my toolbox, and that I know when it will be effective and seek out what is there. It helped me feel a little less needy... but not really. Right now I seek her out more than usual because I'm learning being safe with just myself, etc. I need someone to go through this stuff with me, and right now she's that person and I do depend on our strong alliance to get me there.
I don't know how I knew I was 'dependent' outside of her telling me I was, and then on reflection... she was right. I'm not sure if thinking about T meant dependency for me - I thought about her and therapy much more when I had negative transference than I do now. I think it's possible to be obsessed without being dependent. I think obsession indicates other (attachment, or something else) issues in many cases.
Anyway! That's what it means to me
I'm not keen on Mr Burgo myself Stoppers. He is one of many T's who think all they know is all there is to know.
I have talked to her about this - about my feelings of dependency and neediness. For me, this stems from me feeling like I need her when I'm upset, crying, triggered by family stuff. Often (more times than not), I don't actually call her and she doesn't find out about my week until I see her in session....but just these obsessive (?) thoughts about her make me feel dependent. I also sometimes look up her website or google her when I'm feeling dysregulated...so there's that. For me, that feels like dependency when I do that. I use her picture and words to try to stop feeling whatever.
So yeah, talking to her has been quite excruciating and embarrassing for me. Being dependent and needy feels SO unsafe and uncomfortable and annoying to me. (as it seems like it does for you too...and probably so many others with attachment injuries or difficult past experiences). She has always been really accepting of me, even when I tell her I feel like I need her and I hate it. She has responded something like, you need me? So what? You can need me. But...even with her acceptance, I feel intense shame and want to just hide for weeks.
But, I am slowly getting more okay with being dependent on her. Recently, we've talked about the shame it brings up for me. And how difficult it is, coming back to therapy week after week when so much shame and self-loathing is stirred up because of therapy, just by the fact of my felt dependence on her (which for me personally feels necessary for therapy to really change me and allow me to become complete). She told me she thought I was brave. I sort of laughed at that...like, um really? I'm telling you I feel like a small, needy child who is horrid and annoying and disgusting. And you think that's brave? haha. Eh.
I know you didn't ask for advice...but I would continue to go to therapy. And allow yourself to feel the dependence as it arises. And talk about it, work through it. I'm not on the other side yet (by far) but I feel like I'm getting there! I once had a dream early on in therapy that I was sitting in my T's office and I had a cat there and she had a cat. Her cat walked over to mine and scratched it on its head. My T quickly picked up my cat and brought it into her kitchen. She started to clean the wound, put antibiotic ointment on, and bandaged it. When I told her that, she was like, hmmm, I'm healing your wounds. I hadn't thought about that (there was more to the dream and I wasn't really concentrating on the cat's thing...). And honestly, I do feel like she's starting to heal some wounds. By accepting me and proving herself safe, despite my INTENSE feelings of shame and self hatred because of the position therapy has created for me. Sorry for the long comment! This is exactly what I've been thinking about the last couple weeks...so I have a lot to say...not necessarily relevant to your topic though. I'm sorry if I strayed too much! ((CD))
Hope I'm not too late to chime into this thread. Dependency was a huge issue for me. Just knowing my T was becoming important to me freaked me out. I have lost track of how much we have discussed it. The truth is that the last time I was dependent did not work out well. My father used my dependence and abused his power over me. So when feelings of needing my T and wanting to depend on him emerged, it felt really threatening. That as soon as he knew he held any power over me, he would start using it to hurt me (I am happy to report that fear was unfounded.)
What made the dynamic even worse was that I hate my own needs, wasn't able to identify them and thought I had no right to them, so feeling a need for my T, let alone expressing it, was just terrifying and felt like I was doing some really reprehensible. Cannot begin to tell you how often and how creatively I tried to run.
One of the reasons that I am such a go-to gal with attachment is because learning about it helped me to understand my legitimate need to depend on the stronger, wiser other to finish developing. That there were things I had never learned as a child that I needed to learn and it could only be done by allowing myself to move closer to my T and depend on him. General Theory of Love (a book I mention quite frequently) had a passage that was a real turning point for me:
quote:Some therapists recoil from the pivotal power of relatedness. They have been told to deliver insight--a job description evocative of estate planning or financial consulting, the calm dispensation of tidy data packets from the other side of an imposing desk. A therapist who fears dependence will tell his patient, sometimes openly, that the urge to rely is pathologic. In doing so he denigrates a cardinal tool. A parent who rejects a child's desire to depend raises a fragile person. Those children, grown to adulthood, are frequently among those who come for help. Shall we tell them again that no one can find an arm to lean on, that each alone must work to ease a private sorrow? Then we shall repeat an experiment already conducted; many know its result only too well. If patient and therapist are to proceed together down a curative path, they must allow limbic regulation and its companion moon, dependence, to make their revolutionary magic.
So I depended on my T to teach me things I hadn't learned about identifying my feelings, about expressing my feelings, about expressing my needs, regulating my feelings, learning that relationships could be safe even if the other person sometimes failed me and that when I was overwhelmed I could reach out for help. I went through a stage in therapy where I was seeing him weekly but would email and/or call 1-3 times between sessions. Most of the time the calls were two minutes or less and were about reassuring myself of the connection. Occasionally we would do longer calls up to around 10 minutes (which were reserved for major crises as we tend to avoid too much processing during calls). But there were times when I was totally bugging out when I would call (as in all her would get for the first minute or so was me sobbing). He was my home and my sense of safety and my sense of worth while I learned what those things are. I am very blessed in that he recognized my need for dependence in healing and held clear boundaries so it did not become pathological. But he has never shied away from how vital a role he plays in my life (while never promising to be anything other than my therapist) which has been a gift beyond measure.
But Lord I fought it tooth and nail. Still do sometimes.
BTW, I, like Muff, find Joseph Burgo to be a good source about these topics. He had to do this in his own work in therapy so he really gets it from both sides. I also appreciate his candor in admitting his therapeutic blunders. I have taken his writings to therapy and it has proven highly effective.
That wasn't meant as a criticism at all. I know other people who do not like Burgo, I myself don't agree with everything he says. But I do find when he writes on this topic, and the article Muff quoted was a good example, what he is saying lines up very closely with what I experienced in my own healing. I do not believe everyone needs to do this to heal or has to go through a period of dependency with their therapist. Just that if you do, Burgo does a good job of explaining it.
In my particular case, I was struggling with a deep fear of intimacy, holding everyone off at a certain distance which proved to be a place in which I could not get my needs met. Needs which were pressing on me pretty strongly. The solution for me turned out to be using the safety of the therapeutic relationship to learn to view relationships differently than my experience had taught me to view them. Since my bad experiences happened at such a young age, I had to go back and dig pretty deeply to repair them, to a time when I was naturally and rightfully dependent on my caregivers. While I do not believe that a therapist is a replacement parent or will love you in the same way a parent does, from a developmental point of view I believe they can act as a parental figure so you can learn how to do the things that can only be learned implicitly, in the presence of a someone who already has the skill. I think my healing has required me to allow my T to be a MUCH more significant figure in my life than most people would want. While I am often quite grateful that he has taken on that role, it also highlights the grief that this is the closest I can come to having a loving parent. It doesn't make the loss and pain of not having that go away, but it has allowed me to heal enough to get what I need going forward.
But I truly am speaking only of my experience, knowing it isn't going to transfer or be necessary for everyone. But for someone struggling with these issues, Burgo rings true for me.
He obviously doesn't for you and I hate being treated with contempt or condescension so I can see where you would not like someone you perceived was acting that way. I am sorry if you felt attacked or criticized by me.
and i guess that ties in with the ACTUAL dependency, too. i can "live" my life without T, but i obsess about him alot! and yes, negative coping mechanisms ... i'm enjoying a coffee mug full of one right now. so, if i understand you right, i can't move away from my coffee mug until after i have developed better self-regulation, emotional tolerance, and coping skills in T? or, i can't move away from the dependence until after i've developed these things? i hope you're still around, BLT. i do appreciate your input.
hi, cat. so you believe that bringing the comforting presence of your T to mind in stressful situations is a form of dependency. that makes me wonder about myself, as he seems to be on my mind any time at all. oh, what you said about being vulnerable and feeling inadequate about your self resources is totally what i was feeling for most of my last session. and i virtually rejected and ran away (again ).
i'm really glad that you are at the point in your therapy that you are brave and confident enough in yourself that you are able to do so. that's very inspirational to me. maybe someday i'll get there. thanks for thoughts on this, (((cat))).
what i've discussed with my T regarding dependency is that i don't want to become dependent on him. for the whole need/annoying/dependent thing as well as the "this issa gonna have to end" thing. you want me to attach knowing full-well this is gonna end? huh? it's a whole 'nother struggle and there are threads out there regarding this.
why do we feel so much shame and loathing because of therapy? right now i'm feeling pissed that we have been brain-washed into feeling ashamed and self-loathing for getting help for ourselves. what the hell?!? maybe that's what your T meant, erica: that despite the fact that you've been made to believe that it's shameful to get help when you need it, you go anyway. that IS brave! it defies the messed-up thinking that you've been made to believe. so ... there!
what you've said IS relevant and thank you for sharing your dependency experience
quote:Just knowing my T was becoming important to me freaked me out.
indeed! 7 months ago when i suddenly bailed (i DID show up for a termination session, though!) he KNEW it was for the reason i just quoted and he even SAID so, in so many words! only he used the 'c' word damn him!!! he's always 10 miles ahead of me and he knows it, but he patiently waits as i struggle to catch up. this is our relationship metaphor: he has alot of experience with horses and mules (i'm sure he'd tell you that i fall into the later category). i picture him with a machete, clearing the way, just cruising along, knowing what he's doing and where he's going, and i'm stuck behind, scratching my head thinking "wtf is he doing and where is he going and why doesn't he wait for me?" but he does wait ... it' just that he seems so intent on what he's doing that i sometimes wonder what his agenda is, and does he even know i don't have an agenda? ugh. it's all just very confusing and mind-f*cky.
anyway, i got off the beaten path, so to speak.
quote:learning about it helped me to understand my legitimate need to depend on the stronger, wiser other to finish developing
AG, thank you for that! it's so hard for me to know what i need, and there are threads on this topic of "what do i need?", but i still really struggle with it. your quote above, to me, is really raw and i needed to hear that. this will take me a long time to absorb, but thank you SO much for sharing this.
quote:it could only be done by allowing myself to move closer to my T and depend on him.
oh. really? gawd! i'm a mess!!!
quote:He was my home and my sense of safety and my sense of worth while I learned what those things are. I am very blessed in that he recognized my need for dependence in healing and held clear boundaries so it did not become pathological.
that's what i think T is offering me, and my response is to run away. you are very blessed, indeed, AG, and even more blessed because you know you are. thanks for giving so many examples of dependency in therapy. i needed 'em. i got lots to noodle over.
quote:so, if i understand you right, i can't move away from my coffee mug until after i have developed better self-regulation, emotional tolerance, and coping skills in T? or, i can't move away from the dependence until after i've developed these things? i hope you're still around, BLT. i do appreciate your input.
Uh, well, one or the other. I think how it often happens is you first start to move away from your negative coping mechanisms but then you are leaning on your T for dear life. Then gradually you can stand on your own a little more, along with leaning on other people in your life.
In my own case, one thing I've gotten better at is getting through conflicts with my H without numbing out, SI, screaming, etc. But there have been times where to get through I was literally emailing her several times a day to vent, or for a while I had an object from her that I carried around with me in my purse, etc.
What do you think he meant? How did you feel when he said that?
quote:T: "but it would be nice to finish the therapy around the therapy to the point where you don't feel dependent".
Maybe it means therapy around the dependency? I think it's sort of an end point.. like you will have processed your life and what you want to up to the point of therapy, then process the therapy (to make meaning, etc).
Is it triggering you at all to talk about this at this stage in therapy? The ending stuff? I know it is triggering for me, my T said something that was sort of painful that I took the wrong way - I don't want to repeat it because I can see other people getting upset too!!
hi (((cat))). the end (at the moment) is not triggering. maybe because i've been at the pseudo-end a couple of times now. it HAS been triggering to even just think about the ending stuff, though. agonizingly so. he never seems to quite get that. yeah, sometimes i wonder if T's realize how important everything they say and how they say it is to their clients. i hope you can talk to your T about it since it was so hurtful. i'm sure she didn't mean it to be interpreted that way.
this is going to sound incredibly stupid (it does to me, anyway) but it's eating me up. so now i'm feeling like if i go back that he won that round. somebody help me.
If I can approach this from a fairly simplistic point of view:
1. Going back means moving closer
2. Hamster amygdala checks prior experiences
3. Hamster amygdala screams NO NO NO TOO DANGEROUS
4. Frontal lobe does not want to look irrational and goes hunting for rationale.
5. Frontal lobe says "but if I go back, he wins and we don't want that, I am not going back"
6. Hamster amygdala stops screaming and frontal lobe feels smart.
Sorry I know that was a bit on the tongue-in-cheek side but I honestly think that's whats happening. We need to go back in spite of our fear in order for our amydala to "learn" that even though this once was a dangerous activity, it no longer is. Eventually, it even can learn it is a pleasurable and good thing to move towards the other because our needs get met.
This is incredibly frustrating because we cannot THINK our way through it, its not about what we know, its about what we've experienced. And we like to see ourselves as cool, rational, thinking people (especially in Western culture). If it was just about knowledge, we could walk through the door and the T would hand us a book "How to live a happy, healthy life" and we'd say "thanks, see ya'" (yes, that IS my perfect fantasy) but it doesn't work that way.
Please ask yourself a couple of questions. What does he win? Why is it bad if he wins? Why do I NEED to win? If you find yourself unable to answer those questions despite the feeling of him needing not to win to be SO strong, there's a fairly good chance the list I gave above is operating.
How do I know this? Cause my #$%^&%$%$ T does this questioning thing to me all the time.
This one slid right into home plate for me! Got a little bruised by it.....but in a good way.
Very well written, and so timely for me.
what does he win? he wins by me admitting by going back that i'm dependent on him and, G*d forbid "needy". barf. it's bad because it makes me more vulnerable than i already feel. i need to win so i won't fail if i don't change (if that makes sense).
Ah, now I understand as I am working hard not to hate myself for having needs and being vulnerable. But guess what? Being able to recognize our needs and be vulnerable is how we win, its how we learn to live fully. There's nothing wrong with your needs CD. Humans are built to need each other. The problem lies in the treatment that taught you to believe the lie that you having needs is bad. But I understand, deeply, the need to protect ourselves from feeling that way.
the struggle continues. i saw a quote on myshrink that goes something like "if you don't change your direction, you may end up where you're headed". that's speaking volumes for me right now. i know i need to change, but i dawdle i think because i don't know what that change looks like. maybe i'm a control freak? never considered it. i am in charge and i am scared to death because i don't know what i'm doing. so, the white flag went up and i sent an email asking for an appointment. and i'm feeling sick all over again it had to be done. and now i feel like a drama queen. thanks for reading my pathicness, if you did, and i'm sorry for it.
have no clue what the session will bring, or what i will bring to it...