The probationary sessions – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part II

I will pick up my account of my therapy with Dr. Stoneface where I left it, that is, after the first session. As I described here, I had written him a short “essay” about my problems and goals. I don´t remember the probationary sessions in detail, so I will just highlight a few things that happened during this time frame.

1) Since I had been in therapy before, Dr. Stoneface announced that he would ask my former therapists for their notes on me. During one of those therapies, I had very much seen and portrayed myself as a victim. I had actually suspected I had repressed memories of abuse, and the main reason I had started that therapy was in order to recover them. By the time I consulted Dr. Stoneface, though, I felt excruciating shame thinking back to those suspicions and assumptions. The thought that he would read and find out all that was very uncomfortable. On the other hand, though, I also thought that maybe it was a good thing if he saw straight away how rotten I was. The point of this therapy, after all, was to set me straight. Nonetheless, I asked him a bit angrily if he really had the right to just review those notes when I didn´t get to see them (I didn´t know then that there is a possibility for me to review my notes, though a limited one). “Of course.” he replied in a tone as if I had said something almost insulting. Apparently in his view it was understood that he got to see those notes. To me, that sounded like even asking for privacy and the liberty to just tell him what I wanted him to know was somehow offensive or even immoral. Again, he had a way of making authoritative statements that made me feel like I had misbehaved in some way.

2) Part of the questionnaire Dr. Stoneface had given me was about my parents. When we were talking about that part, I told him about some typical behaviors of my father which I believed contributed to me being a horrible, spoiled child. He asked some kind of question and I continued to talk about my father, until suddenly he interrupted me and said: “Did you understand my question?” Something about his tone was incredibly threatening, even though he sounded calm and quiet. My adrenaline shot up and I thought for a moment that he would certainly kick me out of his office. A clear overreaction, granted, and certainly to do with my authority issues , but it should have rang some alarm bells with me that he managed to intimidate me so easily. I felt like he was displeased with me, like he thought my behavior was unacceptable in some way, and that hit me because from what I had read I had concluded that therapists would not judge my behavior, even bad behavior, but try to understand it.

3) There was another, similar event some time later when we discussed what his style of therapy was and what working together would look like. I, assuming that in therapy the client gets to decide how fast he wants to proceed, demanded that Dr. Stoneface wouldn´t pressure me if I was silent for a moment because sometimes I might have to think really hard about the answer. I knew already, after all, that I had difficulties determining how I was feeling. Dr. Stoneface, however, replied: “Well, no, I certainly won´t let you just be silent forever!”, in that same tone that always made me feel like I had demanded too much, or made some kind of offensive request. He basically made me feel like he was demanding something from me, like some kind of “good behavior” or compliance; compliance with rules that had never been explained to me, but maybe there was no need for explanations because the rules were self-evident? Self-evident to anybody other than me, apparently, which made me feel even more like a socially disabled, emotionally and morally deranged person.

4) The last example (for now) of conflicts between Dr. Stoneface and me, however, was a discussion about cutting, masochism and blood fetishism. By the time I saw Dr. Stoneface I was hardly even cutting anymore, neither for self-harm purposes, nor to satisfy my liking for blood. I felt like I deserved neither kind of release. I would have scornfully laughed at myself for playing the victim (self-harm), or for gazing admiringly at trails of blood running over my arm (blood fetishism). Nonetheless, I needed to ask him about his opinion on cutting for the pleasure of it, and I wanted him to approve of it (authority issues, once again). I made it clear I was definitely not including self-harm in this, although I always held the opinion that the real problem are the issues behind self-harm, not the cutting itself. I was only talking about safe, sane and non-compulsive cutting. Well, Dr. Stoneface still thought it was pathological, and that a successful therapy/analysis would make it disappear. (I think one main reason I brought the subject up was that my therapy goals definitely included that I still wanted to be able to enjoy sane cutting. I was worried that therapy could make this ability/desire go away. It was part of my sexual identity back then, so I was considerably worried about losing it.)

In my defense, I told Dr. Stoneface that my sister Irene had approved of cutting for pleasure as long as I exercised it carefully. Irene had always been the epitome of reason and superior intelligence in my life (even though I had some issues with her as well), and for me she was much more of a moral authority than Dr. Stoneface. I must have naively assumed that he would see his mistake straight away when I told him what Irene had to say about the issue. Dr. Stoneface, however, replied in what was probably supposed to be a deeply concerned and sympathetic tone:

“So she doesn´t care about you!”

I found that bizarre and annoying rather than anything else. It amazed me that his bigotry towards “sexual” habits which were deviant, but not harming anybody (other than possibly me) would go this far. One of the last things I was sure of were my libertarian values when it came to sexual activities (as long as these activities only involve consenting adults). I found it startling – and also ridiculous – how judgmental he was.

On yet another level, though, I also feared that he was right and that my liking for blood would go away if I were to be healed. Not so much because I thought it was pathological in itself, but because I thought it was not real. Not authentic, just the result of a narcissistic wish to be “different”, “dark”, “special”. I think my insisting on him approving of it might just have been a need for validation. Validation that at least one thing I liked about myself was truly part of my personality, of my “true self”, something that couldn´t be removed in therapy. He denied me that validation, though, leaving me with the belief that maybe he was not actually bigoted, maybe he just knew my liking for blood was unauthentic, and that´s why he told me it was pathological. It had to be this way, I told myself, after all he had to be an intelligent person, and intelligent persons cannot be bigoted (yeah, right). At least I managed to only start crying after leaving his office.

More to follow.

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