Keeping me in therapy – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part VII

I didn´t have much time to write over the last few days, but today I want to describe two incidents where Dr. Stoneface actively kept me in a therapy which was basically ineffective.

Keeping me in therapy, part I

The first incident happened sometime in the first half year, probably in June. I had just graduated from high school and I was thinking about moving to another city in order to study at a college that offered a special program for students who didn´t know yet what they wanted to specialize in. It seemed perfect for me. The only problem was my therapy. Would I be able to continue?

My parents told me to not let therapy stop me. If I felt I still needed therapy, I could look for a new therapist in the town where the college was. Indeed I wasn´t so attached to Dr. Stoneface that I would have particularly minded. It seemed very wrong, though. I knew that at least my father didn´t think much of therapists, I suspected that he had “reasons” for this, and so I assumed he was biased. I assumed that career came before psychological cleansing in his book, and I didn´t want to be that kind of person. Mind you, I believed at the time that academic success was pretty empty; something I only aimed for in order to feed my narcissism. It was my parents, after all, who had probably instilled this narcissism in me, so why should I trust them now? Also, I didn´t want to change therapists once again. Just for once I wanted to stick to a decision, not run away as soon as I felt just a little bit better.

Therefore, I was looking for a possibility to combine both my ongoing therapy and my desired course of study. The town where the college was was only a two hour train ride away from my home town. My appointments with Dr. Stoneface were on Mondays and Fridays. If I could have an earlier appointment on Monday and a later one of Friday, then maybe I could still see Dr. Stoneface if I went home each weekend.

When I asked Dr. Stoneface if this was possible, he just plain said no. When I asked why, he, in an irritated manner, said: “I´m not going to do this.” As if “this” had been a complete abomination. I mean, I hadn´t asked him to kill babies. I had just hoped for his cooperation. Make it possible for me to stay in therapy and find out what I wanted to specialize in. I don´t see why the question should have offended him; it showed, after all, that I was still motivated for therapy. I said that maybe, if he didn´t want to do this, I should rest therapy for a year (the program ran only for a year) and then return, or possibly see someone else in the meantime.

He shook his head. “I don´t think you are ready.”, he said. I was getting somewhat irritated. “Well, how long do you think healing is going to take?” I asked. “When will I be ready? I cannot arrange my life around therapy forever.” He wavered with the answer, then he said: “Maybe about two years.”

His reply validated my feeling that something was severely wrong with me; I felt taken seriously. On the other hand, though, it hit me. Two years. So much time. I had just graduated from high school; should I not start to plan my life, live my life? And what was it that was so wrong with me? What was my diagnosis? When I asked him about that, again he didn´t give me a reply.

In retrospect, I notice a certain contradiction in him giving me a time frame and his typical behavior when I asked if he thought I was making progress. By the time the above described conversation took place, I had already voiced doubts and dissatisfaction several times. Whenever I did so, however, he would reply: “Why are you here?”, or: “What is your goal in therapy?” I had trouble answering those questions, which should have alarmed any responsible therapist. Aside from that, though, I also believed that he should know what the goal was. He had diagnosed me with an illness; and if he had a concept of mental illness, I expected him to have a concept of mental health as well. I expected that he knew what a cured narcissist/borderline/schizoid/neurotic or whatever he thought I was should look like. And the fact that he gave me a time frame, that is, “two years”, suggested that he did have a concept both of my illness and of a possible healed state which I should aim for; and a plan how to get there. How else could he come up with a time frame, after all? Unless he expected that my insurance wouldn´t pay longer than that…

No, I guess he oriented himself towards the common belief that personality disorders require at least two years of treatment. Nonetheless, though, he cannot expect me to know what my goal is if I don´t even know what my diagnosis is. All I felt was that something was wrong with me, but not what exactly it was. That´s what I would have needed him for, but he refused to give me any orientation.

I think that it is a great idea to offer counseling or advice to people who want to reach a personal goal (though that is called coaching and not therapy), and to leave it up to the client to decide what the goal is. I´ve become very skeptical with regards to psychiatric diagnoses anyway, and I don´t really trust therapists´ ideals of mental health. So if I had come there with a specific goal and Dr. Stoneface had said: “Fine, in order to reach that goal, I suggest this (treatment) plan.” – great. Unfortunately, though, this isn´t how therapy works, no matter how often Dr. Stoneface asked me what my goal was or assured me that the sessions were “my time”, “my personal safe space where I could completely look at myself and myself only”. The one time I had said what I wanted from therapy, or rather, what I didn´t want, that is, have my sexual preferences changed – he had reacted dismissively. This leaves me to conclude that Dr. Stoneface:

1) did have a treatment agenda and a concept of the desired result, but

2) kept me in the dark about it until the end while

3) seeing my goals as a sign of my pathology, even though he

4) suggested to me that it was all about what I wanted from therapy.

Whenever I complained, asked him about my progress or questioned the treatment, Dr. Stoneface would more or less return the question, asking me what my goal was or why I was in therapy. It reliably made me feel like the lack of progress was my fault; if I didn´t even know what my aim was, how could I expect to reach it? It made me feel like I was not participating properly, not being sincere enough, not giving therapy enough thought. And indeed I still felt fairly indifferent towards Dr. Stoneface. I didn´t know how other people managed to actually fall in love with their therapists. So maybe I was really just too passive. Too lazy. Incurable. Also, of course, “why are you here” can sound like he was questioning my right to be in his office. It felt a bit like “what are you even doing here?”, even though he didn´t make it sound like it.

Whenever I mentioned ideals of mental health he didn´t agree with, or, even worse, talked about the possibility of leaving therapy, however, suddenly Dr. Stoneface did seem to have a concept of mental health and a treatment goal for me. And he also seemed to be capable of evaluating my progress with regards to reaching that goal. But for some reason he decided to rather not tell me what the goal or the plan was. Only if I “threatened” to leave therapy, he gave me a tiny bit of what I was “demanding” (I´m not using quotation marks in order to quote him, but in order to signify what I think might have been his view on this). If I complained that he was keeping me in the dark about his agenda, of course, he´d deny he even had an agenda.

Keeping me in therapy, part II

Other than the title suggests, the second incident wasn´t an immediate attempt to keep me in therapy. It was pretty harsh, though, when you think about it.

It was September when it happened, I had been seeing Dr. Stoneface for one year. A lot of things had changed for me, but it didn´t have much to do with him. In July I had started a new relationship and compared to how I had been feeling before, I was over the moon. Thanks to my new relationship, I was now challenging the self-doubts and the self-loathing my failed friendship had instilled in me. Life had something new to offer, life was promising, worth living again. And I had a right to feel happy. I no longer had to punish myself all the time. I could listen to music whenever I wanted, and to whatever music I wanted to hear.

My life style changed around. I spent the nights out with my new girlfriend, we were sitting in the park, drinking, singing until the birds started chirping and the first joggers were passing by. Everything was more important than academic careers, and so, thanks to my new relationship, I decided to not move. This also meant, however, that I could still see Dr. Stoneface.

Dr. Stoneface had been on holiday in August, just when my relationship started to bloom. Naturally, I didn´t miss him very much at all. When he returned, it was quite awkward to be sitting in his office again. Did I even still need this? But then again, what if my relationship broke up again? Wouldn´t I be back where I had started?

At any rate, however, I didn´t quite know what to talk about and the session was difficult. I didn´t feel like sharing my joy with him, I wanted to keep it private, between me and my girlfriend. I felt that this was our business, not his. An area of my life in which he had no part. (Now that I´ve read a thing or two about psychoanalysis, I understand how analysts must react to this. “How naive! She thinks she can successfully undergo therapy if she has a relationship that is more intimate than the one she has with her therapist!”)

Dr. Stoneface somehow seemed to believe the silence had something to do with him, or with the relation between him and me. He suggested that it had to do with his long absence (whatever, maybe he thought I was punishing him for taking some holidays, poor lad, huh! I´m not that evil.) I denied that, saying that maybe it explained the awkwardness (hello, that´s normal!), but that there was no deeper reason behind my change of behavior, at least nothing that had to do with him. When he insisted, I got slightly irritated, asking him why he assumed that everything I did somehow referred to him (blessed naivety!). His reply:

“Well, I do believe I´m the most important person in your life at the moment!”

Okay, there must be some kind of misunderstanding. Let´s make sure I got this right: “So you think you are more important to me than my parents, sister and new girlfriend?”

“I don´t think anybody else devotes two hours of his time to you every week, focusing his attention just on you!”

I told him that this was obviously bullshit because I spend much more than two hours each week with my girlfriend, and even my family, no matter how difficult my relationship with them. Of course we both understood the subtext, though. “They don´t have the quality time and attention to offer that I have. With them, it´s not about you. Maybe they don´t really care about you and just spend time with you because they have nothing else to do.”

One side of me thought that this was complete bullshit; that he was apparently pretty egocentric. He had sounded like the caricature of a psychoanalyst, like he expected me to be in love with him. The other side of me felt that he probably had some deeper knowledge about my relationships (how, though?), knew they were unreliable or unloving on a deeper level and that he simply hadn´t put it right. Maybe I was unable to understand what he meant because of my illness, who knows.

And all in all, I would still stay with him for more than one more year.

I wonder what all this looked like to him, like, if he really thought I was a narcissist. Hm…”the princess” wants special treatment (have my sessions at another time so I can both study and go to therapy). She needs to be put in her place given a perspective of what she can reasonably expect from him (nothing). Her reaction: Narcissistic rage, she threatens to abandon therapy. You can always bribe her, though, by giving her something she has demanded at other times: Information on the treatment plan.

What about the other incident, though? If he really thought I was a narcissist he must have believed he had hit me horribly hard with this. I mean, telling a full-blown narcissist that her therapist is the only one who pays full attention to her for two hours a week….

And I merely wanted to defend my idea of quality time. Quality time is spending a night out in the park with my girlfriend, not “being payed complete attention to” by an old man who at times repeats what I say and refuses to tell me anything about himself or what we are even doing here.

I only wonder if he expected or even intended to hit me with his comment. I will obviously never know. All I know is that it was a very uninformed and a very irresponsible comment. I should have expected nothing else, though. A year earlier he had already told me that my sister Irene didn´t care about me, just because she had a different view on blood fetishism than he.




One Response to “Keeping me in therapy – Therapy with Dr. Stoneface, part VII”

  1. vicariousrising Says:

    Good grief, your therapist is a loon.

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