A session I had with my therapist on June 12, 2017 aroused angry feelings for me afterwards.
I talked about a dream I had had. The dream referred to a former coworker whose father died of a brain tumor.
The therapist said nothing about the dream.
I next talked about the fact that I don’t see myself as a vulnerable person. She didn’t have much to say about this.
I next talked about my feelings of being a spectator in the audience at a play. I feel I have split myself into two parts: the spectator in the audience and the actor on stage. I said I have the sense that my feelings are not authentic — as symbolized by the actor on stage. The feelings I have are the feelings of empathy of the spectator — that is, the feelings of the observing “I” not the experiencing “I” as symbolized by the actor.
The therapist had nothing to say about these feelings. She didn’t not relate this metaphor to the dream material. Why did I associate to this metaphor after this dream?
The therapist launched into a lecture on the brain — the primitive emotions of the amygdala and the more rational thoughts processed in a different part of the brain. I saw this as defensive intellectualization. I saw it as counter-transference and I suspect that the dream I recounted at the beginning of the session unnerved the therapist. I noted the possibly significant association in the therapist’s mind between my reference to a brain tumor and the therapist’s later lecture on brain functioning. Was the therapist’s lecture on brain functioning an instance of projective identification? (Incidentally, I know about the limbic system. I remember seeing an episode of a PBS series on the brain that was broadcast in the year 2002: The Adult Brain: To Think by Feeling. I still remember Antonio Damasio saying, “Human beings are not thinking creatures who feel. We are feeling creatures who thing.” I always liked that quote because I saw it as validating my disdain for cognitive therapy.)
The therapist talked about the “attachment dance” I engage in. She said that at the previous session (June 5) I seemed to be approaching her emotionally, but at this session I seemed to be pulling away. (Was her lecture about brain functioning not a defensive or intellectualized “pulling away” by the therapist?) After the session I was curious about my metaphor of the man at the theater. What was I talking about in psychoanalytical terms? My research disclosed that what I was talking about was depersonalization, that is, a dissociative symptom.
Further research showed that depersonalization is a symptom of trauma — and this is startling — these symptoms are, in fact, related to disorganized attachment. Did my dream relate to dissociation and attachment problems?
What made me angry was that the therapist was unable to identify my metaphor about the theater as depersonalization (a trauma symptom) — and, significantly, failed to see the relationship between depersonalization and attachment problems, despite the fact that she fancies herself an expert in attachment. She has referred to my “attachment dance” on three separate occasions. Does she have a depth understanding of attachment problems? That’s debatable.
In general there was no sign that the therapist was trying to reach or establish contact with my affects; she showed no signs of being “tuned in” on my feelings; on the contrary, she seemed to play along with my intellectualized defensiveness, at those moments I was perhaps defensive — giving a lecture on brain functioning.
It is as if the therapist shows a tendency to elicit defensiveness from me. At one point I had talked about a patient I identified with in something I had read and the therapist proceeded to ask me how I thought the said patient might react had his therapist said certain things. Clearly, the therapist was trying to elicit my projections. At another point the therapist appeared to elicit my intellectualization by talking about brain functioning. In just one session the therapist tried to elicit defensive projection and defensive intellectualization. What is the counter-transference meaning of these behaviors by the therapist.