My therapist made a psychologically revealing comment today that contributed to my view that she relies on massive rationalization.
At one point in the session my therapist attempted to explain her use of vivid language to describe me, particularly her use of the word “violent.” She has attributed “violence” to me in various contexts. She said that my actions in relation to Dr. P. were violent. She said that my act of filing an ethics complaint against my last therapist was violent. She said that I misinterpreted her statements as concrete; that I should see her dramatic descriptions as figurative. She explained that when she uses the word “violent” she means that my actions indicate my “emotional intensity.” She said my actions are “emotionally intense.” So in her construction when she says “violent” she is referring to “emotional intensity.”
Yet, comments at another point in the session suggest that her earlier statements about “violence” were simply rationalizations: that when she says “violent” she is thinking in concrete terms about violence.
At one point in the session I talked about my dissatisfaction with my therapy in the following terms: “I feel that there is a theater inside my mind and that on the stage Ibsen plays are running. There are constant struggles and conflicts going on in my mind–it’s like an Ibsen play. But when I talk to you, I feel like a character from a Chekhov play — everything is vague and impressionistic. All of the passion of my inner Ibsen seems drained here and everything here seems so placid and detached.”
It’s been said of Chekhov that in place of conventional action Chekhov offers a “theater of mood” and a “submerged life in the text.” Ibsen’s plays, on the other hand, are full of dramatic tension and high conflict.
In a striking comment my therapist said: “You want to shoot the duck.” She was referring to Ibsen’s play, The Wild Duck. In that play a fourteen-year-old girl accidentally fatally shoots herself while attempting to kill her pet duck to gain her father’s approval.
Ibsen wrote numerous plays — full of all kinds of incidents and themes. Yet, when I mentioned Ibsen, the first thing that came to my therapist’s mind was a concrete act of “violence” — the act of Hedvig Ekdal shooting herself.
In her association did my therapist expose her earlier comments explaining away her use of references to “violence” as mere rationalization? When my therapist says “violence” I suspect that there is a strong undercurrent of association to concrete acts of violence. At least, that’s my interpretation.
My therapist continually offers rationalizations that are undercut by her statements in other contexts. Her training analyst doesn’t see this?
E. James Lieberman, M.D. sees the major theme of The Wild Duck as centering on the perils posed by the “truth fanatic” who fails to appreciate the average person’s need for the consoling life lie. Dr. Lieberman describes Freud as a truth fanatic. See, Lieberman, E.J., Acts of Will: The Life and Work of Otto Rank. Dr. Lieberman does not see The Wild Duck as a play about a shooting.
I am struck by the fact that my therapist’s interaction with me resembles the communication style of parents in dysfunctional families. The shallowness of the parents’ statements are undercut by their behaviors and statements in other contexts. Albert Rothenberg, M.D. writes that in dysfunctional families “there were often remarkable discrepancies between what family members said they felt and what they actually felt.” Rothenberg, A. Creativity and Madness at 12 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).