My therapist’s job was to exorcise those demons, which she has managed to do with considerable aplomb. The most life-transforming example of empathy and exorcism with my Hakomi-trained therapist was the resonating limbic experience of watching tears fall down her face after I told her how unhappy I was experiencing life at that particular moment in time.
It wasn’t the first time she literally felt my pain. But it was knowing that my grief and depression had been recognized and experienced as having affected her in a deeply emotional and intimate way, a way in which it hadn’t with the significant others in my life, that had a long-lasting limbic healing effect. She cried for me because I couldn’t.
Sometimes when my therapist got under my skin and I got really cross with her, I’d force myself to remember all the good times, all the smiles and laughs, synchronous moments and feelings of profound connection. I would experience a spontaneous, deep warmth radiating from the brain in my heart right to the tips of my fingers and toes. That position of mindfulness would give me the psychic space to enable me to see our disagreement from her point of view.
Our sometimes unconventional therapy was working very well. We did break many a boundary, but there was always a common-sense line that we never crossed. Paradoxically, the same person I fantasized about having a real friendship with was the very same person I knew I would actively cross the street to avoid. Such is the very unique and publicly misunderstood, approximate, almost-but-not-quite-relationship between client and therapist.
I decided to study psychology at university. I learned many new words there. Because of her humble motherly stance, I was very naïve and completely unaware of my therapist’s vast intellectual and academic capacities and it was therefore, with much enthusiasm and excitement, that I emailed my self-actualized clinical psychologist with a Masters degree in psychology and numerous other highly sought-after qualifications, and asked her if she’d ever heard of “transference” and “countertransference.”
In the early days, I didn’t even think she knew who Sigmund Freud was, although had she mentioned his name, I would have backed out of her room and possibly never returned because I was still had a rather edgy relationship with the “father of psychology.” This was due to a middle-aged male psychiatrist who, in 1984 when I was 22, asked me, with white spittle dribbling from the corner of his mouth, whether I was bottle- or breastfed. I thought he was coming on to me and I never went back.
But I always went back to my therapist because finally, I felt loved unconditionally and felt able to love back completely and unreservedly. Love can make you get up in the morning and look forward to being alive rather than hiding under the blankets till midday and beyond.
My therapist is Joanne Woodward to my Sally Field, a restorative, peaceful oasis in the middle of a harsh, unforgiving desert. In an ever-increasing world of violence, hatred, bullying, narcissism, disintegration, disconnection, rudeness, bad manners and regressive meltdowns, there is comfort, solace and deliverance to be had in the presence of someone who knows how to behave well, to teach by example, to forgive unconditionally and be able to maintain poise, dignity and elegance at all times. It is also heartwarming to know that she has passed on (for the most part) those same qualities to me.
Neale, S. (2009). The Healing Power of a Good Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 25, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2009/the-healing-power-of-a-good-therapist/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.