Probably the biggest impediment to the therapeutic process is resistance. Consciously or unconsciously, none of us likes to be pried into too much. Our psyches have a way of putting up road blocks, preventing access to that inner truth that we are trying so desperately to uncover. The id and the superego, forever at odds, duke it out, keeping one another in check.
While a big part of me is available to therapy, and really trying to put my best foot forward with it, I have my own kinds of resistance. Not usually being able to part with my son long enough to have a truly focused one-on-one is a manifestation of my resistance.
Doing therapy with a toddler in tow is a wee distracting. After my child on several occasions ransacked the office, moving on from the stuffed bears, which were fair game, to the business cards, the brochures, the meditation bowl and mallet, the keys and the CD player stacked with the New Age music, the candies wrapped in foil … we decided to take the dog and pony show outside. At least if the baby was in the stroller we could focus on the conversation. Or so it seemed.
Until summer came and the neighbors were all outside and there I was hanging my dirty laundry out to dry in front of whoever was within earshot. You know, I’m an actress. I don’t have a quiet voice. Add to this the heat of July and the fact that my guy is no spring chicken and tends to sweat and even pant a little bit and I am made overly aware of his fragility and then, as a testament to this idea he bursts out with a random comment about the surrounding architecture.
And here we have a real conundrum. The hard thing about resistance is that it’s not necessarily just one way. Through transference, a well-known process by which the therapist gets into his own subjective and unconscious role playing, a therapist may put up a great deal of resistance as well. I have come to the conclusion that there is something about me that my therapist finds deeply intimidating. I remind him of his mother, or something. It is really not very productive as a patient to feel that I intimidate my therapist. No, this whole scene could really backfire on me if I am not careful.
Ever since I told him that I didn’t want to spend my hour chit chatting about what was playing at the local theater, he has, I feel, been rather unfocused and unresponsive toward me. I still remember the look on his face when I said it. Crestfallen. You would think I was telling him that a mutual friend had died. My god, and I was only warming up! Is this what I will get when I push him?
Another huge obstacle to the therapeutic process is lack of confidentiality. On a small island where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business, confidentiality is hard to maintain. When I did therapy in NYC, my therapists had waiting areas, usually shared with other therapists. When I crossed paths with someone coming out, I had no idea who they were, and I had know way of knowing whether they were the client of my therapist or of someone else. This arrangement helped to preserve the sanctity of the therapeutic relationship. One does not really like to think about their therapist with other clients, even though we know, rationally, that we are just one of many. The therapeutic process demands us to be able to feel as if we are the only one, the only one that matters, at least. For this reason, a good therapist will keep a very tight schedule, to minimize the chance of clients crossing paths. They will usually allow a ten minute window between sessions in their schedule. Hence the fifty minute hour. It’s worth losing those ten minutes on the couch to feel that those boundaries are clearly maintained.
Anonymity and boundaries in therapy on a small island can be a little more complicated. In truth, they have been largely lacking since I started my therapy over a year ago. I have often arrived to my appointments at the one-office cottage on time to find another car in the driveway. I then must drive down the road, turn around, and wait on the side of the road till I see that car leave. On this island, people are often recognizable by their cars. So this situation is less than ideal. And when I leave, there is often a car hovering by the roadside at the end the driveway. How do I know that some stalker dude doing therapy as part of his sentence is not watching me, memorizing my plate number? Once there was a client standing out in the yard by the time my child and I were leaving the office. He was sweet with the baby.
Later I saw him outside the courtroom with my therapist when I showed up for jury duty. He saw me, too. Later, the whole jury was dismissed because, according to the bailiff, the accused had “backed off” when he saw the jurors show up. Didn’t he expect jurors to show up? Maybe he didn’t expect certain jurors to show up?. Poor guy… little did he know that I was hoping to use our mutual therapist as an excuse to get dismissed.
That situation didn’t deter me, but when I arrived to a recent appointment late and found two other cars in the driveway, I found myself reeling. Granted, I was a half an hour late. My car battery was dead, and I’d been at the beach and didn’t have a phone to call him. But I had just confirmed the appointment time on the phone with him that morning. I couldn’t believe he would be so swift to put someone else in my place. To use a favorite expression of my partner’s, would he jump in my grave that fast?
If you think I’m overacting, this was the second such occurrence. On a previous occasion, months prior, I had been running late and passed him on the road with someone in the passenger seat of his car. I feel that if this is my time, then this is my time, and running late on occasion is just part of it.
I wrote him an angry email saying that I felt that he couldn’t handle his feelings of rejection if I was running late.
He wrote back saying we could discuss it at our next appointment. I wrote back with further complaints. He wrote back saying we could discuss it at our next appointment. I balked, at first, and didn’t respond. Finally I acquiesced to his terms. A next appointment. And so it continues. My quest for enlightenment in fifty minutes (or a half an hour) of me time.