Seventh page – Session at September 10, 2008
I remember this session quite well. I was feeling good that day, not preoccupied with anything. I thought that it was getting to be time to wrap up therapy, that maybe I’d go for a session or two more. I’d only ever planned to go for 6-8 sessions anyway.
But I was still there for an hour and we talked the entire time. Why so little in her notes? And her notes say so little. E.g. “women – men – relationships” what does that even mean? I guess we talked about “human nature, philosophy, personal experience” but what was actually said?
I did make a remark about how people seem to treat those closest to them the worst, when you’d think they would treat them the best. It’s one of the things that puzzles me. But whenever I talk about it, I also express amazement at how people who mistreat their intimates seem to expect no consequences, that the relationship can go on, undamaged. I don’t know why she chose to leave that part out because I think it is pretty important. Either way, I was speaking in generalities but I suspect the therapist thought it was the expression of some subconscious issue that I should delve into.
I know I never said I “want growth”. That’s just not language I use. And if I wanted personal growth, I wouldn’t see a therapist for it. I’d go on an Arctic rafting trip or something. I think she was projecting her own agenda.
Eighth page – Session at October 14, 2008
A month passed between appointments because I was ill and cancelled the one in-between. What I didn’t know then was that a common way that clients “run away” from therapy is to cancel an appointment claiming illness and then just never come back. The therapist called me back right away, and I remember that she was kind of pushy about getting me to come for the appointment anyway, and then when I held firm (because I was actually sick), she was pushy about getting the next appointment booked. I think she believed I was trying to bail on therapy, which meant a loss of income for her, and that’s why she was pushing. I also think she had an agenda to use the next session and any that followed to convince me that I needed LOTS more therapy, and there was an urgency about it because I was showing signs of slipping away.
Again, another case where she doubted me according to her own pre-conceptions. Sometimes people get sick and need to cancel appointments. Why not just believe me?
This is the point where therapy started to get really weird. Red flags were popping up all over the place.
First, some background. During the month away from therapy, I met a man whom I found interesting and attractive. We went out a few times, he wanted to have sex, but I declined because I did not feel ready. And….he dropped off the radar. So it was pretty clear that he was only in it for the sex. It was the same time as this therapist appointment that I was realizing the truth of what was going on. (I’d already gone through the “maybe he’s been away”, “maybe he didn’t get my email” phases.) I was pretty disappointed, and since I had a therapy appointment booked, I thought – fuck it, that’s what I’ll talk about today.
I will never forget that session because it was weird from the start. I gave the therapist the basic rundown of what had happened (virtually identical to what I wrote above), and ended it with “So he was only it for the sex”. And her next words were “Maybe he just wanted… to get closer.” I was stunned. I mean, come ON, I just told her a story that MILLIONS of women could tell. There are literally MILLIONS of men in the world who just want to score. Why is she doubting my account AT ALL?
Oh right – because she’d been doubting me from the beginning. I just hadn’t figured it out yet.
Her remark threw me for a loop. Could she be THAT naïve about men? Or what? I had never told her anything about my past relationships. Where was this coming from?
Anyway, she spent the rest of the session trying to convince me that the guy didn’t disappear because I didn’t have sex with him. She pushed me to accept ANY other explanation, including, as she put it, “maybe he didn’t want to continue for some other reason”. Just so long as it wasn’t my original interpretation.
This was pretty much the pattern for the rest of the sessions. I would come in saying the sky was blue and she keep at me until I admitted that maybe, if you looked at it from a certain angle or squinted the right way and just believed a little, yeah, maybe it could be green, maybe I should try believing that it’s green.
So, let’s look at her notes.
“Got dumped”, “silent treatment”, “cut him off”, “suffered all weekend”. Christ. That’s not how I described it at all.
Then the section on exploring issues of trust and openness. Where to start? I’d only gone out with the guy three times by this point, so perhaps being trusting and open wasn’t yet appropriate. He could be a date-raping asshole for all I (or the therapist) know. A guy is not required to be “attentive enough” with someone he is not actually in a relationship with, so what was she thinking?
My guess is, she TOTALLY jumped to the conclusion that this was an established relationship with a good, decent guy who cared about me and that the only real issue was….me.
Yet again, she had no information on which to base this assumption. It was pure guesswork, which is actually encouraged in Gestalt therapy.
Bear in mind that I still didn’t know that she was using this approach or even that she was making assumptions, let alone what those assumptions were. From my perspective, the conversations were all over the place and the only constant was the pressure to change my beliefs – without ever assessing whether my beliefs were in fact correct.
I found this and all the following sessions very disorienting. There is such a thing as the “confusion technique” which cults and interrogators use to gain mental control over their targets. I strongly believe that the therapist was doing a version of this on me. It’s consistent with Gestalt therapy, since it’s all about getting around a person’s “habital defenses” to reach the real truth that they are trying to hide. Gestalt theory doesn’t allow for the possibility that the person isn’t hiding anything.