So, boys and girls – those of you who are still reading about my adventures in psychotherapy, we’re going to discuss one of the fears that many clients have experienced. I would like a raise of hands from all of those who fear attachment to, dependency on, and neediness for their therapists.
Yep, just as I had expected – most of you raised your hands. Well, I’d also like a show of hands of those who feel they would rather die than feel dependent on their therapists.
Oh yeah, there we go – almost all of you raised your hands. Isn’t that interesting that many of us fall into a similar avoidance response on this issue?
ATTACHMENT!! DEPENDENCY!! NEEDINESS!!
If you ask the general population what their favorite dirty words are, I would guess they would not choose these three. But, for those of us in therapy, they are among our top dirty words.
Well, I have 3 words for you – GET. OVER. IT.
Yeah, you heard me correctly – just get over it. You see, attachment is critical to the process of healing in psychotherapy. I’ve studied the book, “Attachment in Psychotherapy” by David Wallin. He lays out very specifically why and how the attachment is necessary. For those of you who need concrete rational-brain understanding of why this is so, I highly recommend that you read this book.
So, am I attached to my therapist? You betcha. Am I dependent on her? Dang so. Do I feel needy towards her? Well, let’s imagine our need for oxygen – does that tell you something?
Do I like this feeling? Heck no. Am I comfortable with it? Uh, what do you think? Do I resist it anymore? Yeah, a little but not as much. I am allowing myself to ‘be’ with it and not fight it so much.
I’d felt a lot of anger towards Anne, my therapist about this dependency that I felt towards her. This is what I said to her:
“Anne, I am feeling dependent on you and I HATE that feeling. I blame you for this. You should have known that I might come to this state of mind and you should have prevented it from happening. How could you have allowed me to get into this state?
“You know about my weaknesses and you have exploited them. You should have watched out for me and protected me and steered me in another direction when you first detected the slightest inkling that I might be becoming needy for you.
“Why, why, why did you let me get to this emotional place? You must know how embarrassing and humiliating it feels. This is not right.
“You have to take responsibility for it. It is your fault. What do you have to say for yourself?” I was pretty devastated about this feeling of neediness and that’s why I was able to speak so forcefully. I was feeling distraught.
Anne took my outburst well. She responded in her usual very nice and comforting voice. She explained that attachment is not an ‘evil’ thing. She said that we overemphasize independence in our modern society. We have somehow learned that no one should ever need help from another – that it is a sign of deficiency of moral character if we admit we have needs.
She further explained that we are all dependent on each other in one way or another. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And, in therapy, we are leaning on a guide to help us weave ourselves through the labyrinth of emotions.
And, just like during an earthquake, we reach out to hold on to something stable until the ground stops moving, likewise in therapy, when our emotional ground is unsteady, we hang on to safety with our therapists.
When the dust begins to settle, we can loosen our grip of the support and eventually let go.
I’m happy to report that leaning on Anne helped bring balance to my own unsteadiness and I no longer need her in the same way as when my emotions had been let loose by the initial stages of my deep self-exploration.
More tales appear in the next chapter that will describe some of my continuing adventures in neediness, attachment, and dependency.