*** Now Available: Attachment to Your Therapist: A Conversation. This series of posts in expanded E-Book form, on Amazon.***
Kori’s beloved therapist is retiring. “Emotionally, well, it feels heart breaking. It obviously triggers many things. I think some of the hardest things are old messages of never depend or count on anyone because you will be left.” She continues: “And feelings of insignificance. I realize that I am a client. I have never shared with my therapist how much she means to me (that would break every rule!). But seeing them walk away and knowing that I just have to be okay with it. That I have to be okay with never seeing or hearing from her again. Knowing that I have to lose a lot. (Prior to this therapist I had never experienced someone so attuned. If felt so odd at first and now it feels terrifying to know that I may never experience it again.)”
I’m so sorry to hear of your pain and anguish. You and several other readers have brought up the difficult subject of termination when you are strongly attached to a good therapist. Thank you for sharing your feelings in as much detail as you have. A big part of the answer is that it just hurts, and if I go on to say more, it is not to minimize the pain that you are going through.
The next thing that jumps out is that, “I have never shared with my therapist how much she means to me” There is no rule that you should not tell your therapist about your feelings, in fact, to the contrary it is extremely important and therapeutic to do just that. Sometimes therapists hold back from telling you about their feelings, but this is not a symmetrical relationship. Your job is to talk about all your feelings because that is how they can heal or be transformed, and grief is one of the most important feelings that you can deal with. By the way, therapists are human, too, and usually do get attached to patients. Saying good bye may not be as traumatic to a therapist, but it can still be sad and painful.
Many readers have talked about the shame that often goes with strong attachment to your therapist. Shame is a sad consequence of trauma. There is no reason to feel ashamed of caring about a person who has been very helpful to you. The reason for the shame is usually that, long ago, a child yearned for closeness with someone who could not or would not give it. Faced with repeated rejection, we naturally internalize the value that to yearn is bad. The conscience then generates feelings of shame every time we find ourselves having longing feelings. (See my post on getting over shame.)
Then there are the reactions like thinking you can never count on anyone. That, too sounds like a defense from long ago against rejection. It is natural to have those thoughts, but the reason for talking about them is that, by bringing them out in the open, you can see that they are not appropriate to the present, and that acting on those kinds of feelings, for example, stopping therapy before you are done, would be a tragedy.
In the end, this is what therapists call “termination.” It is a chance to experience feelings about separations and losses that may not have had a chance to come up before. What is important about going through the process of termination is taking the opportunity to work through all those feelings till they are healed and put in perspective. Only then will you be as ready as you ever will, to say good bye.
See the next post in this series: Will I Ever Get Over My Attachment?