Negative Transference

“Danielle, I’m not your father.”  I buried my head in my knees and whispered, “I know.”

My therapist isn’t my father, but I wished she was.  I wanted her to be the parts of him I missed.  I needed someone to replace everything I had lost and make it all stop hurting.  She was that for me, but the transference came at a cost. I didn’t mean to make her into my father, I didn’t mean to play out that relationship with her, but it seemed to unfold itself naturally.

“I’m sorry Danielle.  I know I’m pushing really hard.”  I bit back tears and tried hard not to dissociate.  Why did her questions have to hurt so much?  Why was she forcing me back here?  I already hurt enough, I couldn’t do this.  I remember very earnestly believing that she must get sadistic pleasure out of my pain, why else would she want to do this for a living.  It spoke very strongly of the world I had been subjected to.  I couldn’t imagine that her heart came from a good place and that she truly cared. And so began the negative transference.

I’d curl up into a ball on her couch and try to make myself as small as I could.  “How old do you feel right now?”  I could never tell her that, not out loud. But four, I felt like I was four.  My heart would race the entire session and I’d sit as far away from her as I could.  She’d ask that one question that hit home hard and I’d pick up a pillow, bury my head into my lap, and force myself to hold it together.  “No Dani, please don’t hide from me.”  Why did she always want me to look at her when everything felt so raw?  I’d never be able to stem the flow of tears if I looked at her. I always felt like a scared little girl inside the walls of that office, but for some reason, I never wanted to leave either.

EMDR was hard because suddenly I realized I needed her.  I recognized that I couldn’t always hold the feelings on my own.  I’d get overwhelmed, my body would go into freeze response and I couldn’t move anything or speak, my first full-out flashback happened sitting right in front of her.  She never left my side, but I was so scared she would.  I was terrified that I’d get overwhelmed and not be able to handle it but that she would sit back and insist I could handle it on my own.  She’d sit in front of me but it wasn’t her that I saw there, it was my dad.  I resented having to trust her.  On one hand I felt so needy and clingy.  Such a big part of me wanted her to hold me, to give me the comfort I needed.  But another part of me was so angry and so scared of that dependency.  It was such a mixed up place to be.

Everytime I got scared, she was right there catching me, refusing to let me fall. She’s the first person I’ve ever had to depend on.  She proved time and time again that she wasn’t going anywhere.  She wasn’t my dad and  I was safe.  EMDR was the first time I saw a really soft side to her. I remember her words of encouragement “I know this is really hard, you’re doing great.”  Her reminders to “step back from it”  when she saw me getting emotional.  The gentleness that was there when I whispered the worst that has ever happened to me.  And her pulling me through terrifying flashbacks.

I think most of the negative transference in our relationship has disappeared.  It took both of us becoming aware of it and making some changes.  I hated those changes at first, and sometimes I still don’t like it.  But for the first time I realize that I’m not afraid of her anymore.  I feel completely okay depending on her.  I recognize that she cares and that she honestly doesn’t want or mean to hurt me.  She’s trying to teach me how to take control over the things that have ruled my life.  She’s gone back and taught me the emotional skills that I should have learned as a child, and I owe her so much for it.


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