Monday, May 29, 2017

Addendum to a progress note


Question of the moment: If a client is nearly dying (chronically suicidal) because she has never detached in any way – emotionally, developmentally, behaviorally, geographically – from her unloving, torturous and incessantly denigrating parents, is it sensible therapy to ask her to consider that she might have to give up on them? The client believes, in her lifelong bunker of misery, that the only surcease will be if they let her go, not if she lets them go: She has no power to do that. We have worked deep, maybe too deep, into this. I suggested that even if her parents did come clean and state their real feeling – or actually, the feelings she believes they must have – “We don’t love you, we let you go” – this would be a false epiphany: Her parents are so dumb and blind and repressed that they cannot know the truth of their real feelings. Their reality would be in their “inner” child – hurt, bitter, needing love. That corrupt state doesn’t grow into lack of love for their daughter. It grows into lack of all love, any kind at all. So the young woman would hear an abandonment that was the final knife in her soul but that wasn’t even real.

Such a question! I was so certain about this that I had to allow a “logical” contradiction to it – “Other therapists may tell you that somewhere deep inside them, your parents do love you. They just may never know how to show it.” Would this be right? To be encouraged to believe something that was belied by every feeling and sensation in her, every behavior – past to now – in her abortive, solipsistic and passively homicidal parents? Recently, her mother smirked as she said, “I had an abortion before I had you.” The clear message my client heard: I would rather kill babies than be your mother.

I know one therapy – Levenkron’s “nurturant-authoritative” approach – which claims to “re-parent” many young adolescents who have detached – anorectically, obsessive-compulsively or self-injuriously – from their parents. How blasĂ© and fabulous! In a moment of deep care, impulsively, I had offered to be my client’s “father.” This struck her in a terrible way, as craved but impossible. When I said it, she must have had the feeling of all that loss telescoped into a moment, and an impossible moving on. The offer continues to float in the air above us. But it would take a breakdown to accept it. Would it be sensible therapy to work toward that?

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.