Before I get to the confrontation I thought I would do a quick review of the events that lead up to it:
- July 9th I got mad at how Igor interpreted the Dave Eggers dream. I was sure he was saying that he thought I should give up writing.
- Two weeks ago I got mad at him for bringing up his sister who hated L.A. and moved to France and her adopted baby and talking about He-weasel’s job instead of me.
- Last Thursday I saw him and brought in the bulldozer dream and he didn’t seem to get it. And, as I felt weak, hurt and pretty fragmented I did not confront him or tell me how I really felt—and told him I was going to go on an extended vacation.
- Friday night I dreamt that I went to my old hairdresser that ruined my hair and who had a bit of a crush on me. The old hairdresser wasn’t happy to see me which seemed odd to me. He cut my hair. He cut it so short that it was above my ears. I was furious. I told him I was not leaving until he fixed it. I told him he had to put on extensions and make it right.
The bulldozer dream seemed to say that what was productive had become destructive and that anger was the best course of action. I got angry. I wrote about my anger here and I went and told him about it( flipping him off, so to speak). The last dream with the haircut gone wrong once I saw the damage I refused to leave. Each dream has a different course of action in regards to Igor.
The haircut dream and your comments made me feel that I needed to not just cut off from Igor. Rather, because of the bad cut I needed to extend it and have things made right and not just flip him off and walk away. As many of you kindly counseled, it is important to let him know how I feel. Freida Bee, MD said…Ok, Belette. I do not know whether you should break up with Igor or not, but I do do do think you should tell him how you are feeling in an attempt to resolve this before you break up. It may be the most valuable part of your therapy.
By Saturday morning I knew I had to see him again. I had to tell him how exactly I felt and how he had been pissing me off. As Linda said, “In the end, you need to talk to him, before you tell him to fuck off…in my opinion, it would be good to tell him every single thing you can remember he said, and how it made you feel and find out specifically what the meaning is behind some of the strangeness.” “Go back and explain how he made you feel – noting that these feelings, generated by his stories, are not what your expectations are.”
I have seen Igor for nine months and feel like we have done a lot of good work and it just seemed wrong to leave without telling him what I was feeling. K-line said, “I do think Igor has participated with you in some fantastic self-development. Occasionally, I have been blown away by his insights…..Is it also possible that he was just having a really off day and wasn’t using his best professional demeanour? (to put it mildly).”
As Seraphine said, “relationships should be easy at least 90% of the time.” By that measure Igor and I have a great relationship.
Imogen really hit the point home when she said: “I’m glad you didn’t break up with He-Weasel first disagreement you had (I’m assuming you’ve had a disagreement or two)“. Oooh, yeah, that really got to me. Imogen is right. This is the first disagreement I have had with Igor. And doesn’t every relationship have a disagreement or two—even my relationship with He-weasel has had a few.
I called Igor first thing Monday morning to schedule an appointment with him for 4:15 that day. Between the time I called him and saw him I read and reread all of your comments and I was enormously comforted by them. I read them aloud to He-weasel and he said, “I wouldn’t want to be in Igor’s shoes right now. There’s nothing more protective or fierce than Belette blog readers.” He-weasel was deeply touched by the generous outpouring of support I received from all of you.
I got to Igor’s office an hour early. It was far too hot to sit outside at a cafe and write in my journal. His waiting room was also not an option as it is not air conditioned and I can tell you that it is not a gross hyperbole to compare it to a Native American sweat lodge. I didn’t have the spiritual strength to endure the sweat lodge so I walked over to David’s Shoes and tried on several pair of sandals as a means of time killing. First I tried a pair of Donald Pliner mules that I liked but weren’t very practical or comfortable. Next I tried a pair of Michael Kors high heeled thongs that I really liked and finally a pair of Amalfi black patent sandals with a two tone heel. The Amalfi sandals won out as they were 50% off, cute and very comfortable. That took all of 15 minutes and I was back to the sweat lodge with new shoes in hand.
I couldn’t take the heat so I stood in the doorway waiting for 4:10 to arrive. When 4:10 did come I went into his office and he immediately came out to greet me. He looked especially chipper and happy to see me, which only made me feel worse. I was nervous, in fact I was so nervous about confronting him that I had to take something for anxiety just to get myself to do it. Once I began to speak I did a whole lot of disclaiming, “I am not an angry person. I hate doing this. I don’t blame you. I am sorry. I want you to know that just because I am angry it doesn’t mean I don’t like you.” I went on and on with disclaimer after disclaimer. At one point I went as far as asking him if he wanted me to leave. He asked me, before I began reading the charges against him, where I had learned that if you are angry at someone they will hate you or reify you and not see you as a whole object but will instead forever hold it against you. I really didn’t have an answer for him.
After I cycled through my disclaimers another time I timidly read the charges against him that I had documented in my diary.
“#1) Your interpretation of the Dave Eggers dream followed by you asking me about going back to work seems to indicate that you think I should give up writing.”
As soon as I said it out loud it sounded ridiculous and in that moment I knew it wasn’t true.
I moved onto the second charge.
“#2) As soon as you heard about New Jersey and that we might be moving there it was as if you abandoned me and no longer cared about me or took our work seriously. It was as if I was no longer your patient and so you spent the session talking about He-weasel’s job and then when I told you the baguette dream you told me about your sister in France who adopted a baby. That seemed sadistic. It seemed as if you were trying to depress me.”
“I would have to be a mean shit to do something like that? Wouldn’t I?” Igor asked.
I thought of what PenNolan said: “I doubt he’s self-absorbed and mean.” PenNolan is right.
He’s not. I know he cares about me. I don’t believe for a second that
he intentionally tried to hurt me. I really don’t.
I explained that I felt as if he hadn’t taken the Whole Foods/baguette dream seriously. His interpretation was all about him. I felt that he missed something fundamental about me and that the dream was saying that too. As Chittychat said, “The feelings a dream evokes are meant to be a really important part of the meaning of that dream. As the baguette dream left you feeling upset and misunderstood, it would seem that Igor probably is currently failing to understand your surface (or maybe top) issues and resources (a guess as to what the whole foods really are) let alone address your deeper resources. His rudeness in disclosing his sister’s personal situation and then ignoring your obvious anguish, is shameful. ”
Or as Linda said: “Perhaps he thinks your dream meant you don’t think you are getting your money’s worth, so are bringing something of MORE( the groceries) worth in terms of real cash, and so he is taking a weird tangent OR he was really thrown by it all, your frankness and the sexual undertones too, and just didn’t know what to do for the session…I don’t get the self-disclosure at all…“
I wish I had been as articulate as Chittycat or Linda had been. I was much less so. I said simply, “It really hurt and felt cruel that you would bring up your sister. And, I just don’t feel like you are getting something basic about me. The Whole Foods dream said as much. I understand that there are times when self disclosure is clinically important but in this case it just felt cruel and inappropriate.”
He said something in response to my charge but it was not the kind of apology I had hoped for—-in fact it was not an apology at all. He said stuff about him bumbling through the session and how his unconscious had been in the room and something about there being two Belettes. One Belette is strong, funny, and loves spontaneity. The other Belette is very vulnerable. Igor said, “I forgot for a moment about the second Belette.”
I knew what he was saying but what I wanted him to say that he did not is “I am sorry.” I waited through the session as we talked about my hurt, pain, the loss and the grief I felt because I felt I could no longer trust him or work with him.
“I feel like I am going backwards” I explained, “the last two weeks I have felt like I am back where I was before we started working together. I didn’t realize until you failed me how much hope you carry for me. You carry the hope that I can get over my baby grief; hope that I can find a home; hope that I will finish my book; hope that I can heal the sensitivity that prevents me from sending my work out. I feel like I lost all of that hope last Thursday.”
“No wonder it feels so frightening and dangerous—and that you are so anxious. You were cut off from the little hope you had.”
Tears came against my will.
Half way through the session the power went out in Igor’s building. No A/C , fan or lights. We sat in darkness and heat and attempted to find a connection that had been cut off.
Igor talked about a lot of things in response to my charges and I could tell that he was able to take my anger and still continue to care about me. I could feel that. But, I did finding myself wanting more. I wanted him to apologize.
When my 5o minutes were up Igor asked me, “Will you be back on Thursday?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s okay. There is time between now and Thursday. But I hope that you do.”
Igor got up from his chair when I stood to leave and he hugged me. He hugged me not like a man, or a friend, a father or even as a therapist. He hugged me like a bear. There was a strength to his hug that said things that he didn’t say in the session but that were transmitted through the fierceness of his embrace and the quiet instructions he whispered in my ear, “take care of yourself.” I tried to nod in affirmation but I was paralyzed by the intensity of his grip.
I struggled between my feelings of anger, disappointment with his lack of a direct apology and the certainty that he cares and that he has helped me a lot and that I trust him and I can feel the fierceness of concern in the residue of the embrace. I felt conflicted and unsure whether I would be returning and whether this would be the last time I ever saw him.
I scanned the room trying to take in every book, every tchotchke, and detail that I had never taken the time to consider. It seemed important to memorize the heights of the stacks, the weaves of the carpet and the ephemera of his outer life: keys and sunglasses that sit on his desk. I stared at his face as he spoke to me hoping that if I focused hard enough I could remember what he looks like, when I leave.
I left Igor’s office and walked out into the dark hallway. I made a sound to indicate my surprise by the darkness. I noticed in me a wish that Igor would have come to my rescue, that he would have anticipated the darkness and walked me to the stairwell to make sure I was alright. He didn’t. I found my way out on my own.
Things I am sure of after seeing him:
a) He is not cruel or sadistic.
b) He doesn’t think I should quit writing.
c) He did not make up an imaginary sister.
d) He did not say the things about his sister to intentionally hurt me or provoke me.
e) He can take my anger and that is important. As, Where to from here? shared,
“From my own experience in therapy being angry with the therapist is a vital part of the process. In my last bout of therapy with a male therapist – I felt I’d made an enormous break through as he was the only one (of four over the years) that I could actually express my anger to. Igor is bound to get things wrong – he’s human and a man too.”
f) It was good for me to confront him.
g) I don’t want to work with someone else. Finding a good therapist is harder than the needle in a haystack or a non-acting waiter in L.A.
h) All of my upsets with Igor have brought some very important issues to the fore. As the ever wise Wendy B said “It seems like all of this is bringing up key issues. Is that part of the treatment or just unnecessary annoyance? Could you make progress from this? All progress is painful (that’s why I try to avoid progressing). If he really is pushing you forward, does it matter if you like the way he’s doing it? Would you dislike the way anyone was pushing you forward because you don’t want to confront those things? Again, I don’t know….since I am not there and not you. He could just be an asshole. But I wonder because you have seemed to have a lot of success with him and I didn’t get the impression he was an asshole before.”
i) He gives great hugs.
j) He is not an asshole.
k) I would miss him if I quit.
Even though I know all that, I also know I want the apology. I will ask for it on Thursday and see what happens. Even if I don’t get the kind of apology I want I wonder if there is a way I can continue to work with him. Wendy asked me, “What if he will never take as much responsibility as you would like him to? Will that actually help you with learning to cope with the situations over which you have no control, and is the fact that his behavior won’t change a moot point? Or is it abusive? I really have no idea at all. I guess “go with your gut” is the best plan.”
My gut is of two minds and until my gut has made up its mind I don’t have to make a decision. There is no hurry. I am in the dark for no
w and I will find my way out of it.