Be careful of therapists endowed with mystique
Date: August 13, 2014 02:30AM
I have consulted a number of therapists over the years.
The only such alliance that generated grave problems and the only one I had
trouble disentangling (the 'therapist' actually begged me to stay as I
marched forth from the room) -- this problematic
alliance had features that the other therapy contracts did not have.
Those two features were:
Referral by a friend who saw this same therapist.
Mystique. This friend did not merely appreciate the therapist, but venerated the therapist. She seemed to 'get high' or 'get off' when talking about him. This was different from the usual range of emotion most have when they are
glad to have forged a safe and helpful 'working alliance.'
My friend described X as "not just a therapist but a healer". (Imagine the word healer being put in italics for emphasis. Add in the subtleties of body language.)
This friend also stated off handedly that this therapist followed a particular
esoteric path, one not well known at the time. What literature was readily available was sentimental, appleaingly exotic. All very sentimental, likely to repel hard headed analytical types -- exactly those persons who ruin carefully crafted "mood - scapes" by by saying, "This stuff reminds me of the theosophical stuff and the Ascended Masters stuff that was popular back in the 1930s.
Even the same dreamy color schemes are used. Why are you enslaving yourselves to someone who is teaching a mish mash of other people's old tired left - overs?"
In short, this therapist and the persons affiliations possessed mystery and mystique from sources that could not be easily fact checked. As mentioned earlier, hard headed types usually gag at sentimental stuff and dont stay around long enough to research it.
And most who were interested in this material were and are persons in search of warmth, fellowship and beauty--not inclined to fact check, especially if glad to have found relief. Persons who are vulnerable - and likely to feel quite angry if a true friend attempts to warn them.
Back to The Situation.
Due to nonverbal subtleties, this friend made it seem that Therapist X's spiritual cachet made X not just better than other therapists but nonverbally
implied X was somehow greater than other therapists.
Implication is conveyed nonverbally. The lack of precision leaves room
for nonverbal imagination -- and for unconscious fantasy to drift in and
weave its trance.
And...this can condense without anyone intending to do so. There are depths
to communication we cannot be aware of, especially when young and when in crisis
and that time I was both.
So, because my friend had mentioned this therapist in such a manner, stuff in my own unconscious moved about. The therapist was endowed with mystique.
Without my understanding what was going on, I constellated and condensed a substantial unconscious transferance (aka 'baggage') around this therapist before I even had a first appointment. And in those days I was apt to have
a bad night's sleep prior to an important appointment. So I may have tottered
in to that first appointment with some sleep deprivation.
* I loved my friend, my friend said this person had helped her. So, I was ready to have positive feelings toward someone who had, via my friend's testimony,
* The person was supposedly more than a therapist, but a 'healer'. I was too
young, too much in crisis, and at that time, too messed up to ponder
that there is no need to make a distinction between 'therapist' and 'healer'.
A good therapist will heal. But.. in a good therapeutic alliance, healing is
a two way exchange. To say someone is 'not just a therapist but a healer'
subtly conveys that the person is something beyond the ordinary run of therapists.
Without perhaps being at all aware of it, my friend was using a preframe.
And...triggering a fantasy that all of us have, especially when in crisis.
A fantasy of some magical parent type figure who can pour surplus mojo into
our lives and vitalize us, possibly even transform us.
So when I had that first appointment, it was not quite a first appointment.
Unlike all the other therapists I had consulted, this one was endowed with
mystique due to my friend's testimony.
This therapist turned out to function as a kind of mini guru and without my
full awareness, I allowed the person to become a sort of moral arbiter for me,
not merely a therapist.
And because of the mystique factor, I made many more allowances for incongruities than I might otherwise have done.
During all those years, the mystique factor kept me from ever reviewing the
code of ethics that governed this therapist's profession.
Two, I did not recognize it as an incongruity when my friend sort of bragged
that this therapist 'fired people.'
A therapist is NEVER supposed to cut people loose without ensuring they are
referred to someone competant. An ethical therapist doenst just kick people to the curb and anyone doing so should be reported.
But...I was young and not aware of this. Instead I felt scared I would be fired, too. Because my friend endowed this person with mystique, I unconsciously assumed X operated by rules different from those that applied
to 'ordinary' therapists.
Lesson: beware if someone 'builds up' a therapist as someone special, someone
to whom the ordinary rules dont apply, someone who is more than an 'ordinary'
Too often, the aura of specialness and mystique can be used and abused
to justify boundary violations.
And...specialness and mystique can be used for narcissistic purposes --
to give a feeling of being 'high' of 'specialness' of being 'in on something.'
Drug users have been known to create an aura of elitism around their drug
of choice and each other.
Back in the day, the Acid Test, doing LSD, was a sort of intiation, and
those who Did It felt themselves special, even superior. Keith Richards, in
his autobiography was not shy about drugs himself but was put off by the
elitism around psychedelics. He commented that Ken Kesey had a lot to answer for.
In Turning East, Harvey Cox wrote sadly of how a cherished friendship
ended when his friend used LSD during the early days at Harvard and then
turned into a tiresome pest, nagging Cox to take the drug and reducing every topic of conversation to being 'a trip' or directing everything back to
One former junkie had a tattoo on his arm depicting a syringe. He was disgusted with himself. "I was so proud to be a dope fiend I went and got that tat. Its
now driving me crazy because it reminds me of the habit."
People once were arrogant about shared usage of mind expanding drugs.
One can transfer this kind of elitist mind tripping from a drug culture/head trip to a shared thrill with a guru or a therapist who is supposedly so much more than all the other therapists.
Ullman and Paul call this Addictive Trigger Mechanisms (ATMS).
In their work, Narcissus in Wonderland :The Self Psychology of Addiction and its Treatment, note that the process of addiction is a type of self trance tied
to the addictive trigger mechanism.
Some get off using a drug and its associated usage rituals as the ATM.
Others transfer this and use a mystique ridden therapist or guru and rituals
around them as the ATM.
Some may think they've freed themselves from drugs by tranferring adoration
and service from a drug to a guru.
But it is still addiction and still servitude.
The mark of an active addiction is if you remain willing to lie to yourself
and the outside world to conceal this devotion.
If you lie to self and others -- its not therapy and it isnt spirituality, either.
And underneath lying is fear.
Therapy and spirituality heal fear. They should never breed additional fears and secrets where none existed before.
No amount of beauty, sweetness or lucrative connections or rock star connections can compensate if one is stuck with a new burden of fears.
And of feeling afraid to stray too far from the bliss dealer -- or fear
of being 'fired' or excluded from the bliss peddler.
This isnt therapy.
Too many take up addictions due to mystique.
And mystique runs counter to the sobriety and humility that is the mark
of anything and anyone truly therapeutic.
And therapy or a therapist's circle should never, but ever take on
an elitist tinge, either.
The caste system has done and still does terrible damage in India and other
places influenced by caste.
In the US, we are facing a disparity in the distribution of wealth unequalled
since the late 19th century robber baron era.
The last thing needed is a neo Brahmin elite of spiritual 1 percenters.
So, do not make a final decision about a therapist after just one appointkent.
You may need several sessions to get a take on whether the two of you have a good background for a working alliance.
And as recommended in other posts, each six months, and each year, review your goals for therapy and see if these are being met.
Is there any mission creep?
Are your goals precise enough to know you are getting ready to graduate?
Self Mastery or peace of mind are such vague goals you will never get out of therapy. If you are rich, thats OK, but not if your funds are limited.
And discuss matters with friends. They may clue in when something is amiss.
Above all, never keep secrets for your therapist.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/13/2014 03:05AM by corboy.