I am feeling frustrated in therapy again. I feel like therapy helps when I am able to talk about things with M, particularly the first time I discuss something. I’m not sure what is supposed to happen next but what usually happens is I stop talking, feel like M isn’t understanding how difficult it is for me, I get angry at M and at therapy, and then the rupture. So if I try to describe it I am hoping someone will tell me where I go wrong. Is is that I give up talking about it too soon? Is it that I have unrealistic expectations about what therapy can do so I’m always disappointed by it? or something else.
I have an infected tooth that is going to required a root canal and crown. I have had several of these before and I always go to the same specialist for the root canal. During my appointment he asks me why I haven’t had a different tooth extracted (which was his recommendation). I tell him that the oral surgeon wouldn’t extract the tooth unless I was willing to start the long and expensive process of getting an implant (9 months and between $5000 and $6000). I say I can’t afford that. He asks about my insurance and I explain that it has an annual limit of $1500). He says he understands and tells me he will write the surgeon saying I need the tooth extracted even if I do not get an implant. He then examines the current tooth and tells me it needs a root canal. He walks me to his business officer so I can book an appointment and says something to her I don’t hear. The business officer tells me that the root canal costs $1535 total but the dentist is waiving his exam fee today of $150. I get very upset and start crying. I find it very upsetting when someone gives me money or a discount on a fee like this. I feel like I owe them and that is really bad. I don’t mind borrowing money or negotiating a lower fee or when someone says if you buy two of those I will give you 10% off the price. It is being given things that upsets me. I’ve stopped seeing professionals after they have done that for me because I find it so difficult to face them again. I know I have a problem with this.
Last week – session 1:
I tell M about what happened at the dentist and how I started crying in front of the business officer. I tell him how awful I feel. M asks me if I can discuss my feelings with my dentist and tell him I would like to pay the full fee (which I am not sure is what I want, … really I want to stop feeling bad about it.) M suggests I don’t feel worthy and I would have been uncomfortable about any gesture the dentist made that was more than I expected. I said no, it is about the money. In the past, this same dentist has called me at home in the evening after a difficult appointment, left his cell phone number, answered my call while he was out to dinner, and another time gave me his number so I could contact him over a holiday weekend if I needed him. At the time I appreciated his concern.
After the session:
I thought more about the issue and started to feel really bad that I was okay with the dentist giving me his personal numbers or that I called him when he was at dinner. I feel guilty. I think about other times I’ve been uncomfortable with people buying me something or giving me a gift even with friends. I also start thinking about a couple of awkward situations that involve money and M that I’ve never discussed with him but have bothered me.
I tell M about my realizations about feeling uncomfortable with a lot of things but how money is especially triggering. We discuss how it relates to my childhood. When I was a child my brother paid me in quarters and candy for sex acts (at least I remember him promising me them I don’t remember him paying me). I express frustration because I understand that makes the issue of payment complicated for me but I also understand that I professional giving me a discount is not expecting sex or a friend paying for my coffee is not going to say “now you have to do something for me.” I still feel really bad though. M says that understanding doesn’t make the feelings disappear. I want to know what will and he says continuing to talk about it. I tell him about one of the awkward situations involving him and money. Several years ago (about 5), I showed M some pictures of me on my iPad. M came and sat beside me on the couch while I did and then went back to his chair. At the end of the session, I found some change on the couch and said this probably fell out of my purse. I scooped it up and put it in my wallet without really looking at it or counting it. All of a sudden I remembered he had been sitting on the couch and it was more likely change that fell out of his pockets and I said so. He reached into his pocket and said probably. I start to take out my wallet saying I’m not sure how much it was and he says forget it. M says he remembers the pictures but not the change. I say “of course not you aren’t crazy” M tells me I’m not crazy I have reasons to be hyper-vigilant.
When it first happened I couldn’t forget about it. I obsessed about it. How much money was it? (a handful of change but we have dollar and two dollar coins so $3) Does he think I took his money on purpose? How could I return it? Should I leave it in his outer office? what if someone else takes it? what if he doesn’t realize it is from me and that I’ve returned his change? should I try to do it to his face? After my first session last week I was right back to obsessing over it. After the session I send M and email telling him about my obsessive thoughts.
This week – session 1:
M asks me more about my obsessive thoughts about the change incident but I have difficulty telling him more. He doesn’t seem to understand why I am so bothered by it. I wonder if he thinks I should give him some money for the change (like he suggested I pay the dentist). I don’t know what I am expecting but I feel like I am not really getting a response from him about this issue. I also have no idea how embarrassing myself by telling him about this is going to help me resolve my feelings around the issue of money and gifts. I start to get frustrated with M. He seems to be saying that this is how I feel and I can’t change how I feel. He says I need to have some compassion for myself. I feel like I do but that doesn’t help. Nothing helps, I told him something that has bothered me in the past and it didn’t make a difference except I feel stupid and that he knows how stupid I am again. I feel like therapy isn’t working because M isn’t doing anything. By the end of the session I am saying very little and feelings upset.
After the session
I realize that once again, I wanted M to do something to make me feel better but he didn’t because that isn’t what therapy is about. He doesn’t try to make me feel better. He doesn’t say anything about the change because it isn’t an issue to him. He won’t say I am not worried about the money or you aren’t worthless or anything I can interpret as him caring because he never does. I’m just angry because I want him to but I know he won’t so it is just wasted anger. I leave him a message telling him I feel sad that I feel this way and that I do have some compassion for myself that this is so difficult and painful for me but nothing changes and I still feel sad.
Session 2 (tonight):
M asks me if he understood my message and if his email response made sense to me. I don’t say much. He asks me how I feel. I don’t feel much. I tell him I don’t want to talk and I think it is because I don’t want to get upset. He asks me if I think I get upset because I talk to him about things or if I get upset anyway. I am frustrated because I understand I get upset by things other than therapy, the triggering event had nothing to do with therapy. Eventually I tell him talking about upsetting things leads to me being upset at him, that I get angry that all he can do is tell me that I feel the way I feel and I can’t change it so I must have compassion for myself. I think he should do something but even while I’m angry I know it isn’t his fault so why talk about the anger. So I feel stuck and I don’t want to talk about this anymore, which leads to me not wanting to talk about any of the other potentially stuck issues in my life, which means we are sitting in silence again and I’m crying. M says I keep hearing that my feelings can’t change but that isn’t what he says. He says if I keep talking about my feelings and my experience that will make a difference. I say I can’t do that . He says I did do it before. I leave and now I’m wondering what am I supposed to do.