I am writing to you because I am so confused. My therapist, (name omitted) and I ended therapy to start a relationship. After three months though it was having very ill affects on my mental health. I don’t know what to do. I promised I would not get him into trouble, so I don’t want to be a snitch.This feeling is very strong in me and I feel like hurting myself when I think about it. I did write a letter to the AMA, but felt so guilty I wrote another letter later saying to disregard the tape and letter I sent. I am so mixed up and feel that hurting myself to punish myself for lack of self control would be the only thing to help me.Please help, what can I do and still feel okay.
I forbid you to hurt yourself, under any circumstances, and that’s a direct order from me!!! You have had enough suffering and are not allowed to inflict any more pain on yourself. Promise me that if you feel that you can’t control your actions, that you will immediately go the emergency room of your local hospital. No hurting yourself.The fact that you have the urge to punish and hurt yourself means that you are turning a huge amount of rage back on yourself. You are drowning in what we call \superego guilt\ which means that your conscience is hammering on your psyche. I could understand your blaming yourself if you had murdered someone, but to hammer yourself to a pulp because you slept with your therapist is a bit harsh, don’t you think? So you slept with him, so you had an affair. He’s a man and you’re a woman, and you had an affair.I am quite sure that your tendency to beat yourself up emotionally started long before the affair with this therapist. I bet you went to him for help because you were plagued with feelings of depression (another form of anger turned against the self) and guilt.Given the problem that you have, your therapist should have known that it was only a matter of time before you would begin to blame yourself for becoming involved with him.I want you to hear me and hear me good. Your therapist is the one who behaved wrongly. You did nothing wrong. It is not wrong, per se, to become involved with one’s therapist. I know of cases in which patients and doctors have terminated treatment, waited a reasonable amount of time and later became involved with each other.Two things went wrong here: first, it sounds like he became involved with you without waiting an appropriate amount of time; and second he didn’t make sure that an involvement would not put you at psychological risk.I also want you to know that whenever we go into therapy, two things happen–we regress (meaning we become emotionally younger) and we see our therapists as parental figures. Regarding the regression, our minds want us to return to the emotional sticking points of childhood, so that we can heal. So, we regress emotionally, which means the feelings and issues that we struggled with in our early life resurface. And second, since most of us have issues that we need to work-out with our parents, our therapists usually become substitute parents. This means that we develop for our therapists the same intense feelings of love and hate that we felt for our parents.When a therapeutic relationship turns to a romantic one, that is when that relationship moves from the level of talking into the realm of action, oftentimes a great sense of guilt rises up. This is because, to the unconscious mind, it feels like we are doing something very wrong–like having an affair with a parent (remember the therapist becomes a parent to the unconscious mind). I think this is why you are so wigged-out. It feels like you slept with a parent and you feel guilty for not having controlled yourself.Remember, that it is normal to have sexual feelings for our parents. When young, we all dream of becoming our parents’ lovers. Little by little those desires become buried because society says that incest is a no-no. Not because the feelings are wrong, but because enacting the feelings would create social chaos and ultimately destroy the human species.What has you so overwhelmed is that, by having an affair with your therapist, it feels like you slept with a parent. And, this is why you are so overwhelmed with guilt. Keep in mind that even though your therapist represented a parental object, he isn’t actually your parent.And, also keep in mind that you are very angry at him for putting you in this position. Since you have a hard time directing your anger where it belongs, you are blaming yourself instead.So, instead of being mad at yourself, try being mad at him for not being more responsible. I’m not saying you have to act on your feelings of anger toward him. Just know how you feel and allow the feelings to surface. Simply access your anger and you the self-destructive thoughts will lift.At this time, you need to return to therapy and work on this pattern of turning anger back on yourself (self-blame, suicidal thoughts, etc.). You must be helped to find your feelings of anger and direct them where they belong–meaning off of yourself.Know that the tendency to turn anger back on the self is a common problem that many of us suffer. We learn first to swallow our anger when we are young children. This is called the narcissistic defense.Young children universally turn anger back on themselves for one main reason: They don’t know the difference between thoughts, feelings and actions, so they think that if they allow themselves to feel rage toward their parents that their parents will die. So, the child learns to turn rage back on the self instead, in order to protect their parents.Many people remain stuck at this stage and haven’t learned that they can separate thinking feeling and doing. The involvement with your therapist has blurred the boundaries between thinking, feeling and doing even more, so no wonder you’re confused.In therapy you need to learn that you can think and feel whatever you wish, without acting. You can be filled with murderous rage and wildly sexual desires. And, you need to know that your feelings are not dangerous. So long as you don’t act on them, you’re safe.You need to return to therapy and work on these issues–allowing yourself to have all your feelings, and redirecting your anger off of yourself.For heaven’s sake stop blaming yourself. You are fine.