Many times in our life we are hurt by others. We have relationships that are unfulfilling. We don’t feel heard. We feel it’s one sided. We don’t express how we feel. We feel taken advantage of. We feel misunderstood. We feel rejected. This is the nature of human relationships. And very often, the therapeutic relationship tends to bring up these feelings we experience in our outside relationships. And more often than not, when this happens, as in our lives, the therapy or relationship ends. It is so much easier for us to avoid and move on then to communicate our feelings. Why is this?
What would it be like for us to voice our feelings about what is not working in the relationship openly with the other person? Why is it so hard for us to do this? Most of the times we tend to fear that a confrontation could turn into an argument, so we choose not to do so. We are often told to pick our battles or that we can’t change others’ behavior. We often maintain relationships despite our hurts, and with each disappointment we create a little more distance. If the pain experienced is significant enough, it can end the relationship. And sometimes this happens without even trying to discuss whatever went wrong or what felt bad. We would rather end a friendship or relationship than work past our fears by showing our vulnerability. How sad is this? No wonder we tend to feel lonely, isolated, and misunderstood by others.
So you can see how this might play out in a therapeutic relationship. Maybe there is something that you are not getting from your therapist, or feeling ambivalent about being in the therapeutic relationship for whatever reason. Instead of discussing one’s feelings with their therapist, the tendency is to miss appointments, cancel appointments, not show for appointments, or to terminate the therapy altogether for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with your experience.
I would like to invite you to do the uncomfortable and scary, and have a conversation with your therapist about your feelings. To share your disappointments or hurt in a safe and nurturing environment can be a reparative experience. I believe this conversation could be incredibly healing and empowering. It will not only help your relationship between you and your therapist, but the experience can make it easier for you to do so in your own life. With this honesty and openness, we will have deeper, richer, and more meaningful relationships. And at the end of the day, that connection with others is what we are all striving to attain.
Nicole Wegweiser, LCSW