I have worked for many years in a private practice setting in various degrees from full time to part time. In this setting most of the clients I get to see I know very little or nothing about until they walk in the door and start speaking. As you can imagine in the first session, one (the therapist) is incorporating as much information as one can about the client and then adjusting one’s diagnosis, expectations and most importantly the way one relates to the client.
This happened the other day in a pronounced way for me. A 30 year old woman who initially presented well. As the interview went on it became more obvious that her thinking as very fragile. Her Adult ego state on the surface appeared robust but as one heard her talk more it became obvious that it wasn’t.
As I discovered more about her I could literally feel myself sink into my chair more so. I realised that one had to be much more gentle with her than the average person. So instead of being more upfront and direct with her, as I said I could literally feel myself sink into the chair and be more patient with her and accepting of any unhealthy views she may be expressing. I needed to play the game with her more than confront any games that became obvious. But the sinking into the chair was out of my awareness. Not something I consciously decided to do but just automatically happened inside me, and which I experienced.
Do I contort and distort myself to fit with others so eventually I forget who I am?
This type of reaction on my behalf has always concerned me, because I feel I am becoming amoeba like. When I am a therapist, I automatically adjust myself to fit with the client like a chameleon would. But I don’t want to be an amoeba or a chameleon, it is such a powerless positions to take.
The who I am, or the core of my personality is lost and simply unconsciously adjusts itself to fit with the person sitting in front of me at that time. If one is a therapist for a long time maybe that has a permanent effect on you. When in my non work life, I go out and meet people maybe I start doing the same thing and become chameleon like.
If that happens then I don’t want it to. It is a meek and insipid way to be. I am no longer being who I am but just become this unconscious reaction to other people I meet. No! I want to know and understand who I am and then be it in my relationships with others. Maybe by being a therapist for so long one looses that sense of who I am, in this way, at least to some degree.
It’s like the two person psychology and the idea of co creation they are based on a philosophy of no individual personal power. One isn’t who they are as an individual, instead one just becomes part of relationship and is powerless to be the core of who they are. Have I become like that because I have spent so many years as a therapist adjusting myself to be a certain way for the psychological benefit of the client? That I start to forget who the real me as an individual is?
There is some untangling to do there. I think you are identifying with consciousness and choice. Perhaps your actions out of awareness are also ‘you’.
We do sometimes lose a sense of who we are when we engage with an object or person. I don’t see this as a problem.
Hi Evan, I would say I feel it more of a concern than a problem. I have never had anyone say anything to me about it but I do wonder if there has been some level of subtle change over time. It stands to reason that there could have been as it seems fairly human for that to happen.