Posted by: Marie | April 22, 2010

(297) A perfect partner

Post #297
[Private journal entry written on Sunday, January 3, 2010]

The work I want to do in this upcoming session with Mark involves us touching each other in ways that are not comfortable for me. I know he will not go beyond a certain point – so, I feel safe – uncomfortable, but safe – with the idea of doing what we are planning to do.

I don’t want to do this exercise with anyone other than Mark. Because of our history, I feel he is the perfect partner for this exercise.

He already knows my story, my history. I already know his shortcomings. I trust him completely when it comes to physical boundaries – and, I know he is willing to allow the touch I need in order to do the exercise – some therapists won’t allow any contact beyond a handshake.

However, I worry about him – he might be putting himself at risk. I may not be able to speak up when I need him to stop – that creates a professional liability for him. If I were in his shoes, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable going forward with this exercise. How does he know that I won’t report him or sue him for inappropriate touch? I know I won’t, but how can he know that?

Skyline Drive in Taiwan by Martin Chen

I want to be able to speak up when I am feeling uncomfortable. But, so far, I haven’t learned how to do that.

I learned at a very young age that resistance to obeying household rules and religious/moral dogma would result in severe punishment. After the punishment had been delivered, my dad would tell me that the only way I could be restored to honorability was to do as I was told to do, to believe as I was taught to believe – without question, without resistance. So, I complied with feigned enthusiasm in order to preserve my place in the family.

The heavy-handedness of my dad’s methods of punishment squashed the life out of me. The feigned enthusiasm killed my spirit.

Historically, being close to people has usually required me to feign compliance and/or enthusiasm. To avoid having the life sucked out of my spirit, I have avoided getting too close to people. I have favored shallow relationships as a way to ensure my survival.

So, now I’m attempting to participate in an emotionally intimate relationship despite my fear of being squashed. I’m finding that, once again, I’m feigning compliance in order to survive. I’m afraid I won’t survive speaking out and standing up for myself, especially in relation to physical boundaries.

I don’t know how to address this except by creating a safe “touch” scenario in which I learn, with Mark’s help, how to speak out and protect myself. I just hope the risk to him is not too great.

Today, Mark responded to my last email. His email simply stated:

“The direction we go will be based on you and your lead on Thursday. Let me just ask you to relax. Our meeting will be safe, and we will only walk where you and I feel comfortable in going. I respect your feelings.

“See you Thursday at ten.”

Part of me is concerned that he didn’t read what I wrote, that he just quickly skimmed over it (I did get rather longwinded). Another part of me is comforted by the words contained in his email. This leaves me with mixed feelings about Thursday’s session. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. No need to assume the worst – I’ll know soon enough.

I am glad I gave myself a month between the time we agreed to restart therapy and the date of our first session. When he agreed to see me again, I felt a rush of infatuation. I hate to admit it, but I am desperate for attention and approval from a man – from him – and it feels so good knowing I’ll have his full attention for an hour. I’m just glad I allowed a month for that intense feeling to fade – I know it is not healthy for me to be feeling so attached to him when we are face-to-face in a session.

So, on another tangent . . .

Today, I read a post written by Dr. Gudrun Frerichs in her blog, “Multiple Voices” on why a strong emotional connection between a therapist and client is so key in the healing process, especially when the client has historically withdrawn and isolated as a way to survive. The post helps me understand why I’m feeling such a sense of relief at the idea of going back to Mark – because he provides a space in which I’m “good enough”.


  1. Hi Marie, such is the world of therapy these days – intimacy being discouraged. (I pause to draw a connection between that of your father and professional associations – in kind though not in behaviour).

    Therapists need to decide if they wish to live in this kind of environment. Most of them choose to. (In brief: it’s his problem).

    Looking forward to hearing how the session went (if you want to tell us).

    • Hey, Evan –

      Great point about the risk/problem being on his shoulders, given his choice to use touch in his practice. I hadn’t thought of that.

      So . . . yes, I will be sharing how the session went . . . stay tuned!

      – Marie

  2. I’m confused. what kind of touch are you talking about. It seem inappropriate to me for a therapist to do that. If you trust him, you shouldn’t be afraid of “letting him go too far” because he wouldn’t. I’m just not understanding.

    • Oooo, Ivory . . . great point! I can see how that could be confusing to readers!

      I knew for sure that he would not touch me inappropriately (by general standards), but I was concerned he would touch me in an appropriate but triggering way . . . for example, I might be triggered by him touching me on the shoulder while saying a particular word . . . or by walking towards me too quickly with his arms outstretched for a handshake or hug.

      Because the trigger would be unique to me, he wouldn’t have any way of knowing I was being triggered because I might not be able to tell him or otherwise indicate it to him. Then, he might continue triggering me, or trigger me in a worse way, and not know it.

      Does that make it clearer?

      – Marie

  3. Yes, clearer. Awkward. But now it does make sense.

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