Friday, July 17, 2009

Dynamics of human ownership

What I like about doing relational psychotherapy is one can think about self all day long. I don't have to focus on the client but on myself and my narcissism can bask in all its glory.

This type of therapy is described above. The client does and says various things (1) and the therapist has his unconscious and automatic reactions to that(2). In this type of therapy the therapists focuses on his own reactions to the client rather than observing the client directly(3). The therapist observes the client through his own unconscious and intuitive reactions hence my comment about the therapist spending his working hours gazing at his own navel rather than observing the client.

However I am really missing the point of this post. I had an interesting unconscious reaction to a client recently. This woman came to see me for the first time a few months ago. I had met her before at various workshop, meetings and so forth. I knew she had seen a number of therapists before so she was by no means a novice client or a person who had never been counselled before.

One of my first reactions to her was one of disquiet. I felt she was presenting as a client and for some reason I felt dislike of this. I found her interesting but there was something about her that I didn’t like. This troubled me for a while because I could not understand why. Everyone who seeks my counsel presents as a client but there was something different here. The words that kept coming into my mind was, “She is being a client”. I felt that she was not being ‘real’ with me in that sense. I was getting all the right words that clients say as she knew them well. It was like there was a bit missing.

I did not say anything to her at the time but I have since expressed to her my original disquiet in reaction to her. Her response to this was one of relief. She stated that her husband had at one point said a similar sort of thing to her.

The Pitts. Being real?

This led to an interesting discussion about her relationship with her mother when she was a child. Here is a list of the usual parenting styles that one hears clients report.

The authoritarian parent which uses mainly Critical Parent ego state.

The smothering or doting parent who uses mainly the Rescuing Parent ego state.

The permissive Parent who does not use any Parent ego state and relates to the child as its friend or associate.

The Adult ego state parent which is ‘parenting by the book’. When mother has to discipline the child she consults the expert’s book on discipline, or when she has to do toilet training or deal with adolescent rebellion she gets out the parenting manual and follows the expert’s plan.

The healthy parenting style is to use mainly a combination of Nurturing Parent and Adult ego state.

However she presented a bit of a different one. She stated that her mother parented her as though she owned her. Like one would own a dog or a race horse. One is caring and kind to it and looks after it but you also own it. So one could sell it or give it away as a present, not that her mother would have attempted to do that but that is what ownership also entails. The parenting style was one of ownership. An interesting notion. She was properly fed and housed and so forth but was never seen as human and daughter but rather seen as a ‘thing’ that mother owned.

This could explain my disquiet about her. When she came to therapy she knew how to be a client but did not know how to be ‘human’ and my Child ego state reacted to that. In her relationship with me she presented herself as case #325 and I reacted to that but did not know why at the time.

Of course humans can own other humans, that has happened throughout history. Baring the moral objections to humans owning other humans it was interesting to see the psychological fallout of a person who has lived in a relationship where she was owned at least psychologically. That played itself out in the therapeutic relationship with me and I got to experience a relationship where the other party had a background of relationships where she felt she had been owned.

Slave girls with Jabba the Hut

I like this type of therapy where I can spend all day thinking about myself and my reactions to people. However in this instance it also allowed her (us) to discover and discuss something that she had never before addressed.



  1. I thought everyone was owned one way or another.

  2. Well no one owns me Roses,
    in the way someone can own a dog


  3. But you're not married anymore.

  4. I like the way you are surprised or intrigued with the way some clients present Tony.


  5. Thank you kenoath.

    Some times i think I have heard just about all that humans could present but then I get one like this to remind me just how intircate the human psyche is.


  6. Droll.

    Adj – amusing in an odd way: whimsically humorous; waggish

    Verb – to jest; joke

    I’m not joking. But that was very droll of you Tony. I’m going to bed – visiting my parents tomorrow. G’night

  7. "she was by no means a novice client"
    I like that phrase. I think I'll start calling myself an "expert client"

    I enjoyed this post. I think this type of therapy is interesting. I always find it very helpful when a therpist shares their reaction of me to me.

  8. Well I suppose you are that Lee, an expert in the task of clienting.

    In this instance she was too good a client. She was saying and doing all the right things that clients do and it seems part of me objected to that.

    Its like when I get people come to me because they want to join mensa. To do that they have to get a certain score on an IQ test. Some people give answers to various quesations that are just too good and too right. They have some how gotten hold of the answer booklet and studied it.

    Been blowing any bubbles lately?


  9. And a howdy do to you to Roses,

    I was using the word Droll as in you being successfully humourous


  10. I'd like to be an expert client. I have a problem with perfectionism, you know? And I think I suck at therapy, so it just confirms my feelings that I'm a loser. Can one take client lessons?

    Maybe you can write up some tutorials on how to be an expert client.

  11. I think you would be a very good client Harriet, But if you are right trying to be the perfect client that could be a bit worrisome. I am sure you do not suck at therapy. I will write a post for you on clients


  12. heh, I dodn't understand why people wnt to join mensa. I have the qualifying score, but it seems like s scam to me with the membership fees and all. My dad was in it for a bit in college and didn't really get into it.

  13. Well whilst we are on the topic Lee,

    I also qualify.

    But I really could not give a rodent's rear end about such an organization. Somewhat snobbish I suppose,

    But then I did want to say that I qualified didn't I!!!


  14. Yes, it is fun to say I qualify. :P

    I feel like with the invention of the internet it's become even more obsolete. If I want to have intelligent conversation in an area of intrest I can find niches online in that area. I don't need their club to introduce me to people who are likly not interested in the same things as me.

    I don't know if you've ever watched stargate atlantis. In it there's the awkward (also narsasistic) nerdy guy who saves the day with science in mensa who discovers that the army guy who saves the day with action qualifies for mensa and tries to get him to join their stargate mensa branch. I found the interaction amusing. You've probably ever seen the show though so that made no sense.

    No bubble blowing latley. I got at MRI yesterday as part of participating in a study though. They gave me money:) Soon I will get pictures of my brain in the mail and they will go on my facebook. I'm excited to see what my brain looks like. I'll check to make sure there's no big gaps in it or anything:P

  15. I am afriad you are right Lee,

    Stargate is not a show that I watch much. In fact I can never remember watching it ever. So your comments as you say did not really hit the spot.

    However I am looking forward to seeing a photograph of your brain posted on your blog. The story about the buzzers is getting a bit old now


  16. 1] :-) Kind of looks like a smile to me - Eyes, nose and smiley mouth. *Shrugs* Maybe?

    2] “You are so much better than my previous therapist”...
    "you are so much better than my last boyfriend"
    "you are so much better than my last piano teacher"
    "you are so much better than my last best friend"
    "you are so much better than my last foster mother" - Yep.

    3] “Stop trying to work why I am doing it and just do it”.
    I can't seem to talk to the dark person. Really - i can't talk to it kind of in the same way that i can't remember my dreams.

    I would much prefer to practice telekinesis or make an energy ball. I can't do either of them but its easier to put the time and effort into it.

    Yeah... i know...

    4] "As we know the main factor in psychological change comes from the relationship the client has with the therapist."

    I can't see why.
    Why a novice won't benefit from the relationship where a trained client will.

  17. Yea, the buzzers post is getting pretty old. Therapy 3x a week makes me prety sick of talking about myself:P

  18. So you focus on your own reactions to your client and observe the client this way.

    Do you with-hold your reactions or always go with the moment.

    I guess you will answer in reply, ... "it depends" so to save me another comment, depends on what?

  19. 3 times a week is a lot lee. What days do you go? And can you define the approach that is being used.


  20. Welcome back Kahless,

    No I don't always state my emotional reactions to the client. If I was observing myself closely there could be 10 or 20 per session and if I stated all of them then we would spend the entire session talking about me and my reactions.

    Hey that is not a bad idea!!

    These type of reactions to the client are a combination of both our psychologies. The client says something for some reason (them) and my psychology reacts to that (me). So it is as much about me as about them.

    My dislike of how the woman in the post presented was my stuff. She was doing nthing offensive at all. In fact she was being over cooperative. If a therapist says to a client that they don't like this or that it probably would be taken at least in part that there is something wrong with them.

    Imagine how your day would be if everytime you had an emotion in reaction to some one (positive and negative) you stated it directly to their face there and then. I think one could say that the day could end up in chaos.


  21. Tony,
    Monday, Wednesday, Friday
    Yea it is a lot. I'd never want to do it this often for a long term period, but since I'm only here till the first week of Aug we opted for higher intensity for this short period of time.
    The approach is psychodynamic. I don't know though specifically what type of psychodynamic he uses. Just that I like therapy with him. I should ask. I never think to ask that when in therapy, only when out of it.
    He's got one of those cliche couches, but never has asked me to use it. :P

  22. Well that seems to be the main point Lee - that you like therapy with him so the actual 'brand' of psychodynamic does not matter I suppose.

    So in August you are moving house so you have to use the laundromat?


  23. Tony,
    In the end of the 1st week of aug I will go to the APA convention for a weekend, then move in with my parents for a few weeks then I will move into the apartment where I'll use he laundromat (though I've discovered this service where dry cleaners do regular laundry too and you pay them to do it all and fold it and you don't have to sit there waiting. I may do that.)

    I thought last time when I left him that any psychodynamic therapist I met I'd like equally. I was very wrong about that. Things like that I can joke with him about stuff are important but are not so much a part of a person's theoretical approach.

  24. “Imagine how your day would be if everytime you had an emotion in reaction to some one (positive and negative) you stated it directly to their face there and then. I think one could say that the day could end up in chaos.”

    I’m so sorry Kahless and Tony for listening into your conversation. But I’m a girl and I’m not willing to be able to help it right now.

    My question is Tony… why do you think that your day would end up in chaos if you’ve only imagined that you’ve stated your emotional state in reaction to someone (positive and/or negative) to their face there and then? How do you know? I’m curious.

  25. That sounds good that you can joke with him Lee.

    Hope the APA convention is interesting for you


  26. Roses, think of all the things you think and feel about others each and everyday. Some of them are not very flattering. What would happen if you did no censoring of these thoughts but simply told the person straight out.

    I imagine you would not remain on their chirstmas card list for very long


  27. Tony. I don't know what would happen. I don't know that. I wonder what would actually happen? I couldn't give two hoots about christmas cards and such. I don't have a christmas card list (don't like cards) and i don't do gifts very often at all.

    I wonder what would happen. How many weeks do you think i should do that for? It would take a couple of weeks at least to remember to not censor my thoughts and then a couple of weeks of flowing in that before i'd get good at it; or naturally apply the 2 weeks training.

    I could write hypotheses and see what happens. I am, after all, my only guinea pig.

    I think lots wouldn't even notice any difference but others would be hit hard by the way they affect my emotional state. And then we'll have all the ones in between.

    My hubby's always found my frankness challenging - its just as well his complexion is reddish. Gosh i must be annoying. Whatever...