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I treated a man for 10 years.  Ten.  Years.  He had an attachment disorder, horrifically deprived as a child, and dissociated into a “spiritual bypass” state of Buddha-like sweet, calm, not-entirely-there loveability.  He was a genius, and it often worked in getting him what he wanted.  But as we worked he was increasingly able to ask his partners and friends for what he wanted, to see himself as a normal guy who had normal needs and could actually be loved as a normal person.  He was definitely getting better, and, as is so often the case, it was taking a long, long, long time.

Then he died, and I learned from his partner about the years of domestic violence.  After he was gone she went through his computer and learned that he had been serially cheating on her all along.  He was an abusive sex addict.

How humbling, that I could be so hoodwinked for so long.  How grievous, that, had he brought all these split-off, shameful things to me, we could have worked through them, and changed his life to be so much more satisfying.  These dramatic symptoms could have been so helpful in moving the work forward.  Symptoms have to live forward the way that, as Hillman says, dreams have to be, “dreamed forward.”

But he never felt safe enough to bring me his secrets.  I’m left pondering, what could I have done?  How can I better become a therapist who is a safe-enough container for the things my clients are absolutely sure will get them thrown out or attacked?

It’s the hidden self that we build this container for.  So sad when they don’t show up.

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