We music therapists have this investment in being “nice”. You know? We’re the ones who are “nice” to our clients, we treat them differently from the staff who does their direct support (of course, it’s because we don’t have to make people brush their teeth and take rectal temps and stuff like that). Dare I say? We need to be seen as “special” by our clients as much as they want to be “special” to us (see yesterday’s post). Oh yeah.
Anyway, when my clients respond in a positive way to my treating them respectfully and caring about them (and generally being “nice”), it’s a good feeling...for all of us...UNTIL it becomes clear that we’ve got a crush going on. Then I have to start the old “we don’t have that kind of relationship” speech. I say “old” because I have given this speech so many times over the last fifteen years it’s ridiculous.
Now, it’s not as if my clients believe me or take me seriously when I say this to them, so I have to remind them over and over and over. I have to keep saying repeatedly, “I will not act on your feelings, but you are welcome to explore your feelings in the music, and we can talk about them” (well, okay, “I can talk about what I think you might be feeling, and I’ll feel embarrassed and worry a lot that I’m just putting ideas into your head that really aren’t yours...”).
It’s not enough for me (because this is all for me, isn’t it?) that I have to worry that I’m misinterpreting some innocent affection from my clients as a huge crush. I also have to feel guilt (are we noticing a theme here with the guilt?), because I have to consistently and in as caring a manner as possible keep rejecting my clients’ (possibly, or more likely probably) skewed perception of me.
I’m not insane (well...). I mean, I realize that this is a necessary part of the therapy process, and it’s helping my clients, and consistency is next to Godliness, and appropriate therapeutic boundaries are new and unusual to people whose space and person-hood have been regularly and incessantly violated, and crucial to their feeling safe (eventually). I also realize that it’s because I keep maintaining those boundaries that my clients are able to trust me enough to somehow attempt to communicate that they have very strong feelings for me. Okay. I get all that.
It’s still hard not to feel like I’m being cast into the role of “The (rejecting) Bitch”. A-ha! Guess who’s involved in a traumatic reenactment now!
See, now this is why I like to journal and write about my work experiences. In the process of blah-blah-blah I sometimes recognize something I neglected to recognize, or forgot that I knew on some level or at least at some point in the therapy process.
Yup. I can see how this can definitely be a reenactment. “Fine! You, Roia, can reject me...just like my family.” It’s a hell of a lot easier to be angry with me for being “The (rejecting) Bitch” than it is to be angry with Mom (“I mean, maybe there’s hope that she’ll return and see the error of her ways, so it wouldn’t be wise to be angry with her- especially if anger was why I was rejected in the first place!”). Someday I’ll have to write about ambiguous loss. (Pauline Boss has an excellent book about this subject called- conveniently enough- Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live With Unresolved Grief.)
At any rate, it takes a long (long) time, but eventually my clients get it. We’re not going to have a big triumphant rescue from the institution. I’m just going to continue to be your boring old music therapist who will invite you to look at your darn feelings and figure out how they connect with the rest of your life. Great. And when that happens I hear a guy in my head on an echoing loudspeaker saying, “And now (now, now, now) playing the role (role, role, role) of ‘The Bitch’ (bitch, bitch, bitch)...Roia (roia, roia, roia)!” And, of course, the crowd goes wild.